Sunday, September 23, 2007

Welcome 5768 (Article # 57) 9/20/2007

Although it seemed like 5767 lasted for three or four years instead of the usual 12 months, the last few weeks of the year seemed to really fly by. With the arrival of our new students, the beginning of the school year for our kids (and 4 out of 6 going to new schools) and the preparations for the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) and Sukkot, there suddenly weren’t enough hours in the day to get things done.

On Erev Rosh Hashana the Yeshiva went to the Kotel for Selichot at midnight. The entire plaza was filled with people and was definitely a sight to see. The Sephardi minyanim were especially fascinating as they sang various responses and songs with one voice – as loud as they possibly could.

I had originally thought it would be a great experience, but was too overwhelmed by the sounds and sights to really get into it. There were too many people shouting for us to hear our Chazzan, and I didn’t feel as inspired as I thought I would be.

I had privately told a couple of people that I was a little worried about getting motivated for Davening on Rosh Hashana this year. Although you would think that having gone through such trials personally during the year that I would be especially charged, I actually found a lack of feeling as it approached.

We had gone through our own personal Yom HaDin (Day of Judgement) back in the months of April and May and have been so engulfed with Davening for health and recovery (which continues) that I felt almost drained by the time Rosh Hashana arrived. I’d been davening for a good result every day – not just Rosh Hashana, and felt that there was nothing left in my emotional tank. Plus, the enormity of what we have been through is still sifting down to us as we settle down.

Further complicating things for me was the lack of our oldest son Chaim by my side for the first time (he was in Yeshiva – 10 minutes away). Chaim has davened at my side on Chagim (Holidays) and most Shabbatot for the past ten years. With the next 3 siblings being girls, it will be another year or two before Mordechai is old enough to take Chaim’s place.

Chaim did join us (with 2 other guys from Yeshiva each meal) for two meals on Yom Tov, so we did get to see him. However, I definitely missed him in shul and I know Goldie missed him as well. I guess this is preparation for when he goes to college. *Sigh*

For the first day of Rosh Hashana I was definitely right about my davening. I tried to concentrate and immerse myself in the davening, but I just felt a little detached. Which is tough when davening starts at 7 AM and ends at 1:30 PM with no break (OK – so I came 20 minutes late – I was still there for hours).

I wrote an email to a couple of friends about the second day of Yom Tov. Here is an excerpt.

I sat in Shul on Friday during laining, and I watched one neighbor walk over to 2 other fellows in shul and make a comment to them and see their interaction and interpersonal reactions and I started to cry. No way around admitting it.…when I saw the easy comfort those fellows had with each other it really hit home for me how much I miss you. It is not easy to find friends with whom you can say anything or hear them say anything to you and know that they are OK with you. It is even harder to have friends with whom a 5 minute discussion becomes a "Oh my, I told the wife I was going to be home an hour and a half ago" and then still stay shmoozing on the for another 20 minutes anyway. So I started to cry because I simply missed my friends and the …. life I had with them. With all the different things that happened to us, even though we had the support and concern of our whole neighborhood, when it was 8:45 PM on a Friday night and everyone was asleep I had no one to talk to and tell them (about) the week ….. I had nobody I could say 2 words or maybe even just raise an eyebrow to in the middle of Lecha Dodi and have them KNOW exactly what joke I was making. It isn't often that we remember to tell our friends how much they mean and have meant to us, and I wanted to just tell you how much I miss being there with you. On a separate note, once the floodgates opened I was a basket case for the rest of shul and I might have to replace the pages from Unesaneh Tokef (Mussaf day two) in my machzor since they were totally covered in tears. So, thank you for that too. Thank you for …. breaking the ice for me and allowing me to channel some of my feelings into tefilla.

Even though things have begun to get better and better for us as we continue to adjust and settle in, sometimes I am reminded just how difficult this transition has been. To restart your whole life at 40 is not always the easiest thing in the world, no matter how happy the kids may be or how much better we have settled in as time passes.

I know I’ve said this before, but we still do (and hopefully always will) love and miss our many friends (and family) back in the USA. For us (as opposed to many olim from countries such as Russia or Ethiopia), Aliyah was not running away – it was running towards. So, I am not saying that I want to be in America or that we aren’t happy with where we are. Even so, just because we’re not looking to go back at this time doesn’t mean that I can’t miss the friends and life we left behind. I do.

Have a Gmar Chatima Tova!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Turning the Calendar Again (Article #56) 9/11/2007

On Motzei Shabbat (Sat. night) last week, Goldie co-chaired a “Welcome to our Community” event for our shul. Essentially, the shul runs an annual event where the new olim get to meet the members of the shul and vice versa.

We had a lot of fun meeting many of our neighbors at this same event last year, and when she was asked to help coordinate the evening, Goldie readily agreed. The women put together a “human bingo” game where each square represented a characteristic and the participants had to go around the room trying to find someone to match the characteristic.

While competitive people like me worry about winning (we didn’t), it is a great way to “break the ice” and find out a lot about each other.

On Monday night, Goldie and I went to 7th Grade Parents Night at Chorev for Aliza. We were struck by two major things that night.

The first thing hit us at the end of the night. We had listened to both the Principal and then Aliza’s teacher tell us all about the upcoming year and some of the things we should expect. We had filled out the contact forms and gotten the various handouts from the teacher. We were getting our things ready to leave when a woman in front of us turned to us and said. “OK – did they say anything I needed to know?”


Yes, this is getting to be a recurring theme. But I just can’t get over how much better it is to understand 65% of what you are hearing instead of 20%. Plus, since we have lived through “the toughest year”, we also knew enough not to sweat it if we missed anything.

The second thing hit us at the mall. We hadn’t eaten dinner, so we stopped by the Malcha Mall to grab a bite at the food court.

As we rode the escalator Goldie noticed a huge sign put up by the mall, wishing all the shoppers a Happy and Sweet New Year. She turned to me and said, “You know, a year ago I would have been all excited about seeing this sign. Now, I take it as the way things are supposed to be.”

I think she meant it as a little bit of a loss for us, that somehow we don’t have the same wide eyed enthusiasm for Israel that we might have had a year ago.

I, however, took it much differently. I thought, isn’t it great that we can live in a place where we can take such things for granted as the natural course of events.

On Tuesday, I joined the students of the Yeshiva on a tiyul (field trip) to Ir David, the site archeologists believe was the castle of King David. As part of that tiyul, we hiked through Chizkiyahu’s water tunnel.

This was my third time on this specific tiyul in the last 14 months. I don’t think this is a tiyul that one can get tired of.

Aside from being an active archeological site where the tour changes each time a new part of the site is opened for public viewing (3 times at the site – 3 different tours for me), the water tunnels are tremendously cool (no other way to say it) and being there with the Yeshiva guys is just tremendous.

After Ir David, we went for Mincha to the Kotel, and concluded the day with a brief tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. Although I am repeating myself, once again I was struck at how great it is that I can say that I just jumped on the bus in the morning, visited King David’s castle, walked through water tunnels that have been existent almost since the founding of Jerusalem, davened at the Kotel and toured the Old City of Jerusalem and returned HOME for dinner.

On Shabbat we co-sponsored an annual Kiddush thrown by the members of the Shul who had made Aliyah the prior year and were celebrating their one year anniversary. I remembered being at the same Kiddush last year in our first week after moving into the neighborhood. It seems a lot more than one year ago.

This week marks the completion of our first full calendar year here in Israel. As things stand, it looks like the year will end without the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash and a rebuilt Jerusalem.

Thinking back to last year, there was obviously no way we could have had a glimmer of thought as to what we should have been davening for and what H-shem had in store for us. Yet somehow he got us through to be in what we hope is a good place for us and our family.

We have grown, as a group and as individuals.

On behalf of Goldie and myself, Chaim, Chaya, Aliza, Batya, Mordechai and Moshe, our family wishes you and your families a Shana Tova Umetuka (Sweet New Year). May we be privileged to celebrate the coming of the next new year together in our Holy Land and rebuilt Holy City of Jerusalem.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What a Difference a Year Makes (Article #55) 9/6/2007

It is often startling when you are able to actually see the contrast between whom you were at one point in your life and who you have become. One short year ago, we were totally out of our environment and trying to adjust to our new surroundings.

While we are still “wet behind the ears” new olim, and will be considered such for quite some time, Goldie and I are both amazed at how different our lives are from last year. In many ways.

Last year we were struggling with getting the kids ready for school and trying to figure out where to find things in the grocery store. We’d go to parent meetings where we didn’t understand a word and feel totally overwhelmed with buying school supplies or signing up for hot lunch.

The weeks between camp and school were a frenzied time where we tried to get the kids out from underfoot for a few moments while i) we moved into the “backup” rented house, ii) we arranged for our lift to (finally) arrive in Israel via Greece (remember that?), iii) Chaim arrived from summer camp, iv) we got frustrated by the fact that we couldn’t find anything in the stores we thought they would be in and v) we dealt with my boss having an unscheduled all expenses paid government provided tour of Northern Israel and Southern Lebanon (supervising major building renovations and opening up the new school year for our students).

The country was at war and refugees from Northern communities under fire were living in school buildings and peoples houses. It was a scary and stressful time.

It feels like a different world to us today (and it is). Instead of frantic scrambling to prepare for school, Goldie did most of the shopping months ago and only bought two or three of “the wrong” things by mistake. Instead of being involved with settling in and getting our stuff, we were involved with planning a Bat Mitzva (1 month to go) and taking the kids on tiyulim (trips).

It is still often scary, but our understanding and acceptance that this is the cost we pay for the zchut (benefit) of living in our homeland. We still worry about our kids and our country, but it is less with a sense of awe and more with a sense of acceptance.

Part of our adjustment and klitta (absorption into Israeli society) is the fact that we are getting a small glimmer of what to expect in most situations (and if you are a regular reader of this column you know that we have faced quite a few). So we were very prepared for school and expected to have a half month of August where there was nothing for the kids to do in Beit Shemesh.

Armed with this knowledge, Goldie and Chaia Broderick planned a series of interesting “touristy” day trips to keep the kids occupied. With most of our big kids away at camp, they were able to focus on places that were good for the little kids.

They spent a very nice day at the biblical zoo in Yerushalayim. In the USA we had been members of the zoo in NY, going 3 or 4 times a year at the minimum. While the bigger kids weren’t so into the zoo, the little kids always loved it and we took to going on those Sundays when the bigger kids were away at camp.

They also went to a place called Eretz Bereishit. Located close to Maalei Adumim, it is designed to give you an understanding of what life may have been like during biblical times.

They start with a small play of the times of Avraham, Sarah and Eliezer. Then everyone dresses up in periodic costumes and "eliezer" leads you on a camel ride to the tent of Avraham to do Hachanasat Orchim (welcoming guests). There is a small play in the tent after which they served some dried fruits and nuts with water and tea. There was also a workshop in making pita.

Rounding out the days with some shopping and trips to play centers, the kids (and their mother) always had something to do to keep from going stir crazy before the start of the school year.

One benefit of living here is that school starts much earlier (and tuition costs are much lower). With the early start for the Chagim (holidays) this year, most of the religious schools started a week earlier than normal, and we had all our kids in school by Sunday, September 2.

For those who have been with us for a while, I am sure you will remember how horrific our first few days (days? months!) were last year. Mordechai was terrified of going and it was agonizing to watch how it affected his entire day. Batya understood 2 words. The whole house was filled with anxious and confused kids.

Well, all except for Moshe who was too little to know what was going on anyway and will be spending a second year in his Israeli Gan (preschool), speaking and understanding Hebrew like an Israeli.

In truth, I had forgotten how horrible it was for them and had to reread last year’s paper to remind myself. I can happily report that much has changed since that time.

Mordechai (who moved up to Kitta Aleph - 1st grade) has been so excited to be going to school to learn how to read that we have had trouble containing his exuberance. Every day we ask him how school was that day. So far the answer has been, “SUPER GOOD!”

Batya, who switched schools has also been burstingly happy. She is in a class with very few English speakers and we were concerned that she might feel out of place. She is having the time of her life, even complaining that the work is too easy for her (until she gets to Math). She sometimes walks home with a neighbor and they often stop to get a stick of gum or some other treat.

There is no “school bus” for Batya, so she takes a special city bus home. The city runs a few special lines just for the students of the various schools. They run only once in each direction and if you miss the buss you are stuck. We are amazed at how responsible she has become in making sure that she has her ticket, knows where to go, can walk home (25 minutes) at an age where we really sheltered her older siblings and would never have let them walk home from school by themselves.

Aliza who had an “I don’t care that I don’t speak Hebrew” attitude a year ago is now in an extremely challenging academic school, with a class with 4 English speakers and is also doing well. She was placed in a different class than 90% of the Beit Shemesh students and had considered switching classes, but found out that her homeroom teacher is the best in the grade and is actually the Head of the Grade for all the 7th grade classes. So she decided to stick with that class and tells us that she really doesn’t care about the English or the fact that she didn’t know anyone when she walked in the door. Her only complaint? She doesn’t have a full length mirror in which to check herself out. GIRLS!

Chaya has reinvented herself over the summer. She has always been bright, but had never been a very diligent student and we were (and continue to be) worried about her achieving an Israeli HS diploma. Yet, something clicked for her in 9th grade and she decided to take things more seriously.

Her principal challenged her to do a ton of summer homework to be better prepared for the year and she buckled down and got it done, putting her in a much better position to start the year than she would have been. She loves her school and the girls her age and asked us to increase the hours she gets homework help to make sure that she gets it all done.

Even though academically she has and will struggle because of the language barrier, I would say that socially and emotionally Chaya has had the best adjustment of the kids. The school she is in put zero pressure on her last year, preferring that she find herself within the social group first and then slowly upped the level.

Chaim walked into the year fearful that he would not be able to attend college because he would have zero options without a HS diploma. He went from disaster to disaster in his school and was very concerned for his own future. Yet, in the end, the GMAX program was a gift to us and he is now learning full time at Yesodei HaTorah, a 15 minute walk from home.

I know it has only been one year, and that tomorrow the ceiling can come crashing down upon us (as it has in so many ways this past year). Yet, we came on Aliyah hearing how awful it would be for our kids (especially the teenagers) and we (hopefully) have well adjusted and happy kids. We have a long way to go with them, but I think they are definitely on a good path for success and that is all we can hope for, no?

While all this was going on, I still had work to go to as well. The zman (semester) started well, and on Wednesday we went to visit a basic training base of the Border Police. We had gotten Rabbinic approval to plant non fruit bearing trees on the base, and we joined together with the soldiers in basic training on the base in planting about 100 trees there.

With the Shmitta year about to open, this was literally the last chance for us to participate in anything of this sort, so we seized the opportunity. It was a very nice way to start the year off and I think the guys all enjoyed having the chance to do something for Israel right off the bat.

We had a chance to meet some of the soldiers and had a special meeting with recent Olim soldiers. They spoke to the guys about their reasons for coming to Israel as well as their reasons for serving in the army and specifically the Border Police. We also saw a marksmanship demonstration and some security exercises.

On Thursday, Goldie and I were privileged to join the Begun family as they celebrated the Bar Mitzva of three of their sons in Chevron. Goldie and I were very excited when we got the invitation; a chance to celebrate a simcha with people from “the old country” is indeed a cause for celebration. The invitation came with an additional invitation to join them on their special bus from Jerusalem.

We were conflicted about what to do regarding transportation. Going with the bus would have put us on their full day in Chevron schedule. We would also have had to get to Yerushalayim very early and were concerned about how we would get there on time after getting all the kids out to their various schools in the morning (6 kids = 6 different schools).

Last year, for the August 1 issue of the paper, I wrote the following about a trip we took to Chevron and the Mearat Hamachpela (burial ground of the patriarchs) in our first month here……“we were initially concerned about traveling into such a hot zone, even though we had arranged to travel via armored car….. Although my brother in law questioned our need to get a bulletproof vehicle for our trip, since we really did not even get a nasty glance, I must admit that we felt more comfortable having the vehicle.”

Last year we refused to go without a bulletproof van. One year later? We drove our own (brand new) car through various Arab villages to Qiryat Arba (Jewish community on the outskirts of Chevron). Since we had no idea how to get to the Meara, we used the advice of my boss Benny Pflanzer and picked up some Israeli hitchhikers who’d know the way to the Jewish section of Chevron. Wouldn’t want to make a wrong turn there – no matter how much security was around.

Bulletproof van? Come on.

We did think twice about driving there, but felt very confident that we would be safe with no problems. The truth is, and sometimes we fail to recognize this, the vast majority of the Arabs want to fight as little as we do. I am not saying that we should set aside precautions. What I am saying is that they generally do work.

So we drove ourselves and the drive was uneventful. Deciding to drive actually worked in our favor as Chaim’s Rosh Yeshiva made a Brit Milah (circumcision) for his newborn son that morning that we were consequently able to attend.

The Begun family had joined with Chabad of the 5 Towns in their annual trip to Israel, and the participants glowed as they told us about the various places they had been, especially in their dedication of a rec. center for a Golani brigade. I am sure that there is a major review of the trip elsewhere in the 5TJT.

It had been a year since we had last been in Chevron. We had a few minutes to ourselves before the Seudat Mitzva for the Bar Mitzva boys and we stumbled upon the site of some recent news.

We had read about a building that some of the residents of the Jewish Community of Chevron had bought and moved into only to have their right to live there challenged by Arabs claiming to own the building. Ultimately, the Army evicted the Jews from the building and we came across the results.

We could see the places where the walls were literally ripped from the building so that no one should be able to live there. It was sad to see yet another place where our bitter struggle, both against ourselves and against our enemies is brought so harshly into reality.

I don’t know who owned the building or who was right or wrong. I just wish that neither side felt so persecuted against that they feel forced to take extreme measures to try to gain what they want. While I definitely sympathize much more closely with the Jewish people of Chevron than any other side, their rhetoric often shocks me.

The Begun simcha was terrific. It is hard to match our country for emotional religious impact. Being called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah in the spot where our patriarchs are buried, being the newest link in a chain that spans generations from those who were the first Jews to us who are the current Jews, what could be more moving?

Arriving late (after attending the morning Brit Mila), we hooked up with the group just after davening. It was nice to see the Wolowick’s and those of the group who we knew from the 5 Towns as well as meeting new people who had never been to Israel and were experiencing it for the first time.

Seeing such a motivated group who came in from the USA and hearing how charged they were by their experience in Israel was very uplifting and encouraging to us. As one of the people said to us, “Israel is a great place to visit – it must be a better place to live!”

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Babysitters Return (Article #54) 8/30/2007

Sometimes it seems as if the weeks trudge by as slowly as possible. Other times, time flies by so fast that it is hard to keep a handle on things. Thankfully, we appear to be moving from the former to the latter. I say thankfully because we have been ready for things to pick up for some time so that we can get back into a rhythm.

Just before Shabbat (a week+ ago) Goldie got a frantic call from Chaia Broderick (who made Aliyah only a few weeks after us – to Ramat Beit Shemesh) who needed to immediately bring by one of her kids for Goldie’s inspection. As I left for Shul (we make early Shabbat), Chaia pulled up and brought one of the boys in to have Goldie confirm that he did indeed have hair lice and show Chaia what to do to get rid of them.

I was amazed that the Brodericks had gone a complete year without a single case in their family. After all, it isn’t what goes on in your house that determines if your child gets it – it is what goes on in the house of the kid sitting next to them. If your child’s friend has it and their parents don’t do anything about it, which astoundingly happens often here, viola – now your kid has it too.

Although we haven’t had a case in a while (Goldie checks the kids obsessively for bugs and nits), we have seen enough in the past year to make Goldie a semi expert in handling these things, so she was able to show Chaia what to do. To Chaia’s credit, she did not react as emotionally as Goldie had in our first case and after that one time she was able to handle things on her own.

Over Shabbat we hosted a very nice young couple from down our block, the Schurders (she is from Boston and he grew up in Israel but was born in England) and their kids who have become friends with out little kids (Batya and Mordechai) over the summer.

I haven’t written about it before, but we have made a serious effort at getting back involved socially in the community. As new Olim, we had been invited out a lot in the first six months as the community really opened its arms to us and all the new families. Once we finally began to get our legs underneath us, we had started to reciprocate and host guests in our home when Goldie’s medical issues began and we became somewhat withdrawn as we focused on Goldie’s day to day health and dealing with her issues (including 2 months spent in NJ for diagnosis, treatment and recovery).

Once Goldie felt strong enough, we decided to start slowly, by inviting guests for Seudah Shlishit (the 3rd Shabbat meal) and buying all the food from the bagel store. In fact, our first guests (in June), the Aftels, would not consent to come until I assured them that Goldie would NOT be cooking or doing anything other than set the table and that she really WAS ready to host them.

Seudah Shlishit became lunch a few weeks later and we tried to have at least one family over each week, to get ourselves back into circulation, so to speak. It wasn’t until a few days after the Schurder’s had joined us that I realized what set them apart from all the others who we had either been hosted by or had hosted.

There had previously been people from two different groups that we had interacted with in the past. There were those who invited us simply because we were new in town and they were being welcoming (which in our community has been taken to a whole new level, especially because the vast majority of our neighbors have gone through the same thing we have in such a life changing move). The other group is people who knew us at some time in our lives in America and are reconnecting now that we have been reunited here. These groups are not mutually exclusive.

The Schurder’s represented a third group. They’ve been our neighbors since we moved in (we leave at opposite ends of the same block), and we recognized each other enough to (maybe) say Hi or Shabbat Shalom as we passed each other in the street, yet we weren’t friendly with them until our kids got to be friends in camp this summer.

We didn’t become friendly because we were new olim or they were new olim and one of us was going out of our way to be nice to the “new” people. Which is a first for us since we moved here. Hopefully it will continue.

Actually, there is another family that we wanted to get closer to as well. They have a son in Mordechai’s class (both last year and this upcoming year) and they really seem like very nice people. The problem? They don’t speak English and we are too unconfident in our Hebrew to think about hosting them for a meal. We envision long pauses where we just sit there because we are each uncomfortable with our inability to communicate.

Ironically, it is only the adults who would have this issue, since our kids (with the exception of Chaim) speak enough Hebrew to make this a non issue for them.

Eretz HaTzvi’s new students arrived on Wednesday. We are one of the earliest starting non-charedi Anglo Yeshivot in Israel. Elul is slipping by quite quickly and we wanted to get the earliest jump on the year that we could. I have been through this before with last year’s group so the process is not nearly as new to me as it was last year.

Yet this year we had none of the frenetic activity we experienced a year ago. Thank G-d, no war this year. My boss was not in the army for the month before Yeshiva started and there were no major renovations to preside over as a new employee. I wasn’t a new Oleh, fresh off the plane and as an old hand, I was much better prepared to meet the new students.

Without the rush rush rush of last minute preparations, the whole year opening process had a different flavor this time around and for the most part it went off without a hitch. The guys arrived on time with all their luggage, we took our first tiyul (trip) to the Kotel, they were sorted into their shiurim (classes) and the zman (semester?) is off to a great start.

As opposed to last year I actually know the guys who returned for Shana Bet (a second year of study) which added to my personal excitement in greeting the students. I also happen to know the parents of several of this year’s young men, both from Chicago (where I grew up) or NY (where we lived for 15 years prior to Aliyah), and greeting these students made me feel a bit older than I used to.

The day after the Yeshiva guys arrived Chaim and Aliza flew home as well, having ended their stays at camp this summer.

They had originally been scheduled to return the following week in order to spend additional time with Goldie’s parents and also see my parents who were coming to NY for a wedding later that week. However, about a month ago we got a letter from Aliza’s new school, Chorev, telling us that school would be starting earlier this year.

In order to get Aliza to her orientation, we moved her flight up 5 days and scheduled her to arrive on Thursday afternoon so that I could meet her at the airport and take her straight to the orientation. This meant that I would miss some of the Yeshiva orientation but we do what we have to, don’t we?

I took the van to work that morning, planning to go straight from the Yeshiva in order to maximize my work time. On my drive in, I called Goldie and asked her to check the El Al website to see if maybe the plane would be a few minutes early or late. In retrospect, I should have thought to do so a lot earlier.

Apparently, there was some kind of problem with the ventilation system and the plane ended up leaving five hours late and was not scheduled to arrive until later that evening. Not only did Aliza end up missing her orientation, but I had taken the car with me to Yerushalayim for no reason – leaving Goldie without transportation, three cranky kids and nothing to do with them. You can imagine how thrilled she was when she called me to tell me about the delay.

I recommended she call the school to let them know that Aliza would be missing and ask for her class assignment and that they send home any materials with a neighbor of ours. When she called them they were incredibly upset with her as if it were her fault the plane was delayed.

I was incredulous. After all, had they given us more than three weeks warning about the opening date for school, we might have been able to get her onto a flight that came in a little earlier. What did they expect us to do? We got her on the flight that had space and it was delayed. Sometimes I think I will never understand Israelis. They put us in a tough spot and should have been more understanding.

Luckily, Yaacov Lewis (Cedarhurst) was on the plane with them and lent them his cellphone to call me and let me know that they arrived safely and that the luggage was slow in coming out. Danny Block (Chashmonaim) was also on that flight so we had an impromptu meeting of the 5TJT Israeli Columnists Association in the reception area just outside customs.

I also bumped into Yamin Goldsmith there. Yamin and I had been classmates in elementary school together (we even had Bar Mitzva lessons together) and he and his family live in Nofei Aviv, the next neighborhood over from ours, a ten minute walk away. He runs the Sha’alavim girls program in Yerushalayim and was there to meet their group flight 5 hours late. I am not in the airport for our group arrival, and it was interesting to see how they set up for the girls.

It was nice to have the kids home. We are still missing Chaya, who left a month after the other 2 kids and is staying through their original return date. So we weren’t a complete family yet. However, Goldie had a chance to make their favorite foods and I got my chance to be mean and keep them up to avoid jet lag, so I guess everything ended up as expected.

Next week promises to be stressful too. Chaya comes home. We have to find a Yeshiva for Chaim to learn in and school starts for most of the kids (Mordechai is starting first grade!) as well. Although the calendar said we started Year Two almost two months ago, in reality, as parents of young kids we measure our years by the school year. So Year Two should begin next week.

It is a tremendously different beginning than the one we had a year ago.

i) We understand what people are talking about when we go to parent and/or shul meetings. ii) Our kids (OK – the younger 4 or 5) speak great Hebrew, usually better than their parents do. iii) We are more mentally prepared for school this year, having learned to have absolutely zero preconceptions and expectations about any facet of the educational system here. iv) We are still here – which counts the most.

So, after the big summer lull things should be flying in typical Katz fashion yet again.