Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day

It's the Mets season opener today down in Florida, and I'm just excited about another sports season in the States beginning. Truth be told, it just brings us that much closer to the start of Football season, with pre-season games starting in August. I love Football! It's a shame that I'm not into Israeli sports as much as I'm into American sports, but it's a good thing. Poor Pidgeon would be completely ignored otherwise, and as it is I spend way too much time in front of my TV.

Speaking of TV, pop culture is kind of my thing. In fact, I actually make money off of pop culture in the States. Since I've moved to Israel, I've been trying to integrate myself in this society's pop culture. It hasn't been easy, but little by little I'm making headway.

Meet Tamar Ziskind, Miss Israel 2008. I stayed up to watch Miss Israel last week and it was the absolutely weirdest experience! I'll admit, I love September in New York when Miss America is on TV. I sit there with my own pad and pen and give marks depending on category. I'm really bad at the swimsuit competition but I am a harsh judge when it comes down to talent and the question/answer period.

Miss Israel has almost none of those typical pagent elements. It has the swimsuit portion, and the ladies parade around in evening gowns, but that's about it. They don't ask them any questions, they don't speak, they have no talent I can think of beyond being attractive.

So, that makes me wonder just what sort of criteria goes into being Miss Israel. As I ponder that question, I have to relate something interesting that happened during the telecast. They announced the Top 10 and, lo and behold, Ms. Ziskind was NOT one of the Top 10! Hmmm, curious, no?

Suddenly, the MC says to the audience that they made a mistake and that Ms. Ziskind is really one of the Top 10. She joins the other 10 women in the row. And then, the MC dismissed one of the previous women as she wasn't supposed to be in the Top 10.

Wow, if I was that girl, I would SUE the Miss Israel organization on the grounds of emotional distress. Thousands of people watched as she was added to the Top 10, only to be demoted as an error. Never, in my entire life of watching beauty pagents, have I seen such a thing. They should have waited until after the break and just made the quick switch instead of embarressing this poor girl. She, however, handled it like a complete Professional and just smiled and waved.

Good for her!

I was not surprised when Ms. Ziskind won the whole lot at the end of the competition. Something smells rotten in the City of Haifa people, and I'm waiting for the expose to break on Channel 22 news.

Well, that's all for now for today as I'm running late for a Dr.'s appointment. Wishing everyone a WONDERFUL day!

Yom Tov from Baka!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What About Israel's Children?

I was 11 years old when Joel Steinberg beat his 7-year old adopted daughter Lisa to death. It was news that made headlines for years, and Lisa Steinberg TZ"L became an icon for child abuse victims in the United States.  As I grew older, I followed the case and was horrified when Joel Steinberg was up for parole. How could child abusers - who murdered their children - ever be up for parole? 

Sometimes, I read the Jerusalem Post online edition and have been horrified by a series of articles written by Rebecca Anna Stoil. On March 14th, she wrote a piece about an American Charedi couple, recent Olim from America living in the Wolfson Towers, whose offenses of child abuse were deemed "worst child abuse case ever seen". Burns, whip marks, children being locked up and tortured by monsters. This was followed up a few days later by the arrest of a couple in Beit Shemesh whose offenses were just as bad. Allegations of incest stemmed from the abuse, which were allegedly reported to the Rabbis who told the older victims to "never discuss it with anyone." This made me sick.

Who is taking care of Israel's children? According to another article by Stoil, there are 6 case workers for 1000 cases. That is one of the most shocking numbers I've heard in years! But where is the public outrage? Where are the parents organizing marches to protect these children? I saw teachers here for WEEKS with signs and horns and banners protesting their work situation, where are they now? Do they not see what's in front of them in schools? If it doesn't affect their pocketbook, their home, their community, their lives, do they not care? Do we think that this only happens in the Charedi community? And, since we aren't all Charedi, it doesn't pertain to us? 

Are we once again just going to bury our heads in the sand and try to ignore something that happens in Jewish homes too? 

Why are we silent? 

I also watch Israel's version of SuperNanny every Tuesday night. Sometimes I struggle with the Hebrew, which Pidgeon helps explain, but I get the gist of things really well. Last night, during the beginning parts of the program, I watched the 30 year old Father slap his daughter on the hand numerous times. This isn't the first time parents have hit children on the show, and sometimes the parents defend the action by saying that "it's a light hit" and it's always done on places like "the hand, the tusch, etc."  I was recently informed, however, that Israel has a law against hitting children. Even the "light hit" is illegal and parents could be arrested if caught.

Let me say this clearly, to those who read my blog and do not know me, I am not a parent yet. P"G, I hope to be one! I empathize with people who are parents, who deal with frustrating children related issues ever single day. But I do not believe that hitting children is the answer. Ever. I believe there are other ways to discipline children. My sisters have children and with all their cuteness, they still manage to push the envelope daily. But both of them discipline without ever raising a hand. And, they have managed to be successful in using other means of teaching children what they can and cannot do, how they should and should not behave. 

I believe hitting from a place of anger is not just morally wrong but is Halachically wrong. I feel it's as big of a sin as eating a piece of pork. And, you can read this as a parent and say that I just don't know what I'm talking about, that I just don't understand because I haven't been there yet. You can say I have no right to judge, and that's your right. But just because I'm not a parent yet, doesn't mean I don't know what I'm talking about. 

At first, I felt this blog post would be my only way to respond to this terrible situation. But, I think I can do more, I just don't know what it is yet. I'm open to any ideas or suggestions. I'd be the first person standing outside of the Jerusalem District child investigation office with a sign and a bullhorn if I thought it would help. I'd be blazing up the phone lines calling every single Rabbi and preeminent Halachic authority in the Country to ask about the lack of response to this issue, if I thought it would make a difference. I would launch an aggressive PR campaign and contact every single media outlet in the Country if I thought that would help.

But who else will be there with me? One voice defending the thousands of Israel's child abuse victims is not enough. 

Will you join me in this protest? 

Monday, March 24, 2008

Purim MeShulash - Three Days of Drunken Debauchery

Nice title, no? Has nothing to do with me or Pidgeon for that matter, but is exactly how I would describe what happened in and around Jerusalem since Thursday. It's 3:00 a.m. on Monday morning and I'm suffering from eating too much Purim junk. I usually stay away from sugar, but tonight after the Seuda was over, I just went hog wild over the mischloach manot and now I'm paying for it. 

Silver lining - at least I have a blog to update between running to the bathroom. (was that an overshare?)

Purim started in Jerusalem on Thursday night, and for us it started Thursday when I spent the fast doing two things. 1) baking my last batch of chocolate cakes and then icing what I could (I ran out of powdered sugar mid way which left 8 cakes uniced) and 2) drawing and coloring in a gigantic Batman symbol for our car-turned-batmobile for Purim. By the time Megillah reading came around, I was slightly high from the black magic marker and ready to party.

We heard Megillah at Chovevei, which has a really nice and pretty quick reading, and then broke the fast with Pidgeon's parents. Leftover soba noodles and soup helped fill my stomach, and then we went home and made our quick transformation into Batman and Batwife. We had 2 Tel Aviv parties to go to and we were excited. We put the bat symbol on the car, drove up Emek Refaim (I drove because Batman's costume mask made visibility a bit difficult) and we stopped by Pidgeon's folks for a photo op. And then, we looked at the time and realized that the fast totally drained us and we drove home, took off our costumes, and went to bed. 

Friday, I wasn't surprised to get calls from my Tel Avivian friends wondering what happened to us. I explained the situation and felt bad that we really didn't make it out there, and promised to make more of an effort next time. Anyway, we heard Megillah Friday morning at Pidgeon's grandparents house and then we drove back to the apartment so I could cook for Shabbos. We spent a quiet Shabbos together, just relaxing and reading, and then it was off to do my marathon cooking for the Seuda today as soon as Shabbos ended.

It was a joy to shop Saturday night at the SuperSol in Talpiot; the place was practically empty. We got everything we needed except some more powdered sugar, so I gave up on trying to ice the rest of the cakes and focused on cooking for Seuda this afternoon. I don't know how it happened but suddenly I realized that we were going to be 14 adults and 3 children for the meal! Fortunately, I called it for 4:00 p.m. which left us plenty of time to deliver our Mishloach Manot and get ready for the Seuda.

I spent Saturday night in the kitchen, making quinoa with mixed vegetables, a macaroni and meat, a corn kugel, a pumpkin pie and a cauliflower kugel. I learnt my lesson on doing everything myself, so I asked my sister-in-law to make some chicken, my friend Merav to bring some pita's, my brother-in-law to bring some hummus, techina and matboucha, Pidgeon's cousin and friend to bring some drinks,  and Pidgeon's friend to bring us some dessert. It was the smartest thing I did, as it made preparation for the Seuda go much quicker. We were able to get to bed before 1:00 a.m. on Saturday night, which was great, because boy did we get an early morning wake up on Sunday morning!

Our next door neighbor's gardener showed up at 7:30 a.m. and started blowing leafs everywhere. Oh, and I haven't mentioned yet that it's freaking HOT in Israel these days as we're in the midst of a heat wave and we have no AC! Saturday  night was manageable as there was a really great breeze, but tonight is unbearable! No air is moving at all, and the air is so dry that our lips and skins are flaking off. I've been spritzing myself with water and moisturizing at the same time just to find some relief.

Back to the events of today. As you can see, our theme this year was Cocktails and Burberry. We found these adorable Burberry bags at the paper good store in Har Nof and we filled them modestly with a chocolate cake with mocha icing, 2 chocolate bars, and a recipe for either (alcoholic) Irish Coffee, Mint Chocolate Martini, or a Chocolate Cake shot. Yum! I spent Saturday night assembling all of our bags and then tried to go through the list and map out our route for delivering everything today.

The early wake up call didn't help us any and somehow, we managed to oversleep and didn't get on the road to deliver our Mishloach Manot until Noon! Unfortunately, we had to shelve delivering 2 of our parcels because of the time. We quickly raced back to the apartment at 2:30 and Pidgeon helped me get everything ready. He was amazing and, without him, I never would have gotten everything done in time. I quickly made 2 huge bags of string beans with sauteed onions, an angel hair pasta salad with purple cabbage and an Israeli salad. At 4:00 p.m. on the dot, all the food was warmed and out on the table ready for our guests to arrive. We also made a drinks and dessert table, where people helped themselves to some good alcohols! Our guests left very happy, and Pidgeon was my brother-in-law's designated driver so he too got home okay. 

I had a great time at the Seuda and, for the first time since we're married, Pidgeon played more of the host and I relaxed. It was great because I really got to enjoy myself and talk to everyone at the meal. I hope everyone had a good time too and I was thrilled when our clean up was extremely quick and easy! I will always defend serving on plastic with plastic utensils when we have more than 6 guests! 

Needless to say, we were left with lots of Purim goodies and I spent the evening doing what my Mom used to do when we were little. Separation of goodies. I created a chocolate bar bag, a candy bag, and 3 boxes of baked goods. We also got 5 little bottles of grape juice/alcohol. I laid everything out in front of me and then just went to town as I filled each bag. I like baked goods, so I sampled some hamentaschen (raspberry! yumm!) and some honey roasted caramel nuts, etc. I don't remember how or when I stopped, but I definitely should have stopped much earlier than I did, otherwise I would be sleeping soundly right about now. Anyway, after my pig out session, I was so tired from the past three days that I just crawled into bed and relaxed. Pidgeon joined me pretty quickly and we watched some TV and just talked about how thankful we were that the 3 day Purim celebration was over. B"H, next year it won't be a three day holiday!

Well, it's now 4:00 a.m. and I'm going to try to get some sleep. Tomorrow is another early day!

Erev (or, rather, Boker) Tov from Baka!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sushi Food Baby

I woke up this morning and I still have the sushi induced food baby from yesterday's amazing but overindulgent lunch at Sushi Bar Rechavia. We absolutely love that restaurant, we can't get enough of it, and since I ate 1/2 an egg and 1/2 a pepper for breakfast and lunch, I was starving when Pidgeon picked me up at the Tachanah after class. We decided to treat ourselves since I learned I'm getting some money back from the University, and sushi is our ultimate gift! It was so worth the bloated belly and the swollen soy sauce cheeks. We can't wait until next week when they open up their second location in the old Faza restaurant (Katamon). I bet it will be difficult to get a table there too, but man it's sure going to be worth the wait! 

Yesterday at school was comical. I should start with Monday night, when I woke up every 2 hours to make sure I didn't miss my alarm. I have 3 classes left in this semester and I absolutely cannot miss anyone of them! Unfortunately, we're learning Walt Whitman in class and I am not a fan of his. I thought Songs of Myself was pretentious, although I enjoyed Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. Next week is Benjamin Franklin and I'm sure that's going to be exciting reading. Well, as I've written before, I'm still trying to get my Philosophy final from last year scheduled. It's a complete nightmare.

Another friend of mine is in the same boat and we managed to track down Professor Harvey who told us he would be happy to give us the test next week. He said he would bring in the exam on March 25th and so we thought we were good to go. Wrong. We have to deal with the Mador Bechinot office, which is the department that schedules exams. When they looked into my details on the computer, it showed that I only have permission to take the exam at the end of the year with this year's students. The problem is because of the SECOND strike, that exam won't be until after July 31st and we're planning on being out of the Country in August. So, once again, I have a situation that needs to be handled. 

Well, after Pidgeon called around to many offices, I was sent once again to Luna in the Toar Sheni office in the Tower. She is not a pleasant woman to say the least, and in Hebrew she explained that just because we worked out a test date with our Professor, doesn't mean they have to give us a special test. Now, both my friend and I will be out of the Country this summer, so we have no choice but to schedule the exam now. So, Luna told us that we need to get 1) letter from the Professor stating that he is aware of the situation and would be willing to give us our own exam and 2) letter from the English department attesting to the fact that, with the completion of this final, we have no other tests that need to take place to finish our Masters. Also, that this year is the conclusion of our academic requirements before submitting our thesis.

It doesn't end there folks. Once we have those letters written and signed, then we have to go back to Luna and she will assess the situation and write us another letter. AFTER Luna gives us that letter, then we have to take it to Mador Bechinot to have them schedule the exam. And, apparently, they can do it at their own choosing. 

Oh, and did I mention that I have to pay 120 shekel for the right to take this final at another date? Yeah, the students strike last year and the Professors strike this year, and I have to pay because they put me out. I have half a mind to insist that I not pay for something that was completely out of my control, we'll see just how much fight I have left in me when this is all over and done with.

What annoyed me the most about this process is that, once again, the English Creative Writing program administrators continue to pass the buck. Once we realized that this was getting out of hand - and that our Hebrew just isn't up to par to deal with these departments who insist they do not speak a word of English - we went to find Judy. She is our program's coordinator and, it was our understanding, the go-to person when we truly need help. Last year, she was actually quite helpful with some issues I was dealing with regarding my Teudat Zehut number and name change. We went looking for her in the English department building and literally ran right into her on the steps. She listened to our problem and then told us to talk to the secretaries at the English department office.


I was and still am extremely disappointed and angered that she totally blew us off about this issue. When I described what we are going through to my Father last night, he asked where my program's student advocate was? I told him, as far as I could tell, she was out to lunch. At least, that was how she treated us when we spoke to her yesterday.

Way to pass the buck Judy! 

Moving on. 

Well, the back and forth between people and departments left me feeling a bit frustrated and that only go worse when I had to wait 45 minutes for the 400 bus back to Jerusalem! The bus, of course, was packed and I managed to snag a seat in the back and zoned out to my iPod for the entire ride. Pidgeon was waiting for me when I got off the bus and boy was I thrilled to see him! We went out for sushi and the funniest thing happened to me.

I actually got heckled by a Charedi 8 year old boy. I kid you not.

We were walking down towards Azza Street where Sushi Bar Rechavia is located and the traffic was backed up because schools were out and people were starting to head home from their long days. Anyway, I have been wearing a shmata on my head because I'm trying out the whole married women covering their hair Halacha but I also wear pants (two separate Halachot people, two separate Halachot). Anyway, Pidgeon and I were holding hands and walking down the block, when the kid yells out the window to me that I should go home and put on a skirt because I'm a religious married woman who covers her hair and shouldn't be wearing pants!

I got such a great chuckle out of it, we were laughing for a while! I was tempted to yell back that dinosaurs were real but held my tongue. No reason to instigate a Charedi 8 year old. It was the highlight of my day though, the highlight of my day.

We got back to the apartment and the massive amounts of sushi we ate for lunch put me into that food induced stupor where all you want to do is crawl into bed and watch TV. I did manage to do a load of laundry though, which was good since Pidgeon was running out of clean clothing. 

And, as we usually try to do on Tuesday night, thought we'd get an early night's sleep. Were we wrong. I called my sister to check in around 11:30 p.m. and she told me that the kids wanted to do a webcam call with us. Well, I was not going to give that up and THEN she told me that my older sister set up her webcam as well. So, the three parties in Israel, Cleveland and Silver Spring, MD all tried to tripple webcam conference at the same time. But, Skype doesn't let you do a three-way conference webcam call - only a three-way conference call. That was good to know in and of itself, so next time we need to do some sort of "family phone meeting", it will be possible.

Well, we decided to do separate calls with each house and, since Pidgeon and I needed to get to bed sooner rather than later, we go to be first. We called my sister in Cleveland and my brother-in-law had both kids on his lap. We had such fun talking to them! They are B"H absolutely adorable children! After 20 minutes of chatting and catching up, we said our goodbyes and my niece leaned in and tried to hug me through the computer. She hugged the computer screen people - how adorable is that!!!!!! It made my heart melt just a bit inside.

Then, we called my older sister in Silver Spring, and I almost started crying! We haven't seen each other since our Sheva Brachot this August! That's just way too long to go without seeing my sister! My other niece and nephew aren't as excited about seeing us through the computer, although my 7 year old nephew did come to tell us about his soccer game this past Sunday. My sister managed to coax my niece out of her bedroom, but she ran in the background and away from the camera - screamed that she didn't want to talk to us because she was watching TV - and then ran back to her room. We saw her running, and it was adorable, so we didn't feel bad. It was wonderful just being able to talk to my sister though, and to see her while we were talking, that I'm hoping we can do it again either today or on Purim so we can see everyone in costume!

I love modern technology. The webcam just makes me so happy! It makes me feel less lonely, and I miss everyone a little bit less, when we can see them so often online! I can't wait to set up the webcam for my parents next! That would be really, really perfect!

Well, I think I'm going to try to get some writing done this morning while Pidgeon is off at school! 

Yom Tov from Baka!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Shattered Glass

I should be writing a press release for work right now, but I'm too tired from the marathon of Wii bowling that took place in our living room yesterday. I figured I would just update the blog since its been a while. Last week was pretty uneventful. I spent Wednesday baking these beautiful chocolate cakes for Mishloach Manot. I am using the smallest loaf pans I can find and, since we're trying to save on some money, I thought I could eek out 8 loafs per chocolate cake batter. I now have 3 cakes that are too stingy to give to anyone; Pidgeon isn't complaining. He ate an entire tin after they sufficiently cooled down. 

Thursday is a blur of activities which included an early morning eye exam out in Modiin and then afternoon cleaning before we hit the gym. I passed out early Thursday night and we got a welcomed early morning phone call from Pidgeon's brother who is in this week from London. Since we were eating at the shul dinner on Friday night, I had a few quick items to cook for Shabbos lunch. 

Friday night, we joined Pidgeon's family at their shul's dinner in Jerusalem. I am not saying the name of the shul because anyone who is reading this, who was there, will know immediately who I am. We were the youngest table in the place and, while I thought the dinner was very night as a gathering, we did feel a bit out of place. The interesting part of the night was when the waiters were putting out the main meal. The glass plate came with a slab of mystery meat (it was nasty) and a roasted pargit (the chicken thigh off the bone), a spoonful of tzimmis, a spoonful of broccoli and a wedge of potato kugel. My plate was pretty stingy and I was absolutely starving as I always forget to eat on Fridays when I'm cooking. I passed on the gfilta fish first course and they made me up a nice salad plate with no dressing, and I gave Pidgeon all of the noodles from my soup so all I had left was a bit of broth, so you can imagine how unhappy I was with no meat on my plate. Well, after I tasted a bite of the mystery beef, I stopped complaining. Meanwhile, we were on the opposite side of the table from Pidgeon's brother, so we decided to delay digging into our plates of food and went around the table to catch up with him. My sister-in-law was helping my 2 1/2 year old niece with her plate, when suddenly the entire plate just shattered. It literally splintered into a million pieces - all still on the table - and right underneath their hands. My niece started to reach for a piece of food when we grabbed her hands and my sister-in-law jumped out. She started to cry (my sister-in-law, not my niece) and we calmed her down and the waitstaff came and quickly cleaned everything up and gave them a new plate. I thought it was ironic, in a room where the average age was 75, the 2 1/2 year old's plate would burst. B"H, no one was hurt. I ate the icing off of Pidgeon's dessert chocolate cake and we walked home a few hours later. The dinner was nice but exhausting, and I had an early morning wake up call the next day so I was happy to get some much needed sleep.

Shabbos was uneventful. We went to shul so I could hear Zachor, and then we came home, ate lunch and slept the rest of Shabbos away. We had a huge list of Purim errands to run though, so we spent the night at the extremely crowded Malcha Mall. Next time there's a Beitar game though, I'm not going anywhere near that place. The mall was a complete zoo! I am very anti-crowds, so I was not happy to be in such a claustrophobic place. Fortunately, we were able to do our errands quickly. We also decided to go see the 10:00 p.m. showing of The Kite Runner, which wasn't as disturbing as the book. I managed to pick up a short red head wig, thinking I would wear it with my Purim costume, and then vetoing it once I tried it on with the outfit. We also picked up some cute presents for Pesach for the kids, and I still need to get something else for my nephew. I hope we don't forget to bring him back something! 

The movie let out late and the entire mall was closed. We walked practically in the dark towards our car and I was not pleased with the eeriness of it all. I was very happy once we got home. Yesterday, we slept in and then spent the entire day with Pidgeon's 9 year old niece. Since she's also in from London, we wanted to make sure she had a great time, and we designed this whole day in her honor. First, we introduced her to our new Wii ( a great babysitter where the children get exercise, so it's better than TV!) and after a few quick games, we took her to the candy store in Talpiot. We handed her two bags and told her she could fill them up for Mishloach Manot (one for her, and one for her family). Well, now I understand the kid in a candy store saying, as she filled her bag to the brim with goodies! She also wanted an ice cream, so we gave her one, and I wasn't surprised when she complained about a stomach ache a few hours later. After dropping 75 shekel on their Mishloach Manot alone, we stopped into this great cookware store in Talpiot, drove back home, an went out for lunch on Emek. We love Marvad so we went there, and my niece picked at her plate while Pidgeon and I devoured our food. We stopped off to get the new Cinderella 2 DVD, a scoop of parve ice cream, and then came back. At that point, I was ready for a nap but his niece was raring to go. She watched the DVD and then insisted on playing against me Wii bowling. I am aching so much today, it's comical. I finally managed to beg her to watching some TV and stop with the Wii bowling, which she did until her Father came to pick her up. It's exhausting watching a 9 year old all day! I wonder how people do it with no activity planned!

Today, because of the Wii bowling extravaganza, I tried to sleep on. Somehow, Pidgeon's alarms kept ringing at 2 minute intervals - for an entire hour - that I begrudgingly got out of bed. We got dressed and davened and then went to the gym. I'm glad we went as my workout was difficult but much needed. We got back a few minutes ago and, after some brunch and a hot shower, I'm trying desperately to keep my eyes open. I can't believe it's already 3:15 p.m., where has to day gone! Fortunately, tomorrow is school and that means a very early morning wake up call for me. Hopefully, I'll get out of bed in time. There's 4 weeks of classes to go until Pesach and I can't wait!

New York City - here we come!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

You Pay Now!

Yesterday was take your husband to school day and so Pidgeon woke up bright and early, got dressed, packing a snack and his sketch pad, and we hit the road. We were really lucky that the traffic towards Bar Ilan from Jerusalem wasn't that bad, and we made it just in time for class! We spent the entire day focused on Emerson's Self-Reliance and the conversation about individualism and conformity was pretty interesting. Class went by pretty fast and Pidgeon really liked the topic. Plus, he got in some solid sketch time, which worked well for both of us.

After class, we went over to Schar Limmud to find out where the check was. To backtrack a bit, I am a Minhal Hastudentim student, which means that they pay for my tuition. Last year, by the time I finished up with Minhal Hastudentim, I was owed the full tuition I paid back since the agency now covered me. As soon as I put in my paperwork, I got a check a couple weeks later. This year, with the strike and everything, I paid the initial bill and then worked everything out with Minhal Hastudentim. I had to show them my transcript but one Professor, who taught two of my classes, hadn't gotten around to giving me a grade until November. Nevertheless, about 6 weeks ago, I went to Schar Limmud with the paperwork and we have been checking the mailbox ever since. 

We waited patiently in line and then went inside to meet with the kindest worker Bar Ilan has on staff. I told him that Pidgeon was my Hebrew and we started out meeting. That's when it got all comical. He told me there was a problem with my paperwork. He said that, Minhal Hastudentim last year covered me 111% out of 200% that they can cover for a second degree. He said that the percentage is determined based on hours on campus. Now, since I am only taking 2 courses this year, I am only up to 89% and Minhal Hastudentim were only covering me for 50% and so I actually owe them more money. I was very confused and first started on the percentage issue. He said that 4% is from the Jewish studies requirement. I told him that I was exempt from the second Jewish studies requirement because of my seminary year 12 years ago. He them said that while I am academically not required to take the second Jewish studies course, I still am financially required to. So I was surprised that they would going to charge me to pay for credits on a course that I was told I didn't have to take. That, to me, seemed really lousy for a University to do. Make me pay for not having taken the course? I might as well take the course then if I have to pay for it. It seemed a bit ridiculous to have me pay for something they told me I didn't have to take. So then the nice man told us we had to go to Talam on campus and ask them if I am financially required to pay for something I was academically not required to do. But, I countered, and said that I am 100% covered by Minhal Hastudentim, so should that we covered by them regardless? He told me that the computer showed that I was only covered 50% but he would double check. He walked back with a big folder with the paperwork and took 5 minutes to find my name. And, voila, there it was in black and white. I was covered by them this year 100%. OK great, we said, when can we expect our check. Well, the nice man met with a few of his superiors in the office and came back all smiles and said that of course he has to pay us our money, etc. I was happy that Pidgeon was there to translate because the whole situation was confusing and really made no sense. He checked his computer, frowned, and then told me that there was another small problem. They hadn't charged me for the Shmirah for the year. Basically, each Bar Ilan student has to pay 240 shekel (add 4 shekel to that for bank processing fees) a year for campus security. So, Pidgeon asked if I paid last year, and the man said that I had. I am more than happy to pay the security fee, especially since I think it's a necessary service, so we asked him what we do next. He printed out a 240 shekel bill, told me that I had to pay it by Friday, and then said that the check would be in the mail around March 20th. Believe me, we will be checking, as we can really use that cash back. Now, I decided not to be a pain about this, but if Minhal Hastudentim are covering me 100% this year, and I'm only in school for 89% of the 100%, what happens to the remaining 11%? I'm sure that's more than 240 shekels, couldn't they have deducted that fee from the money the Minhal Hastudentim were giving them? Again, they are giving the school 100% of the money, even though I'm only using 89% of it. When it comes to security though, I decided to just pay it. But, I think someone in the Bar Ilan administration is pocketing my 11%. I hope they buy themselves something pretty with my money.

Side point, but had we not gone and asked about the money status, we never would have known there was a problem. I hate that they do that, and I honestly believe the University does it on purpose. When it comes to money, they will not run to return a cent even if it's not legally there's. Had I not been hyper-vigilant about this, I never would have know about the problem and we would still be waiting for the check that was supposed to be "in the mail" weeks ago! I lost a lot of respect for the Bar Ilan administration yesterday and didn't ask him why no one bothered to tell me about the issue in the first place because, as I've experience dealing with money issues in Israel before,  I know I wouldn't have gotten a satisfactory answer. 

To celebrate sorting out this issue, we decided to grab some lunch at the Aroma off campus. We sat in the outdoor area and had tuna salads and tuna sandwiches and enjoyed the nice Spring like weather. In a few weeks, it will be just so swealtering that I doubt I'll be able to sit outside like that. I'm not looking forward to the really hot weather, although it will be nice to shlep less stuff during the day. After lunch, we decided not to do our Tel Aviv errands, and came back to Jerusalem.

I was supposed to start my Mishloach Manot baking yesterday but, since I woke up at 6:00 a.m., was too wiped to start. Instead, we spent the rest of the afternoon watching some TV, and then when Pidgeon went for a haircut, I made dinner. We had a really nice, relaxing, dinner and then I decided to try to fix my shaytels before Shabbos. With it being Parshat Zachor this weekend, I have not choice but have to get myself to shul on Shabbos day. I like to have options to wear a wig, in case I don't want to wear a hat, so I needed to make sure they were both in decent condition. It was not easy wielding a hot iron and working on my wigs, but it was worth it and they both look really great. I was pleased that I saved a lot of money! It would have cost me 140 shekel each to have someone in Har Nof wash and blow dry my wigs, this way I was able to do it at home for free!

We went to bed fairly early and I was up at 9:00 to call the Dr. I've been dealing with blood test after blood test for the past few months regarding a potential blood clotting issue. I found Dr. Varon, who is apparently "the best" hematologist in Jerusalem, and have been waiting for my test results so I can follow up with him. The results take a month to get and when we finally picked them up on the 9th, I immediately called to speak with him. He told us to fax over the results and then asked me to call him this morning to discuss. At 9:00 am on the dot, I called him and he basically told me that These results cannot be discussed over the telephone, you must come in and meet with me. Not something I wanted to hear, and so I've basically been in a panic all morning. He told us to call him after 3:00 p.m. so he could let us know if he can squeeze us into his schedule. 

Well, I certainly hope he can see us today because now I'm pretty frantic. What could this mean? 

Anyway, I'm going to go and bake a batch of chocolate cakes for Purim now and hope that will easy the tension a bit.  If not, I'm sure the gym later today will make me feel better. 

Yom Tov from Baka!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Falling Apart

I finally fell apart tonight. It's basically the way I function when dealing with something upsetting - I repress for a bit- and then I just finally take it all in. On Thursday night, after we spent a few hours watching the news about the Piguah, I didn't really let the news soak in. I decided instead to stay focused on our weekend company, so I just focused. 

On Friday, as the funerals were taking place at Mercaz HaRav and throughout the Country, I peeled potatoes, put up the Chulent, grilled the chicken, make coleslaw, made the beds, sauteed the onions and fennel and beef, cut the fruit, made the salads and put out the candles for our guests. I kept busy the entire day until our guests arrived and then I spent Shabbos just trying not to think about what's going on in the world. I wouldn't let our guests help, and so I waited on them hand and foot, and served and cleared, washed dishes and reset the table Friday night. I helped with the baby and then, this afternoon when everyone was exhausted from an early day, I sent them all to bed and I cleaned up. I washed all the dishes and silverware, the numerous serving bowls and utensils, I put the plates away, I folded and shook out the tablecloth, I dried the silverware so there were no water spots, I put away the food. I did all this almost on auto-pilot, without a thought in my mind. After the Shabbos nap, I took a long walk with our guests and we enjoyed the break in hot weather. The breeze was finally starting to blow and we just walked around and tried to enjoy Shabbos coming to a close. Our guests stayed for a while after Shabbos so they could experience our new Wii, and then I helped bathe the baby and get them out of the house. 

As soon as they were gone, I felt myself completely unravel. Pidgeon pitched in to help me finish cleaning up, and faced with nothing else that really needed to be done, I finally let the thoughts and emotions I've been surpressing since Thursday to soak in. I thought I had done a good job not looking at the newspaper pictures from the Yeshiva,  but when you go online it's a completely different story. So, I went into the refridgerator, and I first started to just eat some leftover salads. But, the food just help numb the feelings, so I didn't want to stop after the salads. I put 2 pieces of corn kugel and 2 spoonfuls of Chulent in a bowl and nuked it. That just numbed the emotions further. And then, while Pidgeon watching a movie in the other room, I took out my Aunt's apple pie and a fork, and just started working my way around the half moon circle of pastry that was still left. I finally put the fork down after eating about a 1/3 of the pie, and I picked through the leftover pieces of whole wheat Challah we got from Pe'er. Finally, I was numb once again, and able to read through the news reports and look through the pictures from the funeral.

I have to admit, when we were watching the news on Thursday night, my first thought was that we were dealing with a "disgruntled" Yeshiva student. I immediately had flashes to Columbine. But not even second went by  before Pidgeon remarked that it was an act of terrorist and that a second terrorist could have been on the loose. I was so shocked at myself and I realized that I must adjust my thinking if I want to exist in this Country. I have to realize the realities of living in Israel, the when I hear about a situation, it's almost always going to be terrorism. That reality is really, really lousy. What kind of situation will I P"G be bringing children into? How do you raise children in this type of environment, when you cannot guarantee their safety? It's something I just can't think about.

Well, I decided not to beat myself up about the food binge. It's something I'm not proud of, and I probably would have been better off just talking about it with Pidgeon, but I just can't really verbalize how I'm feeling these past two days. So, I decided that tomorrow morning, we'll P"G wake up and face the new day together. I hope the sun is shining too.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Yeshiva Student - Survivor Report

A Yeshiva student is on TV right now and telling how he was in the Bais Medrish on top of the Library when he heard the shots. He grabbed his rifle and climbed onto the roof of the Bais Medrish and looked down into the library, where he saw the gunman. He waited until he could get a better shot at the gunman, but he disappeared.

The gunman was using a Kalishnikov automatic rifle. The Yeshiva student blamed Peres and Olmert for providing these guns to the terrorists.

He said "Kol Hakovod" for providing terrorists with the weapons they just used to murder innocent Yeshiva students learning. 

The library was filled with Hesder students, Yeshiva students from other Yeshivot and other frum students learning and studying.

More to come

Attack - Live Blog

We got  home a few minutes ago from a lovely evening at the gym and Pidgeon turned on the TV to see the latest news. Two terrorists entered Mercaz HaRav, a Yeshiva at the entrance to the City of Jerusalem, and we watch as they tally up the dead. Right now, there are at least 8 fatalities in and around the Yeshiva. Some students managed to make their way to the Miklat (sealed room) to avoid the terrorists, others were not as lucky. There are more than 36 injured at this point and the ambulances are idling as they wait for what the Journalists are reporting will be more fatalities and not injuries. 

Apparently, they managed to kill one of the terrorists but reports are sketchy as to what's the status with the second terrorist. It seems to me that the second terrorist is at large in the Jerusalem area. 

Parents are lining up around the Yeshiva in droves, some we see are anxiously trying to get their child on the cell phone. The situation right now is that we don't know what the age group of the fatalities are as there are two Yeshivot back to back. There is a Yeshiva for Hezder students - those who learn and do army - and then there is the High School. We're talking about boys ranging in age from 13 - 35. 

We are appalled and upset and angry by the situation. We have been discussing how terrible it is that it's Rosh Chodesh Adar Bet and there will be at least 8 sets of parents sitting Shiva when they should be the most joyous this year. 

The police and Army are still trying to clear each and every room of the Yeshiva. They don't know what is worse - finding the second terrorist - or discovering more bodies. 

We watch and wait, and daven for those who lost their lives and the families who love them.

Will update more as more news becomes available. Obviously, I'm glues to the TV set and cooking for Shabbos has been completely abandoned.

This is the scariest thing I've encountered since moving to Israel and we fear that this is g-d forbid, just the beginning. 

Its What's For Dinner

We are entertaining this Shabbos and as my chicken's roast, I decided to take a quick break. Yesterday, Pidgeon and I went food shopping so I can cook for the weekend. Well, I have no idea how this happened, but we spent over 1,000 shekel! I was shocked when I saw the check out screen and was just so surprised that we overspent. I didn't think switching my Aloe Vera brand of toilet paper for the SuperSol brand would have made a difference, but apparently I was really wrong.

So, when we got back to our apartment, I looked through my menu and realized the reason the bill was so high. We bought a ridiculous amount of meat and poultry. I'm making a grilled steak salad, so we picked up 2 steaks (frozen). I'm making a macaroni and meat for Shabbos lunch so I had to buy a kilo of ground beef (also frozen) and then I'm making sweet and sour meatballs for Friday night so I had to buy 2 addition kilos of ground beef. Add to that chicken and shnitzel to feed 6 adults and 3 children, and some of the other ingredients needed for the weekend, and you've got a heavy bill. I have no idea how we're going to pay for all this food, but I really believe that when it comes to spending on food for Shabbos, G-d somehow makes sure we have enough to spend. At least, that's what I'm hoping.

Pidgeon is in the middle of his last exam and I'm halfway through my food cooking. I already made the cauliflower and corn kugels, the asian 5-spice chicken and the cinnamon chicken is in the oven, and I'm just waiting a bit more for my beef to defrost so I can get started on both the macaroni and meat and the meatballs. Our cleaning lady is on her way too, so I'm hoping to finish up in the kitchen so she can get in there and do a thorough cleaning. I really want to go to the gym with Pidgeon tonight, so I'm hoping to get enough done today so I don't have to spend the entire day tomorrow in the kitchen. 

Meanwhile, we're gearing up for the Sharaf/Heatwave that's expected to his this Country over the weekend. The news is reporting temperatures on Shabbos to be around 25C, which is approximately really freaking hot for March in Farenheit. And, of course, we have no air conditioning because it's part of the heating unit that has been busted for 7 weeks now. Well, we called our weekend company and gave them an out if they didn't want to come for the weekend. But, since they don't have AC in their apartment all year round, were more than happy to still come for Shabbos. That was nice to hear, how I'm going to deal with the heat will be a completely different story :)

I've been focusing on Pesach and I keep sending my Mom lists of food and provision she needs to stock up on before we come back to the States. The more I think about it, the more excited I am about the trip! I can't wait to see my family and friends, and I'm really looking forward to just being back in my parents house. 

Meanwhile, we have a wonderful cleaning woman who does such an incredible job. She is the most thorough cleaner I've ever had, and I've gone through 3 cleaning people since I moved to Israel. But, here is the problem, she wears my slip on New Balance sneakers when she cleans. When she first asked me if she could wear them, I said yes, because I was surprised by the request and because I thought she was wearing socks. But, then I noticed the other day that she takes off her socks. Which basically means that she sweats inside my sneakers and it really drives me crazy. At this point, I want to just give her the sneakers because I don't plan on wearing them every again. I think I'm going to buy myself another pair when I'm in the States and will give her these sneakers as a gift. This way, I don't have to share. I should have just said no to begin with but I have problems saying no to people. I need to work on that.

Well, I'm off to make the sweet and sour meatballs. 

Yom Tov from Jerusalem!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Whee and Wii

It is so nice to be home, I haven't been this excited in a long time! We spent the past 12 days house sitting for Pidgeon's parents, who were on a family ski trip in Europe. It was nice house sitting, I got to take the dog out for a walk a lot and we raided their pantry supplies, but there's just something about being in our own apartment. I missed my bed, my TV, my VOIP phone and most of all, my kitchen.  I ended up getting hit with a bout of insomnia last night - I blame it on the pepper spray incident - and when my alarm rang 30 minutes after I finally passed out there was just no way I was rallying awake. So, I switched the alarm off and turned around and went back to sleep. A few hours later, I woke up and realized I missed class, and Pidgeon spent 45 minutes making me feel a lot better about it.

We packed up our room, tidied up in the bathroom and then went downstairs to say hello to his parents and daven. Before Pidgeon could put on his Tefillim, we were given presents from abroad. I got a really nice burgandy scarf (although, with this incredible springlike weather I doubt I'll be using it anytime soon!) and Pidgeon got a really nice dress shirt and a pair of swim shorts. And then, the gave us the new Nintendo Wii and we were clueless as to what it even was! I pride myself on being "in the know" but I have no idea about Nintendo. Truth be told, I just am not a big gaming person. Pidgeon felt the same way, but we both thanked them profusely for the extremely generous and kind gift, and then brought it home with us this afternoon. 

By the time we got back to our apartment, it was past 2:00 p.m. and we still hadn't eaten breakfast! So, we decided to enjoy the warm weather and treat ourselves to an affordable lunch at New Deli on Emek. I had the New Deli salad with Pastrami and Corn Beef and a side of Hot Dog (no bun) while Pidgeon feasted on my hot dog bun and a grilled chicken sandwich. It was just what the Dr. ordered and we really enjoyed a nice, relaxing lunch. We then trekked back to Derech Beit Lechem to run some errands, stopped off at the post office to pick up Pidgeon's bi-weekly supply of comic books, and came back home to settle down.

After unpacking and putting up a much needed load of laundry, we decided to see what this whole Wii thing is all about. The instructions were pretty simple and we set everything up, until we got to the part where we have to unplug the TV from the cable box in order to plug into the Wii. Well, since we are such TV junkies, the thought of unplugging the cable box from the TV just didn't appeal to us. So, we hooked everything else up, set the Wii next to the TV, and just put on the TV and watched a Tivoed episode of CSI: New York. It was a perfect afternoon!

I've been working on a story for my thesis which is part of the reason why I didn't sleep last night. This is the evolution of a story I had written for class last year, but after getting feedback that it was reminiscent of American Pie, I just knew something had to be done! When Pidgeon woke up this morning, I told him the new premise and he agreed that it was much better than the old one. I wrote about a page of the new story this evening and I'm hoping to get the bulk written tomorrow. 

We have a huge food shopping to do tomorrow and I sat down this afternoon to write my list. I decided the menu for Shabbos is as follows:

Friday Night
First course: grilled steak salad and homemade techina
Main course: sweet and sour meatballs, white rice, asian 5 spice chicken, carmelized onion and fennel stir fry, cauliflower kugel
Dessert course: chocolate cake (courtesy of our guests) and fruit

First course: Israeli salad, purple cabbage salad, homemade coleslaw, techina, olives and pickles
Second course: chulent soup
Main course: corn kugel, grilled and fried schnitzel, macaroni and meat, leftover cauliflower kugel
Dessert: apple pie and fruit

I'm hoping to start cooking sometime on Thursday morning and after our cleaning lady leaves on Thursday night. Friday, I'd like to take it a bit easy, and hope to spend most of the time just getting the apartment ready for our sleep over guests. I'm hoping we won't need the heaters as the apartment should be full of kids! I'm really looking forward to that and have my Hebrew version of Eric Carlysle's Caterpillar book all ready to go!

Well, I'm off to start on dinner before Pidgeon has to run an errand. 

Erev Tov from Baka!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Fundamentally Stupid

This headline describes what I did to myself today and no, I'm not being self deprecating. I Pepper Sprayed myself this morning. (Cousin Neil, stop laughing, I can hear you 6,000 miles away!) It was, obviously, a complete accident but I still somehow managed to do it. Here's the order of events:

I woke up at 9:30 a.m. and did some writing in bed until 10:20 a.m. I got out of bed, got dressed, davened and ate breakfast until 11:15 a..m. At 11:20, Pidgeon returned from the office and we went upstairs to get ready to go back to our apartment. I went to pack up my bag and, since I have a hand bag and a school bag, realized that I had some items in my school bag that needed to come with me. I took my school bag out of the closet and rooted around for my keys. I found the keys and then my hand closed around my Pepper Spray (which, Pidgeon bought for me after a friend of mine got mugged two blocks away from our apartment in Baka). I figured, why not, and pulled the pepper spray out of the bag and dropped it into my purse. 

At 11:30 a.m. I decided to put my contact lenses in, without washing my hands. Using the same hand that I used to pull the pepper spray out of my bag, I put in both contacts. Almost immediately, my eyes began to burn and water. I tried to ignore it but, as the seconds ticked by, it just got worse and worse until I couldn't see anything! I went to the bathroom and took out the lenses, put in eye drops, and watched as my eyes kept tearing. It was hard to see through the blurred vision. The redness turned my green eyes blue (I kid you not) and I could barely keep the lids open. Pidgeon decided I should call the eye Dr. ASAP, and I just assumed I was having an allergic reaction to the season. 

We left the house and thankfully Pidgeon drove us to Emek Refaim, where he stopped off to look for a school book for me. He went to pick up some coffees at Aroma while I got my eye Dr.'s office on the phone. I told her I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something and that I needed the Dr. to call me back ASAP. When we hung up, I opened my purse looking for a tissue to blot my eyes, when I noticed my pepper spray. Open. Moist. 

Crap. It was then that I realized that I had gotten the pepper spray on my fingers and then, without washing my hands, accidentally transfered it to the contact lenses that I inserted into my eyes.

So fundamentally stupid! Lesson learned. ALWAYS wash hands before putting in contact lenses! What's ironic is that I'm usually so anal about washing my hands. I walk around with bottles of Purelle everywhere and I'm usually so careful. A harsh lesson in laziness was learnt today, and I really hope it never happens again.

Moving on. My Mother called this morning to alert me to this article in New York Times about proving you're a Jew? It brought back some very miserable memories when I went through the same thing with the Jerusalem Rabbinate. A copy of my parents Ketubah and a letter from my American Orthodox Jewish Rabbi saying that both myself and my Mother are Jewish were not enough. I mean, how could they rely on my American letter when they never heard of my American Orthodox Jewish Rabbi (which is ridiculous, since he's actually in the news a lot and is well known). It wasn't until we got to Beit Din, and I stood there and listed all of the Yeshivot I attended did they finally believe me. B"H I went to Michlalah, as saying the name of Rabbi Cooperman was exactly what I  needed to do to prove I'm a Jew. I was so close to telling them I was a descendent of the Rabbi of Munkatz and listing all the other great Chassidim I'm related to, but fortunately I was spared that extra step. I feel for all the Anglos going through this process and my only advice is to take a deep breath and try to get through it. Once they approve you, it's just another notch in the Israeli bureacratic belt that has to be bored until you can move on.

Since I'm having eye issues, we're spending the day close to home so I can relax. Last night, we hit the gym and had a great workout. I did mostly legs and Pidgeon had to hoist me out of the rowing machine since my leg muscles turned to jello. Oh yeah, and I was on the machine for only 10 minutes. I'm am so out of shape, it's not normal. 

We're expecting some unseasonably warm weather this weekend and we're entertaining! Pidgeon's best friend, his wife and their 1 year old baby will P"G sleeping over this Shabbos. I'm excited and, of course, have been thinking about a menu ever since. I figure Wednesday and Thursday will be my shopping and cooking day, which leaves Friday to just get the house ready. We also invite Pidgeon's cousins and their kids, and I'm really looking forward to this house being full of little ones. I hope I make the right foods for them!

Well, I'm off to rest my eyes and wait for the Dr. to call me back. Hope everyone is having a great day! Tomorrow, I'll write about the situation in Gaza, Sderot and Ashkelon. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the latest situation and hope to have something coherent to write about manyana.

In the meantime, Mazal Tov to Daniel and Daniela on their wedding yesterday! I'm so sad we missed it but look forward to the pictures! May you both enjoy marriage as much as we are loving it!