Protecting us from ourselves

Succot is when we put our trust in G-d. We go out to a small flimsy dwelling that we constructed ourselves, and we eat and sleep there for seven days. G-d who looked over us for 40 years in the desert can surely look after us as we observe His commandment. But will He look after us when we disregard His commandments? When we decide not to protect ourselves according to common sense? When we plan on releasing 500 Arab terrorists for one Jew?

G-d could punish us by letting the obvious conclusion of our actions occur. Or, He could decide to protect us. Not because we deserve it – but because we represent His name. And for the merits of the Ushpizin whom we will honor in our Succahs…

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Seasons and seasoning

It’s that time of year. The days are getting cooler, and the warm shafts of sun really feel good. The nights are cold, and I know that I’m keeping my fan on only because I’ve gotten used to the noise it makes – and not because I really need it. In our garden yesterday I saw a toad hopping about, and on the wall I spotted a tiny baby lizard. He was really cute and I caught it gently. I cupped its nearly transparent body in my palms very carefully so that it wouldn’t get scared and drop its tail. After showing it to my father, I returned it to the house wall.

Yes. It’s that time of year. This indecisive weather has my nose running, and my sinuses aching. I’m already thinking about my sweaters, though perhaps it is a bit too early for that. And though I know this Shabbat is actually Yom Kippur, I’ve been busy cooking. I made a real good chocolate cake, and a wonderful apple Bundt cake. I just love tipping it over and seeing the mold the Bundt pan has created. Such fun!

But now my thoughts are turning to soup. How does vegetable soup sound to you, with couscous on the side? Lovely.  

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New Year Greetings

One of the nicest things about the approaching New Year, is receiving cards from family, friends and different well-wishers. In today’s digital age, most of those cards are via email or Facebook and it’s become rare to actually receive a printed card. As for a handmade card? That would indeed be something to treasure…

Whatever the form, it’s delightful to get those beautiful cards to your inbox. Some are expected, but others are a bit of a surprise. So I’m on their mailing list? How fun! is your first reaction. Your second reaction is to read the card and see if it’s original or a rephrasing of the usual blessings for the New Year.

While everyone wishes for health and happiness there are those who manage to phrase it without rehashing clichés. Some use rhymes, others prefer metaphors but both are aiming to get you to really read what they’re writing, and not just briefly scan it; assuming it to be the same old usual blessing.

 

Well, here’s a lovely new Irish one I learned today: “May God grant you always…A sunbeam to warm you, a moonbeam to charm you, a sheltering Angel so nothing can harm you. Laughter to cheer you.  Faithful friends near you.  And whenever you pray, Heaven to hear you.”

 

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An Afternoon in Ashkelon

 

 

My father and I went to Ashkelon today and spent a fun afternoon.

After stopping at the bank and the pharmacy, we went to a hardware store. On the screen above the front door I could see my image from the security camera. Try as I might, though, I couldn’t find the camera. Finally, I asked the shopkeeper. “It’s by the electric tea kettle,” he said. I looked over there, expecting to see a big black camera, the type with which movies are shot. I didn’t see a thing. I looked at the shelf beneath. At the shelf above. Nothing. “Maybe I shouldn’t know where it is…” I confessed my ignorance with a smile. Amused by my bewilderment, he moved from behind the counter and stretched out his hand – and suddenly I saw the thin black wire running to a tiny little black circle. The camera. Of course; today everything is so neat and compact.

Then we decided on getting sunglasses. My father got two pairs from the 10 shekel stand, and I picked out a pair from the 20 shekel stand. We both decided against a tinted pair of sunglasses. It wasn’t only the price that was great, but the fact that I found sunglasses that fit my face; so often they are simply too huge for me. Especially the latest fashion of oversized sunglasses which just swallows my face up and makes me appear to be some new type of insect.

After all the shopping it seemed that getting something to eat was in order. We went to the mall and up the escalator, avoiding the kids who were clambering d-o-w-n the escalator. Where are their parents? I wondered out loud. We reached the eatery only to discover that half of them were being fixed. We didn’t want to eat at the ones that were open, so decided to leave. Easier said than done. That mall doesn’t have an escalator down. The steps were blocked and only open to workers. That left the elevator – which had a long line waiting in front. I dug my heels in there, while my father lost his patience and decided to find an alternative way down. In the end we both reached bottom at about the same time; I used the elevator, and my father found an open staircase. Had we been too hasty judging those kids?

Finally – home. Time to feed the dogs, to prepare dinner, and to cut the tag from my new sunglasses…

 

Sunglasses

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Mr. Toad

Tonight was the first time ever I’d held a toad.

You see, I’d taken my dog Sweetie on her usual nightly walk when suddenly, on the side of the brick sidewalk, I noticed something hopping along. Since I, in my excitement, gave voice to my surprise and pointed at it, Sweetie noticed it too – especially since the little fellow kept on jumping. Lippitty lip, it jumped, and my Sweetie kept following it with her long black snout. I was afraid she might be tempted to check out how toad tastes – and I know that they are poisonous. Also, it seemed a shame to leave such a cute little guy there in the dirt. So I cautiously picked it up. It didn’t bite. But it swelled up a bit in my fist, and its heart was really racing. I carried it home – Sweetie prancing along excitedly at my side – and let it loose in our lawn.

It’ll have a good life, as long as it doesn’t follow the example of other toads we’ve had in our yard and jump doooooown over the wall.

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Taxi Man

I generally stay indoors as much as possible throughout the summer even before reading warnings from the Ministry of Health that the hottest hours of the day are from 10:00 to 17:00 and BEWARE of the dangerous rays. However, terrible as I find the summer heat, there are those who find it worse than me – and have found creative ways of dealing with it. While chatting to a middle-aged taxi driver in Ramat Gan this week, I discovered that he’s from Russia. It was interesting to note that he hadn’t a Russian accent. He described what winter was like in his motherland, and confessed that here he dumps two bags of ice-cubes in his bath every evening to cool off properly! You see, he grew up in Siberia.

 

Siberian ice

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Back to School!

The first day of school calls for a bevy of good luck wishes:

- To the children starting in a new educational institution.

- To the parents who need to get used to the sudden quiet, yet not worry about their offspring.

- To the teachers who are new in the system.

- To the new principals, who feel obliged to shake up the system. Remember from the Caine Mutiny that it’s the rust that holds the tub together.

- To the schools that thought they had finally gotten rid of everyone. They probably agree with the Trunchbull “my notion of a perfect school is an empty one”. Then again, perhaps by now they were bored…

- And last but not least, to the National Service/ army girls. May you not be worked too hard, and may you feel that you’re given work you’re competent to do.

Good Luck!

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Reactions to Rockets

It just hasn’t been my day. Granted, unlike the two previous days, I wasn’t wakened by a blaring siren… so I was spared running within 45 seconds to the protected room and meeting the rest of the family – all as bleary and half asleep, and only the dogs excited at the early morning family togetherness. Indeed, early Shabbat morning, our dog Bravo took advantage of us all running to the protected room, and clambered onto the kitchen table to eat the remains of some delicious brownies.  Shameful! Chocolate is very bad for dogs.

Today I went to Ashdod for some purchases. But the electricity in the pharmacy was on the blink, and just as it was my turn at the checkout, the electric went out completely. The manager telephoned the electrician, and all us customers were politely ordered out. So I took the bus to Ashkelon. I don’t like the pharmacy there because it’s on the seventh floor! And oh, how I dislike heights…

My purchases made, I took the bus back. While Ashdod had seemed emptier than usual, in Ashkelon people were out and about – sitting at sidewalk cafés and walking around. In the bus, the driver started a conversation instigated by the radio urging people in the South to stay indoors if they needn’t be out. The passengers readily joined the bus driver in conversation. They all agreed that life needs to go on; one can’t stay hiding inside like mice. On the other hand, they were aware that rockets could now get through. “One, two, we can stop. But they’ve figured out that if they shoot seven at a time they’ll get some past our system,” said one passenger. “We need to go back in to Gaza,” said another. “Oh no! Not unless we have a plan. Without a plan we shouldn’t send our boys in,” said the middle-aged woman in the front seat.

With all the worries piling up on Bibi’s plate, there is one thing about which he needn’t fret. There will never be a rebellion of the entire nation over one cause; the one thing uniting us is our disunity. The price of cottage cheese, of houses, bombs falling in the south – they’ll make life difficult for us, but they won’t cause the entire nation to rise.

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Singing with Shwekey

I heard the warm-up band playing so I went to have a look. The big basin that used to be Gan Dov had been scraped of all the weeds, and several dozen white plastic chairs had been set up in front of a stage.

setting up

The obligatory ambulance was parked on the side, and police

ambulance and guards

 stood and chatted around  the perimeters. Meanwhile, only a scattering of people had already shown up, sitting  and listening to the band.

At the same time, underneath the sycamore trees, a number of Gush Katif folk were set up with tables selling their merchandise: jewelry, herbal remedies, books, etc.

selling wares

By the time the performer of the evening, Ya’acov Shwekey, arrived the crowd in Gan-Dov had grown to several thousand. Shwekey entertained his audience with many of his classic songs, as well as with several new songs first sung at his recent Caesarea concert.

Shwekey on stage

I looked around at the crowd. They were enjoying seeing people they hadn’t for a long  time, as well as singing along. The atmosphere was relaxed and pleasant. Some people that live nearby retired with some neighbors to their front porch to listen in comfort.

There was nothing political about the event, but it was nice to know that not only the Left gets free concerts…

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Remembering Gush Katif

the "Orange Spirit" lives on!

How to remember the past?

As the sixth memorial marking Gush Katif’s destruction nears, this question becomes increasingly important. There are those who wish to commemorate the struggle to prevent the Disengagement. Some of these people continue wearing orange bracelets and flying orange banners. Orange – the color of the Gush Katif struggle. Others will insert the word ‘orange’ into every phrase, and talk continuously about ‘the orange spirit’.

Another way of remembering the past is by ensuring that the future generation knows what happened. Each year, a new generation of young children are taken to Kissufim Junction, which is as close to Gush Katif as the army now allows civilians, where they take an oath not to forget Gush Katif. This makes them part of the communal longing for their former home.

A third way of commemoration lies in action. Some choose to plant trees in a grove named after Gush Katif  located by Kissufim junction. Some choose to light a memorial candle.  Yet others prefer to recite specially composed lamentations.  Many go through old family photo albums, or watch films.

No matter which way one chooses, there is no doubt that it only serves as a temporary painkiller until the time when it is no longer necessary because the wound will be healed; we will be back.  

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