Generosity and Kindness

We have been quite busy trying to figure out what furniture we will need to fill our house. Of course we have not yet seen the inside of the house, but hopefully we will be able to do that today. We have made several posts on various lists in Israel seeking second hand furniture or give aways. We are so impressed with the number of responses from total strangers. When I tell (email) people we moved here(and I do tell them it is just for a year) they are so excited for us. Strangers have been inviting us for meals, giving us furniture and even simply giving us the encouragement that we need right now. That is what it is like to live in a country with your "brothers and sisters". You truly feel like you are loved by all.


Another story along the same lines as what Shira posted about earlier. On Friday, Shira decided that we had to get cellphones. We have so much to do this week that she wanted to get one thing out of the way and we weren't really doing anything else. Yeshaya was sleeping at my parents' apt so we figured we could get away. My father came with us in case we needed a teudat zehut (people had warned us that if you weren't Israeli it would cost more). We went to Orange (the cell phone company) and took a number. It was our turn after about a half hour. We got a very helpful lady who told us about a new plan that would be good for us and only required an 18 month commitment even though most plans required three years. It would cost us about 20 shekel a month but we wouldn't have to put any money down upfront for the phones. She had to keep checking with people on the details but seemed to have her story straight when she suddenly said that we had to switch agents so we got another guy.

This guy seemed helpful too but he was busy flirting with various people and checking his cellphone. After a few more minutes though he gave us cellphone numbers and then he reviewed the charges. He said that we had to lay out 750 shekel for each phone because we were paying with an American credit card. My father didn't have an Israeli credit card so we were stuck. I pointed out that we'd be there for almost two hours already and were told the costs and we were upfront that we didn't have an Israeli credit card but we were told it would be a lot less. He said he'd call over the boss. The boss came and confirmed that he was correct. I asked the boss why the original lady told us differently and he said that she was new and made a mistake. I told him that she asked two other people and he said that they just made a mistake. I said that this mistake just cost me a lot of time and I was really upset (the fact that I was extremely tired wasn't helping) and I stormed out of there with Shira and my father.

I figured that was the end of it and I'd have to go cellphone shopping. Then while we were out yesterday, the manager called my parents' house to tell them that he felt bad and he "remembered" another deal that we could get and he'd come to the house so we wouldn't have to shlep out there. We called him back and he came to the house to give us the cellphones on the new plan. He stayed there for two hours to get everything sorted out. He did have some trouble in the end but luckily my mother had an Israeli credit card so we put it on her credit card and that took care of the problem (had we known about the credit card on Friday we wouldn't have had to go through any of that). I was shocked that they called and I really wasn't expecting it but it was a nice gesture and now we have two cellphones at pretty good prices ... even better than the prices we were quoted originally. As Shira said, "you ask for something, the answer is NO, you ask again and the answer is YES."

On A More Positive Note

I did not get to blog yesterday as I was busy and stressed out. However, today things are going a little better. We had an early start and headed to Ramleh to change our status here and get David a B1 visa. Simple enough, not really. What was meant to take 20 minutes took us over an hour. I pride myself on being a good navigator and don't usually get lost. We were merrily on our way following the Israel's equivalent of mapquest. One tiny wrong move and we're on our way to Tel Aviv stuck in major "pa-cuck". We finally find our way and are very excited. We get there get our number and sit and wait and wait and wait. Finally, it's our turn. The lady in charge starts off being very mean, but after a second, her tone changes and she is really nice and helpful. I think that we just need to get used to the Israeli way. Basically, you ask for something, the answer is NO, you ask again and the answer is YES. Pretty strange, but it seems to be the way. We are now armed with David's work visa and have to return to link our passport to his. We need to prove that we are Jewish. Ketubah and bris not good enough. Hopefully that shouldn't be too difficult - yeah right!

Shabbos Menucha

What a relaxing Shabbos! We had a really nice, relaxing Shabbos in Chashmonayim at my sister's house. Leora fell asleep at 2 PM on Friday and woke up a couple times but didn't really eat anything all day. Yeshaya went to sleep around 8:30 and Rivka and Zvi around 9. Shira and I were sleeping by 10. Yeshaya was up for a couple of hours during the night but everyone else slept through the night. I woke up for shul and everyone else slept until around 11:30. Leora woke up for a few minutes and then went to sleep again. She finally woke up at 6 PM for good after sleeping for 28 hours! I took a two hour nap in the afternoon and Shira took a short nap. Rivka, Zvi and Yeshaya all stayed up all afternoon so hopefully they'll sleep well tonight. Let's see if this is the end of jet-lag. I certainly hope so because we have a lot to do this week.

17 pieces of luggage!

We made it!!! Somehow Shira managed to finish packing up the entire house by 10 Wednesday night so we could get a decent night's sleep. We were both up around 3 to put the last few things into the duffel bags like the blankets and pillows and the last load of laundry that was in the dryer overnight. The girls woke up around 3:30 and were very excited. The van came just before 4. There were two benches in it and the back two benches had been removed for our duffels. I started shlepping out the luggage one by one - 16 duffel bags, 1 hanging bag, 2 strollers, 2 boosters seats, a garbage bag full of food, 6 carry-ons and Shira's purse. Ari, the driver, loaded them in the van and it all fit perfectly. In the meantime the boys had woken up and Zvi let us know that he wasn't going to Israel. He went to the bathroom and went back to bed. It didn't phase him when I took his blanket, pillow and sheet from under him. He just stayed in bed. He didn't seem to care that we were leaving for a year but finally after a bribe of a lollipop he agreed to come (he knew he was coming anyway so he figured he was better off getting a lollipop than continuing the fight). At 4:35, we said goodbye to our house for a year. The house wasn't quite clean but the cleaning lady was supposed to come on Thursday so hopefully it will be clean by the time the Beckers arrive.

The drive to JFK was uneventful. Ari was a really nice guy and played music for the kids and talked to us most of the way. I had to daven in the car because I was afraid we'd hit traffic and I wouldn't have time to daven any other time. We got to the airport before 9. We couldn't find a porter at the airport so we needed Rivka and Zvi to help us a lot. We got three carts plus Yeshaya's stroller (we put the other stroller on one of the carts. The kids helped a lot and we got all the stuff to security. They were very nice there. They started weighing the bags one by one (25 kg limit)... 22, 25.4, 22, 9 (pillows and blankets), 22, 22. Finally the guy said, "Do all your bags weigh 22 kg?" I told him what an amazing packer Shira was and how she pretty much evened them all out. He said I could stop putting them on the scale. Then we had just three more lines: one to drop off the luggage, one to get our passports checked and then to go through security.

We got to the gate at 10:15 or so and we found out the flight was delayed until 12:30 (from 11:30). Not so bad. The kids were just happy to be finished with the lines so they could run around a little and so Zvi could play Backyard Baseball on the laptop. We got early boarding since we're travelling with young kids and we had excellent seats (bulkhead in the front row behind business class). We were also sitting next to our cousins, BJ and Hindy and next to the Reichers (friends from Baltimore). It never hurts to have a little protektzia. The kids were pretty good on the flight but I was hoping that they'd sleep a little more.

We got to the airport and my father met us there. My mother would have too but she was busy meeting movers for us at our new house. They were moving stuff from Zichron that my sister and Shira's brother had arranged. BJ and Hindy were a huge help at the airport. I have no idea how we would have managed without everyone's help there. We got our car and loaded the 17 duffels in there and then I drove a jam packed car with all the luggage while everyone else took a taxi. Now we're at my sister's house in Chashmoanim. All in all, it was an excellent trip!


I can't believe there might be a strike this week. I wouldn't mind so much if I just knew for sure if there was going to be one and when it would be over. Now we have to sit here waiting for an official announcement and then speak to the airline for what will happen. Then we have to speak to our driver to New York to reschedule it. Our tenants are moving in on Sunday so we have to be out of here by then. I guess we could just move in to my brother-in-law's house.

Tisha B'av

As I sit here on the floor while my kids are in front of their "babysitter" I'm thinking of our imminent voyage to Israel. I suddenly realized how fortunate we are that we will be able to spend a whole year in Israel (on an American salary too!!!). Maybe it will be worth all the frustration after all. We will be able to visit the kotel whenever we feel like (and we'll see about kever rochel, chevron etc. as I'm quite a chicken). We will get to spend time with our family and friends. My kids will get to know their first cousins even better. We will get to spend a whole year with Bubbie. Maybe we'll even get to go to a hockey game or two up in Matulla, or a baseball game in Modiin. We'll get to take our aggressions out on Israelis drivers. I am so excited to be able to spend a whole year (actually 11 months) in the holy land of Israel. There is just something in the air there. I feel like I'm home when when I step off the plane. I hope the feeling doesn't wear off.

Pack Rat ... Not Me!!!

David's been nagging me to write on the blog. I was so enthusiastic about keeping a blog initially, but now that I actually have to contribute, the excitement has worn off. I am just wiped from all this packing and packing and packing .... The positive side to it all is that I have thrown out so much junk. I'm not even a pack rat and we have so much garbage around. Thank goodness we live in the city and have garbage pick-up twice a week. We have also been able to donate so much stuff that we no longer use. That is a nice feeling. Maybe someone will bring back the big shoulder pad look with all of my high school clothing I donated. Can you believe I still had clothing in cleaners bags from high school? Okay, so maybe I am a bit of a pack rat... but I really had no trouble getting rid of it all now. Much easier to throw it in a trash bag than find a storage place in the house. (I did have trouble giving away any of my coats or jackets so they are now cluttering my storage closet, but I'll get there one day).

Thanks for the help

We've always had a lot of respect for all of our friends who have made aliya. We realized how hard it is to make aliya and while we've talked it many times during our ten years of marriage we've always been too scared. This year we know three other families who were seriously considering going from Baltimore to Israel for one year besides at least one other family going from New York. When we heard about some of the others with that plan we figured that was something we could do too. I was a lot more hesitant than Shira (for some reason many of our friends and family think that I'm the driving force behind this ... trust me I'm not the driving force behind much in our family) but most of the family was very excited about the chance. So after waiting a few weeks to get the approval from work we made the final decision to go and haven't looked back since.

Unfortunately two of the other three families from Baltimore weren't able to go this year for different reasons. We're just really lucky for a number of reasons. One reason is that my job is letting me do everything the same in Israel including my salary so I'm going for one year without any change in my employment. Not everyone gets that chance. The main thing though that is making our lives so much easier is the family and friends that we have in Israel. If we didn't have this huge support network I'm sure that there is no way that we'd have even gotten this far. So thank you very much to all our family and friends in Israel who have helped us get this far and hopefully you guys won't stop being such a big help once we get there.

get ready for Isreal

As I am getting ready for my year in Isreal I have to pack a lot. I have to say goodbye to all my friends but my friends are so nice they made me surprise goodbye party.But it will be so much fun in Isreal I cant wait to go.

Our last Shabbos

It's starting to feel real now. We're actually going to Israel this week! We had a nice relaxing Shabbos. My brother-in-law ate at our house Friday night with his wife and baby and today we ate there with another family. It's just strange when everyone we see is saying good-bye. Sometimes I think of it that we're just going away for a year and we'll come back after our extended "vacation" and nothing will have changed. With all these good-byes though it's starting to feel like we're moving and we won't see these people for a long time. Will these people still be in Baltimore when we come back? Will the kids even remember our family? Many people seem convinced that even though we say we're going for a year that we're going to end up staying for a long time. Those aren't our intentions but one never knows.

Six more days!

We're going to Israel on Thursday. We are going for eleven months and we have so much to do before we go. We decided that we're going to start a family blog so we can have a public journal of our year. Before we start let me introduce the family.

I don't have a good picture of Shira and me but we'll try to get one up here soon. The kids in the picture are (from left) Leora (4.5 years old), Rivka (9), Zvi (7) and Yeshaya (1.5). Rivka said that she will frequently post on the blog and Shira said that she'll do the same. I'm not expecting any posts from the others but you might see one occasionally. We'll try to post pictures and document our experiences.

Foreword by Adina Hagege

There’s no better way to preface a book of the Greenstone blogs than with important statistics and lots of numbers. The family made 235 posts during the 12 months that span their trip to Israel: 87 posts in 2008 and 148 in 2007. August, 2007 was the peak month, with 35 posts. They’ve had nearly 17,000 page hits (as of August, 2008). 9 blog titles include the word Shabbos (no Shabbat in any title). Just barely beating out the mentions of Chanuka (misspelled every time!), which had 6 titular appearances. All in all, there are about 15 references to the various holidays (Yom Yerushalayim counts). But just 2 families make it in to a title. God does not appear once, so it’s hard to be insulted when you’re in such good company (Hagege is not one of the families with a star appearance).

Important data, all that. Lots of numbers to measure and count.

But here are the real statistics.

No number of words can possibly capture how much the Israel-based Greenstones enjoyed having the Greenstone, Jr family here in Israel. No number of memories can attest to how significant this year was for them, for their children. No number of blog posts can possibly capture the impact that this year had on them.

And that’s because there’s something infinitely exquisite, eternally special, unaccountably impressive about living in Israel. And the longer you spend here, the more it seeps in to who you are. Israel is about reviving Jewish history—and you feel it every day you’re here, even just doing the mundane. The Greenstone’s e-account illustrates that to us: so much of their life takes place around history. The very place they lived, Modiin, was the home of the Macabim. Their regular visits to the Kotel are a throwback to what was, 2000 years ago. Their walks through Ein Gedi resonate with David (the king, not the Greenstone) fleeing from Saul. Biking from Kiryat Arba to Jerusalem—OK, may not be how the forefathers made it down to Mearat HaMakhpela, but definitely part of that feeling of history. Snorkeling for the famous blue in the (not-so) deep blue lends the mitzvah of tzitzit a vibrancy it never previously had. (Of course, evenyaruka reminds us that Israel is also about the challenges of living the Jewish life. Dealing with a bureaucracy that may not do things optimally. A laundry machine that never works effectively. Lice that crawl on your head, cockroaches that crawl on your toes.)

Because a year in Israel is more than just a year. It’s a lifetime and possibly an eternity.

I have to confess that my very favorite evenyaruka post is “The world is a toilet.” But another of my favorite posts is “Best time of year to be in Israel.” I think that the Greenstone’s got it right: there’s nothing like the period marking our freedom, leading up to our achieving our independence. But I think that the Greenstone’s also missed a post—“Best place to spend your life.” Or maybe they didn’t. Because the blog itself is about just that: a testimony to Israel as the best place to spend your life.