Friday, October 8, 2010

First Rain in Israel Greeted with Delight

Summer is officially over. The festival of Succot has finished and we now start to pray for rain. This year rain was forecast just over a week after the Succot celebrations had come to an end. It prompted me to finally get around to rolling up the bamboo roof from the succah and putting it in its case. The rest of the succah had been neatly packed away the day after the holiday. The roof however, is the worst post-Succot job for me.

The bag is long, thin and far too tight; I always need to roll and then re-roll the bamboo sheet in order to squeeze it into the bag, which only opens from one end. I always think it must have been designed by a man (excuse the reverse sexism) as any woman would surely have designed a big slit along the length of the bag with a plastic zip.

A Poetic Moment

As my son and I finally managed to store away our succah roof until next year, we watched as the leaves and blossoms blew off the trees making a colourful carpet on the ground. Out of the blue he said, “I love the smell of Autumn”. This is not the usual type of comment my boisterous twelve year old usually makes!

Joyous Rain Dance

First came the warning clouts of thunder, followed by a sudden deluge of rain. He ran outside, dancing in the first cool shower of the year, closely followed by his brother and sister. All of them enjoyed the liberating and curious feeling of the first drops of rain in a country that is 90+ degrees for much of the year.

I reflected on how strange it was that my kids, born and raised in England during their early childhood, should exalt to so much in a shower of rain. Just when did rain become a novelty factor? Just when did my kids cease being English and become Israeli?

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Kids Prosper

Life has been moving forward at quite a pace and my blog seems to have been somewhat neglected.

Generally we are embedding ourselves deeper into our Israeli lives and England seems forever further away and increasingly 'foreign'... yet somehow we don't quite feel like Israelis yet either. We lap up Israeli culture and have become accustomed to the ideosyncrasies of day to day life here in Israel; which now feels natural and normal to us all.

Most of the time we barely think about being 'olim' and the weeks and months pass by with their usual share of family dramas. So let's catch up with the family.

A Black Eye and a New School

The other week my son did one of his 'specials' - another of his inexplicable, senseless acts that end up wrecking havoc. He decided to throw a brick at a deflating ball to see if he could puncture it - he didn't; it bounced back and whacked him in the face and giving him a black eye.

He has just started a great new school, having struggled in the Israeli education system since we got here. Over repeated years we have taken the decision to switch his school after it was apparent to us that he would not prosper where he was. This was frowned upon by many in 'the system' but we felt that however unsettling it was for him it was better to seek a good match than settle for a bad one. He was unhappy, he wanted to move, he wasn't working, he wasn't moving forward - so why stay put?

We made some wrong choices but finally, last year was the first year he felt comfortable in a school. Unfortunately though his age group all had to move up to the next level in the school system this year so we were left looking for the right 'next step' after several wasted years in schools that simply didn't suit him and that he was unable to thrive in.

Looking for Inspiration

Initial signs at the new school are hopeful; he reports that his new teacher talks to them, "with a smile on her face" and so far he is responding really well to her lessons - which are taught with the big masses of information and instructions all broken down into more manageable chunks and then subsequently recapped and re-inforced before the kids are asked to undertake tasks.

This seems to tick all his boxes in terms of being a second language speaker and also having poor concentration; he is participating more in class discussions and is keen to read from the board, give his opinion and answer questions. He is producing more notes and even, dare I say it, enjoying being educated. Now there's a turn up for the books.

After three long years of wrong choices and one year that put him back on track but was only ever going to be a single year before the changeover - could we finally have found his place after all this time?

In life you sometimes just need one teacher to believe in you or to inspire you. Maybe, just maybe, we have found someone to ignite his fire and unleash his potential.

Super Nanny on Wheels

Over the summer my elder daughter took to roller blading but is yet to master the art of balance - she whizzed around manically, arms waving to remain upright yet somehow has avoided major injury.

She has been amazing over the long (2 month) summer holiday, helping to take care of my 3 year old in the time between her coming home from nursery and me returning from work.

She would make up backpacks with picnics and take her to the park; she would invent imaginative games to keep her amused or choreograph dance routines which would be performed on my return.

One memorable day I got off the bus and as the doors parted, there they stood, dressed up in pretty frocks and necklaces, looking so beautiful and holding out freshly picked flowers. I just wanted to close my eyes and etch the sight forever on my memory and engrave it on my heart.

Bilingual at Last

My sabra is now three years old and has suddently become bilingual. Having struggled to understand everything my Hebrew speaker said, it is as if, suddenly, someone has flipped an invisible switch and her English has instantly kicked in. Just in time for the family visits over the summer!

So there we are, you are up to date now with my family as we settle further into our lives here and each of us finds our feet. We are hopeful that the year ahead will enable us to thrive further as individuals and as a family unit.

Wishing all readers a sweet, happy, healthy, productive year ahead where you follow your dreams and make a success of your chosen path. Shana Tova.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Sleepover with a Difference!

My nine year old daughter often comes home excited about a planned sleepover at one friend’s house or another. She loves nothing better than to pack up a bag and spend the night sneaking snacks and playing cards under the covers.

This week she came home positively brimming with excitement. ‘Guess what Mum?’ she said, ‘I have been invited to have a sleepover with my teacher!’

Confused and Dithering!

So there I stood, totally confused with all sorts of thoughts and questions coming to mind. It turned out that a classmate of theirs spent the night at the teacher’s last week because no-one else could host her the night before a school trip that started early in the morning. The rest of the class got jealous and badgered the teacher to have a sleepover too. In the end she said three girls could stay over and my daughter was chosen as one of them as she had won the weekly class certificate for behavior and hard work.

There isn’t the smallest possibility of anything happening like this in the UK. I imagine that any school teacher making such a proposal would be promptly suspended and visited by social workers for thorough investigatation.

Our immediate thought was that it was totally inappropriate and to say no… but then we thought about it.

Yes or No...?

My daughter goes to a very small, close knit, religious, community school. Are we so tainted by modern social ills that we deny her the chance to enjoy feeling special and to have fun with a friend? Should we always assume the worst in people and deny individuals chances to carry out acts of kindness? Should we smear an innocent, well intended act with cynicism?

My daughter’s class teacher has two young kids of her own and lives fairly local to us. We live in the age of the mobile phone and can be in regular contact with her.

We have noticed that in Israel the teachers are much freer with the kids, particularly in smaller schools. In a previous school the teacher would stroke the kids’ faces and was always holding their hands and had a very close, motherly relationship with her class of young girls. It was particularly noticeable in contrast to the ‘no touching’ culture of UK schools.

Decision Made!

So anyway…. we let her go.

We worried the entire time that we were naïve, stupid, bad parents and more. I'd like to say we called her often to keep in touch and calm our nerves but our crazy 9 year old forgot to turn on her mobile! We felt jittery the whole time and to be honest, regretted our decision.

But... rest assured she had a great time! She loved her teacher’s young kids, she went to a show with her and her family and she came home having had a wonderful experience. We listened to her animatedly relating her stories and then breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Phew.

Did we do the right thing? Would you have done the same? Israel is a place criticized by the media as having a harsh, violent society with questionable standards. All I know is that family and community values are alive and well here in Israel whereas in the West the days of trust and innocence are well and truly over.