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.


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
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.


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 ...


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 ...