Monday, February 10, 2020

Things I've learned from trees

It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses we must plant more trees. 
-George Eliot

Today is Tu b'Shvat (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat) - the day the State of Israel and those who support and love her honor trees.

There are reasons we honor trees. They contribute to the environment. They beautify spaces. They shade and cool. They give selflessly.

The Almond Trees are Blooming
Here are some other things we can learn from trees:

1. They stand tall, but bend with the wind.
I'm pretty short. My father, may his memory be a blessing, used to tell me: it doesn't matter how short you are; make people look up to you. 
I try.

2. Trees get rid of the old stuff that they no longer need to have energy and room for the new.
Every year, around this time, I start to clean out my stuff. I have never gotten very far, mostly because I'm way lazy. I claim I have no emotional attachment over the stuff in the house, and I can throw out stuff any time I want. I just choose to keep it. This includes 18 years of back copies of children's magazines, broken crayons, used notebooks, a torn tent, and drawings the kids made in kindergarten. (Well, obviously those I can't throw out.) I'll do it, I promise. I'll start tomorrow.  The new generation - k'nein'a'hora - is growing steadily despite the clutter. 

3. Trees never complain about their neighbors.
On both sides of our house, we have noisy neighbors. Not good noisy. Not joyous, happy, playing outside neighbors. We have neighbors - on both sides! - who scream at each other. The kids yell at the parents, the parents call their kids names. It makes me profoundly grateful for my kids and husband - even when they leave three noodles in a huge container and put it back in the fridge.

4. They don't complain about the position they are in either.
I dislike my job. But my colleagues love me. Mostly because everyone thinks I'm hilarious. But at least I have a job. Things could always be worse. They could implement a mandatory shoe-wearing policy (my Department, not trees - trees don't have to wear shoes, another thing we can learn from them).

5. Trees keep growing, even when they are on their own.

While Buffy the Vampire Slayer calls me to watch her antics (yet again), I have been known to learn things. Did you know that vampires don't actually burn up in the daylight. It's just a myth.

6. Change can be beautiful.
These days, my life is changing in ways that terrify me.
I find myself technologically illiterate. I was always the one who knew how to program the VCR, and put the timer on the microwave; now I'm lost in the world of uploads and swipes. While I fell in love with emails and Facebook (oh, mom, you're so 2005!), I cannot master Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, and I HATE Instagram.
The kids have grown up, leaving me far behind.
That's also mostly because I am moving more slowly. It takes me a little longer to wash the floor, to bend and hang the laundry, to get up from a chair. I don't stop to listen to the birds sing so much anymore, as I stop to listen to my bones creak and squeak.
On the other hand,
I don't have to get hoards of kids out the door in the morning, allowing me to spend an extra few minutes in bed.
I sleep through the night (sometimes - at least in theory)
I have my own computer and don't have to share.
Nobody bugs me when I watch TV. I can eat the last cookie or piece of shnitzel without anyone telling me that they were saving it for lunch tomorrow.

7. Just by being, the world is a better place.
Always remember. And remind others.

Happy Birthday trees!!! And thanks. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

An American by Any Other Name....

So, here you are. Too foreign for home, too foreign for here. Never enough for both.
-Ijeoma Umebinyuo

I was never much of a one for birthdays and birthday celebrations. My own birthday happens to fall in the middle of the Tishrei Holidays, and historically, was usually forgotten in the commotion.

However, and unfortunately for me, this lack of sentiment toward birthdays is not shared by most of my office colleagues. At work, birthdays are a Very Big Deal; so much so that, as of two years ago, an employee can take one of two elective vacation days on his/her birthday.

To complicate matters, my immediate superior, Petunia*, makes a Very Very Big Deal out of her birthday. Her kids send flowers to work, and she takes, not one, but two days off work, and spends the time in a fancy hotel.

Celebrating her own birthday as a Very Very Big Deal wasn't enough for her, and a few years ago, she decided that EVERYONE's birthday is a Very Very Big Deal, and she began celebrating our birthdays in a Very Big Way.  She began to buy us presents.
At first, the presents were small; a cup filled with candy, or a key chain. The gifts began to get bigger -  a plant, or a book - and more personal - face cream or a scarf.

However, over time, all these presents became, not only bigger and more expensive, they also became more and more useless and hideous.

Of course, we underlings now have to reciprocate in kind. We are required to buy her equally hideous and useless presents AND write a card to go with it.

It was her birthday this week. My co-worker, Tiffany, went into a tizzy about what to buy her. "She always buys us such LOVELY gifts. We have to get her something extra special."
I thought back on the heart-shaped coasters I never managed to get rid of, or the bird-shaped salt and pepper shakers taking up room in the cupboard and didn't respond.
"Should we get something for the kitchen? or maybe for the office?", Tiffany continued to gush. "Or maybe...."
"Why don't we just get her a necklace? It's the easiest", I suggested.
This caused a sensation.
"OOOOOH. I LOVE that idea", trilled Tiffany. She immediately volunteered, nay, pronounced, that she would be the one to buy her the trinket, as she had the best, even - dare she say - the most impeccable taste. She knew just the kind to buy.
I was fine with that, until she added "Is 100 NIS a person enough? or should we pay more. After all, Petunia is SOO good to us, and she's just perfect, and we LOVE her SO much.

(really, I'm hardly exaggerating here.)

Well, the big day came, and Tiffany, having bought some piece of jewelry, and the rest of the unit, having all forked over the money, were left with the writing of the card. Which had to be, obviously, in rhyme.

I will take a moment and shine a light on a unique aspect of Israeli culture, one that perplexes and startles me every time I experience it, which has been many many many times.

The rhyming card.

Back in the old country (which was not, as it happens, America), we would write birthday cards, or bar mitzvah cards, or wedding cards, or whatever cards like this:
Dear fill in name
Best wishes on your birthday or bar mitzvah or wedding or whatever. 
my name

And that would be it.

Not so in the Holy Land.
I used to think that it was enough to write a card like this:
Dear fill in name
Wishing you happiness, health, integrity, and fitness (it works better in Hebrew, which would be osher, v'osher, yosher, v'cosher) on your special day. 
Much love, 
my name. 

Apparently, every time I wrote a card like that, I exposed myself for what I was: a new immigrant! An American! Someone who obviously did NOT learn a thing in Kindergarten.

Greeting cards, of any kind, for any occasion, at any age are required to be in rhyme and at least four stanzas. My four words were simply ridiculous!

I stared at Tiffany when she ordered me to write the greeting. "I bought the gift!!! You write the card!!!"
She had a point.
And so, I was forced to use the American card. (no pun intended)
"I don't know Hebrew",  I told her in Hebrew. "Just write 'Happy birthday'."
It was Tiffany's turn to be perplexed.
"What, no poem? No gushing sentiments about how much we love her and how she's the best boss in the world? Won't she be hurt?"
Honestly, I told her, it's not a party - it's just coffee. Happy birthday is enough.

Tiffany wrote 'To Petunia, Happy Birthday!!!! From your friends at work. '
This wasn't sitting well with her, so she added a half a dozen or so hearts, balloons, smiley faces and other squiggles I couldn't quite make out. (Half a dozen of each).

We stuck the 'card' on the wrapped present, got Petunia, and took her out for coffee.
On the way, the birthday girl mentioned, several times, how cold it was. Tiffany nodded vehemently in agreement.
When we arrived at the cafe, I grabbed a table inside.
"Oh NO! said the birthday girl. "Let's sit outside! It's beautiful out." (despite the fact that less than 28 seconds previously, she had complained of the bitter cold.)

That's the other law of Israeli birthday parties. They have to be outside.

Coffee and pastries ordered and delivered, we handed Petunia her gift.
She plucked off the 'card' and turned it over and over in her hand, looking at both sides. She was perplexed. She shook it, turned it upside down, and seemingly waited for more paper to fall out with a poem on it.
"I told you we needed more", whispered Tiffany.
I shrugged. "What do I know?" I said, "I'm American."

*All names have been changed to protect my coffee supply

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Something to talk about

No matter how old a mother is, she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement
-Florida Scott-Maxwell

"You're in a snotty mood this morning", I said to my daughter.
"I'm in a snotty mood every morning", she replied. "That's like saying 'you're beautiful today'. As if there's ever a day I'm not beautiful."
My quick-witted and beautiful, if somewhat snotty, daughter, once again, made me grateful and happy I had her.

My daughter and I are pretty close. As a matter of fact, right at this moment, she's just across the hall from me. That's pretty close. Of course, there's a closed door with a 'Do Not Enter' sign adorned with a skull and crossbones.
But hey. 
As it happens, we chat every morning on the way to the bus stop. It's our bonding time.
"What do you have in school today?" I ask.
"Nothing", she answers.
"Sigh", I sigh.

I've actually got a bunch of kids. I'm close to all of them. We chat all the time.

"Are you coming for Shabbat?" I whatsapped one son last week, "I want to know how much chicken to take out of the freezer."
"Yes, we're coming. Take out steak". And lots of cake," he whatsapped back. "Oh, and we'll probably come early on Friday. What's for lunch?"
I took out chicken.

"Is it cold by you?" I messaged my older daughter. "It's freezing here."
Concerned, she messaged back right away, "Go make some tea."
"I made almond tea", I told her.
"Well, that's gross. Does it stink"?
"Yes," I wrote to her, "like cyanide".
"Well, that's ok then."  Her concerns allayed, she broke the connection.

Another son doesn't message me unless it's an emergency. Instead, he comes up to me and actually speaks.
"What's happening next Shabbat?"
I look up. "What do you need?"
"The gang wants to go to (fill in the name of some teeny-tiny village without electricity and running water, BUT it does have a puddle nearby the locals have the audacity to call a 'spring')".
I repeat, "What do you need?"
"Six kilo of roasted potatoes, two dozen pitot, four cans of tuna, your big pot, three knives, and the cutting board. Oh, and a tomato."
"What are the others bringing?"
"Oh, you know. The rest of the food. Their mothers like cooking."
Overlooking the unsaid but implied and understood "Their mothers are better cooks", I nod and feel grateful. Last time, he needed two tomatoes and a cucumber.

My oldest son doesn't wait for me to start a conversation.
"Can you take the kids for the next six weeks? They're driving me crazy."

Rabbi Sacks, in his dvar Torah for  Parsha Va'Yichi, says that at the core of humanity is not power or wealth, but family. The dilemma is that family conflict is universal. The Torah is rife with family drama; think Cain and Abel (that didn't end well), Jacob and Esau (parental favortism is something to avoid), Joseph being sold by own his brothers! (though, as a child, I could relate quite well to this...). Yet, if the family is not healthy, then society, the nation, and even the world, cannot be healthy. How can we solve this dilemma? How do we achieve functioning families?

All experts agree that the way to achieving a good relationship with your children is by keeping the lines of communication open.

I can honestly say that the lines are all open, even if a bit tangled.
I am greatly blessed.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Whats Up, Chanuka?

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!
― Dave Barry

A year ago, during Chanuka, all our family who lives in Israel, gathered together to celebrate the holiday.  It was the first time we were ever able to do this.

Before the party, we set up a whatsapp group (we called it, surprisingly enough, 'Chanuka party') and, through the group, invited all the family, they all RSVP'ed,  got directions to the address, and asked where to park.
We still have the whatsapp group and never changed the name. Over the course of the past year, we have used it for various purposes: to forward invitations, to pass on information, to share pictures. Indeed, two days after the Chanuka party, I myself used the group to share a picture of the grandchild born that morning. He will be celebrating his first birthday this week.

Last year, people brought food: stuffed mushrooms, pizza, soup. This year, we have a google doc going with lists of what to bring.
We are so 2017. Finally.

Last year, we scarfed down delicious home-made donuts and resisted such extravagances as Royal Lindt sufganiyot stuffed with Lindt chocolate cream and garnished with cocoa-dusted almonds, a miniature cream puff, hazelnuts, and a chocolate shot. This year, we are going to have to resist Spongebob Squarepants sufganiyot.

It's a challenge. 

(but not as hard as it would seem, as I really don't feel like taking out a second mortgage on my house to buy donuts - but I digress.)

Last year, the kids played with dreidels, and we had balloons left over from elections.
Since then, we've had two and a half more elections, no government, and we've run out of balloons.  However, I'm sure that Lucy will still be a hit.

Lucy lighting candles
Last year, my sister and brother-in-law were visiting during Chanuka. They aren't here at the moment, but we will have a nephew coming in from the Old Country.
There will also be a few more plus-ones joining us to celebrate.
Last year, we had nine humans under the age of 6.5 at the party.
This year, we will have 12 humans under the age of 7.5.
(and Lucy, who is now 5.)

We've come a long way in a year.

Chanuka has been celebrated for over 2000 years and memorializes the triumph of the Jews over the Hellenists; the few over the many; the weak over the mighty.
In truth, we celebrate the continuation of the Jewish people as a nation, and our ability and strength  to celebrate, in defiance of the greatest attempts to remove us from the world's stage, whether by genocide or by assimilation.[1] 
The return of our People to our Land - despite the world's frequent displeasure - is the continuation of this miracle.
Our small (but growing!!!) family Chanuka parties are a testament to the ever-present, continuing miracle.
Celebrating the past, we are the future.
You are all welcome to join us!! (bring donuts) (and balloons).

[1] In last week’s Torah reading, VaYishlach, Jacob, upon hearing that his brother Esau is coming with 400 men to meet him, and being ‘greatly afraid’, prays to God.  Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and smite me, the mother with the children. (Genesis, 32;12). Why does Jacob say both phrases, ‘from my brother’ and ‘from Esau’. After all, his brother is  Esau, and we know that there are no superfluous words in the Torah. Our sages explain that ‘from Esau’ refers to hatred toward Jacob and his sons (the people of Israel, i.e., today’s Jews) manifested in violence (pogroms, inquisitions, blood libels, holocausts, etc.), while ‘from my brother’ refers to assimilation; when Jews are enticed away from Judaism through ‘love’ to imitate and be influenced to the ways of others. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Hold the Phone

Mr. Watson — Come here — I want to see you. [First intelligible words spoken over the telephone]
-Alexander Graham Bell

I hate talking on the phone. Even as a kid, I never enjoyed talking on the phone. There were two friends I talked to almost daily after school, but most of the time they would phone me. Of course, those were the days long before everyone had their own personal phone growing out of the palm of their hand; long before the beeps and buzzes and pings that accompany us every moment of the day - on buses and trains, at school, at the office, in parks and in museums. Those were the days when Maxwell Smart answering his shoe phone in a graveyard was considered hilarious. (When my kids saw the show, they didn't get the joke....sigh.)

It was hilarious

My father used the phone at home a lot for his work. I was taught at a relatively early age how to take a message for him. I used to get quite nervous answering the phone (long before there was caller ID), in case I made a mistake in the name or the number or spelled something wrong. 

Eventually, I learned to stay in my room, pretend I didn't hear the noise (I was excellent at that particular skill from pretending not to hear the school bell ring and not going to class - but I digress), and let the darned thing ring. Someone else would eventually get it. 

There have been instances when, rather than speak on the phone, I would go and find the person I needed to speak to - even if that took hours. Or days.  If it wasn't practical to find the person in real life, I would get someone else to phone. If I couldn't find a volunteer, and there was no choice, I would take a couple of days to prepare, bite the bullet, and just forget about it.

Yes, I lost some friends along the way... 

When I first came to Israel, it was like a paradise, because nobody had phones. People wrote postcards to each other. They would leave notes in Richie's Pizza shop on King George Street; 'meet me at 2 on Wed at work. It's important.'

It was glorious. 
That period of time didn't last long enough.

But then email was invented. 
Could it get any better? 
Seriously, no more phone. I could think about what I wanted to say; it didn't matter if I didn't ee-nun-see-ate, if I slurred all my words together, or if I had an accent. And I could answer when it was convenient. 

Today, besides email, there is SMS, Messenger, Whatsapp, and a slew of other ways to communicate. Of course, for all that, you actually need a phone. You just don't need a voice. (Which is great! when you have a sore throat!)

When my phone does ring (and I purposely have a very annoying ringtone), I usually look at it in horror and don't answer. I then text the person and inform them that I don't speak on the phone. 'Oh, come on", they will text back, "stop being a baby". And I text back "stop being so old - nobody speaks on the phone anymore". That always stops them cold. It being partially true helps. 

I have become quite adept at not speaking on the phone. Almost everything, these days, can be done online; finding all sorts of information, getting directions, paying bills, doing business. 
I have not spoken on the phone for so long now, that I'm afraid I've forgotten how. 

Unfortunately, sometimes, despite my best efforts, I have to speak on the phone. 
Like at work.  For some reason, work calls aren't as daunting to me as social calls. There's a reason for the call. There's no need for chit chat and small talk; no need to think of what to say, or afraid you won't react correctly to some news your friend is telling you. 
So when my work phone (the landline) rang recently, I looked down at it with a certain amount of dismay and dread. It showed a number I did not recognize. People were watching me so I had to pick it up. 

"Go ahead, caller", I said (in Hebrew), expecting some irate person with a complaint to answer me.  
But it wasn't an irate person. 
It was an old and very dear friend whom I haven't seen in a very long time. We are, however, facebook friends. 

When he identified himself, I, well,  panicked. All I could think of was 'OMG, I have to talk on the phone!
Unfortunately, some of my panic escaped my mouth. "Why are you calling me?" I asked my friend. 
Thankfully, my friend, knowing I am a strange and irritating person, laughed. "Good to hear you, too", he said, or something like that. I was still in panic mode. 

It took me a few minutes to calm down and talk like a normal human being. 
He was calling to see how I was. After all the action that has occured in southern Israel in the last few weeks, he just wanted to touch base. 
It was so sweet. 
And I'm going to have to learn how to talk on the phone. 
But not today. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Lessons from a pie

More smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. More blessed, less stressed. More love, less hate.
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every year, at the start of the Hebrew month of Elul (corresponding approximately to August-September), I promise myself that, this year!, I will prepare properly for the upcoming High Holiday season, in particular, the Jewish New Year; Rosh HaShana. This year was no exception.

As a kid, back in the Old Country, getting ready for yontiff meant ordering a turkey, getting the meat grinder out of the back of the basement cupboard where it lived most of the year, and polishing the ridiculously heavy silver cutlery that lived in a different basement cupboard. 

These preparations, while important, are not the kind of preparations I had in mind.

Each year, I try to do some badly needed self-introspection to understand and correct bad habits, hurtful mannerisms, wasted opportunities, and promise myself that I'll be a better person.
It never works.

I'll be thinking about how I should be watching less TV and learning more Torah when my mind veers to remembering that I forgot to buy ketchup, and wondering if the new season of Supernatural is starting in October or November.

This year, I was determined it would be different.

I signed up for a whole lot of 'be ready for Rosh HaShana' emails, and whattsapps, and podcasts. I was going to learn from great Rabbis how to seek forgiveness, how to forgive, how to grow.

I was determined I would be spiritually ready for the holidays. I would be able to face God and be clear in what areas I would need His help.
But first I had to see if there was enough hummus in the house. And throw another load of laundry in. And check Facebook.

I did manage to read a few articles and listen to a few podcasts. The messages were all the same. Forgive - you'll feel better; do mitzvot - you'll feel better; Pray more, give more, listen more - you'll feel better; God is waiting for you to come to Him, Go - you'll feel better.

But I wasn't feeling better. I was still worrying whether there were enough eggs and making sure everyone had clean laundry. 
Becoming spiritual was taking a long time. In fact, we needed more hummus. Also, tahina. 

Until one day, about a week or so before the holiday, I read the first magic words. 
'Forgive yourself.'  
That was a radical concept.  

The article said that if you didn't first forgive yourself, how could you expect others to forgive you, and how could you forgive others?
Acknowledge that you are imperfect, have always been imperfect, and will always be imperfect. 

Move on.  

Then, acknowlege the positive qualities you do have and embrace them. Set about to make those parts of yourself better.
Find spirituality in what you already have - not in what you wished you had.  

This, unlike all the other messages, gave me pause.

Forgive myself for the messy house; for the burned rice; for the white dress shirt that turned pink in the laundry; for the weight gain; for the stupid thing(s) I've said, for the anger, and yes, even for the hatred, that has, at times, overwhelmed me? 
This part was hard - I admit. 

Acknowledge what I have; family, community, amazing friends, humour, intelligence, creativity.  I can also make a mean lemon meringue pie. 
That part was easier. 
But finding spirituality was still elusive. 

It occurred to me that I was looking in the wrong places. 

Instead of a podcast, I wondered, could I find spirituality in lemon meringue pie? 

I could, I realized, if I make it (or, in fact make anything) with love and generosity rather than resentment and fatigue. 

Rote prayers and podcasts were causing my mind to stray to thoughts of laundry and the burned rice pan, no matter how hard I tried to concentrate. But great music or a great book music that has me singing and/or dancing; a book that can make me think, a book that makes me want to be friends with the hero, or with the writer - can move me to tears. Is this a sin - or spirituality in a different locale?

Furthermore, friends, I've come to realize in my spiritual wanderings, are one of God's greatest blessings. They enrich my life immeasurably. They make good times better and hard times easier.
Having coffee with a friend is truely a spiritual experience. 

ותשובה ותפילה וצדקה, מעבירין את רוע הגזרה
Repentance, and prayer and charity will avert the severity of the decree
we read in the Unetaneh Tokef Prayer

If I can give up resentment for generosity, and boredom for thoughtful tears, is this not tshuva? Does it matter if the generosity comes in the form of pie? Is it relevant if the words that move me and bring me closer to G-d are in a novel and not in a prayer book? (Obviously depends on the words, but hey, you know what I mean)

In Parsha Niztavim, the last Torah reading of the year that we read right before Rosh HaShana, we are told to choose life. Choosing life is a given, very few people choose not to live. So why would the Torah command us to choose life when we do so naturally? 
The Torah is telling us to choose a life of meaning, a holy life, a Godly life. Choose, we are told, to live our lives such that we will be remembered when we die – whenever that might be – for our generosity and kindness, for our love and affection, and not because we have nice shoes, or a clean house, or lots of money in the bank (and not even because we listen to podcasts about spirituality all day). 
For then, we will live on – long days – in the memories of our children and children’s children. 

Live life: eat the cake, read the book, drink the coffee. 
There, we will find God. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Shalom Kita Aleph

You're off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!
-Dr. Seuss

It was only a few years ago that my oldest child began ‘kita aleph’ – or grade one, as we called it in the Old Country.

Kita is Hebrew for both ‘grade’ and ‘class’, and instead of numbers (one, two, three), in Israel, the grades are counted in letters (aleph, bet, gimel).
Entering kita aleph is a big deal here. In many schools, the little ones are welcomed in grandiose ceremonies organized by the bigger kids; the mayor makes a surprise visit to some school to say hello; and there are signs all over the country saying "Shalom, Kita Aleph!" 

The kids are excited - for a day or two at least - until they get tired of waking up early, of sitting, of standing, of getting dressed in clean clothes, of not being able to watch Sam the Fireman whenever they want. 

More traumatized, of course, are the parents. They know for a fact that it's all downhill after kindergarten. 

A few days before my oldest entered kita aleph, we were given a typed list of items that she needed for the first day of school. 
At the top of the list was the word kalmar (קלמר). 
I stared blankly at the page. At that point, I had been in Israel about 6 or 7 years; my Hebrew was passable, though not great, and I could generally navigate in most daily situations. 
But I had never seen the word kalmar before. Of course, I had never had a kid enter kita aleph before, and I myself had never been in kita aleph. I had been in grade one. And in grade one, we didn't have a kalmar

The kid's father didn't know what a kalmar was either. Apparently, engineers don't need kalmarim (pl) for their work. 
I looked in a dictionary but it wasn't listed. I was beginning to panic. Kita aleph was starting in a few days and already I was failing out. 

I finally discovered what it was by seeing an ad in the newspaper selling back-to-school items. 

Fast-forward a few years, and my grandson is starting kita aleph. I asked him, "do you have a kalmar?" 

The kid's kalmar has Sam the Fireman on it. 

I couldn't, for the life of me, remember the word in English. 

Lots of things are different this time around. 

My Hebrew is better and my English is worse. 

The teachers used to be older than me. Now they aren't. I went to pick up my grandson's school books before school started.  I had been at the Bar Mitzvah of the bearded teacher who was responsible for distributing the books. The beard had touches of grey in it.

Today, the kids all have phones. They are on the list of required school supplies, way before a kalmar. When my oldest began kita aleph, we barely had a phone in the house

These days, instead of meeting friends in the playground with a supply of bamba, we meet on Facebook, whatsapp, and, sometimes, the bathroom at work. I drink a lot more coffee. Sometimes, the coffee is even hot. 

There are also 7,285 different kinds of coffee available today in the HolyLand. 


It's a whole different world out there, a whole different country too. But that's ok, because I'm a whole different person. I'm no longer a person floundering in a strange place. Today, I'm a person with roots; with a past and a future in our Land. 

Shalom kita aleph
May you be blessed to learn so that you love your Heritage, your Land, and your People, in peace.