Acharon Acharon Chaviv

I was told by David that this would be the last entry on our blog as we are in the midst of turning it into a book.

I have been wanting to write for the longest time, but never seemed to find the time. There have been so many thoughts and emotion swirling around as we prepared for our departure from Israel and return to Baltimore.

Our last few days in Israel were hectic but at the same time enjoyable. I guess the craziness at the airport and the packing up didn't allow us too much time to reflect on the fact that we were leaving. But now that I've been home for a few weeks I have had the time to think about what I wanted to say.

Our year in Israel was awesome, amazing, better than we imagined. Even though we had a rough start with adjusting, it was well worth it. Firstly, the community of Modiin where we were living was incredible. People were so kind, caring and considerate. We felt like we were a part of something special. David pointed out that the people who make aliyah, are the cream of the crop. There is no one who makes aliyah that doesn't have to sacrifice something to fulfill their dream and you see it in the manner in which these people welcome you. We rarely spent a shabbos alone, and when we did so it was by choice. I just really wanted to say thank you to all of you out there from Modiin. You all helped make our year as incredible as it was.

Another fantastic thing for us was being so close to family. What a treat. With David's parents and grandmother living so near we were able to take advantage and see them so often. How incredible that we were able to share in birthdays, school presentations and just daily life with them. Knowing that they were always thinking of us and watching out for us on a daily basis made us feel so loved and cared for. The memories that we have from this year with them are priceless.

Then of course there's the aunts, uncles and tons of cousins. Whether it was a phone call, email or visit, we felt very spoiled by all the attention we got. It was amazing how many times they were there to help us out with advice, assistance and friendship. We treasure the moments we spent together and will cherish the memories forever.

Just as important is the Land of Israel, Eretz Yisroel. We feel so privileged to have been able to spend the year exploring our heritage. The specialness of Israel is in the air. We literally traveled from the northern most tip to the southern most tip and many places in between. The lessons our children learned are invaluable. To be a part of Am Yisroel in the land of our people is such an honor. We were made to feel this way on a consistent basis. When the fact that we were only there for a year came up in conversation with anyone whether it be friend or stranger, religious or secular, it was always the same response. Why are you leaving? This is your home! This is where you belong! You must come back! We felt so wanted. You would never expect or get such a reaction in North America.

Now that we are back in Baltimore and relatively settled in (except for Rivka who is still at Camp Sternberg - sleepover camp) we can say that we are truly happy to see our friends and family here that we missed over the year. They all supported us in our "crazy" adventure. I must admit that having air conditioning that actually cools your house off and soft, fuzzy carpet under your feet is a definate comfort that we missed in Israel. But despite all the luxuries of living in North America, I miss so many wonderful things about Israel.

May this blog be an inspiration for all who read it to support, visit or move to Israel and may we have the courage, strength and money to make aliyah in the near future.

Trip back to Baltimore

On Monday morning, Erick came to pick us up with the pre-loaded car at 7 AM to go to the airport. Shira left with my mother, Zvi, Leora and Yeshaya a few minutes before we left. My father, Rivka and I squeezed into their big van and left. They returned the car and met us at the curb to help us load four buggies with our bags. We then stood in line to answer security questions and then went to the next line to give in our bags. When it was our turn they asked Shira how far along she was and when she said 31 weeks they informed her that she couldn't fly without a written note from her doctor. We knew you couldn't fly after 32 weeks but thought there was no problem before that. Shira actually checked their website and it only says: "Pregnant women can fly on domestic or international flights up to the 32nd week of pregnancy." So we called her doctor and her secretary faxed us a note that gave us permission to fly. Only problem was that it was in Hebrew and we needed a note in English so we called her back and she faxed another note. It was great that my parents were there with us because they took the kids around the airport while we waited. Then they somehow lost our registration in the computer - apparently they had lost a bunch of people's so they had no record of the fact that we were allowed two extra bags. They let us take them anyway and didn't give us any problems despite the fact that some of the bags were way overweight. We then waited in a couple more lines but there were no more adventures.

When we got on the plane we realized that they had messed up our seats and instead of putting us in two rows with 3 in each row, we were in 3 rows with 3, 2 and 1. So Rivka agreed to sit in the third row if we couldn't find someone to switch. We weren't very confident because we had to find someone to give up an aisle seat in exchange for a middle seat. As luck would have it, the person who was supposed to sit in the aisle seat was Eyal Raviv, who heads a peace website, and before I could even finish the sentence asking him to switch he had said yes. After almost all the passengers were on, there was a little commotion one row in front of us over to the side. There were three flight attendants trying to force an Israeli ~20 year old to give up his bulkhead seat next to his friend. He was refusing. They explained to him that there was a mistake and they needed the seat for this guy who suddenly appeared behind them. He was HUGE and there was no way he could have fit into a regular seat. I figured he must have been a basketball player or something and at the end of the flight I heard him say his name and googled him and found out that he's 6' 10". This Israeli guy was refusing but finally after 10 minutes he realized that he really had no choice and he finally relented and switched seats. The flight was good except that the four kids slept a total of four hours combined so we had to entertain them quite a bit. Overall, they behaved really nicely on the long trip.

At the airport we hired a porter because there was no way we could get all the duffels ourselves. He took us out to the curb and Shira went to get the car from long-term parking. We had found someone in Baltimore to drive our car to the airport on Sunday so it was there waiting for us. It still took a while and by the time Shira came back and we had loaded the car it was almost exactly two hours after we had landed. Shira and Rivka then hopped in a cab to go sleep at Hindy's house in Brooklyn since Rivka was taking a bus the next morning to camp. So the rest of us drove back to Baltimore. Zvi was noticing all the things that are different on the roads between Baltimore and Israel. The biggest difference was that it started raining on the way home. Rain in the summer! The kids all slept almost the entire way home but I managed to stay awake.

Shira was back home by noon on Tuesday and we've been busy unpacking since then. In addition to our 20 duffels (I know that I wrote 19 in another post but we had actually sent back 6 and not 5) we had lots of boxes that we had left in the house. We lived an entire year without all this stuff and didn't miss it at all but Yeshaya was really excited when he saw all the toys. We're still unpacking but hopefully we'll be done by Shabbos. Everyone went to camp on Tuesday and had a great time and had no trouble adjusting to life back in the States. Hopefully Rivka is also having a blast in camp. It's funny because Yeshaya doesn't remember Baltimore at all. I guess that's normal since he wasn't even 2 yet when we left but for the rest of us it feels like we never left. He was downstairs playing and he asked me if there was a bathroom downstairs or if he had to go upstairs to make. I told him we had one so he tried to find it but got lost on his way.

We're approaching the end of this blog. It was meant to just be a diary of our year in Israel so this is basically the end. We might have some summary posts about the year soon but we won't be logging our day to day activities anymore. Thanks to all the readers and commenters and to everyone who helped make our year in Israel a success.

Saying Goodbye


(I had to look it up online to see if goodbye needed a hyphen. Apparently it's a machlokes between the Americans and the Brits.)

Anyway, it's amazing here that when we say goodbye to people everyone wishes us well and expresses their hope that we return soon. It doesn't matter if they're good friends or people we're just meeting for the first time. Everyone seems genuinely sad to see us leave. I've moved quite a bit in my lifetime and sometimes people are sad when I move (usually it's because of Shira or the kids and not me but that's not the point) but they don't tell us that they hope we move back. Here people are really sad that we're leaving the country just because they want Jews to live in Israel. It's pretty cool.

Today we Shira finished packing the last of the clothes and we loaded Amy's car. We Shira had basically finished packing Thursday morning and our house has been completely empty since then besides our 14 duffel bags. It was a great move because the last couple of days have been pretty relaxing. We came with 17 pieces of luggage eleven months ago. We're six people so in the course of one year we collect a lot more junk and other things that we'd normally keep. Thanks to my cousin we were allowed two extra bags so over the last couple of months we've been busy sending our bags back to Baltimore (thanks to all those who shlepped them for us and to Avi for storing them). We sent back five full duffels and now we have 14 more to bring back with us. We also gave away a lot of our stuff to my parents and a little bit to Amy. So my parents house is now full of lots of our junk but I think they got a few pretty useful things also so it's worth it for them. We also threw out a ton of stuff and somehow we fit all the rest with just two more bags than we brought. Way to go Shira!

Last Shabbos

Yesterday, Amy and Ethel came to visit with most of their families and we ate pizza and bagels. Most of the kids then walked to the new mall that opened last week down the block from my parents' house. Leora and Yeshaya decided that they wanted to spend Shabbos in Nof Ayalon so they went back with Amy. We never really intended to let Yeshaya stay overnight there and I wasn't crazy about Leora being there this Shabbos so Shira went and picked them both up just before Shabbos.

We had a nice relaxing Shabbos. Maya ended up staying and Rivka and Zvi both played lots of games with her. Normally, Bubbie eats the Shabbos meals with my parents but the elevator broke just before Shabbos so she had no way to get to their apartment - it's only one flight of stairs in this building but she can't walk that. So Friday night, I went with some kids and make kiddush and hamotzi there and today my parents, Rivka and Maya ate there. Then in the afternoon we all met in the park for a Shabbos party. After Shabbos Eric Hagege came to pick up Maya and to say good-bye.

Now we're counting down the hours until we leave. Really mixed emotions. We're all sad to be leaving but also a little bit excited to be going home and back to our "normal" lives.

Last Trip to Yerushalayim

One of the things we had to do when planning was to make sure that we had time to go with the entire family to the Kotel and the Old City. So yesterday after we got Rivka and Zvi early from school and then when Leora finished gan we all headed to Yerushalayim. Actually, we couldn't all go together because our rental car barely has room for five people and there is no way we can squeeze all six of us in there. So Yeshaya was supposed to stay with Savta but she was also planning on going to Yerushalayim to meet a cousin for lunch so he got to take the bus with her.

The rest of us went to the Old City. The kids (and adults) were not in the greatest moods at the beginning of the trip mostly because it is soooo hot here but after a little while in the air conditioned car, Leora fell asleep and everyone else relaxed. We can no longer park for free whereever we want since we returned our car to Cypress so we decided to park in the free Mamilla parking lot and walk through the Old City. When we got through Shaar Yafo, Shira came up with the great idea of walking through the Arab shuk. I've walked from Shaar Yafo to the Kotel many, many times with Shira and I'd suggested before walking through the Arab shuk but she never even considered it. It was just so hot that Shira decided it was worth the risk so we'd have a shorter walk in more shade. It was a great move!
We went out to eat at Bonkers Bagels and Burgers Bar. and then headed down to the kotel for mincha (actually Shira made a stop at a gift store to buy a few more things. Then we stopped to get some popsicles and ice cream and made our way back to the car. Zvi counted steps the whole way there and back, including our pit stops at the bathroom (24 steps each way) and altogether we walked down 405 steps and up 378 steps. We were ready to leave and noticed that traffic wasn't moving and we couldn't even turn where we needed to go so we just drove, having little clue where we were going. It turns out there was a big parade so a lot of streets were closed. We kept stopping to ask directions until we ask an American lady who started giving us directions through a bunch of side streets until she realized that it was too complicated. So she took a pencil and paper and drew us a perfect map to get out of the city. She spent 10 minutes giving us directions so we wouldn't hit any traffic and easily made it out of the city.

Last night, Zvi and I had an end of year awards party for our baseball team at the park.
This morning the Baks took Shira, Yeshaya and me out for breakfast in honor of our finishing mesechta Sota together.

Getting rid of everything

More movers are coming today to take our beds and washing machine. Tomorrow, the fridge and microwave are going and that will leave our house pretty much bare. The biggest headache was getting rid of the car. After the first attempt to get rid of the car was canceled, I got a call on Thursday night that there was a boat going out on Sunday. So I met Mrs. Davidson at Tzomet Shilat and we drove together to Haifa. There we met a journalist from Amsterdam who has been living in Israel for 3.5 years. She was also sending her car on the ship. Mrs. Davidson ran from office to office to finish the paperwork while we waited. Then we went together to the port to go through customs and bring the car to the boat. It took us almost 5 hours to finish everything but I was really glad that I had someone there who knew her way around.

While I was in Haifa, Shira took a train to the airport to rent a car so we wouldn't be without a car for even one minute. We decided to save a little money and got a little car which can't even fit our entire family but at least we can get around. Leora was still sick but thankfully my mother was able to watch all morning so we could get these things done. Some of our friends made us a going away/yerida l'tzorech aliya/hatzlacha party. We had a nice time.

Today, we went into Jerusalem to finish the paperwork for our car because we had the meches office to send a letter to our bank so they would release our bank guarantee. We also went to the Avis office so I could be added as a driver on the car and we went to Bezeq to try to return our modem and cancel the phone line. We were successful with everything except Bezeq because I didn't have everything we needed with me.

Last Shabbos in Buchman

Zvi had a lot happening on Friday and I got to join him in all his exciting activities. In school, his class made a siyum on Chumash Breishit. They leared the entire sefer in just one year and he really knows it also. They had a little chidon and sang a couple songs. Saba (who had just come back from Canada the day before) joined me at school and we got to see Zvi interact with his class and talk to his Morahs with an Israeli accent.

We took Rivka home from school early with Zvi when the siyum was over and then we went to get Leora. Leora had thrown up in school but the teachers didn't have our phone numbers so they didn't call us to pick her up but she was so sick. She threw up on the way home from school and was sick the entire Shabbos. She's staying home from gan today but hopefully is well on her way to recovery.

We rushed home, ate lunch and ran to Zvi's all star game tournament. All 8 teams were represented at the ASG and we played together with the Gezer team. In the first game we played the two Yerushalayim teams and we started off poorly but we built a 9-5 lead going into the last inning. They were down to their last out but scored two runs and had two on with one of their best hitters coming to the plate. He crushed the ball to left field. The left fielder ran it down and threw to the cutoff man (the centerfielder in this case) who threw it home to try to get the batter who was rounding third. Zvi, who was playing first base, moved over to catch the ball at home plate and tag the runner to preserve the tie. We didn't score in the bottom half of the inning and we played one extra inning but neither team scored. The winners were supposed to play the winner of the other game but because we had tied and had no time to play any more innings we had to flip a coin and we were the lucky winners. So we went to play a combination of the two Modiin teams. We easily won the game 7-1 and got gold medals as champions of the tournament. I was really proud of the way Zvi played since most of the All-Stars were at least a year older than him but he more than held his own in this league.

The Rabbi at shul gave us a nice goodbye in his speech in shul and then we came home for lunch at the Butels. They invited everyone from the driveway so there were lots of people but they made sure to have the a/c on high and put Shira in front of a fan so it was very comfortable. The Baks had invited us for seudat shlishit but in the end only Yeshaya and I went since Shira stayed home with sick Leora, Zvi was busy playing with his friends and Rivka was in Chashmonaim for Shabbos. It was the last chance Rivka had to spend Shabbos at her friends' houses so she wanted to be sure to take advantage.

Hatzaga

Leora had her graduation/end of the year play in Gan last night. The teachers did a great job preparing the kids and the children were really fantastic. It went on for over an hour and they did many different skits and songs before the official graduation when they got their diplomas and presents. Leora showed great confidence and the difference between this play and her birthday party at the old gan was unbelievable. She was much more confident and was able to understand directions. She had a great time and did a wonderful job.

Boat to Cypress cancelled

I was supposed to go to Haifa tomorrow to bring our car to the port so that it could be shipped back to Cypress. Mrs. Davidson (the same lady that came with me when we got the car) is coming with me and she just called to inform me that the boat this week is cancelled. She said that there might be another boat on Monday or else there should be one on Thursday. The problem is that we have a bank guarantee that we can't get back until the boat is out of the country so we need to leave time to get that money back before we leave the country. The good news is that this actually saves us money since now we have to rent a car for less time. It adds aggravation though.

Finishing on the Same Note

I can't believe it!!!! I was surfing through the net, as I tend to do quite religiously, and I came across an Arutz-7 update that the National Labor Union in Israel is planning a strike. These strikes usually affect the airports the most. It is kind of deja-vu to the start of our year long adventure. We are now looking into possibly catching the flight the day earlier. Although, we'd love to stay in Israel longer, we must leave before June 3oth. There are tax implications if we stay longer and also Rivka's sleep over camp in the Catskills starts the next day. Hmm, we'll see what happens.

First Place

We finished the season in Little League in first place with a 9-1 record. These were the final standings:

Team Won Lost Pct. G.B. RF RA
Modiin Cheetas 91.900
11548
Hashmonaim 73.70029264
Modiin Miracles 73.700211672
Modiin Bulldogs 55.50049881
Jerusalem Edison Homes 35.37556567
Jerusalem Superballs 35.37556079
Gezer 37.300677129
Rehovot 19.100855138



I had the most hits on my team and I made the All Star game which is this Friday. I played mostly second base and shortstop but I also played some pitcher (we don't actually pitch but we just stand next to the pitcher and field the position) and first base.

Our last two games were against the other two Modiin teams and both those teams were really good. If we would have lost both those games then we would not have been the champions. First we played the Miracles (the only team that beat us all year) and they took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning but we scored 5 in the bottom half of the inning. At the end of the second inning we were winning 8-6 and it seemed like it was going to be a really high scoring game. Then both teams played really good defense the rest of the game - one of their players turned an unassisted triple play - and the final score after 5 innings was 9-6. So we had already clinched first place before our last game but we still played well and won that one also 11-9.

The guests that never leave

When we first got married and we had company on Shabbos, I'd set the lights to go off around 3 PM and that was the sign that we had to bench and that the guests had to go home. It's not that I didn't like having guests but I just didn't want them to stay forever. One time about 8 years ago in St. Louis we had company on Friday night and we benched and then they were supposed to go home. The only problem was that they were good friends of ours and instead sat down in the living room to shmooze. I thought that was really nice and everything except that I was really tired and I just wanted to go to sleep. So I said that I had to put the kid(s) to sleep. I went and got my blanket and pillow and climbed into bed with Rivka and "accidentally" fell asleep when I was putting her to sleep. I'm not sure how long the guests stayed but I got in a lot of trouble from Shira later.

I must have mellowed a lot in my old age. I actually don't mind when guests stay for a long time and when we go places we tend to stay a really long time. We try not to overstay our welcome but I think that we might stay too long sometimes. We ate lunch yesterday at the Turks' house with the Davids and the Baumans and we benched around 3 PM. Our kids were having a great time. Rivka went home to read, Zvi went to a park to play with friends, Leora went to Bauman's house and Yeshaya was playing upstairs at the Turks. So Shira and I just sat down in the living room and shmoozed. We ended up staying until about 5 PM! So I've changed from the guy who was always the first one out after every meal to the guest that doesn't leave. It must be Shira's fault.

Everything's gotta go

We've been busy this week trying to sell all of our furniture. We bought most of the stuff used at the beginning of the year hoping that we'd be able to sell it again at the end. We started advertising on Wednesday and our phones have been ringing non-stop since then and people have been in and out looking at stuff. We've sold about 80% of the stuff so far but it has been really exhausting.

We also had some fun today though. Rivka and Zvi had been planning a surprise birthday party for Shira for a while but it had gotten postponed a couple of times. Today they all went to the dentist and Rivka left me a list of things that I had to do to prepare. She had gone to the store with Savta a couple weeks ago to get some stuff. So I set it up and Amy, three of her girls and my mother came. Shira was completely shocked and we all had a great time eating brownies and honey bunches of oats.

Shavuot

When we eat at home on Shavuos (yes, I know I spelled it differently in the subject) I can usually convince Shira to make fleishigs, at least for me to eat. Most years though we end up going out for at least one meal on yom tov and our hosts almost always serve milchigs. This year was no exception as we ate at the Baks with the Sterns and Goldfischers and everyone brought food. I can survive on challa, fish and salad and I avoided the lasagna, cheesecake and other cheesy foods. The food I did eat was actually very good and I know that this is what I get on Shavuos. I can't complain too much since we never have fleishigs on any other yom tov or Shabbos. We also had a really nice time with all the families and my kids played nicely with the other kids there.

Shavuos in Israel is so fast for the men. They stay up all night (I've developed this custom of sleeping for a couple of hours and then going to learn, daven and then sleeping until lunch. That works out really well for me so that I'm not exhausted all day and I can actually have a normal yom tov lunch and day with my family.) and then by the time they're awake and finished lunch it's almost time for mincha and for the day to be over. Unfortunately for us, we had to keep a second day of yom tov this year while everyone else was keeping just one day. It ended up being a pretty good day. Noach N. spent the day at our house which kept Zvi entertained. Leora spent a few hours at the Wine's house with Meirav. Shira walked to the gym and back (25 minutes each way) to do her sixty minute exercise class that she loves. Aryeh came over to learn with me while she was out and when she came back we went over to the Steiner's house so she could taste their cheesecake. Then my mother came over with the Fredj's and they hung out with us for a few hours. They also brought pizza which we enjoyed and all the kids watched a movie while the adults sat around shmoozing. Then we just waited for yom tov to be over. It really wasn't so bad but keeping one day of yom tov is definitely one of the incentives that could help convince us to come back here one day soon.

Empty House

Amy promised Leora a long time ago that she could spend a Shabbos at her house. She called on Friday morning to ask if this Shabbos would work for us and Leora was thrilled. She had a great time there as the girls and Amy took her to the park a couple times and gave her lots of Coke and candy and let her stay up real late. Zvi's friend Noach invited him to go there for Shabbos and Rivka spent Friday night at the Rosenbaum's house. Zvi and the rest of us, besides Leora, joined Rivka at the Rosenbaum's house for lunch but Friday night was great. Just Shira, Yeshaya and me! Amy told me once that no matter how many kids you have, if you remove one for a day it's infinitely easier. Removing three makes life a little boring but a lot more relaxing.

Biking on Yom Yerushalayim

After the bat mitzva on Sunday, Eric and Eylon slept over at our house so we could get up bright and early Monday morning for a Yom Yerushalayim davening and leave for Kiryat Arba. Eric's nieces organize a bike ride every year in memory of their father from Kiryat Arba to Yerushalayim. When I was in Israel for the year after high school I spent a Shabbos at their house and it was a great experience (we walked to Mearat Hamachpela on Friday night). We also see the family a lot at various family affairs and they're always really nice so when my sister asked me to join them for the bike ride I reluctantly agreed. She encouraged me to get a friend to come so I wouldn't be bored and Moshe Turk volunteered to try.

So we got to Kiryat Arba at 8:30 and got good bikes. There were about 600 people biking but the "family" got the good bikes and all the high school kids got older more used bikes. We didn't actually get started until almost 10 but it gave us time to go to the makolet to get some food and to lather ourselves in suntan lotion. Just as we started, my chain fell off so I went back to the repair guys who fixed it and then we were really off. It was about 300 high school/college age boys riding followed by 300 high school/college age girls. Moshe waited for me when I got the chain fixed but we were stuck all the way in the back with the girls.

It was basically a 3 hour bike ride with long breaks every 40 minutes. They closed off the highways completely while we were riding but during the breaks we'd be off on the side and all the cars who were stuck waiting were able to go. Moshe and I managed to bike the entire first leg of the ride but we never were never able to catch up to the guys. I was determined to ride with the guys on the next part but a couple minutes after we started, Moshe discovered he had a flat tire! So we waited for the truck with the repair guys and gave them the bike. They informed us that they would only fix at the next stop and he had to get on the bus. I wasn't going to suffer without Moshe so I hopped on the bus too. They fixed it at the next stop and we did pretty well on the third section but we did have to walk the bikes up a couple hills.

The third stop was really long but it was at a gas station near Alon Shvut (brought back memories from my days in yeshiva there) so we were able to get some more food and drink. The last two legs of the ride were more hilly than the first half but we had already decided that we weren't riding up any more hills so we walked a bit. Moshe noticed a flat just as were ready to leave for the last leg. Thank God he noticed it in time and they were able to fix it before we left. We went through the tunnels which was cool and then we were in Jerusalem at around 3. Yay! Moshe and I left to come back home and didn't stick around for the celebrations. Before we started I told Moshe that I had two goals: 1. not to fall off the bike (when I rode around the Kineret when I was 18 I fell) and 2. not to get on the bus. We accomplished the first and basically accomplished the second - we only got on the bus because of things that were out of our control. Eylon biked the entire thing and didn't walk at all. Eric biked more than I did but he did have to walk a little (he is 43 years old so he can be excused - I don't really have an excuse). We really had a great time and it was definitely a worthwhile experience even if my tuchus hurt for a couple days afterwards.

Aviva's Bat Mitzvah


The Fredjs planned a very full day on Sunday for us and it ended up being fun and interesting. In the morning, Aviva led a tiyul of girls through the tunnels of the Old City. I don't know much about this as Rivka was the only one from our family to go. She promised me that she'd blog about it so I'm still holding out hope even if it's already been 48 hours and she hasn't written anything. Then we all met them at the restaurant right near the Kotel for the bat mitzva lunch. It was the same place where we celebrated my father's 60th birthday in 2001. After mincha at the kotel we were granted a couple hour break before the festivities continued.

My sister and her husband's mother, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts had a Sefer Torah written in memory of her father-in-law and were giving it to the Sphardi minyan in Yeshivat Shaalvim. We completed writing the Torah and I had the opportunity to write a letter for the first time in my life.
They danced the Torah from their house to the yeshiva along with a chuppa and a truck with music (apparently these things travel around the country to Hachnasot sefer Torah.
Then there were speeches and dinner (the rest of the family went back home since the dinner only started at 9:30). I couldn't stay for the entire dinner as I had to get to sleep early in anticipation of my big day Monday in honor of Yom Yerushalayim ...

Lasts

Today is the first day of our last month in Israel. Just 29 days until we leave :-( Every time we do things now we think about if this is going to be the last time we do it before we go home. Two weeks ago was our last major tiyul. This past Friday was probably our last time in Zichron and last time we see Danny and family before we go back. They made a nice party in their house in honor of their baby and in honor of him completing shas. He started doing daf yomi 7. 5 years ago with mesechet Sota so he just completed his first time finishing. Everyone took the day off from school (although we had a hard time convincing Rivka that it was OK for her to miss a day) and we drove up there for the 9 AM party. Speaking of Spodek babies, mazel tov to Avi, Tikki and Elana on their new baby sister, Ariella Esther!!

We came back in time for Zvi to beat Chashmonaim (including a few of his friends) in baseball 12-6. Both other Modiin teams lost so we regained sole possession of first place again with two big games this weekend. Shabbos was probably our last time hosting people for a meal as the Baks came for lunch. Today is going to be our last major simcha here when we celebrate my niece Aviva's bat mitzva. More on that later ...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Tomorrow is Shira's birthday!!! I haven't gotten her a gift yet but we'll think of something (really she'll think of something and go get it and say it was from me for her birthday). We did go out to a movie earlier in the week in honor of her birthday and my mother took us out to lunch today. We were thinking of going away for a couple days but it was too hard so it will have to be something else - probably jewelry.

Creepy Crawlies

I have to be careful of how I write this posting because you never know who you may insult or who may come across your blog, but I had to have an entry about this. Yesterday Leora invited her friend over from gan. They have had play dates on and off during the year, but not lately. She had been bugging us for weeks to have her over and for various reasons (mainly Leora's behavior) we did not allow it. Leora finally wore me down and I allowed the playdate to take place. Well, you cannot imagine my utter surprise and disgust when we were walking to the car and I could literally see the lice jumping around in this girl's hair. I was just paralyzed with shock. I did not know how to handle it. I put the girls in the car but warned Leora to keep her head leaned the other way (away from the girl). I then called my friend Penina, the lice lady, but was not able to reach her. I brought the girls home and immediately ran upstairs for bandanas. I made sure to give this infested girl a bandana that I would not mind throwing out immediately after her use. While she was at our house I had conversations with various people and they were all of the same opinion, GET THAT GIRL OUT OF YOUR HOUSE. I did not want to be confrontational so I called the parent and told him a little white lie. I said that I had forgotten we had to be somewhere so I would drop her off on our way out. He had no problem with that. So we loaded up the car, dropped her off and decided to pick up the other kids from school. When we returned home I vacuumed out the car as a precaution. I'm glad to report though, that although Leora plays with this girl all the time, she has been lice free. Even the lice are scared of her red haired temper.

Yeshaya learning baseball

Savta gave Yeshaya a velcro glove and ball so he could start learning how to play baseball. Today, his best friend Ami came over after playgroup so Yeshaya wanted to play baseball with him. He got out Zvi's bases and his plastic bat and two gloves and a ball to set up a game. He may have spent almost half his life in Israel but he still has the American blood in him and he loves baseball.

Lag Sameach

On Thursday night we went to a shul bonfire in honor of Lag B'Omer. Our shul is mostly Americans so our fire was put to shame by many other fires around the city. People have been collecting wood around the country since Pesach so they could make HUGE fires. Rivka spent the night at my parents' house and then on Friday the kids had no school in honor of the holiday. So Shira took the kids swimming at my parents' pool for a few hours. Then Zvi and I had baseball and Leora stayed to play at my parents' house. We were supposed to play against a Yerushalayim team but they cancelled at the last minute so we decided to play a kids vs. dads game. It was a lot of fun - even better than had we actually had a game. It reminded me of my elementary school days when we had an annual game of faculty vs. students every Lag B'Omer. (Wow, I just followed the link to my elementary school and the picture on the front is my science teacher from 20 something years ago. She looks exactly the same.)

Rivka had a friend for Shabbos and we had four seminary girls sleep here. One of them works with my mother-in-law and she brought her sister and two friends. They didn't eat here because we weren't sure if we were going to be home for Shabbos and by the time we decided they had already found another place. We ate lunch at the Sussman's house with the Schertz'. They have four sons named Ocean, River, Sky and Canyon (Yam, Nahar, Rakia and Nachal in Hebrew). Then we went to the Baks' house for seudat shlishit before coming home to wind down until Shabbos was over.

Teveria

In August, we spent a Shabbos at the Kinar hotel but didn't do anything in the area because we had too many things to take care of at home. We promised the kids that we'd get back to the Kinneret and to Teveria. That was a long time ago but we finally kept the promise. On Monday, Rivka and Zvi woke up before 6 to watch more cartoons but the two little ones slept until 8. They all took jacuzzi baths and then we ate breakfast in Ramot. We really hadn't planned this day out very well so during breakfast we looked for things to do.

We decided to start with a little zoo just south of the Kinneret. Gan-Hai in Ein Zera was great. The kids fed the animals and held bunny rabbits. Even Yeshaya didn't run screaming every time an animal got close to him like he usually does.


Then we went just across the road to Kibbutz Kinneret to go canoeing down the Yarden. The waters were calm. We were basically at the northern tip of the Kinneret and didn't go that far south. We took two canoes and Rivka and Zvi were really good at helping to row.

After that we went to Teveria to get something to eat. Shira and the kids wanted milchigs and Shira remembered this place that we ate in about 7 years ago but didn't remember the name. So she directed me to the parking lot that we parked at then (yes, she has a good memory) and then we got out and walked to the boardwalk but turned left and couldn't find it (her memory isn't perfect) so she called Ornat and Nechama who found the place on the internet. Shira called and it turned out that we should have turned right from the parking lot. The place was called Apropos and was perfect for us.

We were finally ready to head home but then we saw a horse and buggy so we went for a 15 minute ride around Teveria and then headed home. We did all that and still managed to get the kids in bed by 7 so they wouldn't be too tired in school today.

Surprise Trip to the North

The kids didn't realize that when we left Netanya we turned North instead of South. They still didn't realize when we drove by Zichron Yaakov that we hadn't passed that on the way to the hotel. Zvi did say then that it meant that we were still at least an hour from school even though we had left much earlier. As we got closer to the north we showed them on a map where we were and they were very excited. The great thing about surprising them is that it's not so important that we actually do something fun because just the fact that we took them somewhere when they weren't expecting it makes it worthwhile for them. We did lots of fun things on this tiyul though.

We drove straight to Tzuk Minara. They had three really fun things to do there:
1. Toboggan - I'm not sure if this is the right term since that usually refers to going down on snow but there was no snow. We go on these little cars on tracks and go up some of the mountain before coming zooming down. I guess it was sort of like a roller coaster ride. Rivka went alone but Zvi and Leora weren't big enough so they had to come with me.


2. Trampoline - They tied the kids to ropes and then pressed a button and, voila the kids went flying. They had pictures of kids doing flips on these but my kids were satisfied just jumping really high. Just the three bigger kids did this.

3. Cable cars - We all went on the cable cars up to the top of the mountain and walked around up there and enjoyed the gorgeous view.


A lot of the stuff is closed since it's not high tourist season. The good thing about it not being high tourist season was there were no lines but the bad thing was that a lot of things were closed. They also have snappling, wall climbing, bouncy toys and omega but none of that was open. We still had fun doing what they did have.

After we finished we went to Metulla. We saw the Canada Center where Danny plays hockey. We also saw the Lebanon border and to Neot Mordechai so Shira could buy new shoes. Then we drove down to the East side of the Kinneret to a "tzimmer" - a little cabin - in Briza Bakfar in a yishuv called Ramot. We tried driving one way but the road was closed so we had to go all the way around and we passed a forest fire just as the fire trucks were getting there. It looked like they had gotten there early enough to get it under control since the fire wasn't near any houses or anything.

We got to our cabin after 6 and we were all starving. We went to a couple hotels but dinner there was really expensive and hardly seemed worth it. We couldn't find a Kosher restaurant nearby so the kids agreed to get dinner at the supermarket. We got small pizzas to make in the microwave and soup in cups and ice cream. It was good and the kids loved eating in front of the TV. The cabin was really nice and spacious with a beautiful view overlooking the Kinneret.

Shabbos in Netanya

We are leaving in less than six weeks and we wanted to do at least one more tiyul before we left. We also wanted to be sure to spend some time with my sisters. My mother's birthday was last week and my father's is next month so we convinced everyone to come with us to a hotel for Shabbos (we even convinced my parents to sponsor it). This was the only Friday off during the season in Little League so we took advantage and left early. We picked all the kids up from school and got lunch for the road.

We got to the hotel around 1 and had all afternoon to hang out with cousins and go to the beach and pool. The great thing about vacationing now is that it's really quiet because it isn't an ideal time to get away. Things were generally very empty.

The hotel had a minyan on Shabbos but in the morning my father and I went to a shul in the neighborhood because he knew the rabbi and had another friend there. The average age in the shul was probably 80 and they were almost all British but we made it through the whole long davening. In the afternoon we had cake and a big Shabbos party in honor of the birthdays and everyone had a nice time hanging out with the cousins. Normally, when we go to a hotel Shira and I end up with 1-4 kids in our room but this time we got a suite and Rivka slept with cousins so we had our own room. Much more relaxing that way.

We were the only ones to sleep over on Saturday night. The kids were excited for that and thought that this meant that they'd be going late to school the next day. We told them that if they were good we could first go to the beach before leaving. So we did that, jumped in the pool and ate a delicious breakfast at the hotel. We finally left the hotel around 10:30. The kids figured we were on our way to bring them to school a little late.

Mother's Day

So we get all these "Yoms" during sefira (haatzmaut, yerushalayim, zikaron and shoa) but I didn't realize until yesterday that the best thing is that we avoid the "Days." No Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparents' Day, Secretary's Day, Earth Day or any other Silly Day that obligates us to get presents. We haven't made aliya so I couldn't totally skip yesterday but we were able to tone it down.

I took Shira out for lunch to her favorite restaurant here (Angelo's) and we had a nice time. We got pizza and met Amy and her girls at my grandmother's for dinner to celebrate with her. That was it though. My mother is in Memphis visiting Shayna and family so we didn't do anything for her.

We also got portraits of the two bigger kids. We posted the pictures of the little ones a few months ago so here are the others. We highly recommend the photographer in Matityahu so if anyone is interested just email or call us and we'll give you his info.

First loss

Our Little League team lost for the first time on Friday. It was a really tough loss as we had built a 7-1 lead and were still winning 10-7 going into the last inning. The other team scored four times though to win the game. Almost all the kids were crying after the loss. We're still tied for first place and we're playing this team again later in the season.

We had three girls from Anywhere in Israel sleep at our house for Shabbos but they didn't eat any meals with us. We made Shabbos early again and went to sleep really early. Shira led groups at shul for the first time and all reports that I heard were that she did a fantastic job even though she had to do it in Hebrew. Leora loved having her Mommy lead the groups and Zvi watched Yeshaya so he wouldn't disturb them. We ate lunch with the Sussmans at the Weinsteins' house and had a nice time. Tzivi Bak had made Shira's favorite dessert (some kahlua ice cream or something) so we went there for some of that after lunch.

Happy 60th Birthday, Israel!!!


What a privilege and honor for us to be here in Israel to celebrate along with the country the anniversary of Israel's 6oth year of Independence. I'll start with recapping from Yom Hazikaron. At around 8pm the night of Yom Hazikaron, a loud siren goes off and all are supposed to stop what they are doing and reflect on the many lives lost during war and to terrorist acts. We did not hear that siren, probably because we were busy yelling at our kids to go to sleep. The next day at 11 am David and I were at the fruit store. It took a second to realize that the sound I was hearing was indeed the siren and not an indication that we were under attack. It was amazing to see that people just stop what they are doing and stand still with head bowed. The siren lasted for a minute and you could really feel the unity of the people. It was a little disturbing to see out of the corner of your eyes the arab workers walking along as if nothing was going on. The kids all had different educational experiences at their schools. Leora was shown pictures of a relative of a boy in her class who was killed.

That evening the Yom Haatzmaut parties began. Rivka was invited to spend the night at a friends in Chashmonaim. She had an amazing time with all of her classmates from school. Zvi and I along with Jamie, Effie and Shaya Steiner (our neighbors) walked outside until we were able to see the city's fire works display. The kids really enjoyed it. We then continued walking until we got to the local religious Yom Haatzmaut celebrations. There was live music and dancing. Zvi said it was boring but I saw him mesmerized by the band. It made me think that he'd really enjoy being able to play a musical instrument (since given mine and David genes a singing career is out of the question).

Today we (Greenstone's including David's father) met up with Adina (Ethel), Eric, and their three younger kids for a horseback riding adventure. And adventure it was , for David and Rivka that is. They were the only ones brave enough from our family to ride their own horse. The younger Greenstones were not as comfortable so they got to ride on a pony with a guide. The youngest Greenstone was even too chicken for that. I myself would have loved to go horseback riding, but for some reason Rivka chose David to go with her instead of me. I wonder if it is because I am such a chicken and Rivka has no confidence in me. In keeping with the Yom Haatzmaut tradition (for non vegetarians) after the horseback riding we returned for a delicious Bar-B-Que at the Hagege's. Danny and Ornat and girls came by to say hi and then we loaded up the car and returned to Modiin. We were very happy that we didn't encounter any of the dreaded "pa-kack".

Best time of year to be in Israel

After Pesach, Aryeh told me that the time between Pesach and Shavuot is the best time of year to be in Israel. The first thing is the weather and it's definitely been true so far this year. It's consistently been in the high 70s/early 80s with no rain. After Shavuot it starts getting really hot for a few months until it's rainy season. Then you also have Yom Hashoa, Yom Hazikaron, Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. The celebrations for these days in the States can't come close to what we're expecting to see in this country. We even put a flag on our car so we could join in the fun (just because we're not citizens doesn't mean we can't be patriotic). Even Lag Ba'Omer is different in Israel than in the States.

Last week was a quiet week in our house. Nechama A. came for Shabbos and we had no other company so it was very relaxing. In the afternoon we walked over the Baks' house and ate seudat shlishit there. The only bad thing was that the hashkama minyan in the neighborhood disbanded so I was stuck davening at a "normal" long minyan at 8:30. I survived it but I'm hoping a new hashkama minyan will start soon.

Boredom

Yesterday, we couldn't play on the computer, drive in the car or color while everyone else in the country was out having a good time on the last day of vacation. My kids were so bored and they let us know it. My mother had said that she'd try to come over at some point and by 8 AM everyone was anxiously awaiting her arrival so we'd have something to do. We played games (Monopoly, SkipBo, finger baseball) but the kids were still bored. Rivka insisted that we should walk to Savta's house so the two of us walked there around 3 and of course when we got there she was on a bus coming to our house so we missed her and walked right back home. Once my mother came though the day got more exciting as she played more games with them and helped us get a delicious dinner together (the last of the Pesach leftovers). Then after the kids were sleeping we converted the house back to chametz.

Shabbos though wasn't boring for the girls at all. We had Sarah Rosen (we had her for the seder) over with her three daughters and one is a year older than Rivka. My niece Talya (a year younger) and two Rosenbaum girls (about Rivka's age) were also there. Leora had my niece Ayala and another friend came over after lunch. So we had a lively house full of girls that day. Zvi didn't have anyone though so he was bored two days in a row.

I think it's good to be bored on the last day of vacation though so that you might actually look forward to going back to school. At least it should work that way but for some reason Zvi and Leora still weren't anxious to get back. Now we're off to get some pizza so we can enjoy some delicious chametz that we've missed for the last week.

Relaxing Day

After a busy chol hamoed we had a very easy day today. In the morning the kids and I went to visit my parents and grandmother while Shira exercised and cooked. She, Ornat and my mother had made so much food for the first days that she didn't have to cook much today. We went to Herzliya to the Baks' hotel for lunch and enjoyed the bouncy toys at the yom kef there. Then Shira took the kids swimming in the pool. We got home the same time that Danny and Ornat came for yom tov and now we're ready for two more days of rest and relaxation before the kids go back to school on Monday.

Snorkeling for Techelet

I was going to write all about yesterday's tiyul snorkeling for chilazon but I saw that The Muqata did the same thing a few years ago so I'll quote him for some of it:
there's a biblical commandment for one of the threads of tzitzit to be blue, "techelet." A few years back, a group of Israeli (mostly olim from the US) became determined to discover the biblical blue. The gemara talks about the different ways to identify the techelet - it must come from a snail, must be like the sea, must be very steadfast, and identical to the fake plant-based techelet. The Murex Trunculus answers all these conditions, and was found in mass quantities along the Dor beach. The only problem was that the dye produced from the Murex was royal purple -- "Argaman", and the researchers couldn't figure out how it could turn blue. One day, a researcher in the 80's from Hebrew University put his beaker full of Murex dye in the sun while waiting for his coffee to heat up. When he came back 10 minutes later, he removed the fibers which were in the beaker, and when exposed to air, the fibers turned a brilliant blue, and the secret of techelet was re-discovered. For the murex dye to turn into techelet instead of purple, it needs to be exposed to sunlight, which breaks away the bromide from the indigo. You can read all this fascinating information on the Techelet website.

First we watched a movie about the history and the process which was very interesting and even Yeshaya was interested because it was about the ancient city of Dora. What could be better than a movie about Dora? We went snorkeling to try and find the snails. We didn't actually find any but people in our group found about 20. Then we made the dye and dyed a piece of wool techelet. It was pretty cool and we all had a great time.


Last night, my friend Dov Segal who is in Israel for Pesach took a bus out to Modiin to join us for dinner and then we hung out together for a while. Always good to catch up with old friends.

Double Digits

Yesterday was my 10th birthday and I had a great time to celebrate. We started off the day at Eretz Breishit. There, we went on camel rides and we pretended like we were visiting Avraham in his tent. The person who pretended to be Avraham and the person who acted as Eliezer went to get dried fruit and drinks for us. They told us the story of Avraham's life and how there was a good chance that Avraham's real tent was very close to where we were. Then they taught us how to write with a bamboo stick and ink in old Hebrew script like Avraham may have written.


Amy and her family were planning on going on a tour of the choma of Yerushalayim in the afternoon. They invited us to join them but Leora and Zvi just wanted to go home and relax. So they dropped my mother and me in Yerushalayim and everyone else went home. We met Rivka, my oldest cousin, near town and walked to the Old City and found a restaurant to use the bathroom and cool off. We then met the rest of the family and went on the tour around the City. It was a lot of fun but a little scary for my mother who is terrified of heights. After the tour we went out to eat at Cafe Rimon. The food was pretty good considering the fact that it was Pesach.

At 7:30 there was a sound and lights show on the walls of the Old City. It was so crowded on the way down the stairs when we were leaving. We found a bus that was going to the tachana merkazit but it was also really crowded and we had to stand. Finally, when we got off that bus we went on the bus to Modiin and we actually had seats. We got to Country Center at about 10 PM and Avraham Butel picked us up and drove us home.

Pesach bagels

When we used to go to my aunt and uncle's house in Baltimore for Pesach there was a constant supply of bagels coming out of the oven. We all helped make them and we certainly all helped eat them. They're especially good to take on tiyulim since matza is too crumby. I baked them yesterday morning and again this morning for our tiyulim (an entry with pictures about today will come later) and we all enjoyed eating them with cream cheese, margarine or just plain. So I figured I should post the recipe here so I won't lose it and so our loyal readers can try it at home. I think it originally came from the outside of a Manischewitz box.

Mix 2 cups matzo meal with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Boil 1 cup of water with 1/2 cup of oil.
Mix them together and then add 4 eggs.
Mix it all very well and then let it sit for 15 minutes.
Roll into strips and pinch ends together to make circles so they look like bagles. Put on a pan and bake at 375 for 50 minutes or until they look ready. Makes 12 small bagels.

I double the recipe but only use 4 eggs total since we have more than enough eggs in everything else (actually the first time was an accident but it tasted fine so there's no need to include so many eggs).

Chocolate and Parrots


Our friends, the Neustadters arranged a trip today to the Ornat chocolate factory. About 40 people came including Danny and Ornat (who managed to get a free chocolate since she shares a name with the chocolate) and family. We got a tour of the place - it's not exactly a factory since they don't manufacture the chocolate there but they import it. We also got some free chocolate and the kids got a chance to make their own chocolate balls. (Check out the picture on the top. It was taken when we were done with the tour and just as the picture was snapped our next door neighbor smashed into the glass door. I'm not exactly sure what happened but she was in a lot of pain and was bleeding quite a bit from her nose)

After that we went with the Spodeks to the Parrot Farm. We're in the middle of a chamsin - heat wave - so it was in the 90s today. The Parrot Farm is free for chol hamoed so apparently hundreds of people had the same idea and the place was more like a zoo than a farm. We brought our lunch and managed to snag a table in the shade and ate there. Leora was kvetching about the heat and Rivka and I were being hit by allergies (they've hardly bothered me in Israel but for some reason it was really bad there). Yeshaya had fallen asleep so Leora, Zvi and I went quickly to go see the parrots and then we were ready to go home. The kids were afraid to let the parrot climb on them but I thought it was kind of cool the way one climbed down my back.
When we got home Rivka and Zvi played a game while Leora and Yeshaya played on the computer and watched Dora. The older two kids then went by themselves to have a picnic at the park. It's great when they get along!

First Days of Yom Tov

We had lots of company for yom tov. My Uncle Danny, Aunt Ornat and their three daughters were here. My Saba and Savta and Bubbie and her metapelet were also here. Shabbos was pretty quiet and normal except that we had pitas and no other chametz or matza during the meal. We ate lunch really early so we could finish the pitas by 9:55 in the morning. We all took naps after lunch so we could stay awake for the seder and then we went to the park.

We had a lady from the community and her daughter join us for the seder which only started at around 8:45 at night. I was the only kid who stayed awake until the end. The four cups of grape juice were especially good because my parents got Kedem grape juice which tastes much better than the stuff we've been using all year.

After lunch, we went to the park again on the first day of yom tov and we took short naps so we could stay awake for our seder the second night. Our second seder was much smaller and faster. It was just our immediate family and two of my cousins sat with us just so they could enjoy the grape juice. We started as early as we could, around 8:00 and finished before 10. It was a little weird because my grandparents were going in a taxi and my aunt and uncle were on the phone and taking pictures the whole time but it was chag for us.

Yesterday we walked to my grandparents house for a "chol hamoed" party for all my first and second cousins that are in Israel. It took us about 35 minutes to walk there. We got there at 1:15 and stayed for about four hours. We split up for the walk back and the girls all took the stairs and the boys went around with the stroller (here is a map - the girls basically followed the red line and the boys followed the pink line). I walked ahead and went a slightly different way and got home first. The Spodeks were still at our house and decided to sleep over again. The neighbors had set up some bouncy toys in the driveway and invited us to play on them. So we played, showered, ate supper and went to sleep so we could get up early for our trip today.

Chag Sameach

Today was actually not nearly as stressful as it could have been thanks mostly to Shira's excellent planning and organization. We've also been helped by my parents cooking and picking things up for us and by Shira's brother and sister-in-law cooking and helping prepare.

Yesterday was a great day. For a late breakfast we went out to eat with the Baks to celebrate our siyum of Nedarim. We actually finished about a month ago but were asked to make a siyum after the 5:45 minyan shacharis. In the end some other people had also planned on making a siyum there so we didn't actually make our siyum but we still celebrated. Then for an early dinner we went out in honor of Rivka's birthday. Our custom is that we go out for dinner to the restaurant of the birthday kid's choice on every birthday. My father joined us for that.

After a pretty boring breakfast, we went to do biur chametz. It's a very different experience here than in Baltimore. In Baltimore, there is one centralized biur chametz location at the fire station and everyone brings their chametz. Here, it's each man for himself. We joined with our neighbors and made a small fire at the corner to burn the chametz. It's definitely more fun this way but a little more dangerous too.

We went to the park this morning for an hour or so and then we went to Nof Ayalon to pick up some things that my sister had bought for us and hung out there for a while. We had a scumptious lunch at my mother's before coming home to prepare and rest up for Shabbos and our company. For Pesach, unlike Sukkos, we won't be doing melacha for two days of yom tov which means we have a 3 day yom tov to look forward to. Should be lots of fun!

Chag sameach to everyone.

Where to live

We are trying to decide the best place for our family to live if we move back to Israel. We've had a great year in Modiin and have lots of really good friends and my parents here so it would be hard not to come back. The biggest problem here is that we're not crazy about the options for schools. The school for our kids this year worked out really well for them and we don't regret the decision at all but we don't think it's the best long-term answer for them. Another problem with our current neighborhood is that the price of houses is really high.

When we came to Israel for five weeks a year and a half ago, we spent a Shabbos in five different communities and didn't decide where we wanted to live. We spent a weekend in Beit Shemesh and Ramat Beit Shemesh and considered BS a possibility of where we'd eventually settle. Now there is a new community starting there that looks like it will be really excellent. Our biggest fear is that it will probably be (almost) all Americans living there and it will make it hard for our kids to learn Hebrew and feel like real Israelis.

On Sunday night, Shira and I went to the Blass Bar Mitzvah in Beit Shemesh and we were talking to recent olim who live there. One family that came two years ago said that their kids still don't really know Hebrew because they only interact with English speaking kids. That really scared us from living there. It's a tough decision because it would make life easier in the short-term to live amongst Americans but I think for long-term success we'd probably be better living in a mixed community with American olim and natural born Israelis.

So the search continues. We haven't ruled out Modiin or Beit Shemesh but would like to check out other options. Every community has its benefits and drawbacks and it won't be an easy decision but it's something that we need to consider carefully. We went through the same basic process when we moved from St. Louis. We could have moved anywhere in the US and checked out many different communities before ultimately settling on Baltimore. We're very happy with that decision.

My Sleepover Party

On Thursday at 5:30 eight girls came to my house for a sleepover party for my 10th birthday. We had an exciting night planned. First we ate pizza. Then we made bracelets out of beads. After that we talked and giggled and ran around outside and then we got into pajamas and ate ice cream. We all slept in the living room on mattresses and couches. After we were all comfortable, we watched Mary Poppins. The movie ended at 10:30 but then we giggled and talked some more until we went to sleep at around 11:30.

We were all up at 6:30 and got dressed and ate breakfast. Then we went to the park and we davened when we came home. Everyone packed up their stuff and their parents came to get them. One friend stayed for a few extra hours. We walked to Country Center (30 minute walk) to get fruits and vegetables for my mother and popsicles for us. Then my father picked us up and we came home and played Pig/Tongue with Zvi. After that we watched a movie until her father came to get her. When she left I took a nap so I could go to my Savta's house for Shabbos.

This is what we did at Savta's house. We ate both meals at Bubbie's and rested for three hours after lunch. We played Casino a lot. Then Bubbie came over for Shalosh Seudos and we ate outside. When we were finished we went over to Bubbie's and played Rummikub and Guess Who until Saba came home from shul. When he came home, we made havdala and my father came to get me.

"Vacation"

All the kids in the country had their last day of school before Pesach last Thursday. So now, everyone is scrambling to find things to do with their kids for an entire week before Pesach. We have our plans all set for each day of chol hamoed but we don't have so many plans for this week. There is a daycamp at a nearby school and we gave our kids (besides Yeshaya) the option of going today to try it out. They all agreed to go but this morning Zvi backed out. Rivka and Leora didn't know anyone there so they got a little nervous when they got there but ultimately stayed. Hopefully they're having a good time and will decide to continue the rest of the week.

Rivka had a slumber party on Thursday night with a bunch of girls from her class since it's almost her birthday. She told me that she's going to blog about it so I won't write anything. Zvi played his fourth game of the season and we won 17-4. We're now in sole possession of first place at 4-0 but we haven't yet played the three best teams. After Pesach, five our next six games are against those three teams and we're missing out best player for the first of those games. We got our uniforms so we look like a real team now. Go Cheetahs!

Rivka went to Saba and Savta for Shabbos. We ate Shabbos lunch at the Steiners which was great so Shira didn't have to worry about cooking too much. Then Leora watched Yeshaya so we could sleep for an hour and in exchange we walked her to Aliza Spitzer's house. Aliza was her primary translator in her old gan and is her closest friend here. Unfortunately we don't get them together enough but they were thrilled to see us and Yeshaya played with their son also. We then went to the park and that took us until bedtime. It was another nice and relaxing Shabbos.