Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hashem Loves Me

Today I spoke to three non-connected people in New York about the situation with Hurricane Sandy. One was evacuated from her home on Long Island to the Borough of Queens. One remained in her house and is now surrounded by a lake on her property. The third is in charge of an apartment house in New York City. When I asked each one of them how they're doing in this storm, their answer was, "Hashem loves me."
Each one! "Hashem loves me."
The same phrase, each one a different reason, but the same phrase.
The first was sent to Queens because of the flooding danger in her Long Island neighborhood. Indeed her street and all the homes on the street were flooded. Telephone service was non-existent. Trees came down and the damage has not yet been assessed. She had made it out of her block to a nice dry apartment in Queens just in time. When I asked how she was, she responded, "Hashem loves me."
My second friend's home stands above the flood like Noah's ark on Mt. Ararat. Most of the neighborhood is without power, but she said, "We are among the few with power. Hashem loves me."
My third friend is a custodian in a New York City apartment house. I had heard about all the damage to buildings around the city. He said, however, that his building was dry inside. There were no leaks. The apartment house was holding up. "Hashem loves me."
When I heard the phrase for the third time, it absolutely excited me.
Things are pretty bleak in New York right now. The photos from Long Island and New York City are very frightening. But three individuals (and countless others like them) counted their blessings today, and realized that good things happened to them because Hashem loves them.
Friends, we don't need a hurricane or a natural disaster to know that Hashem loves us. He watches over us each day from the moment we get up in the morning and begin our first breath until we get back into bed at night. When we don't slip on the soap in the shower or when we find a parking space on a busy street, when we remember where our keys are or get a pay check just before we get a bill, we each must realize, "Hashem loves me."
When we pass a test or have a surprise visit from our grandchildren, when we get to the gas station just before the red gas light goes on or get to the bank just a moment before the doors close, we should acknowledge, "Hashem loves me."
There are an infinite numbers of reasons to believe Hashem loves us.
Meanwhile, I'm happy Hashem loves my three friends. He also loves me...and you!

Thanks to Shani for the photos of her backyard. B"H the damage outside didn't harm anyone inside. Obviously, Hashem loves her and her family.

Bulgarian Parachot on Display in Efrat

When you enter the sanctuary of the Tiferet Avot Synagogue in Efrat, you are drawn to two weathered and worn very-aged tapestries on either side of the holy ark. In fact, those are not wall hangings, but parachot (ark coverings), each more than 100 years old.
They are part of the parachot collection of 20 parachot that will be featured during the year at Tiferet Avot.

The parachot, some dating as far back as the 1700s, were found in an old synagogue in Bulgaria. They were decayed and moldy, others wet and torn, but there were some whose beauty still shone through their disintegrated condition.
The collection of 20 parachot are characterized by the distinct Bulgarian, Turkish, Balkan textile art.
They vary in their condition – the color on some has totally faded, the fabric has worn, but the artwork, the handcrafts and the needlework are extraordinary.
Some bear the symbols of the Holy Temple, the Torah, lions, the doubled-headed eagle, crowns, the ten commandments. And some have interesting symbols of the Turkish empire.
One of the parachot is in terrible shape, but it was chosen to be salvaged for other reasons. It was originally donated to a Bulgarian synagogue in 1900 by a doctor in NagasakiJapan.
These parachot much be seen! They are a piece of Jewish history, recalling the once vibrant Jewish communities of Bulgaria that were destroyed by war, Communism and intermarriage.
On Display in Efrat
Synagogue in Sofia, Bulgaria
Two of these parachot hang in Bet Knesset Tiferet Avot today. Next to each parochet is its history.
The red silk parochet (above) from 1912 stood in the main synagogue in SofiaBulgaria for close to 100 years. All the embroidery is silver and gold metal (now tarnished) thread. Its weight, due to the metal thread, is close to 25 kilos. Its Ladino inscription is in honor of a marriage and then rededicated in memory of the Jewish soldiers from Sofia killed in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913). It is estimated that a piece this complicated took four women up to a year to make. The crown in the center has been cleaned a bit to give a sense of its past splendor.
Synagogue in Vidin, Bulgaria
A spectacular silver and gold embroidered parochet, white silk couched on linen. The inscription tells us it is from VidinBulgaria and it was donated in 1836. The intricate metal threadwork, patterns, and semi-precious stones, indicate that it was a central piece in this shul.

Round One for the Bee

This is probably the shortest and strangest blog I'll ever write.
I received a number of comments yesterday about my quiet corner. And even folks that walked by said,"Oh, this is your corner!!"
Well, right after I wrote my blog, my rival - the over possessive bee - dive bombed directly at my face!
I was shocked by his brazenness.
But I didn't want to swat him (well, I wanted to, but held myself back). I have a personal rule that bugs in the house are history!! But if they're in nature, I try to let them do their thing, so I just changed my location, and I left my garden to him (for this round).
Anyway, in keeping with the way things are going throughout the world, things are not to peaceful, even in My Secret garden.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dissonance in My Mind

I am praying in my little corner. The wind is swaying my flowers just enough to soothe me, while the teeny birds on the tree branch above call out their friendship to one another in the delicate peeps. If it were a normal day, only my rival - that bee who believes this is HIS garden - would have the ability to bother my total serenity.
But even in this perfect weather in my perfect corner, I am too troubled to find my own inner peace - even for 20 minutes. I am thinking of our brethren in the South who are being bombarded by Gaza, about the deafening booms around them, about the shaking of the ground beneath their feet, about the children who wish they were in their mothers' arms and about the mothers who are pacing the floors waiting for the bus to return them home.
I am thinking of my family far away who have had to evacuate their home in the face of a hurricane. We pray for rain, and in New York today, rain is their enemy.
The breeze is so gentle in my garden today. But there is turbulence in my mind. May Hashem protect our brethren and good people everywhere.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I am a Southerner

I am from the South.
Not from New Orleans or Memphis or even Tallahassee.
I am from Southern Israel.
Well, physically, I’m not from there either. I’m from the center of Israel – more specifically, Gush Etzion. But in my heart and in my mind over the past few weeks, I have moved to the South.
Like the rest of you, I have read about the kassams shot by the Arabs of Gaza. Then I usually skipped to the next story, “Which American Presidential candidate wore a nicer pin on his suit?” I have heard the proclamations and thus-far empty words about an end to violence and a commitment to peace, about neutralizing the threat of kassams and the need to restrain or respond to Arab terror. Then I yawned until the radio played a good song. “Hm, do I really think Moves Like Jagger was created just to suit Zumba mania?”
I have heard about the Iron Dome – the missiles that it caught and the ones that got away. I have seen the images from Reuters and CNN.
But none of these moved me or moved my soul to the South. Then one night, one of my new Southern friends messaged me, “Go on to my Facebook page and see the video my husband just took of a kassam flying over our town, and the Iron Dome blasting it out of the sky.”
I watched with fascination, and then almost fell out of my chair with the ensuing B-O-O-M. The camera shook, and so did my knees.
The Southern Moving Company
With every passing day, my Facebook friends in the South moved me further from Gush Etzion, and closer to Sderot, Netivot, Maagalim and Beersheva.
While most other Facebook folk were posting cute photos or articles from on-line news sources; while they were telling clever jokes or demanding that you “Press Like if you love your mother,” my Southern friends were posting moments of life in the South.
Their real-life moments made me understand life in the South, life under attack. Their real-life moments made me understand their bravery, their faith in G-d, their stubbornness to survive and their refusal to give in to the fear of booms.
When I hear a plane above, I think of them. When I read that the Iron Dome intercepted a missile, I know exactly what they’re talking about. When I see a picture of a destroyed home, I pray for my friends’ homes, and that of all their friends.
When I read about an escalation of violence, I think of my friends’ children sleeping in the stairwell.
I am from the South. I understand in my heart what it is to be under attack, and I know this is unacceptable. Someone has to help my friends and their hundreds of thousands of neighbors. I am from the South, and the next time there are booms, I will be praying for our brethren in the South.
I am from the South, so now all news about the South takes top priority. I feel frustrated by any inaction, and am praying for an IDF achievement that will make a real difference for my fellow Southerners.
How I Moved to the South
(When I wrote the first version of this article, I commented on some of the remarks below, but then I realized there was no need for explanation. Just, please read them all.)
  • Did anyone else just hear those booms, about one minute ago?”
  • “My dog is afraid. I’m not so strong right now either.”
  • “Let’s pray for a ‘quiet’ night.
  • Nothing like a siren and boom to start the day....One thing is for sure, I don't need my alarm clock this morning. Good morning world.”
  • “I have seven kids to get to safety. And I have 15-25 seconds. Sometimes less.”
  • “Good morning and Chodesh Tov to everyone. Sderot Eshkol and Merchavim were bombarded during the night with rockets. What a way to start a day.”
  • “I was in Netivot this morning running errands. I walked by the house that only several weeks ago was destroyed by a grad missile. Scary!!”
  • “The planes seem as low as my roof. My glasses are jumping on the shelf. I hope they don’t jump off.”
  • “My house is shaking. GO TZAHAL GO!!!”
  • “Here is the scenario...rockets are flying fast and furious, the IDF orders residents 10 KM or less to stay close to safe rooms, school is cancelled, and as I look out of my kitchen window I see six kids playing soccer on the street...”
  • “My brother-in-law is a garbage man. He works in rain, blazing sun, freezing cold, hail and KASSAM ATTACKS. He just told me that this morning he was in Kfar Maimon (where my kids go to school), and a kassam landed about 150 meters from him. There is no place to hide, all you can do is pray. The garbage truck has some small holes from shrapnel, but B-H, he is PHYSICALLY fine.”
  • Sometimes silence is even more scary. You think it’s over, start resuming life and BOOM it starts all over again.”
  • “Thank-you for caring about the South...most of the country couldn't care less.”
  • We had a huge boom five minutes ago; I slept well. School cancelled in Otef Azza (stupid name!) Apparently I was right - that BOOOM we heard last night was Tzahal retaliating, G-d bless 'em and keep them all safe!! I'm staying home and not straying outside. 54 rockets thus far....not a time to be wandering around.”
  • “No school today. Smart move!!!!! Keep 'em home near the safe room!!”
  • "No-one in the government wants to admit the terrible escalation of missile strength-range that's occurred in Gaza over the past seven years. The officers in the IDF who care, and I'm sure there are some, must not be sleeping at night.”
It’s late and I must go to sleep too, but I am from the South, so my prayers will be long tonight. Good night, South, good night, North. Good night, rockets, good night, planes. Good night, news, good night, youtube. Good night, South, good night.

(All the photos from this article were forwarded by my friends in the South from their Facebook pages.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lessons from My Persimmon Tree

I returned to my morning prayers in the corner of our garden.It wasn’t too hot or too cold outside (and unfortunately there’s no rain yet),so it was perfect for a half hour of personal thoughts and meditations. I love my mornings in my cozy corner.
Today as I stood silently among our trees, I glanced to myleft and noticed our backyard persimmon tree. Oh noooooo, I had forgotten allabout it!! We had meant to harvest its fruits on the eve of the Sukkot holiday.All the kids were supposed to be home, and we were going to make it a familycelebration.
But life was very busy then and has remained so ever since. Thepersimmons stayed on the tree, waiting as best they could.

Harvest Time
Persimmons are beautiful tomato-shaped fruits that begin as ashade of light yellow, progress to light orange, ripen at orange, and rot at deep tomato red. Their pulp is yummy, but the skin is chalky or bitter unlessthey’re ready. We put our persimmons together with apples, check them every day,and soon they’re ready to eat.
The persimmons on our tree ranged from hard as a rock yellow to soft exploding red balloons. This was an emergency harvest. We gathered all the workforce we could muster - two granddaughters (aged nine and four), and started climbing. 
As we picked the ripe orange-y fruits from ourtree, bulging red persimmons were bursting all around us, like the blitz over London, or like some kid throwingwater balloons out of the window above us.
“Watch out.” Blattttt. “Don’t step on it…oy.” Pluuuuuuugh. ThankG-d I had diaper wipes to clean up my granddaughters’ splattered shirts andsandals.
We climbed as high as we could. Of course, the largest mostdelicious looking persimmons were out of our reach – something to keep reachingfor. We twisted the good fruit right off the tree, and began piling thepersimmons in our wicker basket. We even tried clearing the tree of rottenfruit, as we were harvesting.
We worked until the basket overflowed, and then we broughtthem into the house. We counted….71 persimmons. And there are more waiting.

Lessons from Our Persimmon Tree
Time passes so quickly. If we don’t pay attention, suddenly ourfruit is over-ripe/ our child is grown/ or our problems are out-of-hand/ etc.
A not-yet-ripe fruit (like a small child) can be nurturedand watched so that it can reach its perfection in sweetness. But a neglectedfruit becomes an over-ripe fruit that will only rot. There’s no going back, norepair on an over-ripe fruit.

While a neglected child can “go bad,” G-d forbid....withlove, attention and patience, we can make a difference in any child’s life. Witha rotten fruit, it’s too late to make a difference. But B”H, the same does not holdtrue with a child. Never give up.

Sharing the Bounty

Fruits and vegetables are so expensive lately in Israel. We hopeto pick some more fruits tomorrow, and then share the fruits of our labors withour friends and neighbors.
We feel so blessed to be able to harvest our own fruits andshare their goodness with others.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Here's to the Blue-Haired Ladies

Several of my grandchildren were born in the modern and beautiful facilities of Hadassah Hospital. Two of my children learn in Hadassah College. My neighbor works in Hadassah Hospital's Research Center. My friend teaches in Hadassah College's Optometry Department.

Now, you think about it. I bet you've got plenty of connections to Hadassah. I'm sure it is more a part of your life than you realized.

For 100 years Hadassah has educated our children, trained our professionals, cure our sick, and birthed our babies. B"H, they have helped build our country and helped make us strong.
And who are they?

Blue Haired Grannies??

At first, perhaps, they really were blue-haired grannies (as the Hadassah jokes go), playing canasta for pennies, hosting bake sales for half dollars, selling used clothes for dollars, and later running art auctions and game nights and bowling and theater events, all to make money to send to Israel to help enrich lives here in every way they could. 
Blue haired and white haired and bouffant-haired mothers and grandmothers. More than anything, they were caring wonderful creative tireless and living women who were dedicated to Israel's future.

They crossed the oceans and the deserts to reach the Land of Israel. They administered to the ill under the most primitive and difficult conditions. And then they worked to make them better.
Through the years they have changed, but their vision and dedication have only expanded, never changing.  They have grown younger and older, become professionals and executives and stay-at-home Moms. They've even got men working for their cause. They׳ve run raffles and missions and luncheons for the sake of the Jewish People, first in British Mandate Palestine and then the State of Israel. Their pennies and dollars have grown to multi-multi-million fundraising campaigns.
Their little old Rothschild Hospital has grown to several buildings of Hadassah College. Their hospital dreams have become reality in different mammoth locations in Israel.

They began with a dream (by the legendary Henrietta Szjold [left] - read the fascinating story here - really...read it!) and they continue with a dream. 

They are B"H unstoppable, because everything they do is for "their brothers and their children".
They are the heroines of Hadassah. One hundred years young and still going strong.
Thank you, Mom, Grandma, Aunt Marge. Our lives are better because of you.

Historical photos from Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem.

You might like this post as well: http://voices-magazine.blogspot.co.il/2011/11/hadassah-empire-our-grandmothers-built.html

Efratians Protest Stone Throwing

Following a stone throwing incident at its Northern exit earlier tonight, Efratians protested with their feet. They walked along the Northern Road from Efrat to Highway 60, carrying Israeli flags, to demand more protection from security forces - both police and military - and raise awareness to the stone throwing dangers on Efrat's northern exit. Efratians want a beefed up security presence in that northern area.
Highway 60, Hebron, Talmon and tonight Efrat were targets of today's Arab stone throwing. Read this
No one should be complacent about " just stone-throwing". We're not talking about little kids with pebbles skimming stones on the side of the mountain.
Arab terrorists are engaging in road terror in which they drive by Jewish cars on the opposite side of the road and hurl boulders into their windows. Not only are the windows shattered, but those inside the vehicle are injured, sometimes severely.
Tragically in the case of Kiryat Arba residents Asher Palmer, 25, and his one-year-old son, Yonatan, the stone-throwing was fatal, and both father and son were murdered by Arab stone throwers in September of last year.
The increase in stone throwing incidents is happening everywhere throughout Judea and Samaria. A glimpse of security expert/medic Yehudit Tayar's latest report
Here's a sample of only three days:

"September 11 - North-west of Ramallah at Turmus Aya Arabs attacked Israeli vehicles with rocks causing damage near Karnei Shomron. Arabs attacked Israeli vehicle from the community of Kedumim with rocks causing damage.
September 12, 2012 - Female driver reached Ophra in the Benjamin Regional Council and reported that in the Charamia Valley rocks were thrown at her from a moving Arab taxi causing damage to the vehicle.
September 13, 2012
Gush Etzion-Hevron Highway, Arabs attack Israeli vehicles with rocks.
Bet Romano in Hevron attacked by Arabs with rocks."

Yehudit Tayar's complete report gives a full, yet frightening description of the  stone throwing incidents over the past few months.
It Can't Happen Here
Many people in my town of Efrat look at our community as a plush suburb of Jerusalem. But Efratians are discovering unfortunately that there are dangers, as well.
Tonight one of my neighbors was stoned, coming home through the Northern Access Road. Stonings have occurred on the Northern Road before. 
Following the incident,  more than a half dozen cars met at the Northern Security Booth, drove along the traffic circle, and then 20 residents marched with Israeli flags to the Efrat- Bet Lechem Junction. They positioned themselves all over the Junction, and warned drivers about the stone throwing on the road.
Eventually, IDF soldiers arrived to patrol the area. Efratians insist that Army patrols traverse that route more frequently.
Tonight's demonstration, or perhaps it can be called a civilian patrol, was organized in less than 45 minutes. Some of the participants told the soldiers that while they hope there will be no further need for these patrols, if there is another attack, more than 250 Efratians will answer the call, because everyone's life is in danger, due to this new and unchecked form of terror.
Praying for everyone's safety, and that stone throwers will be caught and prosecuted fully.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The LIKE Ladies

There's something on Facebook called the LIKE button. It has in fact become the icon of our generation.
You press LIKE to show that you've read someone's posting, or that you agree with his sentiments, that you support his cause, and sometimes :) that you truly LIKE what he's talking about and what he's doing.
Usually after a writer posts to Facebook he checks back a dozen times to see if someone pressed LIKE on his post. The more LIKEs he gets, the more he is filled with self-confidence and inner-satisfaction.
Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi once joked that the wicked Haman hated Mordechai the Jew because Mordechai refused to press his LIKE button.
Brunch with the LIKE Ladies
Yesterday I had brunch in Jerusalem with the LIKE Ladies (that's how I think of them). They're a bunch of women who belong to a "secret group" on the Internet.
Most had never met before. There are few common denominators between them, except that they’re all olim (their number of years in Israel varies), they’re all English-speakers (whether native or acquired), and they’re all caring women. They're varied ages, scattered in different parts of the country, living very diverse lives. Each was signed up to the group by someone else. (Batya Medad forced me into this new circle. Thanks, Batya.)  
The group’s premise is like some black-and-white movie about a group of strangers suddenly locked in a room together. But instead of having them bump off one another with each tick of the clock (the way Hitchcock would have staged it), our group members immediately clicked on the keyboard and in life.
Some post to the group a few times a day - sharing vignettes of their life, or "reporting the news" from their particular area. Some send links to their latest blogs or photos of their family.
Some, like me, mostly read everyone else's stuff, and press LIKE and comment. (Okay, I’ll try to post a little more.)

Those folks who NEED to see that their posts have been read, would do very well in this group, because it probably has the highest ratio of LIKEs to posts in the Facebook world.
Mostly everyone reads everyone else's stuff, presses LIKE and even comments.
It’s like being on Facebook with your biggest fans, your mother or your sister. It's a totally supportive, encouraging and empathetic environment. We strangers-turned-sisters are there (on the other side of the computer screen) for one another.

Hugs all Around
A month ago one of the women suggested we meet. No easy feat! Some of the women would have to take a day off work. Some would have to travel great distances on several buses in order to make it. Some would have to leave children or ailing relatives at home in order to attend.
But having shared so much of each others' thoughts and lives, it was clear that we had to meet! So whoever could swing it, decided to step away from the keyboard and into a restaurant.
Jerusalem was the scene of this first get-together. Like the entry of a rock star on to the set of Oprah, each arrival was greeted with a hug, a cheer and a LIKE.
We ate breakfast, of course we drank coffee (I had two cups) and we talked. Around the table, each took a turn sharing a piece of her life story - a dozen women, each with her personal dramas, her personal challenges and her personal triumphs.

Empowered Women
One of our group members called us all “powerful women.” Perhaps so.
As each new friend spoke, I felt that she was an empowered woman. I was held spellbound by each one’s story, and in the back of my head, I heard the music playing from Chariots of Fire. I can still hear it now. Da da da da da daaaa, da da da da da!!!  We had put together a dozen women with stories that could fire up the engine of many a publishing company. They made me laugh; they made me cry. Regular women on the outside, but on the inside GIANTS who had displayed (as my friend Jocelyn calls it) A TRIUMPH of SPIRIT that has helped and continues to help them prevail over the difficulties in their lives.
Everyone’s Got Something
Our meeting reaffirmed for me that everyone, everyone, everyone has difficulties in his/her life – of different sorts and in different times in their life. But with faith, a positive attitude, prayer and supportive friends (across the computer screen or across the table at a cafĂ©) who press LIKE, s/he can prevail over the trials, and go forward.
Friends, whether we have a keyboard in front of us or not, let us follow the example of the LIKE Ladies, and spend our days “pressing LIKE”. IY"H, we can change lives, and even worlds.

Read four other perspectives of our meeting, and introduce yourself to four terrific blogs:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Last of the Jujubes

Our family loves our garden. We (as in the royal "we" - meaning, my husband) have invested tremendous amounts of energy and effort into creating the most interesting garden, gathering the most beautiful trees, flowers and plants, and the most delicious fruit trees.
The pride of our garden is our line of etrog trees, which my husband Israel grew from seeds in our very own home. We've also got kumquats, persimmons, pomegranates, pears and almonds.
Exotic Trees
Our family has traveled pretty far to purchase exotic plants and trees. Our favorite nursery for exotic plants is the Moshe Wallach Nursery, near Kibbutz Ein Shemer, in northern Israel. 
(We discovered Wallach's Nursery in the fabulous volume, "The Book of Amazing Facts and Feats" by Natan Hurvitz and Aharon Yosef Hoffman.)
Moshe Wallach has one of the largest collections of fruit trees in Israel, and even the world. He has circled the globe, discovering unique trees, special varieties of fruits and the most interesting plants around.
Some of the fruit trees that we wish we could buy, like the delectable red annona, Moshe Wallach and his son-in-law Tzur, won't sell to us, because of the colder climate of our region. 
However, we have made some purchases at the Wallach Nursery that are perfect for Gush Etzion - the mango-banana-ish paw paw tree (we've got great hopes for it - find out more), a super fruit - the red sweet-pea-like gogi berry from China (read more about the "fountain of youth" berry), the y-u-m-m-y falsa blueberry from India (we love this as much as blueberries, even though these false blueberries have a pit in them - read more here), and the mouth-watering Himelayan mulberry.
The Jujube
Our favorite tree from Wallach's orchard of 300 different types of fruit trees is the Jujube, or Chinese Date. The Jujube has nothing in common with the candy of the same name, even though it is sweet. Actually, it is so sweet and delicious, its delicate taste makes you smile. It's got a tiny crunch with each bite, and an apple texture inside.
The Chinese Date is also called a Ziziphus. It is the size and shape of a date, and is ripe when it turns brown, just like a date.
This season year our Jujube gave us about 20 fruits. We waited until our children were around so that we could share the fruits, whenever we picked them. They were so precious to us, that we ate them sparingly.
Tonight we noticed that there is only one Jujube left on the tree. It's perfectly ripe, but none of us wants to pick it from the tree, because that will leave our lovely Chinese Date tree bare until next year.
We thank Hashem for being able to grow fruits in Eretz Yisrael, including the sweet crunchy Chinese Dates on our tree, and we salute the last Jujube.