Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Slow Dash To The Hospital

I had a surreal evening last night. I always thought that once you got chicken pox, that was it; over and done with. The baby, though, has proven an exception to the rule and caught chicken pox for the second time in 3 months. This time around she had a very high fever and we wanted her to be checked over.

Thus, we had our first experience of an Israeli hospital dash, since making aliyah. We live on a yeshuv (settlement) and don’t have a car. In order to get to the nearest hospital we ended up calling an ambulance. We waited around 20 minutes with a baby who was worryingly hot; you could almost see steam coming from her. By the time the medics reached our house, her temperature had begun to go down a little. There followed a big debate; the driver warned us that taking the ambulance would incur a cost; ‘Do you really want to take her in? She looks OK to me’. He then told us to try to get a Dr to come out instead. We phoned up three local numbers; one didn’t reply, one went to answerphone and one was switched to fax. We decided we wanted her checked by a doctor, so eventually got in the ambulance.

Being a private ambulance, we had to disembark and switch to another ambulance so that the original one could stay in its service area. It struck me as odd that we had wasted around 40 minutes discussing whether to get into the ambulance, making calls, waiting for a rendezvous with another ambulance and finally switching over. It was hardly a streamlined service, operating with a sense of urgency!

The evening got yet stranger when I discovered that the girl volunteering with Magen David Adom, in the second ambulance, a lovely Australian here for a year, is related to a family we know from the UK.

We arrived at the hospital and the baby was checked over , diagnosed with chicken pox but finally given the all clear to return home. One of the paramedics from the ambulance hung around and told me that he lived near me and, if I waited for a few hours, would give me a lift home. Seeing as it was 3am in the morning, this was a great help and much appreciated.

Today she is a little brighter, although still burning up. Today I am quite a bit poorer thanks to the Israeli healthcare system. However, I guess in the end, the ambulance driver was right and next time I should only call the ambulance as an absolute last resort.

Sharona B


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Our Fur Covered Skeleton

I thought I had hardened my heart to the local stray cats. We already took in a mother and kitten who are now happily installed in the garden and looking much healthier than when they arrived.

This morning the kids and I collected the baby from nursery and a stray kitten attached herself to us. She is a scruff of a kitten, only a few weeks old and looks like a fur covered skeleton. She has hungry eyes and a desperate cry. My son picked her up, carried her home and gave her some cat food.

My husband took one look at the scrawny bundle and said, ‘No way, two is enough already’. So now we have a meowing cat, expectant of more love and food, hanging about outside the house and crying whenever she hears someone close by. We are worried that our other two cats will fight with her, as cats are territorial and our original two must know that they really fell on their feet when they found us.

In Israel cats are the equivalent of mice in other countries; there are so many hanging around the public litter bins and each year more and more arrive on the scene. They are a nuisance really and spread disease. Many people I know adopted beautiful, tiny kittens. We seem to have picked out cats that are a little less attractive and have an air of desperation about them. They look pitiful and in need of a little love and attention.

So the battle in our house today is whether to keep the new kitten. She is just so small and helpless. Perhaps we can encourage the mother cat to adopt her although I guess it is more likely she will see her as a threat.

Tonight I installed the kitten into the shed. I gave her a box to sleep in, some water and some food. I hope she stays in there. Most nights we hear cat fights outside and this one, all bones and as light as a feather, would surely not survive.

All I know is that now there is a consequence for taking this cat home and alongside that, a feeling of responsibility.

Sharona B

Monday, July 21, 2008

24 Hours of Trouble

Well things seem to be settling down a little. The baby is getting used to nursery, and the kids are enjoying their holiday activities.

My daughter has been going to a wonderful holiday camp at a neighboring yeshuv. She has a different activity every day and is surrounded by kind, well behaved children. She is in a caring, educational environment and is just thriving there. We have been so pleased with her experience there that we are actually considering sending her to the school that runs the club.

My son, as ever, goes through life with his eyes half shut and his head in the clouds. This weekend is a classic example of the chaos he causes. Friday afternoon we all took turns to have a pre Shabbat shower. He kept stalling having his shower, distracting himself with various activities. Finally we heard the shower going and breathed a sigh of relief that he was at last on the way to getting ready. We carried on making our final preparations, when suddenly we heard a dripping sound. We followed the sound to see water pouring down from the ceiling. I ran upstairs to find the hall waterlogged. I waded into the bathroom and shouted to my son to turn off the shower. We thought at first we had sprung a leak, but no, this was all down to my dozy son. He had turned on the shower and languished beneath the warm water, singing quietly to himself, thinking about the Shabbat ahead…. standing there with his foot over the plug hole and water running first out of the shower then making a trail of destruction down the hall and finally falling in a puddle downstairs.

On Shabbat afternoon I decided to take the baby to the park for an hour. He wanted to come along too and insisted on taking a new football his dad had just brought him. “It’s too hot to play ball,” I said, but he insisted and I relented. We had a nice time. The baby went on the swing and then accompanied her big brother on various other rides. We took the long, scenic route home and chatted together before arriving home.

We had visitors in the afternoon, a new family who had just moved into the yeshuv. We welcomed them to our home and apologized for the heavy small of damp in the house! As I put out seudah shlishit my son rushed over to ‘help’ me. He took a big bowl of pasta and transported it to the table, however, his concentration being what it is, the pasta never reached the table; suffice to say I was cleaning up pasta, sauce and smashed bowl shortly afterwards.

In the evening, Shabbat out, we watched some TV, checked our emails and then, gradually got the kids to bed. As I tucked him in my son suddenly remembered something; he had left his ball in the park!

I don’t know! He is 24 hours of trouble. Let’s hope he grows out of it soon.

Sharona B


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rest In Peace

It was a long, galling day. Israelis at home, at work, traveling, on holiday; wherever they were, whatever they were doing; we all had one ear tuned in to the news. We waited, impatiently to find out the unknown fate of our two missing sons.

Finally, as two coffins emerged, a nation collectively sighed. Although we suspected it would end this way, we still felt the bitter disappointment and pain of their families, whose lives have been suspended with the mixed feelings of hope and dread for two long years.

We were relieved at their eventual return and the ability to finally lay them to rest and honor their service to our country. Even though we were thankful to have them home, we acknowledged the high price we paid in the trade-off. Many were exasperated at the weak negotiations and one-sided deal. It reflected both the pathetic stature of our Government and the impossible situation we are often in when it comes to matters such as these. We watched, with distaste, as Lebanon celebrated with vigor the return of a child-killing terrorist. All in contrast to the somber mood back home.

This is not a political blog. There are plenty of those and I avoid it as a rule. This blog details my day to day emotions, frustrations, experiences. Yesterday was taken over by the return of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. May their dear souls rest in peace. May Gilad Shalit be home with us soon, alive and well.

Sharona B

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Three Different Hats

Like many others before and after me, making aliyah has lead me to completely change direction in my career. My Hebrew is simply not good enough to work in many professions. The truth is that having the baby during our first year of aliyah also created complications in my ability to attend ulpan and work full time. Don’t get me wrong, she is worth every sacrifice ten times over, but she has cramped my style somewhat!

I have ended up doing what a lot of olim seem to do; a little bit of this and a little bit of that! Aside from setting up and running my judaica homeware small business, I have also picked up a few teaching hours in September (hence the need to settle her into nursery now – see previous posts). Recently I 'fell into' freelance writing, which I really enjoy.

Writing has been part of every job I have had and yet I had never really considered it to be an occupation I could consider. Having 'taken the plunge' it is very rewarding to begin selling articles and make money from something I so enjoy.

Recently I have written a series of articles on aliyah and emigration – I attach the link here as some may find it of interest aliyah articles. I will be adding to this series over the coming months.

I have spoken to many people who say that they made a success of their aliyah by re-inventing themselves. I guess variety is the spice of life and with three different professional hats to wear as well as the most challenging but rewarding job ever (being a mum), there is never any time to be bored.

Sharona B


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Settling In

It’s been a strange week. Much of it involved settling the little one into nursery.

Last Tuesday I delivered her, loitered for five minutes then disappeared into the next room. I couldn’t quite bring myself to leave the nursery; I wanted to be on hand in case she needed me. I could hear her crying but she was whining rather than hysterical. I tried to read a book but was just too distracted. The Nursery Nurse kept sneaking back to me to tell me how things were going. She told me to go into another part of the nursery and relax.

I went to where the babies are looked after. When I arrived they were all asleep and I chatted to the lady who cared for them. Initially we spoke in Hebrew and then discovered we were both English speakers. This was a relief to me as my Hebrew is pretty basic. She was originally from Swaziland and told me that at its peak in the late 1970s the Jewish community there numbered 14 families! I spent a very pleasant hour chatting to her and she also crept out a couple of times to report back to me.

After an hour and a half I went back to my teary-eyed daughter and got the biggest hug ever. It is so hard to leave her – hard for her, hard for me.

She went again on Thursday and Friday, just for a few hours. They said that she is doing better – crying on and off, but taking part in activities. They told me to persevere. I dropped her off again today and she cried as we turned up the nursery path. I said my farewells and then stood outside the nursery for a while, listening to my daughter cry. Finally I got a grip and went home.

It is sweltering in Israel at the moment. We have fans in each of our bedrooms to help us get through the hot nights. The fans in Israel seem to be made to fall apart before the end of each summer. The fan in the baby’s room has a broken stand and is propped up against a wall. We recently bought a fan for our room and the buttons have all broken, they just fell apart in our hands, stayed pushed in or simply refuse to be pressed.

We didn’t buy this particular fan locally so I couldn’t be bothered to take it on the bus and return it. Instead I spent this evening taking it apart and using the parts to fix all the faults in the rest of the family’s fans. The fan in the baby’s room is now nice and sturdy, the one in my daughter’s room has new casing. I gave the remaining remnants of the fan to my son who spent an hour happily unscrewing it and taking it apart. Having got as far as he could he decided he was going to continue enjoying this exciting new toy by smashing it to smithereens with a hammer. Each to their own I guess.

Sharona B


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Big Girl's First Day

Last week I went to look at nurseries for the baby. She has just turned one and this will be her first experience in anyone’s care other than her parents. Making aliyah means losing your whole network of family and friends and when the need comes for a babysitter you do miss having that network of (free) support.

I went to look at two, ‘parent recommended’ local nurseries. I had a good look around, asked about the activities and then let her loose to investigate for herself. She was very interested in this new, stimulating environment; an array of bright colours, an exciting variety of toys and lots of other ‘little people’ who took great interest in the newcomer.

Israeli nurseries differ from those in the UK. They are much more ‘out door’ focused. Most of the morning, in both of the nurseries I looked at, involved outside play (with an overhead net providing shade). As if all this outside activity was not enough, they also pile the kids inside what I can best describe as ‘mobile playpens’ and take them on a daily walk. They have different routes each day so the kids have something different to look at.

Whilst I was finding out more information and looking at all the educational toys, my daughter had found something which thrilled her to the core. She discovered a pile of goodies she is normally denied; there on the table was a box of broken mobile phones and TV remotes – she could throw them, chew them, press them, sit on them and no-one would stop her!

Today was her first day. I decided to hang around and let her get used to the new environment and routine. She did very well but kept coming over to me for re-assurance. We stayed for a few hours and then left as I could see she was getting tired. I will take her again later in the week and hope to disappear for some time and see how she gets on without me. I am not sure who will have more ‘separation anxiety’, her or me, but I do know that I have found a nursery that is full of music, fun and kindness.

Sharona B


Wednesday, July 2, 2008


It was not a good start to the day. My husband’s cell phone inadvertently ended up down the toilet. He fished it out and dried it off. We then pried it open and considered how we could salvage the phone, which had all his personal and business contact numbers on, many of which were not saved anywhere else.

On a whim I went to the computer and typed in, ‘how to save a wet cell phone’ on a search engine. To my surprise there was a ‘how to’ article based around action to take following a cell phone falling into a toilet. I guess it must be a common incident!

I am forever bemused by the range of material available over the net; even seemingly obscure incidents seem to have a related article with someone offering the benefit of their own experience.

We appear to have adopted a cat. Well actually we have adopted a cat and her kitten. The mother is a thin, tabby cat, who does not look very old herself. I took pity on this young mum and her scrawny, ginger kitten, who is only a few weeks old.

It was to the internet I turned when I was wondering about feeding and caring for our newest family members. I had no cat food and started to feed her scraps from the fridge. I wanted to make sure I didn’t feed her anything that would disagree with her. Sure enough there was a selection of cat care websites with all sorts of advice.

So the World Wide Web has provided us with some useful information this week. The cats are well fed and happy and the phone… well the SIM card, battery and data card are fine but the phone and all the contact numbers stored on it seem to have died a sudden death.

I am going to make sure I record all the data stored in my phone. No end of internet advice will recover the business contacts, friends and family my husband had stored on his phone. I think we have learned a valuable lesson. I am not sure if the lesson is to keep a better record of all our data… or to leave the phone outside when visiting the toilet!

Sharona B


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Fitting Celebration

We went to a Bat Mitzvah this week. The Israeli Bat Mitzvahs I have been to have all been such joyous affairs. The girls learn Israeli dancing at school and it is lovely to see them all, holding hands and dancing in unison. The dancing is traditional and so graceful to watch.

Many of the parties I have been to in Israel have been home catered with friends supplying dishes to contribute. These parties all have a more intimate feel to them and the food is always delicious. It is a much warmer, simpler, less shallow way to celebrate and makes the focus the occasion itself rather than the catering/venue/DJ etc. It seems to me to be a very fitting way to welcome a girl into womanhood and to demonstrate proper values which will stand her in good stead throughout her adult life.

The baby enjoyed herself at the party as there was a never ending stream of teenage girls to carry her around and make a fuss over her. She looked lovely in her little summer frock, a far cry from the look she displayed earlier on in the day.

She is just constant trouble at the moment. She scavenges through the rubbish bin, empties out my cupboards, throws the laundry all over the floor etc.

In the morning I left her playing with a pile of toys and went to do some work on the computer. My older children were getting ready for school and half keeping an eye on her. I suddenly heard my son yell out and rushed to see what had happened. There stood the baby; the contents of a tub of zinc cream smeared all over her face and hair, covering both her hands up to her wrist and spread all down one side of the leather sofa. She stood there, wide-eyed, with her arms stretched outwards.

Half of me wanted to take a photo to record this ridiculous sight but the sensible side of me rushed over and started to clean off the cream. She was upset. The cream is water resistant and hard to remove. Her eyes stung and she suddenly felt very uncomfortable. It took a while, but we managed to de-cream both her and the sofa.

I guess that’s one more story for the baby book!

Sharona B