Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Note In The Kotel

Do you ever find it hard to put pen to paper? Writing letters can sometimes be difficult. How do you express yourself adequately? Use just the right tone? Include all that is needed? When writing a letter to HaShem it gets even harder!

My husband took my son to Jerusalem today and I wanted to give them a note to place in the Kotel. Like most people, I have a lot of people on my mind at the moment plus many hopes and fears. How do you decide which are the most important? Notes placed in the Kotel are supposed to reach HaShem. Would the citation of too minor a worry cause offense? Should one just stick to the bigger issues? Can anybody tell me what the rules are here??!

In the end I chose to write my note on a small square piece of paper – the kind you find in fancy boxes and keep by the phone. I decided that if I had little space available then I would naturally keep the note short, sweet and succinct.

I managed to fit in three sentences which adequately expressed the main things I felt I needed to relay. The note was then taken to Jerusalem and placed in, ‘a nice, comfy spot’ by my son.

Placing notes in the wall is an ancient tradition. The Midrash tells us that the Divine Presence rests on the Kotel and prayers inserted into the cracks between the stones of the wall are felt by many to find their way to the listening and responsive ears of our Maker.

It is strange but once I spoke to my son and established that the note had been taken to the Kotel, I felt a strange sense of serenity and comfort.

Apparently, the sheer number of people placing notes in the Kotel means that the Chief Rabbi of the Kotel has to remove them several times a year. None of them are read but in order to dispose of them in an appropriate manner, they are buried, in the same way as soiled prayer books, tsitsit etc. are.

I hear that anyone around the world can simply click on to a choice of websites these days to cyber-send their note, which then gets printed out and placed in the wall. What a great idea. It is nice to think that people can benefit from such a service and heartening that it must bring such peace of mind to many, even those hundreds and thousands of miles away.

Sharona B

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Contented Moment

It’s the final few weeks of the summer break; the end is in sight. The kids are a little restless.

After a hot, humid day when no-one felt like going out, we ventured out for pizza. The older kids each bought a friend with and we ordered our food then looked for a table. There were many to choose from but all those free were covered in bits of pizza, spilled drink and, predictably, a selection of ants, wasps and flies. I asked if a table could be cleaned for us and the response was typical customer service, Israeli style; I was given a handful of paper towel to wipe down a table myself!

This week my husband returned from the UK. He came with treats for each of us; chocolate, magazines, teabags. It is lovely to have him back home. I asked him to bring me some colored grout from the UK as I prefer it to the grout I can buy locally here. Unfortunately for him, the grout caused a security alert at Heathrow as El Al could not understand why anyone would want to take home such an item. After much discussion his luggage was finally accepted.

Later in the week I sat outside in the shade of the garden, finishing off a mosaic table. As I used the newly delivered grout and watched the table transform itself as the grout accentuated the design, I had a moment of quiet satisfaction. It occurred to me that this new life of ours really is different to the life we left behind and I felt truly blessed. I am out of the ‘rat race’; I have no rush hour stress, I breathe in clean, hillside air, I am able to work from home around the needs of my kids and I live in a friendly community with good facilities. I sat there, thankful to be in Israel and doing something that gives me a lot of satisfaction.

Sometimes it is important to remind ourselves of the things we are doing right. It goes a long way to counteract our experiences at the other end of the scale. Living in Israel we can have days when people are rude to us, bureaucracy weighs us down and seemingly simple tasks take a ridiculous amount of time and effort. It was nice to have my moment of contentment and I shall hold on to that feeling as I go through a week full of frantic pre school preparations, liaisons with the tax office to get my paperwork ready for some new work I am undertaking in September and continued (and so far unsuccessful) sleep training with the baby.

Sharona B

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Forgotten Anniversary

Last year, on the first anniversary of our aliyah, we held a party. We hung up flags, made a load of food and invited people to drop by throughout the day.

This past Shabbat was our second anniversary. Although I knew it was coming up, I forgot to check exactly when, and completely forgot that this Shabbat had extra significance for us.

Shabbat itself was quite ordinary. Apart from my husband being away, we trundled along as we always do. After shul and lunch, my son went out to play football with a friend and my daughter went to one friend’s house and then to another. I did not see her until Havdallah. I had a nap with the baby and then a friend came round with a little play mate for her. They are very sweet together and after toddling around inside, enjoyed investigating the thrills of the garden; discarded toys from the older kids, a ball to kick, a pile of blossom petals to rustle through with glee. Another couple then popped in and we all had Seudah Shlishit together. It was a nice, restful day.

It was not until the afternoon that I realized it was our anniversary. Perhaps after all we had marked it in the best way possible; with friends, relaxation and food.

The anniversary though, did provoke me to take stock of our progress. We have been here for two years now. If I reflect on where I imagined we might be after this time, it is certainly not where we are. We live in a place I would not initially have considered; we have a child I did not anticipate; we work in unexpected fields, I speak Hebrew less fluently than I would have liked... the list goes on.

For all sorts of reasons our aliyah has not turned out quite like I expected it to. That is not to say that I am in any way disappointed, far from it, it is just strange to have spent so long planning something and for events to overtake us quite so rapidly.

Year one was all about settling in and finding ‘home’. Year two was all about our new little Sabresse and finding the best schools for the older kids. So what will year three hold? I have decided that it would be a good thing to set some goals. There are two goals I have right now that I think I can make some progress on over the coming year.

Goal One: To successfully establish both my and my husband’s new businesses

Goal Two: To improve my Hebrew.

This year, I guess, is the year of establishing ourselves; digging in a little, laying stronger foundations. I wonder how we will all fare over the next two years. Only time will tell.

Sharona B

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Day On The Beach

It’s been a while since I ventured out to the coast but today was to be a landmark day; the baby’s first time on the beach.

She had not slept all day and when she refused to give in to her obvious tiredness on the bus I thought she was bound to fall asleep on the beach and miss all the fun. But no. This baby LOVED the beach. Everything about it. My sleep deprived toddler beamed from the moment she arrived, giggled as the waves splashed against her little legs and smiled at the sensation of sand between her fingers and toes.

One thing surprised and saddened me; there was no beach side kosher café at all. Apparently, some have kosher kitchens but all are open on Shabbat, so have no certification.

Tired, hungry but happy, we embarked on our journey home. We bought a supply of snacks then got on the bus. It was crowded. We all split up throughout the bus. I parked the buggy where I could and had to get the baby out, who by now, was exhausted and needed a hug. I was surrounded by bags and the empty buggy. I sat on the floor and slowly she fell asleep.

A lady got on the bus and ended up standing near me. She took one look at me, crouched down with the baby and told me I should be sitting in a seat. I re-assured her that I was fine; I had bags, a buggy and a sleeping baby so moving along the bus was just too complicated.

She just would not allow me to continue sitting on the floor. She marched up to the back of the bus and organized a seat for me. She ushered me down the bus and then, bag, by bag, my belongings were passed down to me and positioned close by. The buggy was then watched and taken care of by a rota of people who made sure it did not roll around or hurt someone.

I ended up sitting opposite my daughter. When the lady next to me realized this, she insisted on switching seats. My daughter, tired out from the beach, got up, rucksack on her back and bag of chips in her hand. As she did so she tipped the packet upwards and they all came raining down on the lap of a man in the opposite aisle. He smiled and brushed the pile away. She finally found her balance and sat down next to me.

I guess, once again, I witnessed another facet of Israeli warmth and their natural love of children. On an average day out the baby will be cooed at and the kids chatted to much more than in the UK. To be honest we were all more or less happy where we were on the bus but to the Israelis, things were just not good enough. Their organization of my family's seating arrangements caused disruption and yet my fellow passengers all quite happily endured spilled chips, bags passed over their heads and being put on buggy watching duty with good spirits.

We got home and emptied our sandy bags out. As I was putting the towels and clothes into the washing machine, the kids asked the inevitable question, ‘Mum, can we go to beach again tomorrow?’

Sharona B

Monday, August 11, 2008

My Tisha B'Av

Tisha B’Av – the anniversary of the destruction of both Temples; the date of multiple expulsions of the Jews and a date to mark the rise of our most recent modern tormentor.

Tisha B’Av, an ominous and important day in the Jewish calendar and yet... a strange kind of a day too. We can drive, watch tv, use the computer – in some ways it feels like a normal day. Yet it is undeniably somber. There does not seem to be a uniform way to mark it, other than fasting and reading the Book of Lamentations.

This year my older kids both had friends around, so the house was busy. I decided to read to them about Anne Frank. We sat down together and learned about a sad episode of our history. They did what kids do; asked questions, came up with ideas as to what they might have done and got enthused about keeping a diary.

My ten year old fasted for the first time. I was so proud of him and he was really pleased with himself too. My eight year old just had a few snacks but also went without for most of the day.

It is hard to fast with a busy house and a little one to amuse but I got through and hastily made myself a nice cup of tea to break the fast with. As they say, you can take the girl out of England but you can’t take England out of the girl!

Sharona B