Monday, December 22, 2008

the funny-looking cup

We had some non-jewish friends visit from England recently. After one came out of our bathroom, she asked, "what is the funny cup with two handles all about? We've seen them everywhere here." It was then I realized that most people have no clue how OJ's live literally according to the Bible. G-d says, the Rabbis explain, We do. Simple as that. (well, not always simple, but at least it follows, logically) So, when G-d commanded us to Wash our hands before we eat a meal and after we go to the bathroom, we believe he meant it. The question becomes HOW? I've seen many people wash their hands in public restrooms (or not...ewwww!) and everyone has a different way of handling it, that's for certain. So, we have a set way of doing it that has been around for centuries, that way, everyone is equally clean! That's what the cup is for. Just in case you've never seen one, this is what they look like:
Some are fancy:

Some are not so fancy: They all have two handles, one for each hand! This washing process is also called Netilat Yadiaim (Hebrew for washing hands). When you wash after going to the bathroom, you wash with soap first (like normal folks should) Then you hold the filled cup with the handles facing you in your left hand and pour the water on your hands alternately 3 times (3 on each hand). Then you can dry your hands off and say the blessing after leaving the bathroom. When you are getting ready to eat a meal (with bread) you fill the cup, but pour 3 times on your right, then 3 times on your left. After this you say a blessing for washing hands (Blessed are you L-rd our G-d king of the universe who has given us the commandments and commanded us to wash hands) and then silently go back to wherever you're eating and say the blessing for bread and have your meal.
What to do if there's no wash cup? Just wash your hands and put them under the running water the correct way. Or find a drinking cup or other vessel and do it that way. It's better to wash in some way than not at all.
Now you know! Feel free to ask for clarifications!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On going back to America

Life as an ex-pat isn't easy. In fact, it's darn hard a lot of the time. Don't get the wrong idea, I love living in Israel, am glad we emigrated here and are raising our Kid(s) here, but sometimes you simply long for the familiar. Like Wal-mart, Target, Safeway (or any real grocery store), Starbucks, etc. And it's hard to be separated from all of your family. Most people who move here have at least some family, but we really have none, and it's been an uphill battle to build a support system here. I still don't have a good babysitter in walking distance. My best option just got engaged, so she's off in la-la land for a while.
But we are going back to the US for a visit in one week. I'm going a bit berserk thinking about traveling in my 3rd trimester with a one year old (Thank G-d the Rabbi is coming!) but I'm really excited just to be "home" with my family for a while. I know it's just a different set of difficulties in America (no kosher meat, or Jewish Milk, having to drive again, instead of walk everywhere, etc.) but at least I will be dealing with people in my native language (and hopefully theirs). And everything is so cheap there (except Jewish stuff, which is very cheap here) that we will be testing the limits of our suitcase allowance with shoes, clothes, Ziplock bags, crystal light, sponges, kitchen knives, high-threadcount sheets (220 is really high here), and anything else I can think of that is really expensive or unobtainable in Israel, but cheap in the US. In exchange I will be bringing Olives, Pomegranate products, Za'atar (Israeli spice), scarves, etc. for family and friends.
So, here's to the exchange of consumer goods, but also to the joy of having 4 generations living on the farm again (however briefly), my daughter being charming to all our friends, getting to feel my BFF's baby kick her tummy, because it will probably be a while until I get to meet him in person, hugging my other BFF because she's going through a tough time and Skype just doesn't cut it, watching my parents play with my daughter, their first grandchild, going as a family to the aquarium for the first time, and everything else. Oh, and if you believe in Prayer, think of us as we drive across the country in Early January with our one-year-old who's longest car trip to date has been 2 hours. Yeah, we're nuts.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

smells like Hanukkah...

So this will be my third Hanukkah in Israel. When you live in the states as a Jew, you get inundated with Christmas stuff, with only the obligatory equal-access Hanukkah decor (usually on a tree, ironically enough).
In Israel I see nary a light, santa, reindeer or hear a carol, unless I go near the Christian Quarter of the Old city, since people here are mostly Jews, Muslim, or Secular. But Hanukkah? oh yes!! 9-branched candelabras are everywhere, convenient oil/gel inserts in the proper number on every corner, and in every Makolet (corner market) there are boxes of fresh Sugnafiot (jelly donuts). And if you live close to the Shuk (like i do!) you can walk down the lanes of stalls and admire rows and rows of still-hot sweet treats, and even a few places frying up latkes. It smells like heaven! Even though I've got every excuse to fulfill my cravings, I try not to buy any until the week before the holiday, or I'll get worn out on them, even the caramel ones that I have dreams about! Last year, my DH brought them to me in the hospital after I had our daughter! But smelling all the goodness is calorie and guilt free! and sometimes I go a few blocks out of my way just to walk down the bakery row and inhale the sweet smell of Hanukkah!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More HP Magic...

I believe the world can be a better place. In Judaism it's called Tikkun Olam, healing the world. We believe that by doing what G-d told us in the Torah, the world will run the way it's supposed to. No Strife.

I try to do my part. I want to raise Mentchedick kids (good human beings). I make sure not only I give charity every day, but also my daughter and husband. We have people over for meals, and put them up for the night if they need a place to be for Shabbat. I know we've had hundreds in our home for a meal in the last 3.5 years (since we were married).

But more than that, I try to be polite in a less-than-polite culture (Israelis are rude!). Sometimes it means I wait longer, get ignored, or get pushed in a crowd, but I think that's OK. I also never answer back with sarcastic remarks when we are in a non-Jewish area of the USA and I'm getting asked for the thousandth time if I'm Amish, if I have cancer (I cover my hair with a scarf), if we're Jewish, if I can speak Jewish (Hebrew or Yiddish?) to them, bless their kids, whatever. Because I know these questions are other people's way of trying to understand me and also make the world a better place. And I appreciate that.

It's know!

So, Moosh in Indy is part of the greatest thing ever. The HP magic giveaway. Wow, HP and Windows Live are giving away something like 200 computers. It's like Christmas, except Jews don't do Christmas. So, it's more like Hanukkah for me.
I can't imagine what it would be like to actually win. The truth is, my Dear Husband has an awesome laptop that he uses for work. not. We bought this laptop used, on E-bay, for $150 when we were poor newlyweds and had to have something. And we were grateful for it.


But as time has gone on, it has become less adequate. I could help my husband try to support our family with a nicer laptop, as he does video and photo editing work. I have lots of video editing experience, but no computer to do it on but his, which he needs most of the time. My contribution to the family income is sewing. I currently use my computer to market my clothing alteration and repair business online. So, between those two things, We'd probably keep whichever computer had the biggest hard drive, because Video eats up space like a termite on holiday. We'd also probably keep the printer so I could start making posters for the sewing on my own at home instead of outsourcing it. The fact that it prints pictures is a big bonus. We've not had a printer since moving and having our first kid. So of the hundreds of pictures I've taken of our first child, how many have I printed? None. That would change!

Times are very hard where I live in Israel. I know times are hard everywhere, but in a country where 1/3 of the children live below the national poverty line (families of 4 who make less than 4200 Shekels a month, about $1,050) hard times hit even harder. I know families who literally live on eggs, milk, and bread, because those are government subsidized and it's what they can afford. Many nights Scrambled egg sandwiches are our complete dinner as well. It's cheap protein, and nourishing, and that's all it needs to be. Clearly, we're not totally destitute (we still have internet) but it's some lean times in our house (we have stopped riding the bus anywhere we can feasibly walk).

But this isn't just about me. We've only got one kid and one on the way. Jake and Sarah have 5. One sweet newborn Yair (pronounced yah-ear). Jake has a small business working as a Schlepper, a mover. He doesn't have a big moving truck, just the family van, and most of the time he does all the carrying himself. He used to have a good sales job here in Israel for an American company, which gave them a laptop they could use, but then he was laid off. So, he sucked it up and made a business moving stuff. And when he can't get work moving stuff, he cleans houses, something usually done (in this country) by illegal immigrants and women. Different culture. But he does it because he's got 5 kids and a wife at home who think he's the world's greatest dad. And he's in the top 10 as far as I'm concerned. You should see the multi-level tree house in their yard that he built with salvaged scraps. They totally would get a laptop and a copy of Kung-fu Panda, because, HELLO, 5 kids!

Then there's Rabbi Gold. Old guy living in the Old City of Jerusalem. His vision is to have a school for Old Guys like himself to learn in. They learn Hebrew and scriptures and in general find some purpose for their lives at a time that purpose is somewhat lacking. He's struggling and needs to improve his website so people that come to learn with him for a short time can keep up after they leave. His very old computer is totally inadequate for handling large amounts of audio and video files. He's such a great teacher, he has a few young guys around that could help him with the computer stuff, but they get frustrated trying to make a computer do things it just wasn't meant to do. Computer to him as well!

I also kind of know a guy names Shmuel. I've never met him personally. He runs a charity that donates computers (that he has built from scraps) to needy families and charities. I'm not certain, but I bet he also is working with some old rigged-up computer that he built from cast-off pieces. To support his family he does computer consulting, and makes up the difference with a garden on his porch. But he still donates countless hours to building and distributing computers to those in need, because it's his vision that kids will be able to do their homework at home, disabled people will have a link to the outside world (Israel is NOT handicap accessible in most places), and charities will have the technology they need to continue their good works.

I could tell you a dozen stories like this. The irony of a country where 40% of the people wo are employed work in the Technology sector, and yet people use computers that are 5, 10, 15 years old does not escape me. If one of these folks declines a computer I could find 6 people to fill their place.

The truth is, I don't NEED a new computer. (I can and will use a new computer if I get one, but I won't die if I don't get it.) I NEED food, shelter, and clothing for myself and my family. Those things I have. For now. And I trust that G-d will continue to provide them for me through whatever means he chooses. I probably won't enter each and every one of the other contests. But it really would be a miracle for these other people to get a computer for their needs, and I've always liked the idea of being part of a miracle. And Hanukkah is about Miracles of provision when it seems like there's not enough to go around. That's kind of how things feel in Israel right now. Not enough to go around, no matter how you stretch.

It's not 8 days of burning from one days worth of oil, but in it's way just as much a sign of G-d providing for those in need.

(the last night of Hanukkah last year)