Baking ‘hamantaschen’ with your Israeli children.

Ears of a guy we’re meant to love to hate. Jews: still rocking weird drama since 3338.

First time making hamantaschen with my kids. Or as an adult. FYI: as you and the diaspora-born father of your kids keep talking about ‘hamentashen,’ your Israeli-born kids are bound to, at some point, look at you oddly.

“Oh. Right. Oznei Haman… it’s, uh, Yiddish to say ‘hamantaschen.’ Haman + taschen.”

Stares.

I had this thing baking hamantaschen. It wasn’t as bad as I thought… Here’s the recipe we used, nothing fancy. Obviously we traded fruit jam for chocolate.

Homemade Purim costumes. No pricey. No sexy.

This is the first year we had strong Purim costume requests… from two kids.

‘Hello Kitty’ I got pretty quick.

Once I figured out what צב צבי נינג’ה meant, I spent a few days hinting at other ideas because after a quick look at Pinterest I decided this would be too hard.

But I won’t lie: I derived a lot of pleasure from my son requesting to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle… in 2014.

I left Pinterest out of this and I’m pretty proud of what we came up with. Cheap and easy and something Koala actually helped with.

Costume ingredients for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle:

  • Green sweatpants and long sleeve shirt
  • Blue (or turtle hero color of your choice) light craft fabric for mask, arm and leg bands
  • Two round foil pans for back shell and front plate
  • Green and yellow paint
  • Green ribbon for the shell straps
  • Safety pins
  • Green face paint
  • Weaponry of choice, if that’s your thing

I had enough of it at home where the whole thing cost me around 55 shekel (12 bucks?). Not bad!

The shell is the biggest task: the back shell was painted by Koala in green, and the front plate in yellow. I trimmed the ‘walls’ of the pan and folded them in to make it flat. I used a whole puncher to create wholes to tie the green ribbon through four corners to make a ‘backpack’ sort of strap situation, but later realized safety pins work better since the foil pan is flimsy.

It was a huge hit with Koala, who wanted to try it on every day leading up to his class Purim party. It was a huge hit with me, who peeked at the price of a manufactured costume in the store and saw it was over 200 NIS.

As far as Hello Kitty… I was also a little intimidated by that one. How could I make her look like Hello KItty as opposed to a regular costume cat?

But Bebe is nearly three years old, let’s not forget, and has/will proudly tell everyone what she is… constantly. So She wore her favorite ‘nice dress’, I did the classic gold/yellow nose and black whiskers, bought a cat headband for ten shekel, and pinned a big red bow to it.

Two happy non-sexy or exaggerated Purim costumed kids. Two happy parents with cash left in the wallets.

Happy Purim!

(And you bet I posted this to Pinterest.)

When you end up in the girls’ Purim costume aisle in Bet Shemesh

Mom of the year spent a couple hours today exploring the Purim costume scene in Bet Shemesh.

I never really did that before because -

a. my oldest has wanted to be Mordechai HaYehudi for the last two years and bathrobe + makeup beard + paper crown = score!

b. I never had that much time anyway.

Yes, I learned a lot today.

  1. I learned that Israeli Purim costume options are both endless and extremely limited.
  2. I learned that I am never ever going to pay NIS 170 for a manufactured version of the costume my son wants and I’m going to make it from scratch and that’s that, kids (he’s getting it for around NIS 55 AND he gets to keep comfy shirt and sweats after).
  3. I learned that if that freicha in the aisle next to me were to whine the word ‘zombie’ one more time I was going to kick her in the shins. Even her son looked like he would take a bite out of her.

Most of all, I learned that not every Israeli Purim costume for little girls is sexy. In fact, in Bet Shemesh, they can go a totally different route…

1. The Matriarch

Quick, who’s your favorite matriarch? Is it Rachel? I bet it’s Rachel.

Rachel Imeinu Purim costume

Get your elaborate Rachel costume for only NIS 99.99, complete with camel imagery, as appropriate! Torah inside jokes!

2. The Other One

Yeah, I hear ya. Everyone and their mother is gonna be Rachel this year. So how about…

Rivka Purim Costume

Aw, you thought I’d say Leah? Nah, not Leah. Though the makeup could have been fun.

3. The Oddly Specific

Moving away from biblical female Purim costumes based on puffy gowns I’m pretty sure didn’t exist back then… and moving towards puffy gowns that exist for the sake of existing, and then some.

SpongeBob Princess

Hebrew-challenged? Disturbingly weird fifteen-year-old Nickelodeon cartoon challenged? That costume is: SpongeBob. Princess.

I officially can’t.

4. The Classic

And, if none of these options fit your daughter’s wild underage girlish fantasy, you can always go with – but of course – literally, ‘naughty kitten’… in a toddler size.

Naughty kitten Purim costume for girls

And don’t get me started on the sexy Hello Kitty costume line for grown women.

A 2-year-old’s perspective on Tisha B’Av

“Did you make this Beit HaMikdash today?”

“Yeah.”

“Is it burning, is there so much fire?”

“Yeah… …fireman come… put water… pssssshhhhhhhhh…”

Perhaps my 2-year-old has more wisdom about the Messiah than any of us could dream of, or she has a vast knowledge of history and the fire fighting capabilities of warring nations, but really, either way, her overly simplistic view on life is just all too refreshing… I’ll take it.

Fifty-Two Frames: Portrait

The one day my son did not wear his beloved black kippa to kindergarten was the one day I needed to take a portrait shot for Fifty-Two Frames.

Divine intervention?

Since living in Israel, never has it been more trendy to debate religious practice, engage or disengage from extremism, ritually cross-dress, or hate people you don’t actually know in real life.

Personally, I think it would be healthiest for us all to stand back and examine the big picture more often. And then turn to the person on our left or right and offer a compliment. And a listening ear.

What does the portrait mean? Is it cynical, is it thoughtful, is it offensive?

Portrait of a misguided Jewish nation.

(Hope I don’t get in Rav Ovadia Yosef’s way any time soon.)

Week 24: Portrait

Don’t judge a man until you’ve thought a mile under his head gear.

Getting your feet (ritually) wet: An American-Israeli’s mikvah story

Perhaps, for a taharat-mishpacha-keeping American-Israeli olah (female American immigrant to Israel who keeps laws of family purity), nothing else can quite epitomize the cultural differences of here and there better than… the mikvah.

Because I got married in Israel, my mikva knowledge and experiences have been molded here. The closest I got in the States before emigrating was a very swanky, fancy Sephardic mikvah in Brooklyn, that my high school class was taken to on a school trip while learning the halachot (laws) in our senior year. A gorgeous facility, including pre- and post- manicure, robes, blow driers, and made-up balaniyot.

The idea to me seemed, pretty clearly, to make the practice more attractive.

Fast forward to 2006, when I became engaged in the monthly ritual in an old, very ‘Jerusalem’ mikva facility tucked into a shoddy building behind a meat market in Katamonim.

Out of any of the mikvot I’ve been to, I came to love it the most.

I hated going, but I loved coming out. I loved the sound of Kaaaaasherrrr rolling off the tongue of the elderly Mizrachi balanit. Deep, warm, the rrrrrr is what made me really feel purified. I loved that she wished me the best of luck, speedy pregnancies, a million children, a good life. I loved believing her, that it would all come true this month, even though the next set of birth control pills were somewhere in the depths of my handbag.

To contrast that, there were the few times I’ve gone in New York during visits. It was my hometown mikva, a place I had passed a billion times during childhood, the heavy red door shut tight during the day. I had known what it was, but I had never been inside.

It was classy enough, comfortable, even kind of PC.

And it was home. Imagine my delight when the first time I lifted my head out of the water, the middle-aged New Yawka balanit was shrilly calling, KOH-shuuuh!

I’ve even been to the mikvah in Melbourne, Australia. This was by far the most comfortable, beautiful facility I’ve dunked in yet. Everything was provided; everything was just right.

Later, when I moved to Tzur Hadassah, I experimented before settling on a permanent mikvah. I tried what seemed like a tiny pre-1967 free-standing stone room in Bar Giora. I visited Efrat, where I felt I had entered an alternative universe (we spoke in English of course). I’ve been to the small but equipped mikvah in Nes Harim.

But where I’ve mostly settled, and returned to every month, are the mega-mikvot in Beitar Illit.

Israeli mikvah: Beitar Illit

These are free-standing buildings with their own identities; secret entrances shield visitors from publicity. A reception desk greets you. Corridors of prep rooms are available. Two mikvot are rotated inside, available depending on your tradition.

And the pre-check questions, oh, the questions.

It’s a personal challenge. I don’t love it like I was able to come to love my elderly Sephardi balanit in Jerusalem. I’ve had to make the experience completely separate and personal so as not to claw at the kisui rosh of an unassuming ‘just doing my charedi job’ Beitar Illit balanit, who to her credit, as she checks the length of my too-long nails, never fails to ask,

‘So, are you from around here?’

 

P.S. I have it on good faith that I’ll be able to report on the ever-in progress Tzur Hadassah mikvah very soon. It’s been completed and waiting for electricity, so they say. Stay tuned…

 

 

On Jews, Jerusalem, Women and Walls

Note: Reflections based on my rare February and March 2013 trips to the Kotel. Based on today’s news, I figured today’s as good as any to post. 

I’ve been to the Kotel, the Western Wall, way too many times in the past year. Previously, I had a comfortable average of maybe once every two or three years. Maybe less. It felt long enough between trips. And the trips are always for the sake and pleasure of other people.

But throughout the last year, I’ve accompanied various visiting family members through the Old City, the pathway inevitably leading to the token Kotel visit. Some pray, some don’t. I never do.

The Kotel, the Old City, and even Jerusalem for that matter have come to symbolize discomfort, pain, ambivalence, shame, conflict. I don’t want to pray in those places. I don’t want to pray alongside people I can’t trust. I don’t want to reach deep into myself and summon a spiritual presence in such a political place.

You know where it’s lovely to pray? In a forest. There’s plenty of forest around Jerusalem. I live in it. I think it’s a not-so-big-secret that many other ancient sects of humanity get that we don’t. Man-made holiness hurts. Holiness existed before we did. Why wouldn’t we jump over each other to access that?

By all means, if the Kotel means something to you, enjoy it. Women of the Wall, Women for the Wall, women who wear falls, women who wear shawls. Men who throw garbage, men who who wear jeans, men who think learning is working, men who think working is earning.

When I’m standing in the Kotel plaza, I’m filled with anger and pain. So please, count me out. Take my spot. I hope though that between me and you and everyone else, some kind of spirituality will eventually solve our crisis.

——-

Things I can’t handle #745873: Beit Shemesh Taliban mother and daughters. Visiting the Kotel in March 2013.