Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Strange Place To Learn

It seems we are part of a growing phenomenon. I was reading an article today in the Jerusalem Report about growing trends in aliyah. More olim are either retaining their previous jobs from their original countries or getting jobs which involve travel. They commute between countries, sometimes for regular short periods or else for longer stints with breaks in between. My husband has recently begun traveling to the UK. He has been selling our Judaica there and is also in the process of setting up another business.

The salaries here are low compared with the UK/US, even for skilled jobs. Many are deciding that earning sterling/dollars is a better way to guarantee an income which has some hope of supporting their families. Our businesses are both new and time will tell if this way of working will prove successful for us.

Today I had a strange experience. I went to the dentist. Nothing unusual in that. However, some dentists aim to relax their patients with pleasant chatter or background music. This one put on a shiur for me to listen to. In the past I have learned Torah at home, in synagogue, in the houses of others, but never in the dentists chair whilst having my tooth drilled! I think, on balance, I prefer more traditional options!

However, my willingness to develop my religious knowledge appeared to have an immediate pay-off. Feeling a little numb, both in the mouth and from the 300 shekel dentist bill, I went to the supermarket to buy some groceries. When I walked in the cashier waved me over and told me that she had a 200 shekel voucher from my store loyalty card which she could take off my shopping bill. How’s that for timing? Any connection…?!

By the way…. no sign of the tortoise all day today. I searched around the garden and also peered over the borders, in case he had fallen down and needed rescuing. No sign at all. Is he still in our garden, buried and out of sight? Has he escaped and is jubilantly strutting his stuff in the wild? Has he taken a tumble and fallen somewhere out of sight? I actually feel a little worried about him and will have another root around for him tomorrow.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tortoise Turmoil!


There was lots of excitement in our house this afternoon. My son stumbled upon a stray, baby tortoise whilst walking close to our house. We have come across them a few times as they do live in the wild here. However, we have always been on our way somewhere or a little too far from home to bring one back with us. Today he found one round the corner and brought him ‘home’.

I am not sure how long he will stay with us. I am not even sure if he is a ‘he’. I had a pet tortoise when I was small and I know from experience how they like to climb and clamber over things and have a knack of finding nooks and crannies to escape through. They certainly like to be free so I am not convinced ours will stay for long, particularly as our garden has lots of ‘escape routes’ in it. So, for today anyway, we have a pet tortoise. He has just been given a pile of watery lettuce but is a little afraid of all the fuss being made over him and has buried himself beneath a pile of leaves.

Monday morning:

There was angst this morning when the tortoise was nowhere to be found. Finally we heard rustling and saw him bustling along with a sense of purpose. He was, as anticipated, checking out the exits. To one side of the garden we have a neighbouring garden, which is situated a perilous two meters below ours. Behind a rockery border there is a sharp drop from our side to theirs. I rescued the tortoise from the edge of the ‘cliff’ and placed him far from danger. This tortoise though, appears to have a death wish and immediately set out, with a swagger full of attitude, to retrace his steps. I decided he would just have to figure out for himself his own sense of danger and left him this time to patrol the border alone.

He is very small with an indentation on the top of his shell from a previous injury. I can’t help but fret over him. Earlier I went searching to establish his whereabouts and when I found him tried to tempt him with some cucumber. During the five minutes this took, the baby, who was watching from the window, had picked up a leaf and commenced eating it. I decided that my own daughter needed my attention more than a dare devil, stubborn tortoise and went inside to take care of her. Since then the tortoise has gone AWOL again.

Monday afternoon:

He turned up! Just rescued the tortoise from a ledge with a rocky drop below it, at the end of our garden. He had walked under a metal railing and wandered to the edge of a rock. I found him, looking rather sheepish, stranded on the rock, seemingly unable to move in any direction. I reached through and put him on the grass. Following a short pause for thought, he headed towards the dangers of the neighbour’s garden. If he is to survive then he has to work out for himself that he has a perfectly nice garden to stay in, regular food and water and the attention of three, curious kids. The lure of ‘grasses greener’ needs to diminish. He has a choice; attempt some daredevil escape plot (successfully or otherwise) or decide to stay put. Time will tell.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Changing perceptions

So here we are celebrating Pesach again. I can remember our last Seder in the UK, two years ago. When we read, “Next year in Jerusalem”, we did so with the thrill of knowing that, if not in Jerusalem itself, we would not be so far away.

It feels wonderful to (still) be here and to revisit and remember how our people were lead to the land of Israel. We now live in the biblical lands of Ephraim and Manasseh in Judea and Samaria. In Kfar Saba, our nearest town, lies the tombstone of Benjamin. Our connection to the land is strong and everlasting.

When we planned our aliyah we didn’t intend to live in a ‘settlement’ but ended up here after finding places that didn’t quite ‘fit’ us. We visited a few places and considered which might become ‘home’.

My mum recently came for a visit. She really is not the type of person who you would envisage walking these parts. She, to her own admission, is not the type of person, she would envisage walking these parts! When she tells her friends we live on a ‘settlement’, many of them have a preconceived idea as to what life is like here. Their only perceptions stem from the UK media, where ‘settlers’ are portrayed as angry, gun totting youths and ‘settlements’ are seen as dangerous, dusty outposts where the residents are regularly fired upon.

I took my mum for a walk around. We went to the ‘posh’ part of our community and I showed her tree lined streets and neat houses with lovely, well-kept gardens; a picture of suburban splendour. We walked along roads lined with detached villas, boasting grand entrances, long balconies, 6 bedrooms and big basements. It certainly blew some myths away.

I hope that my mum shows her photos and describes life here. The foreign media propagate such a narrow view of settlements and I am sure that her photos of villas and tree lined streets will surprise many.

I wonder how many others read, “Next year in Jerusalem”, over the Seder and either looked forward to their own impending aliyah or maybe even felt their first tug towards making their life in Israel. Certainly for us we feel we have made the right decision. We are not established here yet and have many challenges ahead but I can say with all certainly that Israel is ‘home’.

I daily marvel at the minor things in life that continue to give me a thrill; walking past (and smelling the aroma of) trees and bushes laden down with oranges, lemons, figs, grapes, olives; being a bus ride away from the golden beaches we used to travel so far to spend holidays at; being able to go to a supermarket and buy anything; being able to eat out at kosher restaurants wherever we go; or just walking around my neighbourhood and admiring the undulating hills and knowing that, generations ago, our forefathers walked these very steps. This is home in both a physical and spiritual sense. For all the hardships; for all the uncertainty; our hearts are now entrenched here.

Sharona B

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Reality Check

This week we had an emergency practice throughout Israel. They sounded the sirens, the kids had to go to their safe rooms in schools and the emergency services got themselves organised for different scenarios. For us lucky enough to have arrived in Israel during relatively peaceful times, the sound of the sirens is a little unnerving. We are not used to it and are unsure how we will feel and how we will cope when, inevitably the sirens sound for real.

I think most Israelis feel that we are ‘between wars’, certainly we are not at peace. With our civilians in Sderot continuing to have missiles fired upon them, our soldiers still missing and terrorism still very clearly on the agenda of our neighbours; the emergency practice seems to represent a caution, a reminder for us to be prepared for the worst.

The kids took it all in their stride. The regular school practices are treated by kids like fire drills are in the UK; they see it as a welcome distraction from their lessons.

On the day of the practice the sirens did not really affect me. The following evening my kids went out to help clean out the shul for pasech. I had given them some money to buy pizza afterwards as a reward. They walked up to the shul together, did all their jobs and then enjoyed some nice, hot pizza and a cool drink. Afterwards they took a slow stroll back home, which is about a twenty minute walk. The whole episode took longer than I imagined. They were not particularly late but as I gathered in the washing from the garden I heard the call to prayer from the neighbouring Arab village. Also audible was the sound of either fireworks or gun fire. I couldn’t make out which. Perhaps it was the siren from the day before; perhaps it was the chilling call to prayer with a ‘gun fire’ backtrack; but I felt really unnerved. With the baby asleep upstairs I couldn’t wander out to meet them, so I loitered outside the house waiting, waiting, waiting. Eventually, two tired figures emerged from the distance and then ran towards me when they spotted me outside. I sat down and praised them for being so helpful and gave them both an extra hug and a kiss.

On a lighter note, I have discovered the magical powers of baby wipes! I am in the middle of Passover cleaning up and clearing out. So far the baby wipes have proved excellent at many jobs – the leather sofa in particular came up a treat! Who needs expensive leather cleaner when my daughter’s wipes do the trick?

Sharona B


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sleep Deprived Zombie

I am a sleep deprived zombie. My eyeballs ache from tiredness and I have lost my spark.

I seem to produce sleepless babies with boundless energy who need never ending attention. I feel so jealous when other mums tell me about their 'sleep through the night' babies who, to add insult to injury, also have regular (and long) naps during the day. I can only imagine what a difference that would make to my life.

You would think that by number three I would have it all worked out! I do all the obvious things and give her a calm, routine end to the day. She wakes frequently during the night and often wants nursing back to sleep. I think it is time for some controlled crying. Actually, I know it is time but my older kids can’t bear the idea and think it cruel. How dare I treat their darling little sister in that way!!

It is not so much their reaction which has made me wait so long, it is more that they both get up around 6.30 am for school and need all the sleep they can get. I need to get up even earlier than the kids and so end up taking the easy option to help her settle rather than prolonging an already disturbed night’s sleep.

It is hard to find a solution which involves the baby learning to settle herself with minimum disruption to the rest of the family. Whenever I finally summon up the courage and the will to start, she comes down with a cold or starts teething and I feel too sorry for her not to give her the comfort she needs.

This week two local mums gave me suggestions, one told me that as soon as her baby went to childcare she came back exhausted and immediately settled into a good night time routine. The other mum told me to give her a bottle mixed with cereal so that it would feel heavier in her stomach and encourage her to sleep that bit deeper. I don’t really want to start day care just yet so I guess I will try out the bottle. Since she has always been nursed and just has the odd bottle I am not sure how it will go but it is worth a try. I will keep you posted.

When I am tired I tend to cut corners and make ridiculous mistakes. This week’s was a classic. My mum is coming to visit from the UK, to keep me company whilst my husband is away on business. I arranged for a cab to pick her up. I provided the flight number, the departing airport and the expected arrival time. The taxi duly arrived as instructed but I received a phone call later that night. He wondered why the flight was no longer listed on the arrivals board, all the passengers had come through passport control but my mum had still not materialised. As soon as he called I had flutter in my stomach, the kind when you just know you have done something stupid.

Predictably, having double checked my mum’s email I realized that I had every bit of information correct, except for the day of the flight; she was not due to fly until the next day. I felt such a fool. I sheepishly called him back and explained my error and then called my mum to forewarn her that her daughter was causing no end of disruption and definitely needed some TLC. She duly arrived the next day and both she and the taxi driver had a good laugh at my expense on the journey home.

Lack of sleep is a known form of torture but because after the worst nights they awake with a smile on their face and a glint in their eyes, we fall in love with them all over again and forgive them everything. A mother’s love; unconditional and everlasting.

Sleep well.