Next year in… your country.

Something really extraordinary happened at work today. In startup world. In the center of Jerusalem.

We had the pre-Passover הרמת כוסית, or company holiday toast. Our CEO spoke a few words, leading to how blown away he is by how the company is growing, both in team… and in the number of pregnant women.

Then he asked a question that’s been on my mind for nearly two years since I started there: **How do you manage to do it? Work full time, maintain your home, care for kids/manage pregnancy?**

As a woman, a mother, a full timer in the work force, it will never get old for me to hear an accomplished 60yo man wonder about this. Without a patronizing tone. Without cynicism. Pure wonder.

I was raised on a lot of equality talk – the power 80s, Take Your Daughter to Work Day, one day there could be a female president.

But nothing means as much or says as much as raising a glass at a company lunch where the CEO calls for blessing the pregnant team members, hiring even more women, and further supporting growing families.

On the eve of a paid maternity leave courtesy of a family-oriented country… it’s not something I take lightly.

Next year in… your country.

The pregnant working mother perseveres in the face of conf–erence.

Credit: The Real Jerusalem Streets

Credit: The Real Jerusalem Streets

A little while ago, I was approached to speak at a marketing conference for end-of-February in the new Hub Etzion shared workspace.

I was in the middle of other conference insanity, but January Liz was all like, shrug whatevs let’s do it so I agreed. Knowing fully that in another month I’d be presenting a marketing talk about audiences to an entire room of marketers – eight months pregnant.

So obviously last week, end-of-February Liz was like oh crap. I’m eight months pregnant. is that an excuse?!

It’s not. Not for me, not right now. So I’m glad I pulled through and didn’t go the route that comes naturally – opening with a stereotypical female apology, explaining that I need some slack cut considering I’m creating a human, bla bla.

I thought about it. I kept it in my back pocket while developing my talk. But by the time I was on the drive to the conference I knew I wouldn’t go there.

The last time I spoke at a conference, it was when I was pregnant with my second. Interesting, right? It was the beginning, I felt horrible, and was trying to hide it still. So no one actually knew. But I knew I had to pull through.

I’m lucky to live in a culture – especially the Israel -> startup -> Jerusalem scene – where mom-friendly is fairly normal, where even if things aren’t totally ideal, pregnant women aren’t a shock to see presenting at (or organizing) conferences.

I owe some of that to some of the most family-friendly bosses I’ve had in my career here. Including the CEO of my current company, who routinely encourages expansive working motherhood.

Considering I’m about to upgrade from a couple to a bunch (a gaggle? a murder?) of daughters, I’m going to give myself a pat on the back for spending the last year and a half attempting to figure out this whole nursing working mother/pregnant working mother thing.

By the way, BlueCon 2016 was a great morning spent with peers (thanks to BlueThread Marketing), and Hub Etzion (founded by women!) is a lovely beginning to something positive and encouraging growing in Gush Etzion.

Expat life: Eleven years.

As of today I have spent a third of my life living as an expat, having made the choice to leave what I knew and start over somewhere else, with specific goals and ideology fueling the decision. And 11 years later I really don’t have much to complain about, which I appreciate is incredibly fortunate.

Sure, over a decade later taxi drivers still balk at the fact I left New York City. Even other olim balk at the fact I left New York City. But I maintained during year one and I maintain now that I was born in the wrong city and it took me (only) two decades to find the right place to grow, breathe, build, and live.

The one thing I tell people and grows truer every day is that the cost of leaving family never goes down; it gets more and more taxing as you build a career, settle with a partner, have another kid, watch your siblings and parents move on without you.

For myself, I made the right decision 11 years ago and it set my life on a course I’m proud of. Not all my goals have been met yet and the ideology that fuels my perspective and life has transitioned. And no matter where I am, I always feel like an outsider and, oddly, that’s where I’ve realized I operate most naturally.

But I’m happy feeling as natural as I can as an inside-outsider here in Israel rather than an inside-outsider back in New York.

On rocks, Arabs, talking it out, conflict, and more rocks.

This, an hour after listening to the recent This American Life podcast on the way home from work; the one titled, #570: The Night in Question, the one about the Rabin assassination and associated conspiracy theories.

“Listen, I want to talk to you about some stuff. Do your friends talk about Arabs in school?”

“[My teacher] does.”

“Really? When?”

“When we do [prayers] for the soldiers or people that are sick.”

“What does she say?”

“They throw rocks on us.”

“Do your friends ever call each other Arabs when playing, or say anything?”

“No, but today [friend] asked his ima if he is Arab.”

“He is not Arab… do you know that where I work sometimes Arabs come in to help fix things? And Abba used to work with an Arab guy. And lots of Arabs work around us. And they don’t throw rocks. Most Arabs don’t throw rocks.”

“More throw rocks or less throw rocks?”

“Way less throw rocks.”

“But why do some throw rocks?”

“Because they are angry.”

“But why are they angry?”

“Because sometimes Israelis or Jews make mistakes and do not-nice things to them, and sometimes they do mistakes or not-nice things to Israelis. But you know how we always say that when someone hits you, you should first try talking to them and not hit back? So here people aren’t talking, they are just hitting back.”

“Why aren’t they talking?”

“Sometimes it’s hard to know who to talk to.”

“How do they throw it? The rocks?”

“I guess regular…”

“Like this?” (pitches)

“Sure. I guess.”

“…what kind of rocks?”

“Uh, regular rocks I guess.”

“From the ground?”

“Sure.”

“Where does it happen?”

“Where Arabs and Jews live close to each other.”

“Are the rocks big or small?”

“I dunno. Honestly, I’ve never seen it happen. I haven’t ever been there when it happens… yet…”

He looked at me, kind of surprised. It was too late to take it back but it registered I could have been anywhere near involved with an Arab throwing a rock.

“…but that’s a good thing.”

He turned six and a half today.

So I knew it was time for bed when he next asked,

“…but so Ima, why is your shirt inside-out?”

 

 

Best 6th birthday party idea ever: Go take a hike!

tiyul partyWe brought you superhero explorers… we brought you dinosaur adventures… this year, it was a birthday party on a hike. And this was by far the easiest and best and most all-around enjoyable birthday party that we’ve done so far.

We are fortunate to live within a nature area, and in our town itself, right in the center, is a valley with a hiking path through it and a beautiful park at the top. So we planned that Koala could pick 3-4 friends, and, along with his sisters and parents, do a hike from the bottom – starting with lunch at the horse farm – up to the top, ending with cake at the flower park.

Turns out I prepared more activities than were necessary, which I’m more than happy to not have done. The central focus was on the scavenger hunt and the hike itself. Here’s what I prepped:

  • Equipment: Each kid brought their own hat and empty backpack, and I filled them with a bottle of water, a packet of homemade trail mix, and a magnifying glass. 
  • Scavenger hunt: Everyone got a ‘guide’ with pictures of things to find on the way. Bugs, birds, flowers, other bits and pieces. Each kid also got stickers, so they could mark each item they found. Turns out we found those items, and more, and this was the most engaging bit. 
  • S’mores! Since we weren’t building a fire, and we’re also not in s’more country, I hacked it by bringing tea biscuits, marshmallows, and chocolate spread. I explained to the kids about s’mores, they all stared at me, and stuffed their faces. 
  • Nature tape bracelets: I had actually prepared for two ‘artsy’ projects for the end of the trail, but the ‘rubbing tree bark’ with crayons and paper didn’t really work out. What was cool was the nature tape bracelets – we stuck packing tape around the kids’ wrists, with the sticky side up, and they went around collecting flower pedals, small rocks, dirt, and let’s face it, hilarious forms of garbage, to stick on their ‘bracelet’. 

The best part about a format like this is to leave room for surprises along the way –

I think the keys to this for us were:

  • Keep it small. Realizing over the years my son has a harder time being the center of attention in large groups, letting him choose 3-4 friends created a situation with good chemistry and less pressure. Also, for a hike with two adults, the amount of kids to look after was perfect.
  • Keep it comfortable. Everyone had their own water and trail mix for whenever they needed, and we made plenty of water stops. The s’mores were the biggest stop on the way, and light enough not to ruin the mood for cake at the very end.
  • Keep it simple. I worried we’d speed through the trail and get to the park too quickly, but I must have completely forgotten that kids age 4-6 years old will stop and stare at EVERYTHING. It was a great amount of time to be out.

We had a great time, and came home to no mess in the house (well, except the usual). I highly recommend the same for your own spring/fall babies!

Visiting and storytelling at Har Herzl on Israel’s Memorial Day

A colleague who visits children of friends and neighbors, acquaintances and others at Har Herzl every year invited some of us to join him today on Israeli Memorial Day. I had never been there on Yom HaZicaron itself, so the experience was new.

There’s a lot to see and hear. High school students. Scouts. Foreign students. Next generation soldiers. Career soldiers.

And family, family, and more family.

We’re getting to the point where there aren’t going to be many people left who remember fighting in 1948. Their gravesites are slightly less occupied by visitors.

I had never really given much thought to the last olim pre-independence; they escaped from Hitler’s Europe, came off the boats in 1947, and stepped straight into ‘uniform’. And of course, many many fell in 1948, fighting for the right to freedom they had lacked only a year before:

Below, this Nissim was a runner for the Jewish army, based in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1948 – locked in and fighting to bridge the sides.

He was show by an enemy sniper, who found a hole in the sandbags – shot right in his own home.

He was also ten years old.

In this pool rest the memories of 140 soldiers who fell to the sea.

And then – this happened.

Mrs. Aharoni comes every year to visit her brother-in-law’s grave. He fell in 1948. She worries about who will visit when she’s gone.

My colleague met her here one year; he had brought his son to show him who came before him in fighting for this land; they asked her for her story. And promised to visit Yehuda Aharoni’s grave every year, so she wouldn’t have to worry that no one would come after her. He started coming ever since.

Last year she didn’t show and he assumed, perhaps, the worst.

As we started walking from the site, we saw a woman being lifted in her wheelchair towards our direction.

Mrs. Aharoni appeared. And my colleague was there. And so were we. So now we’ve heard her story from her.

And we are here, too.

 

No better Israel education than the one from your sabra kids

Things I love about Independence Day season in Israel:

  • Every year – without fail – I manage to learn something new from my kids.
  • This morning, all dressed up for the gan celebration, on the way to the car, my gan-aged kids broke out into song together.
  • I asked them to teach it to me.
  • By the time we got to gan, we were all three singing it together.
  • The song – Eretz Yisrael Sheli Yaffa v’Gam Porachat – was stuck in my head by the time I pulled away from gan.

 ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת 
מילים ולחן: דתיה בן דור

ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת
מי בנה ומי נטע
כולנו ביחד
אני בניתי בית בארץ ישראל
אז יש לנו ארץ
ויש לנו בית בארץ ישראל

ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת
מי בנה ומי נטע
כולנו ביחד
אני נטעתי עץ בארץ ישראל
אז יש לנו ארץ
ויש לנו בית
ויש לנו עץ בארץ ישראל

ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת
מי בנה ומי נטע
כולנו ביחד
אני סללתי כביש בארץ ישראל
אז יש לנו ארץ
ויש לנו בית
ויש לנו עץ
ויש לנו כביש בארץ ישראל

ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת
מי בנה ומי נטע
כולנו ביחד
אני בניתי גשר בארץ ישראל
אז יש לנו ארץ
ויש לנו בית
ויש לנו עץ
ויש לנו כביש
ויש לנו גשר בארץ ישראל

ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת
מי בנה ומי נטע
כולנו ביחד
אני חיברתי שיר בארץ ישראל
אז יש לנו ארץ
ויש לנו בית
ויש לנו עץ
ויש לנו כביש
ויש לנו גשר
ויש לנו שיר על ארץ ישראל

Local Holocaust remembrance in 2015 and beyond

Since becoming a mom, everything has gotten harder to swallow. I don’t read the news as much. Especially local evening news from New York. I can’t stomach certain facts of life. And I’ve distanced myself from my cultural ties with Holocaust education and remembrance.

Which is getting easier to do – less voices, more distance from 1945. In Israel, there is a debate over what it all means for the next generation. Can you really expect a generation born into relative national freedom to identify with this historical chapter?

I pushed myself to come out tonight to Tzur Hadassah’s beit ha’am to listen to a local resident and Terezin survivor tell his story. Reuven Fisherman was born and raised in Denmark. Though the Terezin concentration camp in the Czech Republic is the one place I have visited, I hadn’t known the Danish angle. And I hadn’t heard as personal a telling as I heard here.

And I hadn’t heard an Israeli survivor in a long time. Nor one that lives in my community. And has a lot more in common with me as an oleh than many of my other native neighbors.

Like a lot of other survivors, he hadn’t really started telling his story publicly until relatively recently. He published a book in Danish, which was used in a documentary, which is set for release on May 5, which is the exact date he was liberated from Terezin. The book should be coming out in Hebrew by the end of the year he hopes.

There were local scouts in the audience. There were a few other grade school kids. I wondered if my kids will hear a ניצול שואה telling their story, live, in person. I was in first grade when this was all revealed to me in the open. I guess in Israeli standards, they are not too far off from the live, survivor reveal.

Especially since in Israel, Holocaust education starts in pre-kindergarten.