My heart is heavy, my eyes are filled

Last night (this morning?) I stayed up well past my bedtime to watch the arrival of the first of this summer’s two Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flights. Last night’s flight had over 200 new immigrants on it from North America. The youngest was 3 months, the oldest 88 years old. On that flight were my friends, and neighbors of the last 3 years, the Pillichowski family – Uri & Aliza, and 5 of their children. I waited up to watch, not only because I wanted to see Uri & his Torah get off the plane and be interviewed (he was,  it was fun to see) but because I will be IN that next live broadcast of a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight arriving.

Our flight is scheduled for 3 weeks from yesterday. Right now, most major airlines have canceled flights to Israel from the US, and from some places in Europe. I understand the precaution. I also understand that people with plans to travel to Israel for vacation might think twice and cancel their trip. I understand parents whose children are leaving for the year to Israel, having second thoughts, and wondering if they should make other plans for the year. Of course I understand. I am in awe of those 230 men, women and children who got off the plane at 7am Israel time today, to start a new life in Israel, at a time when our enemies are doing the best they can to destroy us. I hope, and I pray, that this will end soon. I pray that God will guide the IDF to victory over the terrorists that make up Hamas, that they will be wiped out, that their arsenal will be destroyed. And I pray that it will be over before August 11.

The tears I cry today are not of sadness for leaving the US and my friends here. They are tears for the soldiers who have already lost their lives. They are for the sheer hatred that is being shown towards Israel by the rest of the world. The anger some may hear in my voice when I speak – that is for Hamas, who holds a population prisoner in Gaza. It is for the media, intent on making Israel look like the aggressor. It is for the UN ,who when weapons are found in the schools they run, say “how terrible” and then return them to Hamas. The fear I show when people ask “why are you still going?” – it is a fear for Jews around the world who don’t see why now is the perfect time to go! Look at Paris. Look at London. Look at CHICAGO! The anti-Israel demonstrations around the world, coupled with the torching of synagogues and Jewish businesses is a wake up call to all of you! There is no other place to call home if you are a Jew.

We have no plans to change our minds. You don’t make a decision this big without knowing what you are letting yourselves in for. Israel has always been under threat, and until Mashiach comes, will always be under threat. As long as the Nefesh B’Nefesh flight is leaving on August 11, we will be on it, with our children and our dog. Do we want to start our new life under threat of rocket attacks? No. But we do need to send a clear message to everyone – Jews and non-Jews – that Israel is our God given homeland, and we must all strive to live there.

Time to get real

IMG_3264Two weeks from tomorrow the moving shipping company is coming to pack up our house and send i to Israel. Three weeks from tomorrow we get in our car, and drive north, headed towards New York to catch our Nefesh B’Nefesh flight. And in 27 days (27!) we board a flight to Israel, with another couple hundred crazy dedicated people making aliyah.

I wasn’t panicking until my husband mentioned last week “35 days til we leave!”. Thanks honey, I was not quite ready to start counting the days, but well, now I am. When I say “panicking”, you should understand that this is not related to the current events in Israel. It’s simply the panic one feels when moving your entire life from one house to another, and from one country to another. It’s no easy feat, especially with 3 kids and a dog.

Suddenly you realize that there is so much to do, and so little time. Out of nowhere you discover things you thought you’d sold or given away years ago. You’ve been purging for months (or so it seems) and yet there is still so much stuff in your house.

You cannot imagine how everything will get done, and yet, you know that it will.

To try and calm my sense of being overwhelmed (read, can’t stand not being organized), we got boxes from the shipping company this week. So we have started packing the easy things – books mostly, linens, winter clothing, toys, school supplies etc. – things that we will not be using between now and when the shippers come. As far as I’m concerned, the less time they spend in my house, the better. Having done this a couple of times before, I know that the hardest day is that day your house is getting packed up. It’s tiring, it’s stressful, it’s long, it’s hard work. And it’s emotional, because it makes it all real.

You don’t live some place for 13 years without making friends (I hope!). The last few days, I’ve had opportunity to spend time with my friends at various “farewell” things, and although I’m doing a great job of keeping it together when I’m with them, I totally fall apart once I walk away. So you may not see me cry. It may appear that I’m excited to leave, and that I don’t seem to care that I’m leaving you all behind, but you need to know that’s not true.

I’m blessed because I have an amazing group of friends here. There are some very special people in my life, and being far way from you all is going to take some getting used to. I don’t really do “goodbyes” because I’d rather believe in “L’hitraot” or “au revoir”. As much as I am looking forward to the next phase of my family’s life in Israel, I will miss you all very, very much. Come visit us soon in Israel!

I dreamed a dream…

I love Les Miserables. Not just the musical, I’ve actually read the entire Victor Hugo book in the original French, and in English, just in case I missed something in the French. I love how in spite of all the misery and hardships, there is a relatively happy ending. Not the happy ever after ending of a fairy tale, but a content, life can go on kind of ending.

Life is not a bed of roses. Bad things happen to good people. Different folk deal with that in different ways. Some use bad things as proof that there is no God. Others use tragedy to say all religion is bad. Still others tell us that disaster strikes because we don’t put enough faith in God.

I believe in God. I’ve had times in my life when that belief has been tested, but ultimately I believe in God. I believe in the Torah, and I believe in Judaism. I don’t always agree with the interpretations, but the beauty of Judaism is that there is always more than one answer to a question.

When times are tough, I try hard to tell myself that it’s a test, and that God only gives you as much as you can handle. It’s what I told myself when I battled post-partum depression, when my husband was out of work for a long time, and at other stages in my life. I don’t know if I believe it completely, but it does help me get through, and it drives me to pray harder, to do extra mitzvot, and to give more tzedakah – there is always someone worse off than you!

The past 6 weeks my faith has been tested to the limits. As time flew by since our interview with the Jewish Agency in Miami, we heard nothing about our application to make aliyah as a family. Others who interviewed weeks after us were approved, their flight confirmed. We approached from as many angles as we could, trying to get some information – was there a document missing, did our file get lost, anything? Eventually we discovered, as I had expected, that it was related to my aliyah some 20+ years ago. Our application had to go through a special committee. You cannot make aliyah twice – this I know. All I wanted though, was for our family to arrive in Israel together on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight. I never had a free flight, as I made aliyah from within the country, and my husband & kids are entitled to a free flight per the laws of making aliyah. It was so important to me that we were on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight. I want my children to arrive in their new homeland to an enormous welcome. To singing and dancing. To be welcomed by the leaders of the country. To understand from the minute they arrive that this is HOME, this is where we need to be. And if we weren’t approved for the Nefesh B’Nefesh flight, well, it just wouldn’t be the same.

Baruch Hashem, we finally heard this morning. I give so much thanks to both Rabbi Fass at Nefesh B’Nefesh, and to Iris at the Jewish Agency in Miami, for their patience in dealing with my incessant emails and phone calls, and for their investigating for us. Thanks to Keith, my ever-patient spouse for ignoring my insistence that if we weren’t on that flight I wasn’t going. Thank you to my Mahjongg girlies for allowing me to have an evening playing Mahj, without a single mention of the move – you guys have NO idea how serious I was – I would have just left Tuesday night if anyone had mentioned it.

And now the real work begins. The dream is being realized, but we’ve a way to go. I’m not expecting a fairy tale outcome, but I cannot wait to live in Medinat Yisrael, Reishit Tzmichat Geulateinu. The State of Israel, the beginning of our redemption, the only place the Jewish people can truly call “Home”.

I’m not really a liberal

I write this with tears pouring down my face. I can barely breathe, and I keep checking my Facebook feed in case I am mistaken.

The bodies of three Israeli teenagers (one, a dual citizen of the US and Israel) who were abducted 18 days ago while on their way home from school, have just been found.

Eyal Yifrach. Gil-ad Shaar. Naftali Fraenkel.

Aged 16 and 19 years old. Children. Sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews. Kids.

The boys were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists, as they waited to hitch a ride home for Shabbat. I’m not going to write about hitchiking and its dangers here, because in truth, when it comes to hitching in Israel (called “tremping”) it’s not something you can understand unless you have lived there.

My friends in the US think of me as a liberal, because I believe in equality for all US citizens, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. This has resulted in me having the label “LIBERAL” stuck on me.

But I’ve always said that when it comes to Israel everything changes.

Right now, right at this moment, all I can think is “Hashem Yinkom D’mam” – “God will avenge their blood”. And by that I mean, Tzahal, the IDF, with God’s help, of course. Because Hamas are terrorists. Because the majority of Palestinians do not want a two state solution, or any other kind of peace with Israel. The majority of Palestinians are not a “peace loving people”. They want to annihilate the Jewish state of Israel, and all the Jews within. In all likelihood, within the next hour or two, we will start to hear stories coming out of Gaza and Ramallah, and other areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority of celebrations. What are they celebrating? The deaths of 3 children. 3 children abducted and brutally murdered on their way home from school. For no reason other than being Jews living in the land of Israel.

Let Israel hold back nothing when chasing down the animals responsible for this. And they will find them. Enough deals. Enough “peace talks” – there cannot be peace with a people who rule with terrorism.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet. May the memories of Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali be for a blessing, and may their families, somehow, find comfort as they become a part of the ever growing “Mishpachot sh’kulot” – bereaved families – in Israel.

Besha’ah Tova

Any woman who has ever been pregnant knows that the minute you announce your pregnancy, your privacy disappears. It’s almost as if, by saying “I’m expecting”, you are actually saying “ask me anything you want, especially really personal questions”

I remember with my first pregnancy, how shocked I was at the things people said to me. People, not friends, not close family, just people.
1. Do you know what you’re having?
2. Who is your doctor?
3. Are you having an epidural?
4. (when the answer to no. 3 was that I didn’t plan on it) Do you know how much it hurts? You should have the epidural!
5. You don’t even look pregnant from behind
6. You haven’t put on much weight
7. Are you going to breastfeed?
And on and on and on.

To answer for those curious:
1. I found out only for one of my pregnancies, and we didn’t share and it’s none of your business
2. I had a different one for each pregnancy, and it’s none of your business.
3. I had 2 without, and 1 with, and it’s none of your business
4. It’s none of your business
5. I carried all my babies out front, and it’s none of your business
6. I gained enough weight for each pregnancy, but I spent 9 months not able to keep much down, and it’s none of your business
7. I failed at breastfeeding one child and went on to nurse the other 2 for 18 months each, and it’s none of your business

Why can’t people simply say “Besha’ah Tova” and leave it at that?

I feel like I’m pregnant again now. And dammit it’s a long pregnancy! Since we told people that we are making aliyah, wherever I go, I get the same questions. Now, if we are friends – i.e. if we have had a real conversation in the past 6 months, have enjoyed meals together, played mahjong, carpooled, barbecued, vacationed, or just hung out together for fun – that’s fine. But if you haven’t in the past inquired how things are in my life, why do you care now?

I’ll save you the trouble, and answer the questions here.

We are moving to Rehovot because we found it to be a warm, welcoming community, not at all American, but with enough English speakers to make us feel comfortable.
No, we don’t have a place to live.
No, we have not sold our house (but yes, it is on the market, please let me know if you are interested).
Yes, we are bringing our dog, she is part of our family.
No, my in-laws are not happy that we are leaving.
Yes, my family are happy that we will be closer to them.
Yes, we do have family in Israel and lots of friends.
No, I’m not excited.
No, we don’t have a date yet.
Yes, we know it won’t be easy.
Oh, and it’s none of your business!

So please, next time you see me, if we haven’t had a proper conversation in the past, and you don’t think of me as your friend, maybe just say “I hear you’re making aliyah. Besha’ah Tova and Hatzlacha Raba”. Because really, everything else, is none of your business.

Well meaning people?

I wasn’t sure what to name this post. I’m being optimistic when I title it “Well meaning people” because I’m not always convinced that these people are actually well meaning, or if they want to sabotage things.

Recently – as in, the last few months – some people (not just one, but a few) have told me that my children are worried and scared. I’ve been informed that my kids are upset, unhappy and anxious. When I ask these people to elaborate I am told that it’s because I (never “you plural”, always just aimed at me) am taking them away from life as they know it, and that it isn’t fair to move to Israel when the children are so against it. My response to those people is usually something along the lines of “We, my husband & I as a team, are doing what we believe is best for our children’s future. We understand that right now they are unhappy about it, but we believe that they will one day thank us for it”. And I move right along, because frankly, if I attempt to have a more in depth conversation around the subject with the people concerned it may end badly.

These individuals are not the only ones, however. So called friends, adults, have asked my kids how they feel about our move, and when the answer leans to the negative, they follow up with “why?” My kids aren’t able to fully articulate why they don’t want to move to Israel, but suffice to say, they have never set foot in the country, have no idea what to expect, and they’re worried.  I’d be more concerned about them if they were really gung-ho and raring to go. Some people are smart enough to give a sympathetic smile and leave it at that. Others, sadly, are not so savvy.

I’ve had people ask my son directly “are you scared about going into the army?” and when he answers that he sometimes is, they go on to either tell him that it’s nothing to be scared about (hello! Do not diminish his very real fear!) or that he should be proud that he will be serving in the IDF (Really? You’re going to make him feel bad for being scared?).

Listen up people, making a big move with our family is not a decision we take lightly. We did not just wake up one day and say “ok, let’s move to Israel”. It’s been years in the making. 15 years to be exact. It’s normal that my children should be concerned and scared and worried and sad. And don’t for one moment think that we are not taking their emotions seriously. Of course we are. Just because I brush off their feelings in front of you, don’t think that we don’t discuss their very legitimate fears when we are together as a family. Don’t be so naive to think that we’re ignoring the challenges that they will have as a result of this move.  And please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t undermine my kids’ feelings to them, or to me.

This is a classic example of “you have no idea what goes on behind closed doors”, but rest assured, all is well, and we are helping our children cope with their feelings in the privacy and comfort of our own home.

To those of you who are truly looking out for us, thank you – I know you do mean well, but think twice when you get answers you’re not expecting from a child.

To the rest of you, know that it’s working against you. All the kids have complained individually about things you’ve said, and they simply no longer want to spend much time with you. Keep that in mind, as our time here grows limited – don’t spoil what we still have here.

Shabbat Shalom


Ben Gamla, definitely an excellent option

It’s been a while since my blog related to schools. I’ve just come home from a morning spent at Ben Gamla Charter School in Plantation. The event was “Mother’s Day”, and given the proximity of Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day), the performances were what the children did for their fellow students on Tuesday, which was actually Yom Ha’Atzmaut.

I left the school feeling so incredibly happy and proud, that I just had to share on my blog.

As the Principal of the elementary school, Mrs. Toni Weissberg, put it so eloquently, Ben Gamla is a charter school, and the charter of the school is not only Hebrew language, but also the culture and history of Israel. The younger children danced carefully choreographed dances to Israeli music (1st grade below)

but the older grades went above and beyond in this show. Fifth grade did an incredible “Daglanut” show – performed twice this morning, once before each grouping of class shows – a traditional dance with the Israeli flags. I love Daglanut, my heart always fills with enormous pride for Israel when I watch it, and this year was no different, seeing the smiles on these kids’ faces as they showed respect to the Israeli flag, culminating in a 66 for the 66th birthday of the State of Israel, using the flags.

Third grade read historical poems in Hebrew, and translated them to English, that talked about the land of Israel, and how she grows annually – by population and by forests.

Fourth grade reenacted the United Nations vote in November of 1947, that resulted in the establishment of the State of Israel. This was followed by “David Ben-Gurion” declaring the State of Israel in 1948, at which point the entire fourth grade broke into celebratory Hora dancing on the stage.

Credit for the choreography goes to the Hebrew teachers at Ben Gamla, and to the wonderful Bnot Sherut – National Service Girls – who come to serve a second year of National Service here and work in schools. But the performance could not have been so spectacular if the children hadn’t taken so much pride in what they did.

Public school is not for everyone, that much is true. And a Hebrew language charter school can never take the place of a true yeshiva education. However, a Hebrew language charter school can absolutely educate children to have a love of Israel and of Zionism, as something completely apart from religion, and this is no bad thing. Remember, a large proportion of children at Ben Gamla in Plantation are not Jewish, and now they too are learning about Israel, about Israeli culture and about Israeli history. With the BDS movement, and anti-Israel sentiment on the rise, this can only be positive.

We have had a good year at Ben Gamla, it’s a choice I’m glad we made.

I want to wish Mrs. Weissberg a wonderful retirement, and thank her for all the wonderful things she has done for the school in the time she has been there. I know you will be missed!

I also want to thank all my children’s teachers, because they have learned so much this year, and that is down to you.

And thank you to the B’not Sherut – Yael, Dikla, Maya & the other Yael – my kids love you, and we look forward to seeing all of you in Israel.

Shabbat Shalom


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