Tag Archives: Israel

Thanksgiving in Israel, a Time of Blessed Rain

27 Nov

Garden Israel

For three days I have been in a rainy, stormy Israel. It is damp and torrents of rain and wind have left large puddles of water everywhere. Walking the streets of Tel Aviv is difficult as the gutters cannot take in the tremendous flows of rain water.

But my Israeli friends and relatives are happy. ‘Welcome to this time of blessed rain,” they say. Because in Israel rain is a blessing even as it caves in roads and causes minor flooding. The rain has been as far south as the Negev and as far north as the Golan.

But this morning is Thanksgiving. I have journeyed almost around the world to be here with my daughter and her boyfriend for this holiday. A trip to India with my husband turned into an adventure. Instead of returning home with him I traveled from Delhi, India, to Istanbul to Israel. All to spend a week here.

I am thankful that I arrived safely here as my husband journeyed safely to Kansas to be with our son. I am thankful that I can see where my daughter lives and works. I am thankful for the plans to see my relatives and friends while here. Even with the rain!

I am thankful for sunshine on Thanksgiving morning. And I am thankful for the blessed rain that has turned the ground damp and moist and the trees green and glowing in the sun.

After ten days in India where pollution and smog have turned the trees grey with soot and the buildings filthy, I also see the rain as blessed. After days of breathing in a film of pollutants and losing my voice to the irritants in the air, I wish blessed rain for Northern India. I hope its people and government can come together to clean the air and water. While I was in India I read daily articles about the pollution. But one of our cab drivers told us that when the rains come the trees sparkle green and the air freshens. Rain is a blessing in India as well.

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Israel divides our family as our daughter has lived here for several years. But though I am separated from my husband and son I feel the blessings of thanks and the joy of the blessed rain. I see how rain is vital as it provides moisture to the land and freshens the air.

I wish all a happy Thanksgiving and a time of blessed rain.

Movie Night in the Catskills Was A Wonderful, Magical Night

24 Jul

It was our Saturday night tradition at the Ritz Theatre in White Lake, NY. In the late afternoon, early evening, we children would go to the early movie with our grandmas: Grandma Esther, Grandma Rose, Grandma Thelma, Mrs. Anoff. They chaperoned about nine or ten children and kept us safe.

Our dads would drop us off at the front of the theater with money for the movie and snacks. We were supposed to be very careful there as it was at the intersection of 17B and 55. So there actually was a bit of traffic.

I think our grandmas would collect all the money and pay. However, when we got a little older, we were allowed to buy our own tickets. If you were under 12 it was one price, over 12 you paid the adult fare. It was always sad when someone had a summer birthday and turned 12. They now had to pay much more!

Our parents, in the early 1960s.  Kauneonga Lake, NY.

Some of the parents, in the early 1960s. Kauneonga Lake, NY.

Our fathers, in the meantime, would then go home to get ready for Date Night with our moms. It was their special time together.

We would watch whatever movie was showing that week. The movie I remember the most was “To Cast A Giant Shadow” about the Israeli War of Independence and Colonel David “Mickey” Marcus, the American officer who helped with ending the siege of Jerusalem. It actually had a major impact on my life choices.

For this movie, I sat next to my Grandma Rose.   Grandma Rose, was really my cousins’ grandma, but that did not matter. We shared grandmas in the Catskills. In any case, Grandma Rose lived through the siege of Jerusalem with her husband, Grandpa Asher, and my Uncle Jack.

While we watched the movie, Grandma Rose spoke to me throughout, telling me what happened to her in 1948. She told me what really happened during the siege. What in the movie was true, what was just fiction. She told me about the lack of water and food. She told me about the day they finally left Jerusalem and how difficult that day was for her and Grandpa Asher. How she looked back knowing she might never live in Jerusalem, her Jerusalem again. She never did. They moved to the USA.

I was eleven years old when “To Cast A Giant Shadow” came out in 1966. But this movie and the story of Jerusalem stayed with me my entire life. It was because of this movie and Grandma Rose’ commentary, that I went to Israel eight years later to spend my sophomore year of college at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I lived in both the Givat Ram and the HaHasofim campuses.

I was able to go freely between both the old city of Jerusalem and the new city. I saw the places Grandma Rose had told me about, as well as, the places I saw in the movie.

While I was gone, Grandma Rose passed away. My parents did not tell me. They did not want it to be in a letter. In those days we had no cell phones, no computer, no Skype. I found out when I got home. I was heartbroken.  I wanted to tell her all about the Jerusalem, where I lived and how it had returned to one city.   But I never got the chance.

But I always remembered that one movie and Grandma Rose.

Movie night was always an exciting night. Without television, cable, VCRs, DVDs, Netflex, we looked forward to going to the movies one day a week. Even when we got older and did not need our grandmas to go with us, we would still go in a group to the movies. Then we would go to Poppy’s for ice cream after the movie ended. It was always a good time. Even on dates we went as couples with someone else. It seemed odd to go out with just one other person. Sometimes we even ran into our parents at the ice cream parlor. So strange, so different from when we were children.

Because when we were young, our dads would come to pick us up after the movies. When we were settled in back at our bungalows, the parents would go out. They were dressed up, looking fine. Many times they were just going to the movies as well. Sometimes, they went to a show at one of the many hotels or bungalow colonies to see a comedian or musical. It was a wild time in the Catskills.

We always knew when they went to a show because they came home with one of those keychain photo viewers. We loved them. I found some when we cleaned out my parent’s apartment and I brought one back to Kansas with me.

My parents always went out extra special on Fathers’ Day weekend because their wedding anniversary was June 17. They had spent part of their honeymoon at Grossinger’s before heading up to the Finger Lakes and exploring on their own. So a special evening out at Grossinger’s was often their anniversary celebration destination.

Movie nights changed after the Ritz in White Lake closed. We then traveled to Liberty or Monticello to go to the movies. But the magic still remained. Movie night in the Catskills was a wonderful, magical night.

Something Evil this way comes…and it is not Israel

22 Jul

Like many mothers in the United States, I have a child who made aliyah (immigrated) to Israel. My daughter studied for her two master’s degrees at Ben Gurion University in the Negev, where she earned degrees in Middle East Studies and the Politics of Conflict. She currently works for a consultant company that helps NGOs (Non-Government Agencies/non-profits) who work toward community building, understanding, helping women and children throughout Israel.

I taught my daughter from an early age to respect everyone’s right to exist in a peaceful world with no fear. That we need to work for interfaith understanding and community.  She listened to me and has tried to help create such a world.

But she saw her place in Israel. And as a mother of an adult child, I could only accept her choices.

When she studied in Israel she lived through missile attacks from Hamas before the Iron Dome defense system went into effect. She learned to take cover and run to a bomb shelter. When she came home one spring, she was concerned about the tornado sirens in Kansas. Would they sound like bomb sirens, and be just too unsettling? But no our sirens do not sound like the ones she was used to in Israel.  The same sirens she is hearing now as she rides her bicycle to work and must run for cover.

Now she, like millions of other Israelis, have been under attack from Hamas for days, months, years. And the world said nothing. NOTHING. They say nothing about the hundreds of thousands killed in Syria, nothing about those being killed in Libya, Nothing.

But when Israel starts to fight back and Hamas uses innocents as shields, Then the world talks. Israel is doing everything it can not to kill women and children.  And I am not saying they are always successful.  But they try.  Remember when the US was in Afghanistan and Iraq, we, yes we, the USA, killed many more civilians.  War is horrible and civilians die.  But when Israel fights back and bombs rocket launching sites that have purposely been placed near schools, hospitals and  residential areas, Israel is blamed.  The UN even found bombs in one if its schools.

Why, because Anti-Semitism still exists and it is like a snake that comes out of hole in the ground and strikes.

Anti-Semitic riots have occurred in France and other countries. Why is not the world rioting about Syria? Why not about Hamas and what it has been doing? Why doesn’t Egypt want to help the Gaza? Because the government of Egypt is afraid of the evil of Hamas!

Do not ask me if I feel stressed. I Do!

Do not ask me if my child is in the military. It does not matter. She is under attack whether or not she serves in the military.

Do not ask me if I want her to come home. For her she is home. As for me, really what do you think if it was your child?

You want to do something. Then tell those who hate for no reason, that Israel is not the enemy here. That evil comes from within Gaza where financial aid has not been used to help better the life of its citizens, but instead has been used to buy weapons from Syria and Iran. Has been used to build tunnels to attack Israel. Has destroyed what Israelis left behind when they left Gaza.

That’s right. They left Gaza. Gaza is not occupied by anyone but Hamas.

Something evil this way comes, and it is not Israel. It is terrorists. And terrorists/fanatics do not stop. They must be stopped.

How 24-Hour News Turned Me Into an HGTV Addict

18 Jul

I stopped watching the news in 2008, during Operation Cast Lead. My daughter was studying in Beer Sheva, Israel, and I was on the phone with her when a rocket landed very close to her dorm. It traumatized me.  No mother wants their child in the line of rockets.

At that time the Iron Dome, which Israel is now using so successfully against Hamas rockets, did not exist. So when I watched the news, I would over and over again see rockets fired. See people running for cover. And then see the horrors of war for the people trapped in Gaza. I was immobilized by the endless stories repeating over and over again.

My husband and son said, “TURN IT OFF!”

And I did.

I started watching HGTV. No one ever dies in “House Hunters.” No one is ever hurt in “Curb Appeal.” The biggest issue in “Devine Design” is whether the family will like the new room, and they always do.   Sometimes the twin brothers argue. And on “Property Virgins,” the home searchers are not always realistic. While in “Income Property”, the home owners always make out really well with both new income and increased property value.

So I became an HGTV addict.

I learned so much. I realized that some of the remodeling I did in my own home could have been a bit better. I should have put heated floors in my bathroom when I had the carpet pulled out and the tile put in. In the basement, I should have put a subfloor in. But I still like what I have done.

This is the wall I painted before the accent color.

This is the wall I painted before the accent color.

And here is my accent wall with color!

And here is my accent wall with color!

I learned about accent wall colors. And even painted my front hall one weekend to address the need for a vibrant accent color in my house.

From Curb Appeal, I found out that we have done a great job making our house attractive from the street. I guess I already knew that because so many people stop me when they see me outside to compliment my gardens.

However, sometimes HGTV cannot keep me away from the news.

I have been drawn in to the news again the past two weeks. But the past two days have been especially bad. Not only is Israel now involved in a ground offensive in Gaza to destroy tunnels, but a Malaysian airplane, a 777, was shot down from the sky killing almost 300 innocent people.

I have watched the same reports over and over again. That endless news cycle is a killer for emotional stability.

Last night I was crocheting and watching CNN. Which lead to me eating brownies and watching.   When finally I told myself, STOP!!!

I went to directly to HGTV…Wow a family looking for a place to live in Barcelona on House Hunters International.   I really want to travel there. I have not been to Spain. They chose the place I liked. So I was happy. No stress. Sometimes, I do disagree with the choice a family makes, but that is okay.

Friends have been asking me, “How are you doing?” Knowing that my daughter is in Israel. Even my brother said, “Well, this time you really have something to be anxious about.”

To all of them I say, “On HGTV, everything is just fine.”

Remembering those who passed: Yom Hazikaron

5 May

My son thinking in the map of the communities destroyed at Yad V Shem.

My son thinking in the map of the communities destroyed at Yad V Shem.

In 2005, I took my children and parents to Israel for a family wedding and a three-generational trip. We hired a private guide, as my Dad had a heart condition, and I wanted the trip to be as easy as possible for him.   It was wonderful in that sense. Our tour guide knew all the downhill paths for my Dad to walk.

Although my daughter was in college at the time, my son was just in eighth grade. I was a little concerned about taking him to Yad V Shem and Mt. Herzl. But we went because it was important.

At Yad V Shem, the Holocaust Memorial, my son was uncomfortable, especially when we went through the memorial for the children who perished. But the map of Europe and the destroyed communities felt more comfortable. He walked through that section with my Dad. They stopped at Bialystok, where my Dad’s family had lived before coming to the US. And my Dad told him some stories.  My son sat and thought about what he had seen.

After that it was to Mount Herzl. To see all the graves of young men and women who died fighting for Israel was difficult. My son asked a question, “Why are there some stones with no names, or no dates on them?”

These are the graves of people who came over from Europe, who survived the camps. The first thing they did upon arriving in Israel was to fight for survival again for the independence of the state of Israel. Unfortunately, many of them no one knew their name or their date of birth. Just the day they died.   This is what the guide told my son.

We continued walking through the cemetery to the graves of famous people, when I realized my son was missing.   I did not want to go yelling through a cemetery, but I was concerned. So we all split up looking for him.

Then I saw him putting stones on a grave. This is a Jewish tradition. We do not leave flowers, we leave stones as remembrances.. This is an old tradition, and I am not sure why. But I think perhaps as we return to dust, we become part of the ground. I could be wrong.

In any case, there he was putting stones on the graves of soldiers.

“What are you doing? Why did you leave us?” I demanded.

“Mom,” he said. “I am putting stones on all the graves of people with no names. I wanted to make sure someone remembered them. I wanted them to know someone loved them.”

My heart; my son. I still cry for these unnamed soldiers. And I still cry remembering the love in my son.

Yom HaZikaron. We will always remember.

Speaking Yiddish Always Brings Me Holocaust Memories

28 Apr

My maternal grandparents were from Poland and Galicia. They came to the United States in the 1920s. Met and married when Grandma was 19, Grandpa was 29. At home they spoke to each other only in Yiddish, although both learned to speak excellent English. And Grandma was a ferocious reader in several languages.

When I stayed with them, they spoke Yiddish to me as well. As a young child I could respond and easily speak to them. But that ended when my parents realized that my siblings and I spoke and understood Yiddish. They had been using it as a secret language to discuss finances and personal matters. So the order went out…stop speaking Yiddish to the children. My Mother, in later years, would tell me that she regretted making that demand.

But Yiddish connected me to my grandparents. And I studied German in high school and Hebrew in college. Then I spent a year in Israel at Hebrew University. While there I spent so much time with my great uncle and great aunts, who spoke Yiddish at home. So my Yiddish slowly improved, and I became more fluent.

The kneeling sailor is speaking to my Mom;behind her my Uncle; behind him my Grandma.

The kneeling sailor is speaking to my Mom;behind her my Uncle; behind him my Grandma.

My Grandma’s family was lucky. She went to Europe in 1931 with my Mom and Uncle and stayed for six months. When she returned to the US in 1932, she told my grandfather that they had to get everyone out. And she started the process. She was able to get visas for her father and sister. They made my great aunt younger than her real age, so she could come in on her father’s passport. Her brothers and their wives were not as fortunate. But they did survive the war.

My great aunt Tova, my great Grandparents Gimple and Chava. The man driving is an Uncle. And the horses and cart they bought with the money my grandparents sent. They all perished.

My great aunt Tova, my great Grandparents Gimple and Chava. The man driving is an Uncle. And the horses and cart they bought with the money my grandparents sent. They all perished.

My Grandpa’s family was not fortunate at all. They all perished. My grandparents did send his parents money and visa to come to the US. But they could not believe what would happen. They took the money and bought a horse and cart. They did not want to leave their other children and grandchildren. And my grandparents could not get everyone visas.

My mother used to tell me that every morning after work, when he found out that his entire family was murdered, my grandfather would sit in the kitchen and cry. He was a baker…up all night. But before he went to sleep for the day, he cried for all he lost.

In the meantime, my grandparents thrived in the US. They had two children, five grandchildren; two businesses, both a bakery in New Jersey and a bungalow colony in the Catskills.

Grandma wrote to her brother in Israel often. When I went as a college sophomore, I spent a year of college at Hebrew University. I had a cousin who was my age, and my great uncle and aunts (one uncle had died in the 1950s.) I met a few other relatives who had survived the Shoah. But no one ever spoke to me about it. I was young. But my Hebrew and Yiddish were improving rapidly.

Then when I was a junior in college, I took my Grandma to Israel with me during winter break. She had not seen her brother in 42 years. We spent a month together. A month I will never, ever forget.

The phone calls at the hotel would be in Hebrew. Someone would call and speak to me. “I understand the Tova S. is here,” they would say. “Yes,” I would respond. They would then ask genealogy. Who were her parents? Where did she live? When all the right answers were given, I would hear. Yes. She is my mother’s or father’s or someone’s cousin. And they would set up an appointment to meet with us: to see my Grandma.

And the holocaust became real to me. Each person in Yiddish told my Grandma their story of how they survived the Shoah. And who had died during that horrible time. If I did not understand a word, Grandma would translate. Sometimes they would tell me the word in Hebrew. Day after day, week after week, I heard so many stories.

But then came the worst of all. Rafael came. I knew him and his wife and daughter. His mother and my great grandfather were siblings. Rafael and his wife had never spoken to me about their experiences. But when Rafael saw my Grandma, it was an outburst of pain and crying from both of them. Rafael was my Grandma’s first cousin. His sister, Tova Malcha, had been my Grandma’s best friend. And Tova Malcha had not survived. When Rafael and Grandma met their memories overflowed. Not only on death, but on the lives they had left behind.

At that moment, at that time, my Yiddish was at its best. I understood all.

After Rafael left, I asked Grandma why no one had ever told me these stories? Why I had not met all these people who kept showing up? Why Uncle had only introduced me to a few of the relatives when I spent my year there?

There was no answer.

When we returned to the US, my Grandpa was so happy to see Grandma. “Never leave me again,” he said. He did not come with us, because he refused to ever leave the United States.

She never left him again, till she died.

And I never speak Yiddish or hear Yiddish without the images and sounds of that month in Israel and the Shoah ever present in my mind.