We went to London for Pesach. I try to keep our travel plans off social media until we've returned home but it doesn't usually work very well. Anyway, lots of reasons 2B cheerful from our holiday. And lots more R2BC from other bloggers over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum. 1 Seder Night We have two of them. Both a lot of fun. DD was in charge of making the place names for the table. The photo shows what she made for the first night. Thanks to my friend Janet for the idea - hieroglyphics for the exodus from Egypt. The first activity of the evening was to work out who was who. It's actually quite easy when you know which names you're looking for. We kept ours for bookmarks. 2 Chihuly at Kew Gardens The Best Day Out! Thanks for taking us Doreen. This will get its own blog post so no photos on this one.
3 Fashionista After years of refusing to wear anything but sweat pants, leggings or shorts with a t-shirt, DD surprised us all at our semi-annual trip to Primark and H&M. "I think I need to change my style," she announced. She then started picking out pretty summer jump suits with delicate shoulder straps and frilly off the shoulder 'sleeves'. I steered her away from the less practical ensembles. I am not about to iron frills although my iron may have to come out after 10 years in the cupboard. And we live in the Middle East so protected shoulders are a must in the summer. Still, it was so much more fun to buy a range of pretty clothes for her.
4 Fit Flops and Skechers I always wanted Fit Flops. When they first came out my mother asked me what gift she could bring when she came to stay. I asked for Fit Flops and she brought me a pair of flip flops. Soon after, my sister asked me what I wanted as a birthday present and I asked for Fit Flops (I didn't realize the price at that time). Then she forgot about it and I didn't like to remind her (or maybe she already knew the price). I finally bought myself a pair - years ago, but I made the mistake of buying the ones without the thong. I thought the thong would be uncomfortable for every day. Stupid me. The other kind only came in dowdy designs. They were comfortable and I wore them to death but I didn't love them. After that I discovered an Israeli make that I wore for years (Ben Ami) but they're now more expensive than Fit Flops. So I finally bought my thonged Fit Flops in John Lewis and I love them.
I also discovered Skechers sports shoes. Thanks Marilyn for the recommendation. I'm never going back to other trainers and neither is DD.
5 Family Wedding My brother got engaged. He's been with his fiancee for over three years so she's already a part of the family. And so we thought it could continue forever. They surprised us all by getting engaged and we're now waiting to hear when the wedding will be. Mazal Tov Michael and Alyson! xxx
Sunburst from the Chihuly exebition at Kew Gardens
Believe me, it's a thing. It starts before the holiday with things to get done before we leave. Be up to date with work commitments (prep and grading), paperwork (taxes, paying bills, filing, etc...) and cleaning the apartment. The time gets shorter and shorter and we leave for our holiday with work unfinished, paperwork in a pile on the desk, and a whisk round the apartment with a lick and a promise. I should have managed my time more efficiently.
There is also the social media dilemma. I don't want to announce, even in emails, that we will be away for two weeks and thereby implying that the apartment will be empty. Of course I could mention my sumo-wrestler cousin who will be house-sitting with his two mastiffs, but that's like protesting too much - a transparent ruse. So I keep quiet and feel terribly guilty that I'm going to disappear from the blog and people might worry that I've been run over by a bus, or worse, lost interest in writing. Thank you Margie from Toronto, for your concern. I do appreciate it under my guilt. And sorry, sorry, sorry.
The truth will out of course and friends write on facebook, "will you be in London for Passover?" I try to ignore these questions but I feel guilty.
And then my friend's mother suggests we meet for coffee over the festival and I would love to see her. I was the recipient of her hospitality, kindness and wisdom as a teenager and it would be fabulous to catch up. I PM her that I'll call her daughter when I get to London. And other friends whom I'd also love to see, message me and I get all future President of America and I cannot tell a lie. But I arrive in London and I don't call them because I remember that I have a 10 year daughter who doesn't want to catch up with all my old friends over coffee and also doesn't want to spend her whole holiday playing on Gandma's computer while I'm doing said catching up. It's a sad situation - guilty if I do and guilty that I don't.
I get lazy about blogging sometimes but I vary rarely miss a Reasons 2B Cheerful post. A week before the holiday I wrote on twitter to the regular contributing bloggers, that I'm sorry I'm always late with mine but I don't usually have time to get to it before Saturday. A couple of the others also said they preferred Saturday and so it was decided to change the R2BC day to Saturday. Then I disappeared for two weeks without telling anyone even though the move to Saturday was mainly because of me. Guilty.
Whilst in London we went with my cousin to see the Chihuly exhibition in Kew Gardens. It was absolutely stunning and deserves its own blog post. Later that day my cousin posted her photos on facebook and tagged me. I accepted the tag without thinking of the consequences and the cat was out of the bag. "Oh, I see you're in London," wrote Mich from Mummy from the Heart (one of the two R2BC hosts). "I wondered where you were?" Sorry, sorry, sorry, I should have told you.
Of course I did intend to write some location neutral blog posts while I was away but with limited computer access and the fact that it's much more fun playing kalooky and watching endless recorded episodes of Escape to the Country until 1 am and then getting up too late to accomplish anything in the mornings, I didn't blog. Moving back into my mother's house brings with it a certain amount of teenage behaviour and the associated guilt about wasting all that time.
About wasting time. We love being in London. We love the weather, we love the parks, we love the supermarkets, we love the tv, and we love shopping in Watford. We also love a day in London proper (as opposed to the suburbs where we live) and other outings like Kew Gardens, Legoland, the theatre, etc... But we don't have a driving urge to visit loads of museums and monuments, or even to be out and about every day. This holiday involved celebrating Passover which revolved around delicious meals at my sister's house with all the cousins and other guests (including two Seder nights), and a lot of going round to people's houses for tea, coffee, or a light supper. We're a bit grounded as we don't eat out at all during the eight days of the festival. But we're in London! Just visiting for a short time! I feel so ungrateful and lazy that we don't make the most of all that culture and entertainment on our doorstep for a short time only. But we don't. This is why I will probably never be a travel writer and another source of guilt.
We travel home on the early morning flight from Luton that requires getting up at 3 am on Sunday to go to the airport. I don't bother going to sleep the night before. We get home at about 5 pm because we're just in time to hit the rush hour as we enter Jerusalem. I then have to go out to the little supermarket around the corner because we've no food in the house. I make some supper for DD, tell her to put her dishes in the sink when she's finished and to turn off all the lights when she goes to bed. I go to bed at 7 pm and leave her to it. She hates it when I do that. Guilty.
I wake up at 11 pm with a dehydration headache. I take a paracetamol, drink coffee, and then drink a large green tea because the coffee didn't seem to work. I can't sleep. I read until 3.30 am, sleep for 3 1/2 hours and turn up for my first day of school exhausted and, actually, late. Guilty.
That night I fall into bed at 7 pm again. Now I've done this to DD two nights in a row. Guilty. I ignore the phone when it rings at about 10.30 so my mum doesn't get to tell me that my brother is engaged. I read it on facebook the next morning. Guilty. I still haven't unpacked and it's now Tuesday. But I have four hours of teaching at college on Tuesday afternoon so I need to prepare those lessons rather than unpack. Guilty. On Wednesday I after school I should have graded all the papers that came in from online courses over the holiday. But it's Holocaust Memorial Day and I want it to be meaningful so I make DD watch a movie about Anne Frank with me. Then I tell her that it's not appropriate to play on the computer or watch You Tube on this night so we both go to bed. On Thursday after school DD has gymnastics until 7.15 pm. We get home at 7.30 and there are three weeks' worth of emails to deal with so no grading tonight. Guilty. Today is Friday and I have to do some grading before Shabbat comes in as we don't work tomorrow. But I will unpack tomorrow - only six days after we came home. Guilty again. Such a little word yet it generates so much anxiety.
This evening, because we start our days from sunset, marked the beginning of Yom Hashoah - Holocaust Memorial Day. Everyone lights a memorial candle that lasts for 25 hours. Many people, including us, light in memory of a specific person who perished. DD and I lit our candles in memory of Judit Rajhman and Hanna Schenbron, both aged 6, both murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.
Hanna and Judit would have been 81 now, if they were still alive. Who would their children have been? Where would their grandchildren be living now? How many children would they have had? How many grandchildren? Maybe they would have had careers? Maybe one would have been a doctor and the other a writer? Maybe it would have been the other way round and the other would have been the doctor? It's almost certain that they didn't know each other aged 6 but maybe they would have met later in life and become friends, or colleagues, or even sisters-in-law?
So many questions without answers. So many children who never got to live their full lives (estimated at 1.5 million, most of them Jewish). And their baby brothers and sisters, and their big brothers and sisters and cousins, and young adults, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, classmates, the children next door, the man from the grocery shop who always made jokes, the teacher who gave too much homework, the scary dentist and the kind doctor. And all these people's families and friends until you add up 6 million lives .... stopped. Quashed. Murdered. Gassed.
DD and I watched a film about Anne Frank and I told her how Otto Frank was the only one to survive and how he came back and Miep had saved Anne's diary. Then I told her how he went to live in Switzerland and he married another survivor, Elfriede (Fritzi) Geiringer, who had a daughter called Eva (The author Eva Schloss). Fritzi and her family had lived in the same street as Anne Frank in Amsterdam and Eva and Anne, born only a month apart, had been friends. The Geiringers also went into hiding and were also betrayed. They were sent to Auschwitz. Erich Geiringer and their 19 year old son, Heinz did not survive. After the war Eva went to live in London. In Stanmore in fact, where we also lived. "And Grandma knew her, and her daughter, Sylvia, went to my school. She was in the year above me, Anne Frank's step-niece whom she never met."
DD understood. Real people survived and we know their grandchildren and, now, great-grandchildren. Real people perished and we have to remember them because they didn't get to have children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
The Beresheet Space Lander aborted and with it went my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. And the political party I voted for - Gesher - did't even pass the threshold to get one seat in the Knesset. Otoh, we got to the moon (first country to crash on the moon. Hooray, a first!) and we still live in a democracy which is a huge deal.
So with the R2BC linky over at Mich's Mummy from the Heart for the month of April, here are mine for this week.
1 I Didn't Know This I found out that they take polling boxes to women's shelters so that they don't have to go out in public if they can't. Also, in every city there is a safe polling station for people who feel threatened by going to their local station in case they meet a dangerous ex, family member, or previous attacker/abuser. How amazing is that? To know that your vote is important when you're perhaps feeling at your most low vulnerable is truly a wonderful thing.
2 If At first You Don't Succeed... The first thing everyone involved in SpaceIL said after the failed moon landing was: Next time.... We are delayed, not defeated.
3 Holidays! The Passover (Pesach) school holidays have started. DD is out and about with her friends - mostly in the park on roller blades but also in each other's homes just hanging out. What's new is that I don't have to take her or supervise. She makes her own arrangements on her own phone and off she goes. Fantastic!
4 Fling Open The Windows The rains have finally stopped for a while and we can finally throw open the doors and windows to begin spring cleaning (we cal it Pesach cleaning) in earnest.
5 Fun In The Supermarket The Pesach foods which have to be separated from the normal foods, are in the supermarkets. It's fun to walk around my local super and find the shelves in complete chaos. Nothing is in its usual place, food groups are split up and put wherever there's a space. It's kinds fun. That's it for today. Have a great week y'all.
One selfie from Bereshit before we lost communication.
This was supposed to be my Reasons 2B Cheerful post for this week. I had it all planned and was rehearsing the words in my head as I settled down to watch live coverage of the Beresheet moon landing.
Today at Ben Gurion Airport, the arrivals boards were announcing MOON at 22.00 (time not finalized).
All over the country there were big screens set up with hundreds of people watching together. President Rivlin had 200 children in the President's residency, face-painting, doing crafts and watching at the same time. The Cinemateque in Jerusalem and the Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv to name two more.
We watched at home. I put it on the big TV for full effect. Opher Doron, one of the engineers at SpaceIL, explained what was going to happen. The spacecraft was approaching the moon. They were controlling the engines to get it into position. DD was in her bedroom.
Me: DD! DD! Come and watch the moon landing. DD: No! I"m Busy! Me: Come on! It's historical! DD comes running down the corridor. DD: Why is it hysterical? Me: Historical not hysterical. DD: Oh, I only came because I thought it was going to be funny.
However, she stayed as we both got drawn into the excitement. They hyped it up. "Israel, the small country with big dreams, is only the fourth country in the world to land on the moon."
"In one minute the spacecraft will decide for itself whether the landing conditions are favourable and then it's on its own. We will have passed the point of no return." They explained that if Beresheet decides to abort the landing it will continue to orbit the moon and we can try again in another four hours.
Suddenly they announced: "we have passed the point of no return, the landing process has started." We all clapped. The scientists, the dignitaries, Bibi and Sara Netanyahu, me and DD.
But then things began to go wrong. "We've lost telemetry." (He pronounced it te-LE-metry. I thought he said that they've lost the lemon tree.) Then they regained telemetry (or the lemon tree) and we were back in business.
"The breaking mechanism is in full process, the spacecraft is doing everything it's supposed to do at this moment."
Pure joy when Beresheet sent a selfie from the backside of the moon. There was the Israeli flag just short of the moon in the background. Am Yisrael Chai (The people of Israel Live - it's a message to Hitler et al.) and Small Country, Big Dreams in English. Lots of frenzied clapping.
The excitement was rising but then, "We seem to have a problem with the main engine."
"The main engine is back on." We all clapped again with relief. "But it's not, no no, it's not....."
And finally. "The main engine is back on but we have lost communication with the spacecraft. We are trying to get it back...... No, we've lost communication."
It was all over. Less than seven minutes to go and only a few kilometres from the moon's surface. The stats said 15 km but Opher said 41 km so I'm not sure exactly. Either way, it's nearer than Tel Aviv from Jerusalem.
They tried to put a positive spin on it. "We are the only the seventh country to orbit the moon and the fourth country to reach the moon (but not land safely - is what he meant).
As my friend Jonny put it, Israeli drivers eh? Israel is the first country to crash on the moon. And now I'm going to bed, tired and bitterly disappointed.
I can see the Knesset from my balcony. See the enlargement below.
April 9th 2019, General Election Day in Israel. I made my decision. It's only midday and we're at least 20 hours away from any results. However, here are some thoughts and observations on half way through election day.
1. There's a certain reverence in the polling station. perhaps it's the fact that we're all adults and young children. But maybe there's an unspoken awe of being part of a democracy and having the right to vote.
2 And camaraderie. Polling stations are a local thing, so obviously you meet people you know. And even people you don't know get chatting as they queue up outside the classrooms.
3. It felt like waiting to go into the nurse for a vaccination shot. The door opens and one person comes out then the person at the head of the queue goes in. The door shuts. You wait three minutes, and the door opens again for the next person. You go in all serious and, I swear, everyone comes out smiling. It was painless, I didn't feel a thing.
4. And you continue smiling as you emerge into the warm sunshine and walk down the road. As proud as if you've just finished a 12 hour shift at a soup kitchen. As proud as being a Jew able and free to vote in your own country.
And there it is, in the centre (hahaha), third building from the top.
5. There's a calm around us. Election Day is a national holiday so no one is in a rush. It's less frenetic than Fridays when you're working towards an early deadline - either the beginning of Shabbat or the shops closing at 3 pm. My friend Dina just wrote on Facebook, do you know what that sound is outside? It's the sound of Sunday.
6. But also a bustle of celebration. families are out picnicking, hiking, and at the beaches. The cafes are full. With each of the 43 parties having a list of candidates up to 120 (but most far fewer) there are about 1,000 of them out on the streets, mingling with the public, shaking hands, visiting your table in the coffee shop. Remember this is a very small country. After such an aggressive and often nasty campaign period, it's good to see everyone just discussing over a cappuccino.
7. I don't understand the purpose of the exit polls. Why scramble to produce predictions only a few hours before the actual results? Seriously, go to the beach.
8. In a few short hours I can turn my phone text notices on again and answer the landline without a barrage of recorded messages from political parties. Otoh, I know that today's happy atmosphere will disappear once more when the election results are announced. Like the Brexit recriminations, everyone who didn't get what they wanted will be sulking and whinging on facebook and in real life. My answer to all of them is, as always, "Darling, didn't you understand how a democracy works when you went to vote?"
It's no secret that I voted for Orly Levy's Gesher Party. Their letter code on the voting slip was nun resh. It spells out the word Ner, meaning candle. Now I'll be singing Sarit Hadad's Light a Candle all day. However, as the song goes, a thousand candles in the dark can open up our hearts.
The weather and DD's school play are my reasons 2B cheerful this week. The linky is still with Becky on Lakes Single Mum as we see out the month of March.
1 School Play DD was a monkey in her school play. She told me, "I only have two lines but I exaggerate them. She was great!
The play was a joint project with students from Nissan Nativ - a film and drama school in Jerusalem (like Rada). Kobi Marimi, our Eurovision entrant, went there. Unfortunately he has graduated and had nothing to do with DD's school play.
2 The Red Lines We've had the rainiest winter following a five year drought. Not no rain, but very little and not in the north, in areas that feed The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee - not a sea at all but rather a largish lake, smaller than Lake Geneva for example). When we went there in the summer it was a good walk down to the water, over what had once been the rocky sea bed. It was very sad. And two islands have appeared where once there were no islands. However, this year the lake has filled up to above the Lower Red Line for the first time in two years.
There are two red lines. The Upper Red Line, set at 208.8 m below sea level, is full capacity and they open the Deganya Dam to send the excess down the Jordan River to the Dead Sea (also not a sea and now two distinct lakes :( ). The last time they did this was in 2013 following spring flooding and a need to replenish the Jordan River. This is something I would love to see again but it won't be this year.
The Lower Red Line is the point at which they are supposed to stop pumping water as any lower causes ecological damage and the water quality deteriorates. There is 4.2 metres between the two lines and we are only at about 1 metre above the Lower Red Line.
We need to be a good two meters above the Lower Red Line in order to stay above it for the duration of the summer as 1 cm per day can evaporate in the hot weather. Apparently there's still lots of snow on Mt Hermon to melt and, amazingly, it's still raining - with another storm expected this week! I check on the level daily. I'm a bit nerdy like that.
I have to mention that there is also a Black Line, 1.87 m below the Lower Red Line, which is below the pipes so you couldn't pump even if you wanted to. This is also the historical minimum. When things get this dangerous they plan to pump sea water from the Mediterranean into The Kinneret. But we absolutely don't want to go there again!
There's something exciting about heavy rain in springtime because you know the summer is coming so you don't get depressed thinking that this is the situation for the next three months. I intend to enjoy every minute of what could be the final storm this year.
I didn't get round to doing Reasons 2B Cheerful last week and this week I'm mega late. So lots of catching up to do. The linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum.
1 Purim in the Park We had a blast. On Thursday we went to Kfar Saba with friends, to a big park for a picnic. This was our festive meal as outside Jerusalem they celebrate Purim a day earlier. (Walled cities like Jm celebrate a day later - dunno why exactly except that Shushan, where the story happened, was a walled city.) [Update: I found out why. The fighting only stopped outside Shushan a day later.]
There were trampolines in the park and elastic jumping thingies that the children loved. We also brought roller blades and scooters so we were well prepared for a long day in the sunny weather. And the weather didn't disappoint.
2 Butterflies Everywhere On the way there we commented that there were loads of butterflies everywhere. And in the park there were even more. The next day there were reports in the news about how millions of Painted Ladies had swarmed all over Israel on their annual migration from Arabia and Africa to Europe for the summer. It happens every year but because of the high rainfall this year, there were more than ever before. Apparently these exact butterflies won't survive to make the journey back south in the autumn, but their offspring will.
3 Queen Esther We returned to Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon to go to the reading of the Purim Story (The story of Queen Esther) at our friends' house. The 'rule' is that you are supposed to hear it read twice - once in the evening and once in the morning. It's great fun. Many people in fancy dress and every time you hear the name of the wicked Haman, you shake your noise makers and hiss. As fun as it is, once a year is enough for me. I had intended that DD sit with me to hear it too but the other children disappeared downstairs to play so she also disappeared. However, she'd already heard it in school last Tuesday so she was covered.
After the reading, we all eat. People bring food to contribute to the meal. There are some very wonderful and creative cooks in this crowd. I bought stuffed vine leaves and carefully took them out of the tin before leaving home so they looked a bit home-made. They almost all got eaten so that's what's important.
4 Liquid Courage On the Friday, which was Purim in Jerusalem, DD and I delivered some Mishloach Manot (food parcels) and then went out for lunch. Just the two of us as we'd had our Purim meal in the park the day before. One family turned up at our house dressed as characters from The Wizard of Oz with a basket containing all sorts of Oz symbols. The miniature liquid courage has gone down well in a hot toddy each night for me. And I have one serving left for tomorrow night too.
5 A Lovely End We stayed in on Friday night but went to friends for lunch on Saturday. A great end to a lovely, low key and relaxed Purim weekend (except for the Costume Drama on Tuesday).
And now I'm writing this during a massive electrical storm over Israel. It's of The Sound of Music proportions. I'm a little disappointed that DD hasn't woken up and come running into my room so we can sing My Favourite Things while jumping on the bed.
If you've been reading my blog for a number of years, you'll know that DD hates dressing up. Since the age of two, she's refused to dress up in a costume for Purim. Purim, the festival where even adults in the streets can be seen wearing silly clothes and costumes, is a nightmare for DD. I've given up trying to persuade her and she usually goes to school, the only child in her class without a costume. And she doesn't care. Or, like last year, she doesn't go to school.
This year she was invited to go shopping for a costume with her best friend. She declined even though I said she could choose anything she likes from the costume shop. And costumes for DD's size can be up to 250 nis (£50). We have a giraffe onesie in the wardrobe but for sure that wasn't coming out. And so I thought another costumeless year would go by.
Then, on Sunday, on the bus, on my way home from school, DD phoned me. "Mummy, do we have anything that I could use to be a girl pirate? I just don't want to be the only one with nothing for a costume." So I got off the bus three stops early and went into Max Stock (like Poundland). I found one Alice-band with a pirate hat, a hook, and a plastic telescope. 5 shekels each.
At home she put on black leggings and her boots, I found a red T-shirt and a black waistcoat of mine and we were done. For £3. :)
Today was the day that all the kids dress up for school. DD woke up this morning and refused to go to school. She had to go as she had to reveal herself to her secret friend - they've been playing Giants and Dwarfs in the class. So she agreed to go but she wasn't dressing up.
Obviously it wasn't about the money, but I was fed up with the dithering. I knew she'd be happy once she got there. The costume was the most unridiculous costume you could find. I would wear it, without the hat and hook, on a normal day... if I looked as good as DD did in it. So I did what any mother would do. I threatened to take away her phone and her computer, and I pushed her out of the front door in tears.
By the time she got downstairs she had already taken off the hat and the hook. I watched some amazing costumes walking to school. DD looked up at the balcony where I was standing, and scowled.
Four hours later she came home with a friend, all smiles. It had been a really fun day. "Are you pleased you were dressed up?" I asked. DD tried hard not to smile as she refused to answer.