Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bat Mitzvah

Our daughter has her bat mitzvah coming up soon.
As we are active members of our local Reform congregation our daughter will be leading the congregation in the Friday night Kabalat Shabbat service and on Saturday she will read from the Torah (Bible).

Because we regularly frequent our synagogue the religious aspects of the bat mitzvah have been no surprise to us or our daughter (I did my own bat mitzvah in 2006). She has settled happily into her study sessions with the Rabbi and can focus most of her attention on her Torah portion as she is well acquainted with the songs, prayers and order of service. She has already taken part in our yearly Rosh HaShanah Youth Service where, in addition to reading, she and her brother played on the flute and trumpet accompanied by the Rabbi.
As a rehearsal, this month she assisted the Rabbi in leading the Friday Night service and read the drash(sermon) she had written (with a little help from her mother.)

But there are more banal aspects to a bat mitzvah:
There is the celebratory party. For most bnei mitzvah this is a large party in a local wedding hall. I can't remember the last time I went to an 'aliyah l'Torah' (reading from the Torah scroll) of a bnei mitzvah who wasn't a member of our congregation but we are frequently invited to such parties. There is food, music, dancing and lots of guests. Normally resulting in a fat overdraft for the parents.

The only times we have organised large, fancy parties in a wedding hall was for the brita and brit after the birth of our children. Both times we felt both over- and underwhelmed. (as well as exhausted and broke!)

Luckily for us Daughter decided to pass on a fancy party as she preferred a trip to England.
Last time were in England, in fact the last time we went abroad, as a family was in 2001. The children were quite young and remember very little. Daughter is intrigued by my mother's stories of friends and family and ever year, when my mother return from visiting the UK, the daughter asks when we will be going.

Apart from the trip to England there is still plenty of planning to be done - friends and family will be invited to services so lists must be made and invitations printed. I also need to provide kiddush snacks after Friday evening service and a light brunch for after Saturday service.

And then there are the clothes. We may not need party clothes but this is a major life cycle event and Daughter will expect us to be looking our best. However Israeli we maybe, this time jeans and a t-shirt will not do.

First and foremost we have the question of clothes for the bat mitzvah herself. Her wardrobe is surprisingly thin on party clothes which is a good excuse for some retail therapy.
For the boys of the family we must check they have smart trousers and matching shirts, neatly ironed and ready to be worn.
For me - well, can I justify buying new clothes? Do I have anything suitable in my wardrobe? When did I get so old that shopping for party clothes became a chore?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Election Day

Today is Election Day in Israel.

Tuesday is always a day I work from home and my husband getting a day off work would require some kind of miracle or the outbreak of war.
However the children are home as their school is being used as a polling station - our polling station to be specific.

The sky is grey and there is a strong wind bending the branches of the tree outside the window and for the first time in my life I'm almost reluctant to vote.

Polling stations have already been open for nearly 4 hours and although I'm pretty sure who I will vote for I'm not sure it is the right choice.
My husband and I frequently discuss our political choices, agreeing to disagree at times and using these discussions to cement our opinions in a non-adversarial forum.
But our lack of decision this time has left us listing who and why we wouldn't vote for this or that candidate rather that any positive belief in a certain party or politician.

Normally we are deluged with telephone messages from the candidate but I received one from Bibi and two from Benny Begin (!!): an English version more than a month ago and Hebrew last week.
Both hubby and I got surveys. His was from Barak while mine, which I refused to answer because I truly believe it should be a secret ballot, was from Bibi.
We have watched the various party political broadcasts but more for their entertainment value than as valid political information. Some of them were in Russian and some in Arabic, not all with Hebrew subtitles, and several seemed more suited to Youtube. The most amusing was Gil Kopatch as a shepherd for the Green Leaf Party and they must have be smoking something to think up this combination.

But after the laughter there is a serious decision to make.

I have been politically aware since I remember being aware. Politics was always an open subject for discussion in our house, amongst ourselves or with friends and I knew enough to be concerned when I saw the National Front on the news.
My mother always took me with her into the polling booth with her - showing me who she voted for and explaining why, even trying to explain why my grandmother voted differently.

I can well remember the general elections of 1979 and during the elections of 1983 I spent hours discussing politics with my school friends and teachers (I didn't go to a UK state school where it was generally considered taboo for teachers to discuss politics).

By the elections of 1987 was 18 and not only did I vote but I joined a party and actively campaigned.

In 1988 I moved to Israel where they were also holding general elections and as an Israeli citizen I had the right to vote. I decided against it as, isolated by my lack of Hebrew and living on a kibbutz, I felt unable to make a considered decision.

In 1992 Israel went to the polls again . I had moved house after the elections rolls were filed so I had to return to the area where I had lived during the army. Having only stayed there for a couple of hours every weekend I had no idea where my polling station was. Luckily I was met by a friend who gave me a lift in his car and another friend who was working for the elections was able to direct me to the correct ballot box.
In 1992 there were also elections in UK and although I had definite views about who I wanted in government I decided that I had no right to dictate the government in a country where I wasn't a resident.

This being Israel I have voted in many elections since then but despite many hard decisions I have never been so undecided.

Enough procrastination - I must go and vote!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Good Morning

is the sound that woke me up this morning almost immediately followed by 'Eeemma!' - Mummy in Hebrew.
Before I was fully conscious or even had my eyes open I bounced out of bed and yelled at my daughter to run into the security room, more commonly known as my son's bedroom.

Yes, this morning I was snuggled under the cover trying to ignore the annoying rooster alarm tone from my mobile phone that does its best to irritate enough to get us out of bed every morning.
Today it wasn't having much success. Both yours truly and son were tucked under the covers though my daughter had managed to get up and dressed.
The thought was just passing through my dreams that if I didn't move soon the children would be late for school when a great cracking noise ripped across the sky above us.

I had no problem recognising that sound having heard similar almost every month since we moved to Shlomi in 1996 and with a much greater intensity during the summer of 2006.

My body leapt into action even before my brain was able to process the recognition.
Of course, my body was still in my nightclothes and I hopped around my dark room trying to drag on something decent while yelling at my concerned daughter that she must stay in the security room and I would be with her soon.
After a while I realised much of my clumsiness was due to the fact that I had forgotten to put on my glasses or switch on the light.
Finally, after a couple of extremely long minutes I joined my children sheltering behind 55cm of reinforced concrete. Then I texted my husband and phoned my parents so they would know we were OK.

Everything was so familiar from 2 and a half years ago: exiting the safety room after waiting the required amount of time, phoning friends to check they are alright, checking the news on the internet and TV, trying to recognise where the missiles have landed from news photos.

My daughter stayed calm by phoning all her classmates to exchange a few words of comfort while my son relaxed with the Sims.

After I had contacted my local friends and compared notes with my parents about the people they had contacted I received a call from my father in law who had just stepped out of the shelter at his work in Naharia. He joked that my phone had been busy all morning.

Then I began to reassess our plans for the day.
School was cancelled so I insisted the children tidy their rooms.
I work at the local library which was closed and nobody had phoned me so they obviously didn't expect me to take part in any emergency measures. Despite this I felt perversely guilty about staying at home!

I warmed up a snack to replace the breakfast the children had missed in all the confusion and then prepared lunch. I made an effort to tackle the laundry that has piled up since our broken dryer and the damp weather had combined to make drying laundry Mission Impossible.
Basically a normal day at home except for our dash into the security room when the sirens went off just before midday

Then there were our plans for the afternoon. Obviously I wasn't going to be walking around Naharia in the company of my children in order to visit friends but before Lebanon II there were frequent 'love' missiles from Hizbollah and after an hour or so we would all return to our routine.
Was the new reality that we now expected every 'booming' to turn into Lebanon III?

Not quite - life still goes on in a limited fashion; ballet was off, the bat mitzvah party was on.

So as soon as I finish writing this I need to get ready for a party