Saturday, September 30, 2006


We spent yesterday trapped in the house with all the windows shut. However this time we were not sheltering from katyushas but from the weather.
Outside there was a sharav (a heat wave) heralding the change of seasons, the harsh death rattle of summer as it yields to winter.

As the heat inside became intolerable I turned on the air conditioning but after a while it was unequal to the challenge so I turned it off again.
When I ventured out of doors the heat smacked straight into me. The thin, brittle air roasted my skin and a gentle breezed was transformed into an oven blast.
After only a couple of minutes outdoors the house felt refreshingly cool, a sanctuary from the torment outside.

By nightfall our swollen skin was aching and we were nagged by a constant thirst. The darkness didn’t bring a respite from the heat rather humidity which stuck to us as we walked from synagogue.

Sleeping was a trial as we tossed and turned trying to find a cool patch on the sheets and the most effective angle from the ventilator. Eventually it was too tiring trying to sleep so I got up to read and potter round the house. The children were also restless, taking turns in our bed, on the sofa and even on the floor.

Eventually about 9am we felt a cool breeze through the window and we opened it wider to take full advantage. By 10am the breeze had gained force and was jiggling the pictures on the wall, cooling our feverish skin.
We turned our faces to enjoy it before the strengthening sun warmed the air again towards midday.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

First Rain

On Friday morning as I was preparing the Rosh Hashanah meal my daughter yelled ‘It’s raining!’
I dashed outside but the few drops had already fallen and had hardly left their mark on the parched pavement. I returned to the kitchen.

A couple of minutes later my daughter was yelling again. ‘It’s raining – really raining’.
She was right, it was really raining. Not the usual first sprinkle of water – a few fat, dusty drops that splash on the ground and evaporate again before we can register their presence. It was raining, raining hard, pouring with rain.

I stood outside and my daughter joined me as I held out my arms to experience the liquid blessing on my bare skin.
I phoned my husband and held the phone skywards for him to hear the rain.

After only a minute I was actually wet and went to stand under the roof of our entrance ocasionally poking out my head to feel the rain on my scalp. My daughter rushed back into the flat for an umbrella and Wellingtons then she paraded up and down our road.

Soon there were puddles on the ground and after just a few minutes our whole roadwas an inch-deep puddle such that we had to step back from the pavement as a car past incautiously fast throwing up a spectacular spray.

Our neighbour came home with his holiday groceries and smiled indulgently at our wild antics and when the wind and pushed the rain cloud from over our heads I too continued preparing for the New Year holiday.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Preparing For School

Since the day after the ceasefire my son has been concerned about when I was going to buy all the school supplies. We are lucky that we don’t need to purchase textbooks, instead we pay the school a set amount and they provide everything.
Even so we have an A4 long list of exercise books, pencils and other various equipment. I stalled for a while until, as I had suspected, a representative of the parents’ committee phoned to inform med that a school bag filled with supplies had been donated for every child in the north.

The last week of the holidays the Matnas had organised a proper summer camp for the children with trips and plenty of group leaders. After dropping them off I went to the school to collect the bags. They were piled up relatively neatly on the floor but there was a bit of a scrum as parents swapped items between bags to ensure that their son didn’t get a Bratz pencil and their daughter didn’t get a motor racing diary.

When I got home I checked through the contents of the bags. There were squared exercise books, which are useful though I think they gave us enough to last to the end of the decade. Unfortunately the lined books were with wide lines which the children haven’t used since first grade. They hardly cost a fortune but the pure waste pains me especially when you consider that thousands of these bags were donated. What really astounds me is that most people don’t understand why I even care. They just throw the useless books in the rubbish and buy replacements.
What shocked me most was the diary. It centred on a popular teenage star and was definitely targeted at teenage girls. Apart from the pages of coupons for feminine products the diary was liberally decorated with pictures of this girl in a bikini and other skimpy clothing. In addition the pages were peppered with boxes of beauty and dieting advice and there where whole page inserts with advice about relationships and other teenage concerns a in a that superficial ‘pop’ tone. And don’t get me started on all the advertising.
I would imagine it could be quite useful for a girl aged 14 but whomever thought it was suitable for primary school girls (grade 1-6) needs their head examined.
My daughter took a quick look at the diary and handed it back to me in bemused disgust remarking that it was no use because there was too much rubbish cluttering up the pages. She much preferred the Bratz diary I’d bought her. So did I.

Although the bags contained many useful items there was still a long list to buy.
On Friday I made a determined effort to get organised and we actually got out to the mall quite early. All the sales were in full swing and my children were very patient as I tried on some clothes and indulged in some successful retail therapy.
Next we went to the cinema to get tickets for Over the Hedge. The thought of being stuck in a cinema with hordes of chatty fidgety children gives me the heebie jeebies, which is why I don’t take my children to the cinema so often. I guessed the Friday morning show would be pretty quiet.

We had an hour left to brandish our school supplies list at the poor assistant in the stationery shop.
By the time we had finished I had a pain in the credit card and two heavy bags full of goodies.
I hauled it all back up to cinema where we had only a few minutes to wait. We were the only people in the cinema. At first my children sat in their assigned seats, eager for the film to start but in the break they ran up and down the stairs and between the seats in an effort to discover the optimal viewing position.
The film was fun, not a masterpiece but very enjoyable and when we emerged from the darkness my husband was just walking towards the cinema.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

So What Did You Do During The Ceasefire?

(Sorry this is late. I forgot to post it)

So now there is no background noise of artillery fire and we can walk freely outside.

On the first Sunday of the ceasefire my son’s classmate had a birthday. Her mother wanted to hold the party at the local beach. I thought it was a great idea but warned that other parents might still be nervous of an outside event.
The party was held in a local burger joint.
It was a surprise party and for once most people turned up in time and the birthday girl was truly surprised.

Of course just burgers are not enough, every party must have an entertainer. This guy introduced himself by explaining how pleased he was to be back working at children’s parties – he had spent the last month as an infantry solider in Lebanon.
He was a small, wiry guy with an animated expression and the birthday girl’s parents towered head and shoulders above him, the Dad was almost twice as broad.
It made for great comical effect when he asked the parents to help him blow up the balloons. They huffed and puffed to no avail then he bounced over and in a couple of quick breaths inflated each balloon. An opening gambit that had us all laughing.

After more balloons and some games he told the children of a night he’d spent in Lebanon. In the middle of nowhere carrying heavy equipment they had crouched under some bushes for cover while Israeli and Hizbollah fire crisscrossed the night sky above them. The blazing colours had, he claimed, inspired him to create a new game. The children liked the story and loved the game.

My children were quite tired when they got home. They have got out of the habit of socializing and find it quite tiring.

The Matnas (local community centre) arranged an activity program for the children in the morning of the first full week after the ceasefire. Sunday they just met up with their friends and on Monday there was a trip to Kfar Maccabbiah (home of the Jewish Olympics). Because the activity program was organised informally parents had to accompany the children for safety reasons. Oh the sacrifices we make for our children!

It was nice for once to be with my husband and not just alone with the children, especially as I showed my usual aptitude for choosing the bus with the slowest driver and the trip took forever.

Kfar Maccabbiah had invited groups from several towns in the north as well as from Sderot (main target for Qassams from Gaza) in the south. They were very organised. As we walked through the entrance they handed us a snack breakfast and the lead us to the area reserved for Shlomi. Our friends were already there (different bus) and had saved us seats. We also received Kfar Maccabiah T-shirts and caps in a Kfar Maccabiah bag.

There were hot and cold drinks on tap. We were supposed to received coupons for the snack but somehow that didn’t work out. It didn’t matter as there was a plentiful supply and the servers were easygoing. When the children rested between dashing around all the different pools they refreshed themselves with iced lollies and candyfloss.

We accompanied the children to couple of the pools but mostly we lazed around chatting with friends. There was a Jacuzzi which we were too hot to try but the Olympic pools was ‘adults only’ so we escaped to the calm and quiet and swam a few lengths in company of a large group of pensioners.

Lunch was also well organised. They arranged shifts called each town to eat by name. The food was laid out on tables buffet style with staff serving at the hot platters. There was a wide choice of food and it was tasty. Even though we piled our plates high we went back for seconds. After a month of bland army food my husband really enjoyed the spicy stir-fry noodles.

In the afternoon there was a performance by the stars of the children’s channel and a couple of pop stars. There was some highly amplified singing and an insane amount of bouncing around on stage.

Meanwhile the parents had a heated discussion about the failures and corruption of local government during the war. Stories communal to all of the inability to obtain food parcels while warehouses were packed full, trips to 5 star hotels that nobody knew about except those close to the Mayor, donated electronic goods that had never been distributed and the total disregard for the majority of the population stuck in security rooms. The more you hear the worse it gets. Children with special needs or health problems who were told that there was no relocation of any sort while donor organisations tell a totally different story of trips and relocations.

I thank everyone for being so generous but I think from now on organizations will have to supervise their assistance programs much more closely.

After the children’s show we all made our way to the buses. Again it was very organised with staff holding signs to direct us to those buses parked further away.

Once on the bus we received ‘supper’ – a fresh, delicious sandwich. They also distributed a goody-bag of sweets and snacks for each child.

I always prefer travelling in the dark but cannot understand why drivers insist on going through Yokeneam rather than straight through Haifa. Haifa traffic is heavy but only congested at rush hour and even on the new roads if you get stuck behind a semi-trailer in Yokeneam the journey can seem endless.

My mother claims it’s the scenic route but what is so scenic about flat, dusty fields, scrubby Arab villages and the occasional quarry or industrial area. The Haifa road parallels the coast and then winds through the shabby chic of the downtown port area. Even the shortcut my husband takes that leads through what was once the city landfill has now been beautifully landscaped.

Tuesday we had our congregation board meeting. We spent half the time discussing various initiatives to help members of our congregation deal with the aftermath of the war.

First order of business was to confirm that we had made the necessary repairs to the Matnas where we meet for Friday services. A katyusha had fallen in the yard damaging an aircon unit and some railings as well as shattering the windows. The Matnas is a government building but we had decided that the bureaucratic red tape would tie us up forever and so we took on responsibility for repairs. This ensures a quick return to normal services for us and we hope will build goodwill for the future.

The other half of the meeting was spent discussion preparations for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) which was, as usual, mildly contentious. There are also questions concerning whether we should relocate to accommodate the extra people. The rental of most locations answers that question for us.

We are again feeling the need for a building of our own but we need somewhere central with ground floor access and a central room big enough for services. Not so easy in Naharia.

On Thursday I picked up the children at 13:00 and we had just finished lunch when my friend phoned, “When do you think you will be here?”

It had totally skipped my mind that we had a project-funding meeting with the Director of the Reform Movement. Thankfully my friend had phoned early so I still had an hour to get ready before we needed to leave. We had arranged that my children would stay home with hers.

The meeting went reasonably well.

When we returned to my friend’s house we fed the children then my friend’s husband offered to drive us home; my friend’s daughter came with us as an overnight guest for my daughter.

My husband got home about 5 minutes before we did, the guys chatted while the children settled in and I watched a great Sci-Fi program.

My husband was at home for most of the week as the army had given him extra days to catch up on sleep before he returned to work. At work they were desperate for him to go back and he was greeted with great celebration when he returned on Thursday.

You would think that with the children at the Matnas and my husband at home to run errands I would have had plenty of time to work. But husbands, however pleasant they maybe, are time-consuming. They needing feeding and clothing and occasionally you have to talk with them and pay them some attention!

By the end of the week I had mountains of laundry. All I seemed to be doing was cooking and washing dishes, eating and keeping my hubby company as he consumed the news.

On Friday I had planned to take the children out but they were happily occupied with their guest and I was absolutely exhausted from doing nothing all week.

In the evening we went to services in the Matnas, through the newly repaired windows we could see the children playing in the courtyard and the shrapnel marks peppering the walls.