About Liz

A lot has changed since I started this project in 2004. I moved to Israel, got a job, started school, got married, moved to the ‘burbs, got pregnant, had a baby boy, got pregnant, had a baby girl… That’s what it’s all about, right? So whereas this started about aliyah, it’s become more and more just where I take notes. About life in Israel in general. I like to think that was the goal all along. Need something? Email or tweet.

Zooey update: four months

We’re in the States on a family visit and Zooey turns four months.

The themes of the last month include:

  • Very social smiles turn into very surprised sadness quickly… a rainbow of emotions.
  • Sisters in your face… Cosby show style…

  • Coos and coos and coos – there’s a lot to say, apparently.
  • Also bubbles and drool. A lot of bubbles and drool.
  • Wearing baby scrubs and otherwise modelling outfits your siblings never got through

  • Chub thighs. So proud of those.
  • Your second trip abroad in your lifetime. Ten-hour flights? No problem.
  • Desperately trying to figure out what will make you ok with sitting in the car… new car seats… mirrors… siblings’ singing… a creepy doll staring at you? Nope nope nope.

Tenufa and community work: giving new meaning to ‘Shop Till You Drop’

In this summer of ‘mom camp’, where volunteering became a theme last week, I want to share another kid-friendly volunteer opportunity, this time in the Jerusalem area.

Where else but on Facebook did I learn about a brand new initiative from Tenufa: Shop Till You Drop. I highly recommend and want to add that the second event of its kind will be held in Talpiot the Wednesday, August 10th. Read on to find out more…

Tenufa is an Israeli non-profit organization, which helps change the lives of Israelis living in poverty, in 7 cities across Israel. Our highly trained professional staff provides critical repairs that range from repairing leaky roofs and moldy inner walls to replacing broken kitchens and electrical systems, at no cost to the families. While our professional repairmen repair the homes we bring in Social Workers to help the family face their challenges; thus our intervention becomes a means to repairing the family.

We participated last Wednesday, the first time they had done the supermarket shopping event. The activity was essentially built for kids to get involved in a very familiar chessed: providing food and household necessities for individuals and families Tenufa has worked with on their home renovation.

Families meet a Tenufa representative at Osher Ad, a major Israeli supermarket chain (or, the ‘Israeli Costco’), and receive a shopping list designed for a specific family who, with one week’s shop taken care of, really gain a lift. Based on the amount the family is willing to spend, they shop for their list around the store, crossing off items and, if deemed appropriate by an accompanying social worker, add on a special item or two.

The activity was totally appropriate for my 7 and 5 year old, who could identify the items by either reading or looking at the printed pictures on the list. They spoke to the reps and learned about what kind of kindness this was and how it was a help to people who needed it.

It went by a little quick, but the kids totally got into it and were excited to be in a supermarket (always, for some reason, a carnival) and to be helping a family nearby.

The second half of the program is joining the social worker to actually deliver the shop. We left the packages outside the door, and the social worker, who the family knows, was in touch with the family directly about taking it in after we left.

To get in touch with Rena, the representative in charge of the program, contact her here.

A very veggie Israel Volunteer Opportunity: Leket Israel

If you haven’t met already, I want to introduce you to Leket Israel. Founded in 2003, it’s an organization I’d heard a lot about but didn’t really experience until I went to volunteer with the kids earlier this week.

Here’s the backstory:

  • Israel witnesses 35% food loss each year – that’s 2.5 million tons of food – 50% of which is suitable and could be passed along to those who need it.
  • By the way, that food is worth 8 billion NIS.
  • And 75% of that loss is fruits and vegetables.

Here’s what Leket does:

The organization makes an effort to save as much of this lost food as possible – by partnering with businesses and organizations like the IDF, restaurants and food manufacturers, to transfer extra or unused food to families that need it. The food is distributed to 190 NPOs operating around the country in providing resources for poverty-stricken citizens.

In 2015, 140,000 beneficiaries received food, food donated was valued at NIS 147 million, and 15,930 tons of food was supplied.

Here’s the volunteer opportunity:

Aside from donating or being in touch about potential partnerships, the main way for us to volunteer is Project Leket – joining Leket staff in their fields near Rehovot or in the north, and picking the season’s ripe crops. Groups or individuals are welcome to participate. My kids were 7 and 5 when we did it, in the dead heat of the summer… I asked the guide when the best time to bring kids is, and she said October – when the citrus is ready for picking and the weather is way friendlier.

The kids had a great time picking tomatoes. Working together, getting our hands dirty, we filled three boxes, and they were really proud of it. And they had a lot of questions about why food is wasted, who this food goes to, and how much food they’re getting.

All in all, I recommend this as a family activity. Be in touch with Project Leket by emailing leket@leket.org or calling 09-744175 to reserve a date and time to visit the fields and participate in this great initiative. 

Summer of mom.

I’ve been having the best time and I want to tell you about it.

But first, a disclaimer – there’s a lot of grief out there – sanctimommies and all that – but I’m being completely honest, no-holier-than-thou, and you can trust me because my kids haven’t really had lunch in a couple weeks and just today the seven-year-old watched 3.5 consecutive hours of unsupervised youtube clips, and that’s the 513586th time in 513586 days.

I’ve been having the best time just being a mom, constantly. I’m on maternity leave, and this has been the most fun by far. The last two I spent job searching, and the first is the first but it’s different. This time, I’m getting to spend the summer with my two older kids in what we’ve dubbed Kaytanat Ima (mom camp), since we aren’t sending to any official (and expensive, jeez c’mon) camps.

And every day I start out so grateful that I get to spend the day with my kids, and I’m  not stressed about work, and I’m not checking my phone for emails, and I’m not cursing out a perfectly nice work colleague. I’m not debating how to handle a ‘crisis’ and I’m not taking care of anyone I didn’t give birth to.

I’m not doing any of that while trying to hang with/feed/bathe/love my kids.

Also – I’ve been making dinners, like full food groups dinners.

I’m asking what they think about stuff, we’re discussing life, we’re laughing over stupid jokes, we’re making up songs, we’re cursing out the drivers in front of us together. We’re seeing new parts of the country we hadn’t seen before. We’re doing science. We’re doing good deeds and volunteering. We’re getting wet. We’re learning how to photoshop. We’re uncovering fairies. We’re learning new skills together. We’re making snow happen in July. We’re painting while wearing socks. We’re seeing our first movie in the theater together. We’re spending hours playing with 6-shekel flashlights. We’re enjoying coffee together. We’re poking a storm trooper in the eye.

I don’t want it to end, this may actually be the first time I’ve felt it like this. Whole picture, not just I don’t want to leave my little baby. But I think part of it is I work myself too hard so when it’s time to play, with no work in site, I can appreciate it to a degree I’ve never felt around my kids before. So the contrast has made these past months so much more wonderful.

Part of it, is of course, their ages.

And it’s killing me that it has to end eventually, at least in part. I’m not going to dwell too much on that right now because I’m still feeling rainbows and kittens from two paragraphs ago.

Tell me, how do I keep a taste of it for the long haul?

Zooey update: three months

Zoooooooey!

Biggest mind blown moment of this month: when we weighed you and you were 5 kilo just after turning two months. So that means we have more to mush, kiss, bite, pinch and tickle than I ever had with your siblings at this point.

Obviously your smiling, silent laughing, coo laughing, and laughing in mini fits when warranted. Which is often because everyone here is all over you, making faces, touching, tickling. Is that why you’ve proven to be so sociable?

Sociable, and intense – that’s what a lot of people you’ve met have said about you. Your sister Nettles was intense too. What was going on in there all those months? Or maybe it’s because, like everyone else in the family, I make you nuts till you push back?

You’ve learned to fit right in. It’s not so much ‘fit’ as it is ‘just is’ When everyone’s playing in front of you, you’re content. And sometimes we’ve had to force it out of necessity, because, well, you know. Four.

And you’re slowly bonding with each of your siblings… but no one more than Nettles, who I’m pretty sure thinks you’re a new toy I brought home for her pleasure. She’ll talk to you, ask you questions, introduce you to her dolls, steal your diapers to dress her dolls, essentially she has spent your college tuition in stolen diapers.

And, when everyone else has gone to bed, she’ll come down, climb up next to you, and, well…

Zooey, you’re still new here, but at least once or twice a day I look at you and consider how I can’t wait to know you in another six months, year, two years, four, six, beyond…

What will you care about? How will you make us laugh? What will you teach us?

 

 

You love us, so listen: Here’s why we need a parade.

I’ll answer the question again and again.

It’s exhausting, and I don’t even have to answer it that often.

But I’m going to answer it again.

Even – especially – the most well-meaning people, including loved ones, ‘allies’ and beyond, ask it around once a year.

For the moms and dads, siblings, relatives, friends – who want us all to be happy but don’t want to understand or accept what that entails.

Or don’t want to ‘see it displayed in public.’

The question –

We love you. We accept you. But why do you need a parade?

Because all lives don’t matter yet. Because it’s natural for us to pay attention to lives similar to ours and disregard the others.

Because sometimes, a lot of times, to teach our children the values we keep close, we have to do something. To take action. To speak louder than words.

Because it’s not just about extremists; it’s not just about hate. It’s about turning a blind eye or not trying hard enough to grasp the idea of acceptance and tolerance.

Because it’s about the mainstream happy citizen who may just not understand yet. May not have met someone different yet. May not have a loved one who has come out yet.

Because this is for people with flexible minds. The kind of person who might be open to trying a new food they always thought they hated, but is capable of even higher levels of understanding and deserves to have that chance. It’s for people ready to have a discussion even if they prefer to have their heads in the sand.

Because the parade is an invitation for people with similar values who just may not see the light yet to come and meet other people living other lives.

Meet them in person. Meet them as people.

Because there are people in our schools, offices, supermarkets, post offices who are not that different to us.

In our families. Maybe in your living room, right now.

Because ‘live and let live’ is important in modern democratic societies.

Because society doesn’t work if we’re not reaching out to others instead of creating Others.

Because discomfort doesn’t equal right to prevent.

Because free speech is critical to progressive society – the same one in which we can shop, travel, learn, love freely.

Because your sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, office mates, congregants need you to understand. To support. To love unconditionally.

Because we are only as good as we treat other people. Even if they don’t look or act like us.

Because there’s a difference between different and evil.

Because we don’t live in a theocracy.

Because we don’t get punished in society for not keeping kosher or not keeping shabbat or not tithing.

The parade is to help explain that. The parade is to help introduce you to the faces behind your fears and disgust, and to help you let down your guard a little if you dare to be open to it. It’s to show off what you claim are shared values. It’s to prove we all exist, differently, together, with the right to be heard and, if we’re good at what we do, to be better understood.

It’s the right not to remain silent. It’s the right to speak up in a society where a teenage girl is stabbed for existing. Where men and women are gunned down for existing as they are, where they are, where you have the right to choose not to be.

Now let’s go back to this for a second – those of you who ask – We love you. We accept you. But why do you need a parade? 

Can you glimpse the reason, just a little?

Can you understand why it hurts to hear the question, over and over?

What about this one: But why do you need to get married?

Maybe, just maybe, go to a parade – a parade in the spirit of the Jerusalem Parade for Pride and Tolerance – a parade featuring women, men, children and families who just want to live freely.

Women and men who want you to see that they have professions and hobbies and values and beliefs that you may share. Accountants. Tour guides. Programmers.

Children who don’t want to experience bullying for who their parents are. They want friends to come over. They want to stay innocent. They want to feel safe coming to you to talk when the time comes.

Moms and dads who want to believe their kids will have it easier some day.

People who just want a moment of peace, a moment not to hide.

Meet them. Remember their faces.

Then see if you can answer that question yourself.

pride rainbow sticker

On hope, afterlife, dreaming.

A couple months ago Koala and I had a ‘yom kef’ together and visited the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, where a central feature is Ancient Egypt and of course, everyone’s favorite – the mummy.

We read the signs. the child-friendly materials, we saw the coffin, we saw pictures.

For a few weeks after that, Koala kept asking about it – how they died, why they stay like that, who are they.

 

And what’s up with afterlife?

For a few weeks he had been bringing up the possibility of afterlife again. He had thrown in bits and pieces about mashiach since school ended in June. When he does, I smile, I nod, I ignore, and I always – always – tighten up.

Why does it bother me so much? So many personal issues. So many specific peeves, built just for me, by me. Nearly 34 years in the making and still moving and making and coming to life.

Soon after, the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice happened. I woke up and saw the headline and felt ill, like everyone else. The details rolled in and at some point, I didn’t want to know any more. It’s too much. Families going to celebrate. Families mowed down.

That same day, he asked again – what happens in the afterlife? Is it real? Will we ever know? I tightened up as always but I loosened up just as quickly. It hit me, strong, like coffee – this is his time. His time to dream and wonder and think and, eventually, conclude. At seven years old, I also worshiped the thought of messiah, of afterlife. Who better than a child to dream and fantasize and hold on to eternal hope?

It felt better for me, and he held on to his questions, laid them out on the table, and we both wondered, together.

 

 

All the books we must read

I’m about to say the most suburban, stereotypical, adult thing I have ever said, but… well… here goes: In my book club this month,

Ok, that wasn’t so bad.

In my book club this month, we read All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I had never heard of it before, being as out of it as I am, but it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015. So it’s kind of a big deal. I didn’t even realize that before opening the book, even though it’s right there on the front cover.

I started reading it and within pages, could not stop. This is the type of book you start reading because you saw it on the table, knew book club meeting is in a few days, need to procrastinate everything else, and forget you had a miles-long to-do list before you reach page 265 and realize you’ve forgotten you have a life outside of an orphanage in World World II Germany.

Anyway.

This book couldn’t have come at a weirder or more appropriate time. Donald Trump has made an entire first world country crazy. Brexit was literally happening while I read about the demise of Europe. Things in Israel are heating up again. Elie Weisel passed away at 87.

I absolutely adore this book – Doerr treats language like fine cooking… just enough this, not too much that. The language was beautiful – in the way I actually stopped in my tracks every 50 pages or so when I came across a line so perfect I had to stop and read it again and again. The characters are well-developed, imperfect, unexpected and I can’t help caring about each one.

And the plot lent itself to a healthy dose of good, classic storytelling.

There are so many themes and metaphors and philosophical musings displayed throughout the novel. Light. Technology. Awareness. Belonging. Mental health. Here are some of the book’s themes that have been stuck in my mind since:

Parenting during war:

“Isn’t life a kind of corruption? A child is born, and the world sets in upon it. Taking things from it, stuffing things into it.”

“There is a humility of being a father to someone so powerful, as if he were only a narrow conduit for another, greater thing. That’s how it feels right now, he thinks, kneeling beside her, rinsing her hair: as though his love for his daughter will outstrip the limits of his body. The walls could fall away, even the whole city, and the brightness of that feeling would not wane.”

“This, she realizes, is the basis of all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.”

Communication:

“Radio: it ties a million ears to a single mouth. Out of loudspeakers all around Zollverein, the staccato voice of the Reich grows like some imperturbable tree; its subjects lean toward its branches as if towards the lips of God. And when God stops whispering, they become desperate for someone who can put things right.”

“To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness. Beneath your world of skies and faces and buildings exists a rawer and older world, a place where surface planes disintegrate and sounds ribbon in shoals through the air.”

Standing up:

“How do you ever know for certain that you are doing the right thing?”

“All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?”

“Seventy-six years old, and I can still feel like this? Like a little girl with stars in my eyes?”

Fear-stoking, other-blaming:

“You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are.”

“Is it right to do something only because everyone else is doing it?”

“Sometimes the eye of a hurricane is the safest place to be.”

“What the war did to dreamers.”

With Elie Wiesel’s death occurring just days after I finished… with all the talk of war and horror and hate in the world today… this line perhaps is what we’re left with if we plan to take heed:

“Every hour, she thinks, someone for whom the war was memory falls out of the world.”