Never Again?

As I sit down to unwind a bit after a crazy day, I feel a certain numbness within. It is a familiar feeling that I felt throughout the summer, starting with the kidnapping of Gil-ad, Eyal and Naftali. A feeling that I carried for 18 days, a feeling that exploded when those boys were found dead. This feeling returned during the horrid days of operation “Protective Edge” . It the same feeling I had in 2001 after the bus I was on was stoned. The feeling I had in Jerusalem right after the Sbarro terror attack.  Now again, after many have already been stabbed and run over, it comes to this. A full blown, pre-planned terror attack in a synagogue!

When I look at my facebook feed on this sad day, all I see is red. Puddles of blood filling up the sacred synagogue. Prayer shawls and prayer books soaked in blood. I can’t help but notice how the photos resemble those taken in Germany and Poland in 1939.
When I was in Poland in 1998 with my high school I came across a monument in Auschwitz that said: “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again” (George Santayana). I remember reading this quote and realizing that this is why I am here in this horrid place. I went to Poland to never forget. Incidentally, this monument was right near a picture of a man wrapped in his prayer shawl.

(Photos I took in Auschwitz on my trip in 1998)

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So why are we reliving history? Why can’t a Jew go pray and return home to his family, his students. Why can’t a young couple take their child out without her being run over by a wild Jew-hating murderer?
Of course, it is not the same as it was in 1939, we now have a State, a strong moral army to protect us from our enemies, but only sometime they can’t.
Every time I sing the Israeli Anthem I close my eyes while saying the words: “Lehiyot Am Chofshi B’Artzeinu” – “Be a free people in our country”. That is the reason why I live in Israel, to live freely as a Jew in my land.
No one can take that away from us, we can’t let them.


A National Nightmare

A nightmare.

There is no other way to put it.

A personal nightmare for the family.

A national nightmare for the rest of us.

It has been 12 days  since Gilad, Naftali and Eyal  have been kidnapped. They are not soldiers – they are teenage boys who were coming home from school.

This is an act of TERROR! The details of the kidnapping have nothing to do with the fact that this is an act of TERROR. The entire world should be condemning this. The Hammas should be treated as the Taliban was treated by the United States government after 9/11. But here we are, in good old Israel, who will not fire at civilians, even though our own civilians are being kept hostage.

Israel, who not only will not fire armors in civilian areas won’t even shut off electricity in the city where the boys are supposedly being held. They say this is between Israel and the Hamas. Well, I have news for everyone – this has EVERYTHING to do with us all. Innocent civilians ALL OVER THE WORLD. This is a war between radical Islam and the rest of the world – so, unless you are a radical Islamist, WAKE UP!!!

Please, do what you can to get the message out. These boys need to come home NOW to prove that the world has not gone crazy.  To prove to those who wish to use violence as a way to get attention that it will not work – they will lose.

We have a right to live freely in our Land – and we will continue to do so. Forever.


Just Keep Swimming….

I know, it has been a while since I have last blogged. Life has been totally crazy with Passover, reserve duty (my husband’s of course), planning Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations on my Yeshuv, and the never ending washing of white shirts during this crazy season!

In my last post I told you about my amazing experience on “Princess of the East” -annual women’s jeep tour in the Jordan Valley, well, I have recently decided to take part in another all women’s event- a little different this time.

On May 30th I will be participating in Swim4Sadna – an all women’s swim-a-thon, raising money for children and adults with special needs. (sponsor me here)

I am very exciting about participating in this event – and nervous as well!

In preparation for the swim, I have been training 3 times a week with a group of friends who will be participating as well. We are all mothers of young children who work full time and somehow find time to train. It is most definitely a challenge! With the encouragement and back-up of our husbands as well as the support from our family and friends – I know we will succeed in both the physical aspect as well as the fundraising aspect.

I must admit, I am totally enjoying myself and I also realized that the earplugs I use during my training are very useful when I need some quiet time in the house🙂

Hope to write more after the swim! Please support me if you can!

Princess of the East

2 days, 30 hours to be exact, 200 women, 50 Jeeps and the one and only Jordan Valley.

I had the privilege to attend a two-day, all women’s Jeep Excursion called “Princess of the East” (referring to the geographical location of the excursion on the easternmost border of Israel).

We arrived at the “Springs of Fazta-el” at 8 am, to find 200 women divided into 13 teams, dressed in color coordinated outfits (according to their team theme), hugging, singing or getting to know one another. My team, team 2 – “Radiant on the Road” – was made up of 4 jeeps, 2 jeeps of women from the Jordan Valley and 2 jeeps of women from other areas in Israel. Some religious, some not. Our common ground: women who want to have a good time!

At the starting point, before the opening ceremony, there was a meeting with all the team leaders (me included) to discuss the route for the day. We were given booklets which contained the route which we had to navigate on our own. Gili, the organizer of the excursion, explained the more difficult points and what to look out for, but he expressed that we are to be independent and rely on ourselves, and that is just what we did! After the opening ceremony, in which our Council head, Mr. David Elchayani, spoke a clear message that we will meet again for this jeep excursion in the Jordan Valley next year, we set off.

As the navigator I had to learn to trust myself, my instincts and to be confident that I know what I am doing. We missed the first turn because I did not trust myself. I told the driver to turn and others in the jeep said – no. I went along with the others to realize later that we missed the turn and had to go back to the point I knew was right. At that moment I knew I had to be confident and to trust myself.

So here we are, alone in the wilderness, nature and all its marvels. The most beautiful landscape, full of contrast. Hills and valleys. Trees and bareness. Water and scorched, thirsty land. Silence and tumult. Women and Jeeps… When women are out with jeeps in nature – nature calls. Being on an all women’s tour makes things easier but what can I say… when you gotta go – you gotta go! This is the only advantage men have over women on a jeep excursion. They don’t have to find ways to hide, they just go. One thing I learned from my more experiences friends is that you will never find the perfect spot, so just crouch and go.

After 7 hours of off-road driving, group missions, an omega and more off-road driving, we reached our final destination, Na’ama – the southernmost settlement in the Jordan Valley – just east of Jericho. Before we unload, we had one more group mission – to make a pesto spread. We arrive at the greenhouses of Na’ama and as we step out of our vehicles we are greeted by the most amazing aromas, the most dominant being the aroma of Basil. We enter the greenhouse and it’s amazing! The aroma is so strong and the green and purple basil leaves (yes, purple basil) are so rich and big. Around us are tables with all the needed ingredients and on the other side of the room are the factory employees. Mostly female, mostly Arab (I mean Palestinian). They welcomed us, we thanked them and we began making our pesto.

We then made our way to our camping grounds: the pool of Na’ama. Green grass spotted with tents. We got organized and prepared for the evening. Dinner was catered by my fabulous neighbor – Elie Moshe – who makes the best home-cooked food, especially after a log day out in the open and before a long night out in the open – a good hot meal hits the spot. The party begins! After dinner the DJ starts her engines and we begin to dance and jump and party! Forgetting that at this hour we are usually knee-deep in evening routine; dinner, baths, bedtime, homework, clean-up, sandwiches, dishes, laundry and the list goes on! Here we are, out in the open, loud music and good friends! We tired ourselves out good before our night outdoors and woke up to the murmur of 200 cackling women waking up…

Friday comes and instead of spending it in the kitchen we pack up our jeeps and set out to the border. We drove on the army road to the Mouth of the River Jordan – where the Jordan meets the Dead Sea. Magnificent. Breathtaking. Amazing. Powerful. Gorgeous. After a group picture we drive through the Land of the Monasteries – the Israeli side, abandoned and fenced in as it’s mined and dangerous; the Jordanian side marvels and glistens in the sun with grand monasteries and groomed gardens. Reality hits all religions.

Our last stop is the Qasr al Yahud Baptism Site. Israel on one side, Jordan on the other with the Jordan River in between. We were able to witness a baptism ceremony on the Jordanian side of a group of young women from Sri Lanka. It was festive and spiritual with songs and prayers. The women were fully dressed and modest, entering the water one by one to get baptized by their priest. While watching this ceremony we were distracted by a group of Russian Christians on the Israeli side who came to embrace the Holy Waters. They were wearing white linen robes and – what became apparent after their dip – that’s all they were wearing! The Jordanian guards lost their interest in the young modest women from Sri Lank and focused on the group on the Israeli side, pulling out their cell phones to take photos. I couldn’t help but think how degrading this ceremony is! As an Orthodox woman, I too go through a dipping ceremony once a month. But it is private and personal. Not public and degrading. I tried to ask some of these women about this ceremony but they did not speak English and I do not speak Russian.

We then continued to the closing ceremony of this excursion to be greeted once again by Mr. Elchayani who promised to greet us again next year in the Jordan Valley. The winners claimed their prizes and we said our goodbyes to our old and new friends. To sum up this incredible experience: Aside from giving a mother of 4 a short break – I learned a lot about myself, my abilities, nature, women, my home, my background and my future in this beautiful piece of land.

Wjere River meets Sea

Where River meets Sea

Writers block?

So I think I have a small case of writers block. Well, maybe it’s not actually writer’s block rather I just can’t seem to come up with a good topic to write about.

I originally started this blog with the intention of writing about life in the Jordan Valley – but life in the Jordan Valley is pretty much the same as life anywhere else! I go about my normal day doing normal things that normal people do.

I am a working Mom, that pretty much sums things up. I wake up in a rush to get myself and my 4 kids dressed, fed and out the door on time with minimal trauma. I then get to work somewhat on time and spend 7 hours well, working. I travel home and arrive just in time to pick the little ones up from kindergarten and daycare. We all walk in at the same time with our bags and packages, all wanting Mommy time (yes, I want Mommy time too!!), all with things to say and do. After homework and after-school activities, it’s time for dinner, showers and bedtime (easier said than done). By the time things are quiet – I am wiped out! Of course you should add in various errands such as food shopping, pharmacy run, doctors appointments, teachers meetings, recitals, play dates, birthday parties, exercise (because us working Mon’s MUST stay fit and look good!), cooking, cleaning and last but definitely not least – LAUNDRY! So yes, I lead a pretty normal life, as normal as life can be for a working mom that is.

So what makes life so different in the Jordan Valley? Nothing really – we work hard to provide for our growing families just like everyone else.

A very important Date

Growing up the States, TU B’Shvat was never a special holiday for me. We learned about trees and the fruits of Israel, singing the phrase “a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey;” (Deuteronomy 8:8 ) but I don’t think I every truly understood the meaning of it all.

After making Aliyah, I was introduced to the tradition of the TU B’Shvat Seder (like the Pesach Seder but without the Matzah…) and Netiot – the planting of trees on the holiday. Israel is big on planting trees on Tu B’Shvat… just as the children’s song states – Ani nata’ati etz, B’eretz Yisrael (I planted a tree in the Land of Israel), yes, I have planted many trees in Israel over the years.

My family is not very big on the Tu B’shvat Seder, and neither is my husband’s family, therefore, this tradition, unfortunately, is not practiced in my home, hopefully, that will change one day.

It has been years since I went on a Tu B’shvat trip or planted a tree to mark this holiday. It has even been a while since I attended a traditional Tu B’Shvat Seder, with all the fruits and songs (it is truly a beautiful tradition), yet despite all this, I have grown to truly understand the meaning of this holiday and the promise God made to us in the verse from Deuteronomy.

Life in the Jordan Valley has introduced me to an aspect of Israeli life that I thought was a part of the past. I have come to learn about agriculture as I reside among farmers. I have learned about the connection between man, land and nature, the importance of rain, and the connection between Jewish life and the different seasons.

For instance, throughout the summer we watch at the date palms surrounding us become heavy with fruit weighing down their branches. Nets are draped over bunches of fruit to keep the birds from picking at the sweet fruit. At the end of the summer, just before Rosh HaShana, the dates are harvested. This is when we buy huge amounts of dates to store in our freezer so we can enjoy fresh dates throughout the year. Shortly after Rosh HaShana, the farmers are busy cutting down the branches to ship all over the country as the palm branches are used to build the Succah, and of course the Lulav, one of the 4 species of Succot is harvested as well.

The Jordan Valley in known worldwide for its fantastic Medjool dates. These dates are big, plump, juicy and extremely sweet. They are the best dates I have ever tasted in my life. I actually was not a “date-lover” till I moved here. Now, dates have become candy in my home, my children ask for them when they want something sweet. We eat them before a fast – this is what our Arab neighbors suggest since it is their tradition before the Ramadan fast. I put a walnut inside a date for an energy boost, and believe me – it works better than a cup of coffee!

The Jordan Valley dates are exported all over the world (and interestingly they were not banned like other products because they are just too good), they are known to be the best. I realized some time ago that these dates are a gift from God – the fulfillment of a promise:

”For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey;” Deuteronomy 8:7-8

כִּי ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ, מְבִיאֲךָ אֶל-אֶרֶץ טוֹבָה:  אֶרֶץ, נַחֲלֵי מָיִם–עֲיָנֹת וּתְהֹמֹת, יֹצְאִים בַּבִּקְעָה וּבָהָר. אֶרֶץ חִטָּה וּשְׂעֹרָה, וְגֶפֶן וּתְאֵנָה וְרִמּוֹן; אֶרֶץ-זֵית שֶׁמֶן, וּדְבָשׁ.  דברים ח’: ז’-ח’

Basketball – not just a sport

I believe sports can do amazing things. Aside from the physical benefits, sports connect people. I particularly like basketball. For those who know me, it may seem funny to them that I play the tall-people game (for those who don’t – I am short…), but I love the game! Once a week I play with a group of women from different Yeshuvim in the Jordan Valley. Women of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles. We are not professional, but we sure do know how to have a good time! It’s great exercise, loads of fun, gives us a night off from home, but most importantly – it has brought us together! Thanks to the game, I met a group of amazing women that I most probably would have never met. Although we live different lifestyles, we have so much in common, as mothers, as wives, as women and as residents of the same region. We laugh about ourselves, joke and try not to injure each other (at least we try not to break bones or glasses). Sometimes, like last tonight, we even find ourselves in a deep discussion about certain religious rituals (it’s a group of women – figure it out yourselves!), the religious telling over their experiences and sharing their viewpoint, the non-religious sharing their thoughts and inquiries. Our weekly basketball game is a not only exercise, it is a weekly meeting of mutual respect and tons of fun! 

Short post on a short friday

Just a short note before Shabbat….

We enjoyed a beautiful morning with my parents who came to visit. The weather is beautiful and we look forward to our Chazanut Shabbat this weekend on the Yeshuv.

I came across this video and just thought I’d share with you all.


Shabbat Shalom from the Bika’a!

village people

So as I stated in my previous post, I live in the Jordan Valley – you know, that place on the eastern border of Israel that’s been popping up in the headlines lately? Life out here in the boondocks is beautiful, peaceful and hot as hell in the summer (the winters are gorgeous… focus on the winter). Our community is wonderful and the more people I meet from other communities in the Jordan valley the more I love this region. My first time here was when I was just about 18 years old and I was seeking a place to do my National Service. A friend brought me the Shadmot Mechola (thank you Lilach!!) and I totally fell in love with the place! It was rainy on the day I came and as we arrived a huge rainbow formed across the sky and the view was absolutely magnificent! (Photo taken from my living room January 2012)ImageOnce I was accepted to do my service here, it was a no-brainer for me to decide this is where I want to be. Love at first sight. After falling in love with the land (I served as a tour-guide) I quickly fell in love with the people. Eventually I met who became my husband and the rest is history. After we got married we lived mainly in Jerusalem (one year in Kiryat Shmona) for 7 years until, we made our way back to the peaceful “Bika’a”.

Life here beats to a different rhythm. No traffic. No unnecessary noises. The standard of living is different. The value system is different. There are pro’s and con’s about living out in the boondocks. The main disadvantages are compromise in the workforce, traveling and lack of competition (in all fields – from supermarkets to schools to after-school activities to cleaning help). The advantages are enormous – quality of life, quality community, quality education, quality friends, amazing views from my living-room window, nature at your doorstep (saw a dog chasing a deer last week during our Shabbat meal – beat that city folk!) and I could go on and on. Yes, sometimes I feel like I need a mall or I am going to kill someone- so I go out to the new street mall in Beit shean just 20 minutes away or I just wait till I go to my parents in Modiin to get my fix. It could also be hard to live in a small community, sometime I feel like closing my blinds and locking my door and not talking to anyone – so that’s what I do… until I run out of milk and need to go to the neighbor. I guess there is not much of a difference between city life and middle-of-nowhere life…. Ha! Who am I kidding!

My first post

Why am I writing a blog you ask? Good question… mainly because I have a lot to say. I am a better talker than I am a writer but I will try this anyway.

Those of you who have been following the news in the past few days have probably heard a lot about the Jordan Valley. In the most recent peace talks, the Jordan Valley has been placed on the negotiation table. As it just so happens, the Jordan Valley is also my home. In this blog I will tell you about life in the Jordan Valley, as an American Olah, a woman, a mother and a Jew. So here goes…

When I first thought about writing a blog, my main dilemma was what language to write  in.  Making Aliyah as a teenager (my parents decided to make Aliyah when I was 13 years old and I had no choice but to come along, kicking and screaming… I thank them for it every day – more about that on another post) English is definitely more comfortable for me. On the other hand, my day-to-day life is in Hebrew (yes, I speak to my children in Hebrew… yell at me later… I know, I am a horrible mother!). My Husband is Israeli, my work is mainly in Hebrew and I live in a totally Hebrew speaking environment (not many Anglos out here in the Jordan Valley). Here is an example how my bilingual brain works – I will only read the newspaper in Hebrew but I will only read novels in English, including Israeli authors like Meir Shalev and Amos OZ. One other problem writing in either language – I am not 100% fluent in either language – or as I like to say, I am illiterate in two languages. I have horrible grammar and spelling in both and my vocabulary is somewhat limited in both languages. There will be mistakes in this blog…  So bear with me please!