Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Am Echad

There's a place and a time that stays constant no matter where a person finds themselves in the world. It doesn't matter what city you're in or what stage of your life, or the clothes you are wearing, the hair trend of the season. And no matter what language swirls around you, the words are the same. That time and place is Shabbat.

Templo Libertad, Buenos Aires, Argentina
When I was in college, I had a chance to go on a service trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina for two-and-a-half weeks. There I was, in a place I'd never been, Spanish words mingling with the sounds of sharp stilettos tapping out their tangos, tired from a day of sightseeing.  I walked past the Templo Libertad in the barrio de Tribunales, with its byzantine motifs and memorial to the 1994 AMIA bombing. It was a history I had only just learned but to one I already felt tightly linked. I was a simple observer of a shared memory of suffering. And then the sun began to set, dripping out its burning orange hues and it was  erev shabbat, uniting us all. Am echad im lev echad.

Paradesi Synagogue, Kochi, Kerala India
Back in high school I found myself on an even more unfamiliar stage, in Kerala, India, staying with a Hindu family, sleeping next to their shrine. We had ridden a painted elephant, been presented with gold-laid oil lamps at the town hall, and our feet had touched the cool, smooth marble of the Taj Mahal a few hours before. I had soaked in the red sunset from the palace reflecting pools and absorbed the warm, harmonic Om of the Baha'i Lotus Temple in New Dehli. I was in another lifetime with sounds, smells, faces so unlike my own and it was the first time that I felt completely and utterly alone, disconnected from everything, the only "other" in a jungle of anonymity. And then, just like that, we stepped into Jew Town, Mattancherry and its synagogue, dating all the way back to 1568. As my fingers rested on the soft red velvet throw that covered the bima, I began to cry. I was home again. Am echad im lev echad.

Tempio Maggiore di Roma, Rome, Italy
Once more, a few years later I found myself in a strange land of "life, love, and wine" during my junior year in college. I was in Rome, Italy for a semester with Temple University to study art and art history. As I roamed through the cobblestone streets and ducked into churches, I was awed and inspired by the explosions of sculptures, frescoes, and paintings galore. Living in a maze of the cross, saints, and angels I again felt like a stranger among the artistically draped shawls and gaping sunglasses of the tall Roman women and the Mohawk-mullets of the Roman men who surrounded me. Again I was the "other" until I stumbled into the Roman Jewish Ghetto in the rione Sant'Angelo. After sampling the specialty of "Carciofi alla giud├Ča" (fried artichokes), I approached the towering Great Synagogue of Rome and walked into a community that dates back to the 2nd century BC. As I slunk through the high iron gate and past the security guards I heard greetings of shabbat shalom from every direction. Am echad im lev echad.

Everywhere I've gone before and since, when Shabbat comes, the time and place stands still and the strange faces become family. I have returned home again and again.


Fast forward to my first Shabbat in Jerusalem. After a long breakfast of our remaining spoils from the shuk I found myself alone, all of my roommates having gone to visit friends and family. After a quiet day of sleeping, cleaning, unpacking and reorganizing, I showered and put on a dress. I brushed on subdued but shiny lavender eyeshadow and sprinkled on some perfume. At 7 in the evening, just as the day was beginning its slow transition into twilight, my friend Naama knocked on my door. I had been planning to go alone when I saw her on gchat and decided to say hello. She immediately offered to spend Friday night with me and to drive with me to Emek Refaim, the German Colony. She had her shiny hair pulled back into a low ponytail, spraying twirls down her back and somehow enlarging her dimples when she smiled. Whenever she laughed it sent a tiny explosion of light radiating every which way. We instantly held each other tight, both delighted and amazed that we had reunited across the ocean. Last year, Naama had arrived in my home turf, Rockland County, NY as a shlichah through Jewish Federation of NY where she was going to do Jewish Israel programming for the local Hebrew Day Schools, JCCs and synagogues. She immediately connected with my family, my father being a Rabbi in the community and my Ima being a sabra herself, and they tried their best to make her feel at home. I had the pleasure of dragging her around New York city, to all my favorite hotspots, most of which included either music or food or flowers.

And now we had switched places. After almost no interaction over the past year we came together again like instant, life-long friends who had in fact only sat with each other two or three times before, sipping tea and picking at pomegranate. In her generous warmth, she wrote herself a list of all different things she wants to bring me from her house that she no longer needs to help me make my room more homey. We danced around the balcony and commented over the pictures I had hung of my family. Her long eyelashes hovered over her kind, brown eyes as we talked intently about everything and anything. We are both elementary school teachers and swapped stories of crazy kids, funny class cheers, curriculum, and discovered that we are almost each others American/Israeli counterparts. After many high fives (and their classic, elementary school teacher variations-- teachers out there, you know what I mean!), we headed out to a community Shabbat dinner, hosted by a local group called "Jerusalem Challenge" at where else, but the local JCC of Jerusalem. I was in a country so different from my own: the streets almost deserted of cars; floods of people walking arm in arm; stores closed since two in the afternoon; palm trees instead of maples and an open-air tent instead of an endless black parking lot. Yet when we walked in, I was home again (Actually eerily similar to home, complete with a warning that it was 'sold out' when it wasn't in order to create hype, a check-in line at the door, people greeting each other loudly in English, and men and women carefully sneaking peeks at one another, albeit clumsily).

Up the stairs there was a large meeting room furnished with about twenty long tables full of salads, challah rolls, hummus, tchinah, schnitzel, ktzetziyot, chicken, steak, potatoes, mushy peas and carrots, heaping piles of rice, and countless bottles of wine. We sang shir hamaalot, waited for hand washing, said the motzi, and dug in. I met Tova, a Canadian who made aliyah eight years ago and Naama's friends who she knew from the university. Throughout the night many people came up, including this one sandy-blond boy who just wouldn't go away. There were announcements and singing as more and more piles of food appeared. Then the oneg began, complete with sparkly yellow drinks. I turned to inquire about them and made friends with a group of Israelis who were huddling around in a tight group. They had all studied and lived together in Jerusalem, now each of them going their own way. After clarifying that I am not, in fact, 17 or even 20, I ended up in a corner with one them. I learned that Manny is from Chaderah, the only son of two Russian immigrants who came to Israel in the 70's. He had big, happy eyes and a sweet smile. Naama kept running back and forth, commenting on the sheer amount of last names questions she had already received; the Shabbat-in-Jerusalem equivalent of getting a phone number. (Because on Shabbat many people don't write, they instead ask for full names so they can find each other on Facebook later!)  After a while I said good bye to Manny and returned home happy and spent, proud of myself for my almost exclusively-speaking-in-Hebrew night. I was in a completely new city but with the coming of Shabbat, it became one in the same: am echad.

The next day I had another treat when another Israeli who I had only known as an honorary "tour guide" of New York four years back came over for another cup of tea. Similar to Naama, Anat and I had spent a grand total of four days together back when I lived on the east side, but instantly clicked. After graciously presenting me with a box of scrumptious lemon tarts she had made that morning, we caught up, leaning over the cheesy gold tablecloth on my makeshift plastic kitchen table. Anat has long, light brown hair and a happy calm about her. She told me about her studies in computer science and the enormity of work before her. She had recently moved in with a boyfriend of one year, who was studying geography and gave historical jeep tours on the side. We reminisced over her visit to New York and she reminded me again and again that I would now be a part of her circle of friends. After sneaking another melt-in-your-mouth lemony cube, Anat navigated the ten-minute walk to her charming nook of an apartment, pointing out miraculous little treasures along the way: a garden that seemed to tower up and up, an unexpected Buddhist shrine, the sushi place we must go to (soon!), the place with the best coffee in the world, a perfectly old and shabby bookstore. They live in the heart of Rehavia where she made me delicious-tasting cafe afuch (basically a cafe latte, but foamier) to couple with a honey cake she had baked in honor of the coming chagim.  We walked to her adorable balcony, furnished with a woven bright red carpet, a tiny metal table with two chairs, and hanging plants. All around were the sounds of children playing, sun pushing through leaves, and the white of Jerusalem stone. We talked until the sun went down and I found my way back to my new home without getting lost once.

Mamilla Mall
Later on, Manny ended up inviting me out to a beautiful cafe in the middle of the Botanical Garden and later for wine in the shadow of the old city walls. At the garden cafe, we huddled over warm onion soup and swapped childhood stories. Then we headed to the parking lot, where we had to play a "game" of tetris/jenga/packman to get his car out of a blocked-in mess of cars that I can only describe as Israeli. After seesawing back and forth for a good twenty minutes and a good deal of getting out of the car to assess the situation, we drove toward the old city and down into the plush, new parking lot of the Mamilla Hotel. We walked through quiet crowds of mostly Orthodox American transplants, under arcs of light blue lights, looking at the exclusive fancy boutiques that lined the street. Then we made our way up to the rooftop bar to take in the view- my first look at the old city since I arrived.  Shivering a little, I leaned against a white, sleek banister hanging over the Tower of David below, turned to my new friend and smiled.  It had taken a year of planning, jumps through many hoops, applications, essays, interviews and months of waiting. It had taken a leap of faith, cajoling of family members and friends, giving away and packing up parts of the only life I really knew. It had taken history and family, hoping and wondering, and taking many chances...but I'd made it to Jerusalem. As I took in this enormous realization, I felt my heart actually jump in my chest. I threw my head back and laughed loudly. "What is it?" Manny gave me a quizzical look. "I'm really here, aren't I?" I whispered, shaking my head in wonder. He smiled and nodded back, turning his head slightly sideways. "Yes... you really are." I sighed dreamily and stared at King David's tower peaking over those ancient walls, memorizing the bright hum of the lights below,  savoring the cool gentle breeze from the hills, and the fact that I really am here.

View of Tower of David from the Mamilla Hotel

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My New Home Sweet Home

Thank goodness I bought so many hooks!
 When Ima and Daddy first met, they spent a magical year in Jerusalem, meeting for lunch on the lawn at Hebrew U, walking in and out of bookstores stuck in a corner, sharing botnim (roasted peanuts, which they buy every time they visit)... and now I am reliving many of those footsteps. My apartment overlooks the roads they took and my walk to work will be tracing theirs.

Precluding my journey, I gained new-found confidence in my Hebrew speaking when the Milah Institute, the ulpan where I will be learning Hebrew, called to confirm that I really am Level D. They put a girl on the phone so she could "chat" with me in Hebrew and test my skills. After literally 30 seconds of smalltalk she shouted across the room, "she really IS a Level D!" I've been functioning basically in Hebrew--even strangely forgetting some words in English--and today's confirmation that I'm indeed at the highest level of their ulpan has brought my confidence to new levels.

The JDC Israel Office in Giv'at Ram
Today's drive to Jerusalem, after leaving Saba and Nimla (who takes care of him by cooking delicious food and simply making his house feel like home), I had an interesting discussion, all in Hebrew, with my taxi driver, Yisrael. He immediately dove into how he dated an American once, who promised him "riches" if he moved back to Boston with her, but he refused to leave his country. Then he told me about his army service, his "little miracle," a granddaughter who is living with him for now, and about his sons, who, he told me several times, "If they weren't all married, I would have made them meet you." Yisrael is 62 years old, has a shock of white hair over dark grey sideburns, and wore serious, dark sunglasses. As he drove, he continually drummed his fingers on the wheel, humming and whistling to the music on Galatz, a popular Israeli radio station between thoughts. He asked me if I consider myself American or Israeli. I said that I feel like both; that when I'm in America, I don't feel like I quite fit in and when I'm in Israel I feel completely American. Yisrael slammed his fist on the steering wheel.  "You cannot choose both," he affirmed in a very serious tone, "A person cannot live between two worlds." I contemplated this stern remark. "I hope I do not offend you," he said more softly, "but I am a person who speaks my mind and don't like to sugarcoat. I tell the truth always." "Don't worry, you're not offending me," I answered, "It takes a lot, but I'm not sure if I agree with you." So I partly revised my answer and told him that my heart is in Israel but I will always be American. "Yes, then you should stay. I didn't see your face before," he turned swiftly to assess me through the rear-view mirror. "Yes, now I see your face, there's great potential for you to meet someone here, I didn't look at your face before but now I see, motek. If you stay and meet a real sabra then maybe you will be truly Israeli then." I just laughed. Maybe also turned a little red.

Squint to see my aunt, Dvora, in the photo on the top left, hanging at JDC.
This question of who I am keeps coming up. A few days earlier, my aunt, Dvora, asked me a similar question over Shabbat dinner. "Sivanne, do you consider yourself a Zionist?" I told her that living freely as a Jew in a peaceful, democratic country has changed the fabric of need in Jewish life and so maybe the definition of Zionism is different to me than to her. I feel I am a Zionist but don't think that needs to mean that I want to live here permanently. I, like the majority of American Jews, have a deep concern for the Jewish people and this land, and will always support it. And I absolutely believe in the dream of a Jewish homeland. But as to where I stand? Sticking on labels, cornering myself into specific groups, that's harder to say. It's interesting to think about identity: is it more about how people perceive you, or how you see yourself? Is it about where you're from or where you're going to? Is it about the language you speak, the clothes you wear, the food you eat or where your allegiances lie? Can it be both, or do you have to choose like my taxi driver insisted?

The bed is as thin as me, but cozy.
After mentioning how a shame it is that his sons are married a few more times, Yisrael helped me drag my two heavy suitcases into the apartment and before leaving, invited me to Rosh Hashana dinner at his home. I politely thanked him for his generosity and went back inside, wondering if I hadn't had family here to celebrate with if I would have taken him up on his offer. I would like to think that I would have. Minutes later, I met one of my neighbors, Amichai, who lives on the second floor with two other roommates. He's studying at the university and I pegged him for maybe 25 years old. He was wearing old, khaki shorts, no shirt, and had hair springing up in all directions. I walked up the stairs with him making small-talk, all in Hebrew, and he invited me and my new housemates to come over for an outdoor BBQ on Shabbat.  Later on, my housemate Ayal and I took the 30 minute walk through the heart of beautiful Rehaviah to Mahane Yehuda Market, a sprawling festival of foods, lights, people pushing every which way, and smells of fresh fish, ripe olives, and glistening cheeses floating through the air. I've been there many times before but never on a domestic errand. While we walked from stand to stand, sampling figs and mangoes, haggling over the price of a pomegranate (and learning that the way you know it is ripe is to put it to your ear and squeeze it, searching for a crunching sound), we picked up the fresh ingredients for our simple ravioli meal. Then we negotiated the buses, returned home, cooked up a storm, and ate while laughing so hard at different stories that we cried.

I've already hung up my jewelry and bags, unpacked and folded my clothes, laid claim to a shelf in the bathroom. Tomorrow I hope to find some time for various errands, some exploring and possibly getting lost, and finally to sit on our ENORMOUS balcony (and when I say enormous I mean that a full-blown soccer game could easily be played on it) and sketch. All in all my move-in day was full of new faces, renewed old smells and sounds, and most of all, turning four new white walls into a home.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ripping Off the Band-aide

Tomorrow I have my first real day as an independent adult in Israel, have to take public transportation to Jerusalem for meetings and to finally meet some people I'll be working with. I'm trying to remind myself that 1) I've taken the bus in Israel (several times) before, 2) It's the same as going from Suffern to the city, 3) I'm 28 years old and speak the language and will be fine, but it's still nerve-wracking. I'm not nervous about the meeting, just getting there. But it will be important because I'm going to want to learn how to easily visit my grandfather, so this is a great opportunity.

Other than that I've been spending time with all of my family. We celebrated my uncle's birthday to a delicious meal at their house and I've seen cousins, aunts, uncles, friends several times already. Then today I was riding around the kibbutz in my grandfather's "kalnoeet" (picture cross between golf cart and vespa, but for older people) and we bumped into my cousin and her two sweet girls on their way for an end-of-summer festival on the kibbutz, so I went with them and played with the children as they climbed on stilts, had a game of life-size checkers (which they beat me in), and listened to music, of course over a huge table of homemade food platters.  I also went to visit some family friends for lunch, and afterwards over delicious espresso (always eating or drinking here!), started studying some English/Hebrew vocabulary that one of their sons needs for his upcoming exams. As his brother tested him in more obscure Hebrew vocabulary, I sat there scanning the practice book to see how much I know. I realized I know so many more words than I remember when I'm trying to speak, but they're definitely locked in my brain somewhere. So far I've been doing a pretty good job basically existing in Hebrew and I'm looking forward to increasing my knowledge further.

It feels like a typical visit but my parents are missing and I still haven't quite processed that I'm not leaving any time soon... it's exciting but scary.

Some big differences between Israel and America (most of which I already knew, but have come into much sharper focus lately):

1. No planning ahead past a few days
2. Everything is family-oriented
3. The sun is HOT! (But I love it)
4. There's no end to how many mangoes or avocado a person can eat when they taste as good as these do, not to mention the plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pomegranates
5. Speaking of pomegranates, they're in season right in line with the Jewish New Year, when you traditionally eat pomegranate seeds to celebrate many more years of good health and joy (it's so exciting to be literally witnessing the Jewish calender "live")
6. There are many, many more words than I realized that are directly from English, EX: ambivalent is "ambivilanti" or politics is "politica" and it's really funny because it always takes me a second longer to register them than straight Hebrew.

We'll see what tomorrow will bring! I look forward to learning more about the work I will be doing.

A New Meaning For "Peacocking"

I was in the middle of a relaxing mid-day siesta (one of the many perks of kibbutz living) when my Saba pokes his head in the door. He said to come because we had a visitor in the garden:
See ya later!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Tale of the Wandering Star

The star Savta and Saba bought me.
I remember the day you bought me my magen david. It was hot and dusty and you were pressing my hand hard against your heart like you always did. We were laughing about something I had just said and your laugh lines were twinkling all over your face. We were always laughing about something. Outside, the hills leading up to Jerusalem were rushing by in a blur of green, white, and hazy blue. As we climbed higher and higher my ears kept popping and I had to yawn to clear the air out.You were still healthy then and looked much younger than your 70 years. I must not have been older than 15 or 16. Back then I thought I still had a lot of time with you, that you would be there at my college graduation and to see me get married, that you would meet your great-grandchildren one day. I didn't know to cherish the moment.

At the store we scrutinized over all of the choices, making the jeweler take out more and more pieces. We fingered the intricate silver carvings, studied chains, and held stones up to the light. Then suddenly one star in particular caught my eye. It was silver, no larger than the pad of a finger, and had a single white jewel in the center surrounded by a gold leaf ring. The silver was hammered to give it an antique look and the edges of the gold leaf were pinched into petals. We looked at each other and knew this was the one. Afterwards, we leaned against one another, shoulder to shoulder as we wound through the narrow streets with our dripping falafel.

I was wearing the star the day you died. It was hanging heavily from my neck, swinging silently as I hunched down on my new classroom's bright blue carpet sorting through the last of what felt like hundreds of books. It was already dark out, the Friday before the first day of school. Down the hall, I could hear my colleagues dragging boxes and feverishly running to the supply closet to finish setting up last-minute bulletin boards. I lifted my head to survey the room, studying each corner to make sure it met my high standard. I had just noticed that I had forgotten to prepare a bin of materials for one of the table groups when the phone rang. Minutes later my friend found me sobbing on the floor uncontrollably, grasping the star in a tight fist.

Three years later as I moved from my stuffy east side apartment to the new sunny one on 96th and Amsterdam, I remember carefully putting the star in an old, jeweled box that my Bubbie once owned. Many of the blue and red stones had long since fallen out and the carefully chiseled crevices had rusted over. But it was antique, had made it across the ocean from Ukraine almost a century ago, and it seemed like a fitting place for your star and the dainty silver flower bracelet you had given me. I had planned to use the box as a place for my most special pieces and to place it on my bureau when I settled in, but with the frenzy of packing, moving, and unpacking I must have forgotten and quickly the whirlwind routine of another school year took over. Every now and then I searched for the star but after a month I bitterly resigned myself to the fact that it had gotten lost in transit. Once, about a year ago, I had a sudden inspiration to search methodically through my old jewelry drawer in the room at my parent's house but it never turned up.

Then two weeks ago it was time to move again. Three months before I had packed up my last classroom, pushing supplies and materials I had made over the years at my friends that I just couldn't bear to throw away. Charts and bins and books scattered throughout the building and I was able to find something I had made in almost every room of the school when I visited one last time. Then came my apartment. I had stayed in denial until the last second, stubbornly refusing to dismantle the life I'd built so carefully over the past six years, holding on desperately to my paintings I had framed, clutching onto the flowers I had nurtured on my balcony, despite the fact that leaving was entirely my decision, not prompted by anything other than a deep, growing desire. After months of applications, essays, interviews, and an excruciating wait I finally had a plan for moving abroad. I was about to leave to live in Israel for a year. I was finally really doing what I'd talked about for so long. But you wouldn't be there to see it.

My friend Mary came over to push me into packing mode once and for all. Dancing to the same songs over and over again on the radio, the pile of cardboard leaning against my bookshelf slowly grew into a mountain of boxes against my wall. We were filling yet another box of tzatzkahs when Mary reached toward a shelf and held out a small banged up box, prying off the lid. "Is this anything important?" she asked. I was caught between a precariously leaning mirror and a large pile of student artwork, nearly slipping on a marble I must have confiscated during a lesson as I got up to see. My breath halted in my chest as I realized what it might be. "Oh my god, that's amazing! It's a sign!" I shrieked and immediately chained the star to my neck.

Typical family portrait
The next evening, tired and sticky with dust and sweat, I sat eating Thai with my Ima, brother Alon, and his fiance, Jess. We were picking at each others plates as I told them the story of my miraculous find. "After two years of thinking it was lost, the necklace was in Bubbie's box on my bookshelf the entire time!" I almost accidentally flung a chopstick in my excitement.  We took pictures in front of Billy's Bakery, greedily eating their amazing banana cake, making funny faces on the bench in front of the shop, me holding the necklace proudly to show that it was back where it belonged. Before going to sleep, I carefully placed the necklace on my bare nightstand, surrounded by towers of my life boxed up in brown.

Showing Jess the necklace!

Moving day was a flurry of activity. We packed up last-minute supplies, cleaned dust bunnies, and cleared out cupboards of food. I threw important things to bring home into a large mesh laundry basket, where they landed softly among the sheets and leftover t-shirts I had yet to wash. In less than two hours my entire New York City experience had been whisked away save for a lonely old broom and some pots of flowers. My Ima and I were at the storage facility in front of my unit, helping to squeeze furniture and boxes in like pieces of Tetris when I suddenly grabbed at my bare neck. We looked at each other, eyes wide. "Do you remember if I put it on?" I asked, panic seizing my chest. "No, I wonder if maybe it fell somewhere?" I frantically ruffled through my satchel, throwing chapstick and bobby-pins, subway cards, folded bills and loose change into my lap. "Did you find it?" My Ima half whispered. "No, I looked through my bag twice already. That was the only logical place I would have put it." I slumped against the wall, resigned. I decided that the necklace was fated to be lost and tried to forget about it for the second time.

On the drive home to my parents, where I would stay for my last week before flying to Israel, I thought about you constantly. How proud you would have been that I was "coming home" and how happy Saba will be that I will finally be near him. I thought of all the fun we would have had; the walks, the baking, and our laughter. I smiled over how you would have held me tight at the airport and held my hand in a strong fist against your chest the whole ride back to the kibbutz. You would have opened the window and together we would have taken in the faint scent of oranges and the fresh evening breeze.

During my week at home, I slowly sorted through my piles of clothes, books, jewelry, and shoes, hoping each time that maybe the necklace would turn up somewhere, maybe stuck to the velcro of a sandal or at the bottom of a stuffed plastic ziplock. Together, my Ima and I went through everything I had stored in the basement, clearing out relics from college and supplies from my old Bronx classrooms, reading the sweet messages my students wrote to me in their sprawling, loopy attempts at script. I went through the contents of all my bags, sifted through the "reject clothes" in my closet, and gave piles of things for Goodwill. We cooked together, went on errands, played silent and serious tournaments of sheshbesh over tea and chocolate, watched Lifetime movies, and laughed and laughed. Ima's laugh lines twinkled all over her face as they always had in yours as tears sprung into ours eyes from all the effort. I held Ima's hand close to my chest. We each could see you in the other one's eyes.

Me with my Savta
On the day of my flight, Daddy came down with a horrible cold. He had a soar throat and bad headache, but still insisted on doing the laundry and cooking dinner- after all, as our family saying goes, "Daddy makes the best spaghetti!" It was his own endearing way of saying goodbye; taking care of his daughter and his wife, doing his part. The pasta was boiling and I had just finished packing up the last of my things when Daddy ran up from the basement with an excited grin on his face. "Close your eyes, I have a surprise. It's not what you think!" Me and Ima looked at each other curiously. "Close them quick." I smiled and put out my hands. When I opened my eyes your necklace was piled in my palm, gleaming in the light. "I can't believe you found it!!" I yelled, ecstatic, hugging Daddy so tight he groaned (I always hug him that way). "I couldn't either," Daddy proudly exclaimed, "I was doing laundry, and suddenly at the bottom of your bag I saw a shiny chain. When I reached for it, I hoped it would be the necklace, and I was so, so happy that it was, chamuda, I was so amazed that I could give it back to you before your big trip. It's like it was meant to be." We all agreed that the necklace was a sign. I carefully polished the silver and placed your magen david back on my neck.

My Ima's favorite picture with her Ima
 On the plane, I read the letters that Ima, Daddy, and Aloni wrote to me, tears welling up in my eyes. I leaned against the window, looking out at the sparkling lights of New York City below, and read a part of what Ima had written to me over and over:

"Your Savta will watch over you from above and our prayers will keep you safe here below...yours always, Ima."

One of my favorite with mine
 The magen david lay against my heart as I flew over the ocean through the bright, star-filled sky.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Leaving Is Hard To Do...

Yes, it's true... I really do have this many shoes. New Yorkers have to walk a lot! Well, I guess one thing I'll hopefully learn from Israeli-style living is to simplify. That, or I'll end up coming home with even more shoes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ready, Set, Jump!

I know the picture is  a little blurry, but that’s a little how I feel, jumping into something I’ve thought about and planned for so long is suddenly finally here. Wow, it’s actually happening: I’m moving to Israel for a year!
Check back here to keep in touch, follow my trials and adventures, and post your own thoughts. I don’t yet know what to expect, but I expect it will be something amazing…