Rain and Snow

As I'm sure most of you in North America heard by now, Israel just experienced a "winter"storm. Jerusalem received enough snow to shut the city down. Schools were canceled, buses stopped running, people were advised to stay home from work. The Jerusalem/Tel Aviv highway was even closed in certain spots. In Modiin we did not have a snowfall but boy did we have rain. It just kept pouring and pouring. Rain, sleet and hail. I had to constantly remind myself that rain in Israel is a bracha and not something we should complain about. It was reported on Arutz Sheva that the precipitation from this one storm front helped raise the level of the Kinneret by 11 centimeters. There is still a shortage of water though.

Last week we celebrated the bar mitzvah of our dear nephew Eylon Hagege up north in Maalot. We were lucky it took place last week and not this week because the north was also crippled by the snow. The kids spent almost the whole afternoon playing outside so had it been cold and snowy they would have probably gotten a little bored in the afternoon. (BTW, the simcha was a beautiful event enjoyed by all. )

The snow did not however affect the crazy ice hockey enthusiasts that came from as far as North America to participate in the International Hockey Tournament that my brother Danny arranged. When I called him on Wednesday to see how things were looking he ecstatically reported that every player left early in the morning to avoid the bad weather. Even my brother Eli hopped on a bus from Jerusalem instead of waiting for his lift.

The kids and I really wanted to drive to Jerusalem to play in the snow, but David said that when he hears of snow he wants to run to Eilat.

Decision Time

In October, we said that we wanted to make a final decision by February about our plans for next year and we've managed to accomplish that goal. It was a really difficult decision and we went back and forth many times trying to decide what was best for all of us. At times we really thought that we'd make our move permanent. I even spoke to my boss about the possibility and she was very receptive to the idea but I'd have to join IBM Israel, with the accompanying salary. The first six months that we've been here have been great as we've tried to document on the blog. In a lot of ways this was far better than we thought it would be. There were some difficult times which we tried not to dwell too much on in the blog but overall this has been an excellent year so far. It's been great spending so much time with all of our family here especially with Bubbie. The kids have adjusted really well and have learned lots of Hebrew. Rivka wants to stay and even Zvi said he's willing to stay.

So then why did we decide to go back to Baltimore? I think that when we're here I just feel more tense and uptight all the time. I'm not blaming the country or the people here or anything else besides me. I just feel like I need to go back "home" to relax for a little while. Shira feels that she is not quite ready to make the move and would like some time to regroup and be more prepared. Things are just easier there in general and for us in specific since we own a house and two cars there. Here we'd have to find a house and buy a car (our car has to go back to Cypress at the end of the year) and deal with all of those headaches. I know it sounds like we're just making the lazy decision and in some ways I suppose that's what we're doing but I think that ultimately it's what is best for the entire family. Josh V. predicted before we came that we'd come for a year and then go back to Baltimore for a year or so and then make aliya. There's a chance that he's going to be proven correct but I'm not ready to put odds on it right now.

Hockey Shrine in Israel

Shira's brother Danny loves ice hockey. He has been credited on nhl.com with laying "much of [the] groundwork for grassroots hockey in Israel." He coaches little kids in roller hockey. He has tons of equipment so people who want to play ice hockey have the proper stuff. He organizes a bi-weekly ice hockey game in Metulla. The Canada Center there is one of the only places in the country to play ice hockey so he decided that he had to organize regular games up there so he didn't have to give up on his favorite activity just because he made aliya. This week is the second annual International Israel Ice Hockey Tournament in Metulla. He organized this tournament and has about 50 people from around the world playing in a three day tournament. Two weeks ago he separated his shoulder and isn't sure yet if he's going to be able to play in the tournament that he arranges but he promised me that he'll be on the ice. If he can't play then he'll just ref.

He also owns the closest thing to a hockey museum that exists in Israel. The house they bought in Zichron Yaakov a few years ago has a garage that had been converted by the previous owner into a fairly large office. When Danny saw it, he immediately thought that it would be the perfect place for a hockey museum. He has tons of stuff there covering all the walls, floors and ceilings. Here are a few pictures that I took when we were visiting them last week.

Eylon's bar mitzvah

One of the great benefits of coming to Israel for a year is that we're able to spend so much time with family. This year was an especially good year to come because we have so many family functions:
This past weekend was Eylon's bar mitzva. Thursday night was a party at a hall in Zichron Yaakov at 8 PM. We left our house around 6 and brought the three younger kids to Danny's house to watch a movie since they would have been exhausted at the party. Then Shira, Rivka and I went to the party. It was a nice party but nothing compared to the festivities that would follow. Friday we all lounged around for the morning until we drove up to the Hacienda hotel in Maalot for Shabbos.

The hotel was great with lots of facilities. Shira went swimming with Rivka, Leora and Yeshaya and I played mini-golf with Zvi. Shayna and Brad came in from Memphis for the bar mitzva but Aliza missed the festivities. (By the way, HAPPY 30th BIRHDAY TO ALIZA today!!) Danny is also very good friends with Ethel and they insist that they're really brothers-in-law even though technically they're not related at all. There were about 70 guests divided between Ethel's family, Eric's family and about 15 of Eylon's friends. Eric's family is very musical so the meals went on a long time with lots of zemirot. We mostly just sat around hanging out with family. Rivka played with her many cousins her age. Zvi got along really well with Ethel's son Yair (in the past he was hesitant to play with him since they couldn't communicate but his Hebrew is now pretty good) and her nephew, Oz. Leora always plays really nicely with Danny's daughter Ayala and this Shabbos was no exception. It was just a fun Shabbos all around.

It broke again!!

I've got a lot to blog about but I don't have so much time because our laundry has been piling up for the last few days. This post really had the potential to be an awesome post and each step along the way I was anticipating the post. Unfortunately the ending isn't as good as it could have been. On Thursday while Shira was out our washing machine stopped spinning. I tried opening the machine again just like last time but I was actually able to find the problem this time. I spotted the broken belt immediately but didn't know where to get the replacement belt so I called the washing machine repair man who had already been to our house twice before. He said it would 290 shekel to fix it and we decided that it wasn't worth it. We went to our local friendly hardware store to see if the owner knew where we could get a new belt. She said we wouldn't be able to find it in Modiin but had to go Talpiot to find it. So this morning Shira and I were off to Yerushalayim to get the replacment belt. We went from store to store until we found a store called Yerucham on Rechov Rechev who had a million different belts. They measured this belt and gave us a replacement that was exactly the same size for 42 shekel. The end of this entry was supposed to be that we came home and I put the belt on and everything worked. Only problem was that I couldn't get the belt on the machine at all. So we called a couple of our friends who are good with this kind of stuff but they couldn't get it either. Finally, someone recommend Yaakov Magrubi who wasn't expensive and was very good. So we called him at 4:30 and he was at our house by 5:30. He noticed that something else was wrong also (actually Rob our neighbor had noticed the same thing) and he put the belt on and fixed the other thing that was broken and moved the dryer back on top. He told me it cost 60 shekel but we were so appreciative that we gave him 100. So let's do a quick calculation: 290 shekel to get it fixed by the laundry guy (as long as he wouldn't have charged us more to fix the other minor problem) vs. 42 for the belt + 100 for Magrubi + 50 for gas to Yerushalayim. So one way of looking at is that we saved 100 shekel but that's really leaving two important things out of the equation. We spent a few hours today trying to get it working so our time is worth money but on the other side we have the satisfaction of almost having fixed it ourselves and not paying the guy 290 shekel just to put a belt on the machine and that's priceless.

A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

I know I haven't blogged in a little while but I don't really have much to say. I figured I'd just give updates on everyone.

David's started getting busy again at work after New Years. He has a lot of meetings but seems to be doing alright with working US hours. I think it was hard at first for him to get used to staying awake so late (since we used to be asleep before 11pm in Baltimore). He claims to get more sleep here, but I'm not sure I believe him.

Me (Shira)- I can't believe that six months have passed already. I really didn't think that we'd get to the point where we were in a routine. But we are really there. I get to go to Holme's Places everyday (gym) and then usually one other activity/errand before Leora gets home. I thought having Leora come home earlier (because of the new gan) would be difficult, but in fact it really helps me out as she entertains Yeshaya. (The mess they create is a different story)

Rivka- After waiting almost a week we received the results from the doctor that Rivka's ankle was possibly broken. Duh, why do you think we came to you guys????!!! I was really angry by this point because 1. it cost us a ton of money to visit Terem 2. we wasted so much time and energy waiting for the results. Rivka says that her ankle feels better and has stopped wearing her splint/cast. Rikva is doing so well in school. She has tons of friends and is such a conscientious student. She aces every test.

Zvi- Zvi just started baseball again last Friday and is upset that he will be missing this week's practice because of Eylon Hagege's Bar Mitzvah. Zvi's hebrew has really improved. He is able to tell over many things that he learned in school. He has made friends with hebrew and english speakers, but prefers the english speakers. He amazes us with his memory and comprehension of things.

Leora- As mentioned in several posts, Leora is doing so much better. Her hebrew has improved dramatically. She is just a much happier child now and it seems that her anxieties have disappeared.

Yeshaya- Yeshaya loves going to his playgroup. There are two other boys that go there too and he gets along well with them. He is sleeping in his own bed these days (well actually he shares a bed with Zvi - two beds pushed together). Occasionally he has climbed into our bed in the middle of the night but after five minutes he returns to his room on his own.

That's all for now!

Tu B'shvat

This is basically our midpoint in the year so that means that we have some paperwork to deal with. We took care of the first part last week when we extended our visas. The next thing was to extend the registration on our car. The deal with the car from Cypress is that we're allowed to keep it in the country for one year but you can only register it for six months at a time. After six months we have to get a bank guarantee for the amount of the taxes. So Shira and I went to Yerushalayim yesterday to find out how much we owed and get the forms. The people in the meches office were actually very nice. So today Shira and I had to get the bank guarantee. My mother locked up some of her money for us so that we wouldn't have to change the money just to change it back in six months and so that we wouldn't have to lay out all the money on our own. My name is on one of her accounts with power of attorney so we used that one. We got to the bank at 10:15 and we were next in line so we barely had to wait. Then the lady said that we couldn't do it because I wasn't the main name on the account. She made a few phone calls and in the end we were allowed to it. The only problem was that she didn't really know how to do it. So she spoke to all the other employees in the bank but none of them had any clue. She made a few phone calls but still no luck. At around 11, she told us to leave and come back at 1:30 and she'd try to have it mostly done. So Shira, my mother, Yeshaya and I went to grab something to eat in the same shopping center. Fifteen minutes later she called me on the phone and I went back to the bank. We finally finished at the bank at almost 1. It took us three hours there just to get the bank guarantee. She didn't fill out the form that they gave me at the meches office but insisted that what she gave me is all they need. I hope she's right!

My grandmother came home from the hospital yesterday afternoon and Yeshaya and I visited her at home today. She's doing much better and was very happy to be home.

Happy birthday to JJ!

Back and forth to the hospital

Last Wednesday morning I went to visit my grandmother just in time to see my mother and Maris (the metapelet) trying to get Bubbie into a taxi to take her to the doctor. She was having trouble breathing and was really weak. I tried helping but we just couldn't get her into the taxi and we decided it was best to put her in an ambulance anyway given her condition. So we called an ambulance and she went to Asaf Harofeh Hospital. They started her on anti-biotics right away and her condition quickly improved. They think that she had pneumonia and some sort of blood infection (they're not 100% positive). She's getting stronger each day but her arms are bruised from the IVs. We're hoping that she can come home tomorrow.

It's been exhausting for us as Shira and I have been to the hospital (about a half hour away) every day since she got there. Last night Rivka came also and today we took the whole family. The visits have been nice especially since now Bubbie is almost back to herself. So we took it easy on Shabbos and didn't have any company on Friday night - actually Leora's friend, our next door neighbor, Meirav Wine ate over and slept at our house. For lunch we went to the Butels who live at the end of our driveway. It was a very relaxing Shabbos.

Rivka's Terem Visit

Last week Rivka was complaining that her ankle was hurting but we were a little skeptical because Zvi also hurt his ankle. Over the weekend she didn't complain and even walked back from the kotel without any difficulties. Then, on Sunday or Monday she started complaining again about pain and started walking with a limp. We looked at her ankle and everything seemed fine. However, yesterday she started complaining even more and seemed to have more trouble walking. I looked at her ankle and noticed it was swollen. She had a class party from 5-8 pm and my carpool shift was pickup. When I picked her up she was in tears and crying from agony. I decided to take her to terem to check it out. We ended up spending 3 hours there without any conclusive findings. They took x-rays and tried twice to transmit them to a radiologist to read, but the transmission failed. Meanwhile, Rivka was exhausted and in a lot of pain. The two doctors there consulted with each other, and although they felt it was unlikely that there was a fracture there was one questionable area. The doctor explained that they thought it was probably a growth plate and not a fracture. They decided to cast/splint Rivka since she really couldn't put any weight through her foot because of the pain. Every procedure was agony for her and the doctors didn't seem to have too much sympathy. So today Rivka hopped around with her cast all day and has become and expert hopper. Although tonight when Rivka wasn't focusing on her hopping she discovered that she could actually put some weight through it without it being too painful. So now she's becoming and expert limper.

Meeting with the School Psychologist for Leora

Today we had a scheduled meeting with Leora's teacher and the school psychologist (Michael Roth, Moshe Roth's brother). The purpose of the meeting was twofold. First to update us on Leora's progress and second to discuss placement for next year (if we stay in Israel). The teacher gave us a great report. She said that Leora really seems to be understanding a lot of hebrew. She even gave an example that she was teaching the children about the hebrew letters "koof and Kuf" and asked the children to come up with words that start with those sounds. After a few examples from the other kids, Leora raised her hand and said "keshet". The teacher said she was shocked but thrilled. This whole lesson was happening in hebrew. Leora also repeated the story to us as she was very proud of herself (and so were we). After some discussion, we all agreed that Leora would benefit from repeating gan chova to give her some more confidence with hebrew. (We have not made any final decisions about next year but need to keep all options open).

Leora's prize

When Leora started her new gan, the Baks promised her any toy she wanted from the toy store if she didn't cry for two straight days at gan. The first couple days she cried for a few minutes when I dropped her off. After that, she'd cry for just a few seconds when I left. Every time Aryeh or Tzivi saw her they'd ask when she was going to earn her prize. Leora really wanted to go without crying and one day when I asked her why she bothered to cry she said, "I don't want to cry but Hashem makes me."

Last Tuesday I took Leora to gan and her regular teacher was talking to someone. Normally she comes to meet us at the door but she was busy and I didn't want to bother her. So I took Leora to a table and a substitute assistant who didn't know Leora came over to her when she saw her hesitating to let me go. One of the other girls explained to the assistant that Leora didn't know Hebrew so she spoke to her English and after a few seconds I started to leave. Leora gave me one last kiss but didn't cry. Since then Leora has not cried when we dropped her off. The ganenet now doesn't meet us at the door but we bring her to the table where she is sitting and Leora works on the projects. The ganenet now talks to her in Hebrew and she has learned so much Hebrew in the last month. Leora asked me yesterday if I noticed that she was getting bigger. I wasn't sure what she meant so I said, "A little bit. How do you know you're getting bigger?" She answered that "I don't cry anymore in Gan so I'm big now." She's obviously proud of herself and we're so proud of her also.

Leora really wanted her prize from the Baks though and today Aryeh came through for us. He came over to pick Leora up at 4 PM and took her to the toy store. She chose a Make Up Set and is now playing make-up with Shira. Thank you Baks!

More Israeli Queueing Theory

Last week when I was in Yerushalayim I stopped at the Jewish Agency so I could get a letter to enable me to extend our visas. They were set to expire at the end of this month. The same guy was there as last time and he took care of me quickly. So today Yeshaya, Shira and I went back to the Misrad Hapnim in Ramla to get the visas extended. It was crowded there and we got number 193 while number 169 was inside. There were two people working there and the average person takes about 15 minutes. So based on my knowledge of queueing theory, I figured that we would have to wait a very long time. The lady we dealt with last time was in an office and she seemed to be in charge. There was also a lady at a desk. Shira started filling out the form and we started waiting. Then the desk lady went into the office and came out and said something fast in Hebrew that we didn't understand and nobody got up. So Shira started to get up to see if she would take us (we discovered last time we were there that you have to be pushy) but then Shira decided that I should be the pushy one. So I went up to her and told her what we needed and she said that we were lucky and we should go sit at the desk. She said that she'd be right back. It took her 10 minutes but then she did come back and took care of us. It took about 45 minutes to get visas for all 6 of us but we did it. In all that time only 3 people went so had we waited our turn we probably would have been waiting for much more than two hours. I still have no idea why she took us before all the others but I'm not complaining.

I have a Cold

In the Inbal I went to sleep by myself in the hotel room before everyone because I was tired. I fell asleep around 8 pm but I woke up later with a stuffed nose. The beds were uncomfortable. I looked for my pillow for over an hour. I woke up my mother with my searching and she got my pillow. When we got home from the Inbal a day later I couldn't get my snot out of my nose so I didn't go to school today. I missed a chumash test.

The rest of the bar mitzvah

So far I've only written about a little bit of the Bar Mitzvah so I'll finish up the rest of the story in this entry. After lunch in Chevron, we all (actually some people went home but most of us) boarded the buses again to take us to meet our jeeps in Midbar Yehuda. There were twelve jeeps and each one had eight people so there were almost 100 people there.
We were on the jeeps for almost three hours until we got to our final destination. I delayed writing this post because I was hoping to find out what that place was called but nobody we were with on Shabbos could remember. It was an old Jordanian prison in the Judean desert and it had an Arabic name that I don't remember. They had a huge heated tent set up (another bus from Jerusalem met us for the party) and another smaller tent with barbecues. The jail was set up for dancing with a band and everything. There was also a section for pita making. They also had a camel and donkeys there and Zvi and I had a good time on a camel.
Then there were some African drum players there to give some lessons how to play.
We finally got home, exhausted at 10:30 at night. Long day but we had to rest up so we could continue the festivities on Friday. Maya, Ethel's daughter, slept over and went to school with Rivka on Friday and then when they all got home from school we showered and went to Jerusalem to go spend Shabbos at the Inbal. Shabbos was beautiful and we all had a great time with family and some of the Somer friends. The Bar Mitzva was excellent but the only problem is that now Rivka and Zvi are getting ideas about what kind of parties they want for their bar and bat mitzvas.

Mearat Hamachpela

Two buses took people from Yerushalayim to Chevron after making a stop to pick up more people near Efrat/Gush Etzion for Shmuel's bar mitzva. The plan was for shacharis to be at Mearat Hamachpela and we were very excited since the kids had never been there and Shira and I hadn't been there in years. On the bus we found out that a last minute Muslim holiday meant that Jews weren't allowed inside. Apparently for all Muslim holidays they close it and no Jews are allowed to go. This is a pretty minor holiday and many Muslims don't even celebrate it so the bar mitzva planners only found out at the last minute. In the end we went to the Beit Knesset Avraham Avinu. That was very meaningful though because we used a sefer Torah there that was donated by my sister, Ethel and her family in memory of her brother-in-law, Yitzchak Boanish. He was murdered by Arabs a few years ago when he responded after the Arabs had opened fire on people returning from Mearat Hamachpela. The tour guide took us just outside of Mearat Hamachpela and gave us some history and stories before we had a delicous brunch at a hall there. We still had a good time there but now we have to go back to Chevron so the kids can actually go inside.

Who is crazier?

Yesterday, we all went to my nephew Shmuel's bar mitzva (more on that later). We had to leave the house by 7:30 in the morning so we could meet everyone in Yerushalayim for the bus to Chevron for shacharis which was scheduled to start at 9:30. I was nervous that it would start late and we'd miss sof zman tfila. I also wasn't thrilled about taking my tallis and tfillin with us all day and I wanted to have the option of eating before that. So I insisted that I had to go to shacharis before we left. I planned on going to my regular 6:20 minyan so I could be home around 7. The only problem was that Shira has to exercise every single day. She can't go to the gym on Friday or Shabbos and we weren't going to be home until 11 PM so she needed to exercise. She planned on being at the gym when it opened at 6 so she could be home by 7. I thought Shira was crazy for not being willing to miss a single day of exercise and she thought I was nuts for insisting on davening shacharis at the crack of dawn. In the end, she arranged for my niece Rivka from Nof Ayalon to sleep here Thursday night so we could both do what we wanted. Our kids were mostly ready when we got home and behaved nicely and we were able to leave by 7:30 and be on time for the bus.

Zadie's first yahrtzeit

One year ago, I was planning on flying down to Raleigh to meet with my boss to ask permission to come to Israel for the year. The night before I was supposed to go, my mother called from Israel to tell us that my grandfather had passed away. So I quickly changed my plans so I could come for the funeral. Last night we had a meal at my grandmother's house to commemorate the yahrtzeit which was very nice with a lot of family in attendance. My mother spoke really nicely as did my brother-in-law, Erick, my cousin Yoni and my cousin Stuart (actually he wasn't there so his father read it). Then today I went with a bunch of aunts, uncles and cousins to the cemetery followed by lunch at Cafe Rimon.

Just a couple notes about my grandfather who influenced me greatly during his lifetime. There are a few things that I always remembered about Zadie from when I was little boy:
  • He was always on time to everything. He never made anyone wait for him and he expected others to have the same courtesy for him. If you told him you'd meet him at a certain time then you better be there then.
  • He knew the stock market. As a kid, I didn't have a clue what it was but I knew that he was always following it and somehow making money doing it. He was always honest though in everything he did.
  • Family was the most important thing to him. He had 23 grandchildren who lived all over the world and he was sure to spend lots of time with everyone. He rarely missed a family simcha and always tried to keep track of how many children everyone had. He was especially proud of the quantity and quality of his family. He kept count and I think that there were over 100 family members when he died (counting daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, grandchildren-in-law and great-grandchildren).
As I got older I discovered that there were actually many other parts of his life to admire. The main discovery about him that I made in the last few years was his willingness to learn and try new things. He had been trading on the stock market for years but when it became possible to trade online, he quickly learned how to use a computer. He sent a weekly email to the entire family and even used AIM to instant message with his children and grandchildren. He was in his late 80s when he was doing this! I also realized his love of Israel and Judaism. He made aliya just five weeks before he was niftar. These things were always there but they made a greater impact on me in the last few years as I really began to notice them.

I was lucky that he lived in Baltimore for a while just a couple years before he died so we got to spend time with him then. We also went to visit him in Chicago a couple weeks before he made aliya. I always tried to emulate him and I've missed him a lot during the last year. His neshama should have an aliya.

This is a picture from their 64th anniversary dinner in Baltimore a few years ago.


On Sunday I called my father almost an hour before school ended and said that I have a big headache. He said that he can't pick me up right now but he could pick me up when school ends so I wont have to go on the bus. When I got home I played a game of Skip-Bo with my father and then I did homework. After that we went to Savta's for supper and then got home and went into bed. I was up the whole night so I could not go to school. It was Bubbie's birthday party and I could not go but Mommy and Abba both really wanted to go so I went to Savtas house and I stayed there with my great uncle that just came in from America and was too tired to go (he was sleeping the whole time ) When Mommy and Abba picked me up we went to the shopping center to gt a few things there then Leora came home and she does not know how to be quiet so my headache just got bigger. Monday night I did not sleep again so I called my grandmother ( the one that lives in Canada ) and she told me to drink orange juice. I tried some but it made me throw up. I was too sick to go to school again. Mommy said I probably had a sinus infection so I had to go to the doctor. Abba, Yeshaya and I went to Savta's house for a couple of hours and Abba called the doctor. The doctor said that there were no appointments available until 5:00. I went to the doctor at 5 and we found out that Mommy was right: I have a sinus infection. He told me to get three different medicines so went to buy them. An hour after I took one of the medicines I started to feel better. We went to Bubbie's last night and when we got home I took different medicine that made me throw up. I woke up around 10 PM and I was so happy because I felt all better. Then I went back to sleep and slept through the whole night, until 5:15 AM. When I woke up I felt all better and am very excited to go back to school today.

Bubbie's 94th birthday

Today is my grandmother's 94th birthday. Last night, we ordered a cake from Holyland cakes and brought it to my mother's house for a birthday party. Amy and most of her family joined us also.

Then today Shira, Yeshaya and I joined my grandmother for a birthday party at Melabev where she goes four days a week. It's also my grandfather's first yahrtzeit this week so two of my aunts were here also. My grandmother has four daughters and three of them were at the party. She has 23 grandchildren but only two of us were able to be there today. She also had 3 of her great-grandchildren there (not sure how many she has but it's over 60). We all had a great time celebrating with her.

My Brother Zale

Our intention when starting this blog was to update our family and friends on our lives, but also to keep a diary of our year. I really didn't think people would remain as loyal to us as they have. My sister-in-law Lisa just informed me that my brother Zale is a frequent reader of our blog. I was so touched to hear that. We are not the best at keeping in touch, other than asking my mother about each other, although I often think of them.

Just wanted to say, we miss you guys and love you. Kisses to the boys.

Rivka ditches us again

Rivka must find us boring or something because almost every Shabbos she finds something else to do. Apparently she enjoys the company of her friends and cousins more than she enjoys spending time with the family. She tries to invite girls from her class for Shabbos but they can never come. She's had a couple girls from the neighborhood (different schools) but she's been out many times. This week, my sister called an hour before Shabbos to invite her over. She went there and actually got together with a classmate who lives in Nof Ayalon this afternoon.

She missed another nice Shabbos in Modiin. Last night we had the Spitzers (he used to own Joseph's restaurant in NYC) and the Baks for dinner. Then today we ate lunch at the Eisenberg's. It seems that most of our friends in Modiin have more daughters than sons. Last night, our company combined to have four girls and a boy and the Eisenbergs have four daughters and no sons. In order to keep Zvi happy I had to play a lot of initial baseball with him.

Yeshaya and bedtime

A little while back a friend was commenting about the difficulties she was having getting her child to sleep in her own bed. I arrogantly told her that we nipped our problem in the bud and Yeshaya climbs into bed with Zvi instead of us. Well that lasted all of two nights. We have a serious issue here. Yeshaya just won't stay in his own bed. I guess it all started when he realized that he could climb out of his crib and have the freedom to explore. We immediately switched him to a bed for obvious safety reasons (hard, cold, stone, Israeli floors). For a while now, Yeshaya would fall asleep for a nap and then not be so tired at bed time. The others would be fast asleep, I'd be zonked from my ever so stressful day (facebook, email, surfing the web) and I'd take him into bed with me to fall asleep. Okay, so maybe I created this monster! David decided it was time for him to take over bedtime since I wasn't really doing a great job at it. I have to admit that David succeeded pretty quickly getting Yeshaya to fall asleep in his own bed, but he has yet to prove his powers in keeping Yeshaya in his bed during the night.

Last night was just precious. David and I went out to celebrate New Years (actually it was the only night that David didn't have to work) and David's mother babysat for us. We tried to make it as easy as possible for her since a previous time the kids gave her some trouble. We set the kids up in our room to watch Shrek 3. Apparently Yeshaya fell asleep right away and the others stayed up to watch the whole movie. (Let me backtrack a second and say that Zvi has been sleeping on a mattress in Rivka and Leora's room so that Yeshaya doesn't wake him up with his screaming in the middle of the night as we train him to stay in his own bed). The older three kids went on their own to bed but Rivka got nervous that Yeshaya was on his own in our room so she carried him into her bed. When we got home David tried to transfer Yeshaya to his own bed but he woke up. We tried for quite some time to calm him down and have him remain in his bed, but we weren't succeeding. Finally we just closed the door and let him scream. I think he was just too exhausted to climb out of bed. All of a sudden we hear Leora talking to him. She asked him if he wanted her to lie down with him and it was like music to his ears. He instantly calmed down. She told him that she first had to go to the bathroom and that she'd be right back. It was just so cute listening to them. David went to help Leora bring her pillows and blanket to his bed and she slept there for the rest of the night.

Davening in Modiin

This is going to be a really long post but I'll try to break it into sections. I have been meaning to post for a while about the shul situation in Modiin but I knew that it would take a while so I just haven't had a chance. Nothing like a good US national holiday to get this kind of stuff out of the way.

What shuls currently exist in Modiin?
I had mentioned a while ago that there isn't even a shul in my neighborhood. That doesn't mean that there aren't minyanim but there just aren't any shul buildings. Supposedly when the city was being built about 15 years ago, the original planners were anti-religious and intended for the city to not be a religious city at all. The "problem" was that the location is amazing (20 miles from Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim) and that they did a pretty good job planning the city so it's pretty (many will disagree but there are definitely lots of parks). In some of the older neighborhoods there really aren't a lot of religious people but in our neighborhood, Buchman, there are lots and lots of religious (my guess is that it's over 75% religious). I think that in the entire Modiin there are only about 5 shul buildings and the closest one to my house is about a 20 minute walk.

I believe that the first Shabbos minyan in Buchman was at a gan. Then Daniel Billig (our landlord's son) started another minyan called Beit Knesset Buchman Asheknaz (BKA). It meets at an elementary school in the neighborhood (a ten minute walk from my house). That has become known in Buchman as the American shul. When we came two years ago for Shabbos and stayed at the Baks those were basically the only two minyanim here. Since then many minyanim have popped up in the city including one in the local yeshiva high school. In Buchman Darom (remember, we're right on the edge of Buchman Darom) there are no shul buildings so they started a hashkama minyan at someone's house. It got too crowded so it has since divided into two separate minyanim with a total of about 120 people on Shabbos morning.

Shabbos davening:
Friday night there are a lot of minyanim in houses but I haven't really enjoyed those minyanim much (too much Carlebach, not enough starting before shkia etc) so I've been going down to BKA on Friday night. I do like the Buchman Darom minyan on Shabbos morning though. The minyan is just down the block from my house and it starts at 7:15 and finishes by 9. Often when I come home Shira goes down to BKA for shul (the walk to shul is very easy but the walk back is up a steep hill). There is also a mincha minyan down the block outside the house which hosts the morning davening. I usually go there and then maariv motzei Shabbos is right across the street from there and we even occasionally have a minyan at the end of our driveway.

Daily Shacharis:
When we first came here, I davened at the Ulpana every morning at 6:30. It was a very fast minyan which didn't bother me but they often started shmona esrei even though half the minyan was still in psukei d'zimra. Then when slichos started, most minyanim didn't have slichos before shacharis but instead only had them at night. I found out that the yeshiva 5:45 minyan had slichos in the morning so I started davening there. I really liked that minyan. They were always done by 6:20 and went very fast but it was a big enough minyan that they didn't start shmone esrei without a minyan. I davened there for a while until two things happened: it started getting light later so it was still pitch black at 5:45 and the clocks in the US changed so I was finishing work later at night and it was harder to wake up earlier. Then I switched to the 6:20 minyan at the yeshiva. It's a pretty good minyan but is slower than the other two minyanim I used to attend.

Wherever you live and whatever you do, mincha is the hardest tfila to get with a minyan. It's no different here living in Modiin and working afternoon hours. It's almost impossible for me to get to a pre-shkia mincha because it's near the beginning of my workday and if I'm not working then I try to help with the kids' homework. So I was davening mincha at home for a while until I heard about a 1 PM mincha at the yeshiva. This has been working really well for me since I learn with Aryeh right after mincha at the yeshiva.

Weeknight maariv:
There may be no shul buildings yet in Buchman but there are hundreds of frum people who are home at night so there was an obvious need for maariv minyanim in the area. When I first moved here I knew about an 8:30 minyan at the yeshiva and a 9:30 minyan in a park about a 10 minute walk from my house (it's also a two minute drive and since I'm lazy and it was the middle of my workday I drove there). I tried the 8:30 minyan twice but they didn't have a minyan either time so I tried to go to the 9:30 minyan in the park when I didn't have a conference call at that time. Then more minyanim started popping up including one in the apartment complex right next door to us. That complex is all religious people and there are about 80 apartments but we struggle to get a minyan each night. A lot of people daven at work and others daven other places but it's still a little pathetic.

I assume not many people actually read the entire post but I just wanted to get this posted so we'll have it for our book at the end of the year.