Thursday, October 8, 2015

My Future Astronaut

Because I will never get to fulfill my desire to become an astronaut, I remain a proud space geek.  When signs of water were recently discovered on Mars, I excitedly explained this scientific news to Raphaela; where there is water, there is life, and it makes the place practically suitable for humans.

RR:  Why would we want to live on Mars?
Mom:  At the rate that we are going, we are going to need to move to another planet.
RR:  [basically unfazed] Why?
Mom:  We pollute the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the earth in which we grow our food.   Lots of Israelis throw litter on the street. We inject our meat with hormones and then we wonder why we have to work harder to stay healthy.  Al Gore says the planet will be uninhabitable in the year 2050.
RR:  But I love Israel and planet Earth!
Mom:  So do I, but human beings are not treating it so nicely.
RR:  Very well then, we will have to use the water on Mars, and build a house there, and bring a lulav and etrog.  And maybe some of our books and toys.  We need to build a synagogue as well, even though we can talk to God anywhere we like.
Mom:  Sounds like a plan.
RR:  But wait [here comes the panic], does Mars have volcanoes like Earth?
Mom:  I am sure there are some, as Mars is a rock and soil planet like Earth, just with lesser gravity and less access to sunlight.
RR:  Oh, that's not good at all...they are going to have clear out those volcanoes before we go to live there.  Not good at all!
Mom:  Volcanoes are somewhat unpredictable, they don't know exactly when it will erupt.
RR:  Well then, we should invent a cap that we can put on top of all the volcanoes, so the magma will stay inside and not become lava and destroy our colony.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Happy Tears

Though I am not usually one to praise organized religion, I must give credit to the local custom for Simchat Torah [literally translated as "The Joy of the Torah"].

We went to the synagogue down the road from our house, and half her class was there;  she immediately ran off with some of her friends and had me hold the Torah plush toy, which she and many other children in the building had brought to the festivities.

This day of the last day of the Succot holiday specifically celebrates endings and beginnings, the end of the Five Books and the beginning of the cycle with the reading of Genesis.  At a certain point, all the children in the synagogue are invited to stand under the tallit [prayer shawl] and get a blessing, and a prominent gentleman of the synagogue reads from the Torah.

I watched these proceedings from the Women's Section upstairs, and the view made me gasp:  you could not see the floor of the Men's Section as children covered every square inch.  (Like ants at a picnic.)  They sat in chairs and next to the reader and on the stage next at the front of the synagogue, almost 200 little people.

Before you praise their maturity and piety, let me add that they had been promised that if they behaved nicely, they would all receive a three-foot high bag of candies and treats, so these beautiful children had much incentive.

It took five men's tallit to cover the area and the heads of all the children, they said the blessing as a group and listened to the Torah reading, and then the parents sang a special prayer asking G-d and the angels to lead, guide and protect their offspring.

It moved me to tears, this idea of community and continuity, seeing a whole generation before my eyes, the next generation of Israeli children who will lead the way and change the world.

When Raphaela received the ginormous bag of candy as promised, she was moved to tears, "happy tears," as well.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Brief Comment on Middle East Politics

There are terrible things happening in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas right now, with three different terrorist attacks occurring in the last 24 hours.  Senseless violence that has left 14 children orphaned, while Abbas stands at the United Nations and declares that Israel will pay in blood.

Then media outlets like the BBC have the most absurd headlines, implying that the Israelis killed a Palestinian for no good reason, while coincidentally at the same exact time two Jewish men were stabbed to death in the same location in the Old City of Jerusalem by a mysterious someone. Barney the Dinosaur perhaps?  But certainly not the Arab holding the knife right next to their bodies and the body of a small Jewish baby.

The New York Times barely covered the murders, making vague reference within the context of the poor suffering Palestinians.  Wouldn't it have been rational to point out that after Oregon, there were no groups celebrating death and terror in the streets? Do the Americans remember the Palestinian festivities after 9/11?

When the Iranian regime screams "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" in front of the cameras, when they promise to use their first nuclear bomb to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, we Israelis are told that they "don't really mean it."  We, apparently, who live in daily fear for our land and our children, are "over-reacting," and have no right to defend ourselves against an existential threat.

These Arabs are not terrorist, they say, they are "freedom fighters." They deserve to have a flag fly at the United Nations, and they deserve to voice their solid commitment to slaughtering Jews in Israel, because they have suffered so.  No one mentions that there are 22 other Arab states in the region, and NONE OF THEM have offered to take them in or assist them.  No one mentions that most of the Palestinians would prefer to live under Israeli rule, rather their own people, because they know that Israel would not put missiles in their living rooms and their schools and their hospitals, and use their families as human shields.

I am not a politician, I am an American and I am an Israeli,  who chose to raise a family here, build a life here.  Personally I am tired of the rest of world telling us to roll over and play dead, no actually, be dead, because it makes it more convenient for the rest of them.

It is time we took care of our own without being afraid of the rest of world, because the rest of world wants us gone.
One of the nice aspects of Raphaela's class at Evelyna is the fact that many of her friends live quite literally down the street.

Yesterday, we met one of her friends on a walk, and the girls ran off together to play. Next thing I know she is inviting her self over to their house (Succah) for Shabbat lunch, and several hours later, she returned home, accompanied by her friend's father.  I was involved in approximately zero of these arrangements for a play date.

As well, Raphaela went on and on about the delicious lasagna she ate, and how from now on when I make the same dish she will not reject it.  Lasagna is her new favorite food, and she made particular notice of the fact that she did not "give up" easily and was willing to try something new.  At someone else's house.

I think we experienced an important milestone while I wasn't paying attention.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Random Day on Vacation in Jerusalem

On the bus this morning, to get Raphaela's new eye glasses, from the center of town

"Mommy, when you were pregnant, did you wish for a boy or a girl baby?"
"Actually I wanted a girl."
"Because I think that girls have more options:  they can be strong and compassionate.  They can be an astronaut or a ballet dancer, without getting judged by society."
"And look at that Mommy, you got your wish, G-d gave you a girl." [Pause for dramatic effect] "Look who is sitting next to you!" [Another pause] "And I am funny too."


On the way back from town, I suggested that instead of taking the bus home, we should walk, because I felt the need to move, and the swerving of the busses on Jerusalem roads make me nauseous.  I assured Raphaela that it would be easy, because it was downhill all the way home.

We played the Jewish version of "punch buggy," calling out Succot as passed them.

Then we happened to pass by the President's House, and there happened to be a Succot Open House.  Since we didn't have firm vacation plans until the afternoon, we went in and toured the grounds, made a decoration for the President's Succah, drank blue slushies and hung out on his extensive lawn. 

To top it all off, Raphaela got to shake President Ruby Rivlin's hand.

The best times happen when you are not planning or paying attention.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Big Question

"Mommy, you know everything, don't you?"
"No, I don't!"
"Well, what don't you know?"
[Pause, while I decide whether to go into the psychological aspect of growth and change, that I could do better in personal relationships or in setting priorities in my life, or in aiming higher and dreaming bigger.]
"Well, I have no idea how to diagnose or repair problems in the car. I always wanted to learn that."
"What else don't you know?"
[Pause, deciding whether to make this a deep moment in Raphaela's life.]
"I can cook well, but I am not skilled at baking.  Cookies and cakes and things like that, they just don't turn out right."
[Opportunity missed.]

Monday, September 28, 2015

Super Blood Moon Eclipse

This morning, at five am, I woke Raphaela and we went outside for an unobstructed view of the Super Blood Moon Eclipse, an astronomical event that will only repeat in the year 2033.  Together we watched the moon transition from full and bright to obscured and grey, with only the faintest hint of light somewhere in the sky.

Succot is one of my favorite of Jewish holidays, because it opens the possibilities of reconnecting with family and friends, and with nature.  Raphaela and I certainly had quality time as we watched the eclipse, and I enjoyed her inquisitive mind as we shivered slightly in the chill of early morning Jerusalem air.

We also learned something new and vaguely alarming about wild life in Jerusalem:  a large jackal walked around the streets in our area, hunting several street cats as we watched,  and completely unafraid of our human presence.

On a completely different note, who thinks that "Super Blood Moon Eclipse" would be a fabulous title for a terrible science fiction movie?