Monday, December 31, 2012

Bar Mitzvah - Oldest Son

Oldest Son in the Tallit bought with love before his birth and the kippah bought in Jerusalem.
This is the blessing Commuter Husband wrote and read to Oldest Son as we stood with him in front of the Torah in Israel with the Kotel (Western Wall) in the background ...

“You started your Jewish life wrapped in this very Tallit at your Bris and today you stand wrapped in it in Israel.

Our first born!

We are so proud of you today. You have already accomplished something that we have not. You are becoming Bar mitzvah.

You have worked hard to get to this day in Israel. I am sure that you are ready to say “Phew, finally it’s finally over.”

But, here’s some great news! You are just getting started. Truly being a man is something you have to challenge yourself to do each day.

It is like trying to follow a crazy map that takes you on the longest most challenging road you have ever been on just to reach a destination that (just like life) is constantly changing. Sometimes you have to turn around because you find you missed a turn. The trick is to keep trying to preserver, to Live!

So what do we wish for you on this journey?  

Glorious failures!  Never be afraid to take a chance and fail. The key is to learn and move on.

Love and passion! These are the things that charge our batteries and make us better people.

Compassion!  Always look to help others because you never know when you will need help and you will.

Be a good friend!  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Also, not to be corny, but read the Torah!  At different parts of your journey you may find a story you have read a million times has a new lesson or meaning that can provide you insight into your current situation.

You mother and I love you very much and we are always here to help you in your exciting journey.”
Youngest Son worked diligently to have candies to pelt the B'nai  Mitzvah kids!
Lovely luncheon afterwards at Dan Panorama balcony.
Youngest Son & Oldest Son at celebratory lunch.
Wonderful Israeli salads!
More great food!
Mazel Tov!
The Service


Saturday - Shabbat

Our first Shabbat in Israel included a visit to the Israel Museum, playing American football in the park, Havdalah and an incredible light and sound show at the King of David Tower. The evening brought our first entry into the Old City through the Jaffa Gate. Youngest Son fell asleep in my lap at the outdoor light show - so sweet - he IS only 10 years old.

Israel Museum - Oldest Son  listening to the history of the 2nd Temple looking at model below.
It's Kippahs versus Bareheads!
Sunday - Jerusalem

We started the morning early with a visit to Yad LaKashish. Yad LaKashish achieves the highest level of tzedakah - helping others to help themselves. Seniors work at this non-profit started 50 years ago  creating beautiful hand-made items that are sold in their gift shops. And yes, we bought several lovely items including Sam's Tallit cover!

Seniors at Yad LaKashish proudly show their wares.
Youngest Son gets kippah at Yad LaKashish and the Rabbi helps him put it on - very special.
We enter the Old City through the Zion Gate to visit the Kotel (Western Wall) and explore the Western Wall Tunnel underneath.
Our guide reads from the Tanakh before we enter through the Zion Gate.
Youngest Son gets his first view of the Kotel.
Youngest Son's pocket is full of Religious School children's wishes to put into the cracks of Western Wall.
Our exit from the tunnels takes us through the Muslim Quarter and to the Jewish Quarter for lunch. We end our afternoon exiting through the Dung Gate to explore the City of David's new excavations - lots of climbing, tunnels and narrow enclosed spaces!
Lunch in Hurva Square in Jewish Quarter where we had shawarma and schnitzal.
Oldest Son looks on at the real Jerusalem from the City of David.
Each and every day on this journey presents a range of emotions from happy to sad to incredulous.

Perhaps my moment of the heart was in the Tunnel at the Warren's Gate which is the closest point a Jew can get to the Holy of Holies. It is spot women pray for health ... I paused among the few Orthodox women to make a wish for my own health as tears found their way down my cheeks ...

A lovely Moment for Noah posted on Temple Blog - CLICK HERE

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Kibbutz, Desert & Jerusalem

The past two days have been filled with learning, beauty and emotion.

What did we do on Thursday in the Israel Negev Desert?

If I was 25 then I might have just stayed on Kibbutz Laton. Kibbutz living is a big vision supported by a simple (very) life filled with hard work. The adults learned about how the Kibbutz operates while furthering advances in environmentalism and sustainability. The Youth (ages 10 to 18) literally got their hands dirty making straw and mud bricks.

Bricks made by the Youth. 
Kibbutz Laton's completely organic garden in the desert!
Exploring the Timna Park was educational, amazing, beautiful, serene and fun! 
Oldest Son & Youngest Son climbing through the desert hiking trails.
Commuter Husband & Youngest Son in crevice around the Copper Mines of ancient Egypt.
Youngest Son climbing to an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic on side of cliff.

Oldest Son, there that spec in a great big world ... 
After lots of hiking, Israeli Snacks! Chocolate milk is from local Kibbutz.

What did we do on Friday as we headed north from Negev Desert?

Jeep tour that took us inside the Ramon Crater ...
Youngest Son & Commuter Husband looking for fossils and me in the shadows ... 
Desert Colors decorate Youngest Son's face. He just could not resist the dampened mud
Arrival In Jerusalem

We will be in Jerusalem six days. 

We attended Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat Services  in Modi'in at the Kehillet Yozma, one of the very few Reform Temples in Israel. The service was completely in Hebrew and yet it still felt familiar. Tears flowed from Commuter Husband and me as Oldest Son was called forward with others celebrating B'nai Mitzvah to stand under the Jewish Chuppah for prayers and then to be pelted with candies. The smile on Oldest Son's face as he was called forward lit up the world.

Then ... we were hosted by an Israeli family for Shabbat. Our hosts had a little boy who was 11. The Israeli Boy did not speak English but the universal language of xbox and soccer balls sufficed. Commuter Husband and I discussed topics with the Israeli Couple ranging from politics to travel to schools to Jewish life to backgrounds - fascinating. They are originally from near Tel Aviv but the mother's family is actually Turkish of which many live in Istanbul. The food - wow (!!!) - pea soup, green salad, cabbage salad, meat pastry, homemade tahini, challah, meatballs with tomato sauce & rice, turmeric chicken & potatoes and tahini & honey cake.

Today will be Shabbat. No cars. No restaurants open. No commerce. The way Shabbat should be ...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Learning Brings Understanding

These days in Israel are a kaleidoscope of experiences. We are now in the south in the desert town of Mitzpeh Ramon. Our day ...

We left Tel Aviv this morning and headed south. Our first stop was a 650 acre interactive nature reserve dedicated to the flora and fauna of the bible. At Neot Kedumim, we herded goats and sheep, play acted biblical stores, planted trees and prayed.
Oldest Son pulls water from the cistern as Youngest Son peers into the black hole of water.
Youngest Son plants his oak tree on the green hill of Israel.
Each step of this journey brings greater understanding of Israel and the Jewish people: why this land is so important, how incredibly hard Jews have worked to transform this desert land, why they will not give up ...

We were on the Gaza Strip border today. We viewed the buildings of Gaza and saw the walls that separate them from Moshav Netiv Ha'asarah. A resident spoke to us about living on the Moshav where one home has been hit 30 times with missiles and the children know to move to bomb shelters within 15 seconds of the sirens. It is important to stay in this place where the 188 Moshav families make a living raising cucumbers and tomatoes in hot houses, celebrate holidays and kiss their children. And they do it with passion, love and fervor that most Americans will never comprehend. I think I am beginning to ...

Muki, our spectacular guide, interprets Hebrew to English as the Moshav resident describes their life. 
 On the Left is a Rec Center and on the Right is a Playground - the square structure in the Middle is a Bomb Shelter.
Bus Stop where children wait and beside it the familiar square Bomb Shelter.
On the Left is the Gaza Border Wall and on the Right is an Israeli Moshav Home rooftop.
Youngest Son looks over the Gaza Border Wall from Israel side.
“From the womb of love comes peace” on a Bomb Shelter on the Moshav.
"Nativ L’Shalom—the Path to Peace" on the Gaza Border Wall - a Moshav mosaic in progress.
And our last stop of the day was at Kibbutz Sde Boker where we visited the gravesite of David Ben Gurion ...
Groups gather around and take in the majesty around the gravesite of David Ben Gurion.
Overlooking the Wilderness of Zinn in the Negev Desert - the land of Abraham.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Our KInd of Day (In Tel Aviv)

Today was the quintessential Commuter Family day ... in Tel Aviv ...

Youngest Son the Early Riser: He woke me up at 3am! Neither of us went back to sleep ...

Israeli Breakfast: Youngest Son and I were the first at breakfast (see above.) We did not do a good job suppressing our glee with the with various cheeses, fresh fish, multiple breads, beautiful fruits, super strong coffee and on and on ...

Engaging Museums & Learning: History, art and architecture abounded. We visited Independence Hall (May 14, 1948 declaration) and the experiential Palmach Museum (elite fighting force leading up to independence.)  We saw an incredible mosaic of the history of Tel Aviv and a walking tour took us through the past and present state of architecture. We visited Jaffa with the old part of Tel Aviv including an excavation site of Rameses II artifacts.
One of our leaders teaching Youngest Son about the history of Tel Aviv as depicted in the mosaic.
Commuter Husband pointing out something in Tel Aviv from Jaffa.
Street Food: Our first falafel in Israel ever and it was g o o d !

Little Shops & Open Market: So many smells and colors in the open food market ... we bought goodness knows how many pounds of nuts and dried fruit. Youngest Son says we should shop this way all the time ... I wish.
One of many small shops selling groceries - see spices on left? (This shop reminded us of Mexico.)
Dried Fruit - see the bright green kiwi!
Beach: We love our beaches. Oldest Son and Youngest Son scampered through the sand as we headed back to the hotel after dark. Pure boy joy.
After dark on Tel Aviv beach ... brothers.
Commuter Husband, Oldest Son and Youngest Son all out at 7:15pm Israel time (Tuesday.) As usual, I am awake and reflecting on this day and I am amazed that this is my life.


We Are Jews in Israel

We are Jews in Israel. A special pilgrimage. Things normally uncommon become the norm ...
Youngest Son playing in the sand of Tel Aviv Beach in his kippah!
Youngest Son "Mommy, you know what another great thing about Israel is?"

Me "What honey?"

Youngest Son "Everyone here wears a kippah."

What is a kippah?kippah (literally: dome) is the Hebrew word for skullcap, also referred to inYiddish as a yarmulke, or less frequently as a koppel. Traditionally, Jewish men and boys wear the kippah at all times, a symbol of their awareness of, and submission to, a "higher" entity.

Our hotel room in Tel Aviv ... Youngest Son kisses his fingers and touches the mezuzah as we enter.
See the mezuzah on the doorpost of our hotel room?

What is a mezuzah? In the Torah, God commands the Jewish people to hang mezuzot on their doorposts. Two Torah portions, Shema and Vehaya, include the verse: "And you shall inscribe these words upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates."

The Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) begins with "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." The Shema reminds us that God is always present in our lives, and that we should keep God's words constantly in our minds and in our hearts. The Shema tells us that one way to do this is by writing them on the doorposts of our house. Vehaya(Deuteronomy 11:13-21) assures us of God's compensation if we fulfill his commandments (mitzvot).

It is a Torah commandment to hang mezuzot on our doorposts. Mezuzot, in turn, remind of God's presence and of our duty to fulfill God's commandments.