Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sprouted Lentil Salad

A couple of weeks ago we had a guest who had many food allergies and sensitivities. She told me that usually she brings her own food when they are hosted, but that she heard about me and thought I could handle it so she shared the list with me; yes to chicken, beef, beans, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, nuts, canola or olive oil. No to sugar, gluten, mint, tomatoes, corn, mushrooms, vinegar, wine, bottled lemon juice, peanuts, hazelnuts, soy, eggs, yeast, or dried herbs.

No problem. :)

I made a number of different dishes for that meal to accommodate our guest, and the following salad was a hit!

Sprouted Lentil Salad

  • 2 cup sprouted lentils, steamed (you can also use cooked unsprouted lentils) – to sprout the lentils, soak them overnight, then rinse them twice a day until you see little white sprouts; it usually takes a day in hot weather and two days when it’s cold.  You can let them sprout longer if you prefer longer sprouts, but I just let them sprout until there’s a small tail. 
  • 2 celery ribs, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1/2 c. scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 T. minced fresh parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. cumin
  • 1 t. sea salt or to taste

Mix the steamed lentils with the diced vegetables.  Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin and salt, and then pour over the lentil mixture.  Mix well, let sit at least an hour before serving.

My guests and children all commented on how good this is and I’ve since made it again, again with lots of compliments.  I hope you enjoy it, too!

(This is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)


The importance of nature in our lives

When we were determining if we should stay in Karmiel or move to a different more central area that would have better access for the services for Yirmiyahu, I made a list of all the positives about Karmiel. One thing that was hard for me to think of leaving was the natural beauty of Karmie that can be seen at every turn – we don’t have to look far or go out of our way to find it.

This may sound material, but it’s not.  For me it’s a spiritual and emotional experience.  Whether I’m literally having an outdoor experience by camping in a forest or just taking a walk locally and observing the scenery around me, I feel happier, more relaxed and more centered.  Living here isn’t like living in a nature reserve by any means, but there are plenty of places for your eyes to rest on something beautiful.  So when I saw the book Last Child in the Woods about nature deficit disorder in today’s generation of children the concept immediately resonated with me and the title itself seemed to validate my feeling about the importance of nature in our livess.

Unfortunately, that ebook wasn’t available to check out from my library, but fortunately, the follow-up book was – The Nature Principle.  The book basically detailed different aspects of how people benefit by connecting to nature were discussed: physically, emotionally, pyschologically, socially.  It’s a worthwhile read.

But you don’t need to read a book to know the restorative power that there is in having some quiet time in a beautiful place.  I have my own special place just a fifteen minute walk away – the waterfall in Park Hagalil – and though I infrequently go there, just thinking about it makes me feel more relaxed and calm.

(l-r) Ds9, ds6, ds4, ds2 cooling their  legs opposite the waterfall

(l-r) spring 2012 – Ds9, ds6, ds4, ds2 cooling their legs in pond by waterfall

Then there are the many parks and green areas, the rolling hills surrounding the city, the amazing views that I keep discovering in different areas – even a little area where we discovered a number of woodchucks living – I love these things.  There are edible plants all over (though I haven’t done much foraging lately I still love seeing them) and literally every single time I walk outside I see something that makes me feel happier inside.

Every time I come back to Karmiel after a day in one of the larger cities, I have this feeling of “Ahhhh, I’m so glad to be home….”

beautiful view from our porch - hills in the distance and our street in the foreground

view from our window

So often I think how glad I am to be able to raise my children in a place where it’s normal for them to experience the natural world.  Not having this would be a loss for me.  There are conveniences in bigger cities but there’s also a loss when the buildings are so high and the only view you have is of more buildings and more buildings and more buildings…

I spent today traveling to Haifa and though I had plenty to do at home when I returned, instead I chose to watch the kids playing in the park a couple of minutes away, knowing that it would do more to help me recharge after a tiring day than anything else.

park 1

Seeing the beauty in nature helps me connect to myself, my creator, to be more patient and loving to others…when I’m having a hard time, being outdoors helps me find the quiet and clarity inside.  I have a busy life and if I had to drive somewhere to have this experience, it would never happen.  But fortunately, every day during my half an hour walk to pick up ds5 from kindergarten I can see beautiful sights without going out of my way!

I don’t think that beautiful natural surroundings are enough to make a person happy if their other important needs aren’t being met.  I would have loved to live in a small village-like area but our family would have been unhappy with friends and schools for our kids being far away.  We found a good balance for our family by moving to a centrally located, low density neighborhood in a small city, but you can find natural beauty everywhere – sometimes you just have to look harder!

Do you relate to the feeling of nature filling you up with something good, something important?  What does it do for you?


Purim 2013

What a nice Purim it’s been!

We started with dh taking almost all of the kids to the Young Israel for megilla reading.  Last year they didn’t have a minyan but this year we got a call just as dh was about to go to a local shul asking us to come, so dh shifted plans.  I was happy to later to hear that there was a nice turnout, and the kids all enjoyed being there.

Then when he got home, dd16 and I went to hear the megilla read at our neighbor’s home.  It was convenient, there were just a few of us (so that makes for a nice warm feeling) and the reading was very nicely done.   We heard the megilla read there again the next morning, too.

For mishloach manos I always try to make some kind of substantial food.  This year it was pineapple noodle kugel with a wafer for the second item.  Since it needed to be refrigerated, it couldn’t be packaged until the morning.  I like to have everything finished before the first person knocks on the door to bring us something, and sometimes I feel a little uptight about having everything ready by this point.  Today I wasn’t ready but I was very relaxed about it.  I told myself it would get done when it was done and that was that.  Something that I really appreciated was how many people made the effort to deliver to us.  It gives an extra nice feeling to know that people aren’t giving to you just because you gave to them first!

Another thing that added to the relaxed day was not having to prepare and set up for the Purim seuda.  We ended up with a two hour lull in the middle of the day in which the kids rested/napped in preparation for the seuda.  I also got a short nap, which was nice since I was up a couple of times in the middle of the night and was really tired.

Then we all walked over to where the seudah was being held.  It was a slightly uncomfortable because people were looking at us strangely.  The secular Israelis view Purim as taking place on the last day of school before the two day Purim vacation; that’s when you see a lot of people in costume.  (This is somewhat nice because there’s a bit of a Purim atmosphere but somewhat disturbing because the costumes are a bit….disturbing.  Examples? Teenage boys dressed as butterflies or Minnie Mouses, wearing tights and tiny skirts that barely cover their bottoms – which was better than those dressed as princesses who sent shirtless but painted sayings and pictures on their chests, girls walking around in bikinis dressed as the Little Mermaid….it’s obviously something cultural because I never saw people dressed like this for Halloween in the US.)

I wanted to take a picture of us all before everyone got busy and it was too hard to gather for a photo, but as soon as I got there I was already too late since a couple of the kids were already busy with their friends and couldn’t be found – that’s why – ds14 and dd12 aren’t in the photo. (Ds19 is staying at yeshiva for Purim, dd18 is in the US for a short visit.)  Ds3 is the clown in front, ds5 is the king on the side who thinks he wasn’t in the picture (he was unusually camera shy today because of his kingly attire), ds6 is a sheriff from the Old West, ds10 is the cute chassid, Yirmiyahu is a bear, and dd16, dh, and I all wore some colorful headgear.

Partial family Purim photo (ds5 to the side didn't want any pictures taken of him today)

Partial family Purim photo

 Ds14 and a friend prepared several Purim skits for the seuda – I appreciated all of those who took time to prepare something since each thing enhanced the meal.  (He’s the tall one, in case you wouldn’t have guessed.)

Ds14 and friend performing Purim skit
Ds14 and friend performing Purim skit

Yirmiyahu in costume as a little bear, 7.5 months

Yirmiyahu, showing a little more Purim spirit!

The kids were scattered around during the meal, but at least I knew where Yirmiyahu was most of the time!  Most of the time, though he disappeared with the girls and their friends who wanted to hold him for a while…

Then there was dancing.  Ds6 and ds10 (not shown) both got into this, but ds3 was too busy playing with a one year old baby he befriended to do anything else, and ds5 was enjoying playing with friends.  It was so nice to watch them all enjoying themselves!

Ds6 on dh's shoulders in background, ds14 with afro in foreground

Ds6 on dh’s shoulders in background

Soon after this some Israelis came to join in the fun.  One particularly lively man is a teacher at ds14’s school, and was a little tipsy when he arrived.  You know what they say about people drinking, that you get to hear exactly what they think? As soon as he saw dh, he told him, “Your son belongs in a regular yeshiva, you’re going to be crying forever about what you’re doing” (ie sending ds14 to a yeshiva with secular studies).  He’s a nice person and dh and I didn’t take offense; he’s not the first to tell us this, though others weren’t drunk and have been more diplomatic. :)

Dd16 with Yirmiyahu

Dd16 with Yirmiyahu

There were a number of nice families at the communal meal, and we were there until pretty late; we stayed until the very end and then helped move all the tables and chairs back into place and do some cleaning up.  A friend of ds14 had gotten sick so he spent quite a bit of time with him after the seudah and then slept over at his house in case his friend needed him.  The rest of us headed for home and we all agreed it had been a nice Purim!


So frustrated about advice being given regarding army service!

When we first told ds19 (then almost 18) that we wanted to make aliyah, we told him he had the option to stay in the US.  He said it was a no-brainer for him – if his family was moving to Israel, he wasn’t going to stay behind in another country.  The only concern he had was regarding being drafted into the Israeli army.

I told him that this wouldn’t be a concern since there was a deferral for full-time yeshiva students, which he was.  He was very, very concerned about this point and I repeatedly reassured him that it would be fine.  After all, there are many thousands of yeshiva students and they all have the same situation as him, so why should there be a problem?

Six weeks after we arrived, he got his call up notice to the army.  We had been told that new immigrants or returning minors (his status) rarely were called up until after a year.  My husband spent the next sixteen months working on getting a deferral for ds, but the Tal Law changed this summer and there are now no deferrals being given to yeshiva students.  Ds is scheduled to be inducted in two months.  Yes, I do feel very badly about this.  If he had expected this to happen, he would have made a different choice about moving here.

As the months have gone by, I’ve repeatedly brought up to him the need to consider what will happen if he needs to serve in the army and to plan accordingly.  He can maximize his time there by networking and getting into a framework in which he can learn a skill or be with other charedi young men or whatever he wants.  I told him I’ll help him but he has to tell me that this is what he wants, because it’s a big project for me and I have other things to do with my time if this isn’t something he wants to pursue.  There are some decent alternatives, none of which are his ideal but I think they’re acceptable.

Now before I say anything else, I want to say that ds19 is a thoughtful and considerate person who really strives to do what is right in every situation.  He works on his character and tries hard to integrate his Torah learning into who he is.  He has been raised in a home that has stressed a work ethic that is contrary to his yeshiva framework and it has been difficult for him to balance the two paths, because in the world we live in it’s one way or the other.  He has asked grappled with questions regarding career that very few of his peers are asking and is really trying to find a way to be responsible long term financially and to keep his Torah studies in the forefront of his life.  It’s a very hard situation emotionally and the educational choices that we’ve made since living here have been in large part so that none of our next six sons need to be torn in different directions the way he is.

So he’s not a young man looking for others to take care of him or without a sense of communal responsibility.  He’s in a framework in which army service is strongly discouraged, which I understand.  However, I told him he must have a plan B if plan A – getting a deferral – doesn’t happen.

He told us he will follow the guidance of his rosh yeshiva in this regard, who is advising him according to the Torah leaders of Israel.  Today he called and told us that the plan is that he (along with many, many other young men in the same situation – he has been caught in the first wave of charedi boys to deal with the new political reality) will either get a deferral if the law changes between now and then, or he’ll go to jail.

When I heard that ‘go to jail’ was the advice he was given, I hit the roof.  Why are they advising him like this?  He really believes this is daas Torah.  He’s a trusting American kid with no connections and when they come to cart him off to jail, it’s not like the gedolim are going to be advocating for him personally.  I don’t believe being in jail is a fun or positive spiritual experience, and it sure doesn’t look good on his future record.  They make it sound as if he’s going to be taken to jail along with all of his buddies, but it’s not going to be like that. He’s going to be on his own.

Do they really think that going to jail is a better alternative than serving in the army?  I very much understand the reality of the army and that it’s not an ideal framework for a number of reasons.  I also understand that it’s not ideal for the Jewish country to be surrounded by millions of hostile neighbors who would like nothing more than to see every person in the country of Israel wiped out, and the army is a necessary defense force to ensure our survival.  I think most of the parents of young men as well as the young men themselves would prefer if this wan’t a mandatory part of growing up here, but this is our reality.

The charedi community wants to force the hand of the government and is threatening civil unrest if their sons are forced to go to the army.  I don’t agree with this approach and I don’t want my son caught in the middle of it.

It’s not easy for me as a parent to see ds being told this is the Torah approach, to see him being advised in a way that I think will be damaging…But I raised him with the understanding that being an adult means living his own life and making his own choices.  I’ve given my feedback and suggestions to the point that it was constructive.  We all want to save our children from roadblocks on the path of life that are apparent to us.   However, we can’t force our adult children to live their lives according to what we want.  And it’s only with hindsight that we’ll see what the consequences of a given approach are; I can’t confidently declare that I’m right and others are wrong.  It remains to be seen.

I don’t know how many parents are in our situation but I know that the entire country will be watching carefully to see how the first wave of unwilling charedi recruits will be handled.  As for me personally, I’m working on acceptance of what I can’t change.


Slowly getting into the Purim spirit

Usually I start thinking about Purim at least a month or two in advance, keeping an eye out for sales or interesting costume/mishloach makings.  It’s a fun time of discussing different ideas with the kids, sewing costumes, searching through the packaging supplies we’ve accumulated throughout the years to find something pretty, and making lists of all the neighbors and friends that we’ll be giving mishloach manos to.  This year…I’ve been not in the mood at all.  Every time my daughter asks me what we’re doing for mishloach manos, I tell her I’m not able to think about it.  A few days ago, she said to me, “I know you don’t want to think about this, but Purim is getting closer and we have to start thinking about it soon!” Yes, I knew that but I still didn’t want to deal with it.

Purim is a very fun holiday, but it takes a lot of preparation and forethought.  Last year Purim was extremely blah, a letdown for us all, and I just didn’t feel like thinking about it again.  I expected that even in a secular city in Israel I’d feel Purim in the air, but it wasn’t the case at all.  What came closest to feeling the Purim spirit was a couple of days before Purim, seeing kids in costume coming home from school.  But on Purim itself, it was business as usual.  (Yirmiyahu’s physical therapist wanted to schedule a session on Sunday as usual.  When I said it was Purim and wasn’t able to come, she looked very puzzled.)  My kids felt awkward being the only ones in costume, and most of my neighbors didn’t know what to do with the mishloach manos (some brought it back to me) – I give cake to my neighbors for Rosh Hashana and doughnuts for Chanukah, and it surprised me that they didn’t realize this was a holiday related gesture.

As far as the Purim seuda last year, we couldn’t find people to invite.  All the Anglo olim families attended a communal seudah, the young non-olim families travel out of Karmiel to their families or get together with others in their stage of life – so our meal was attended by a single Israeli man.  It was a nice meal, but it didn’t feel like Purim, not one tiny bit.

So maybe you can understand why I haven’t been feeling like putting forth much effort to have this kind of experience again.  My mother generously offered to pay for us to attend the communal seuda, which is quite expensive for a family our size.  Aside from cost issues, I usually am hesitant about these kind of events (there’s a tendency for there to be many unsupervised children running around together, and it’s not fun for me to be supervising and telling my kids they can’t do what everyone else is doing).

But this year we appreciatively accepted my mother’s offer because we want our kids to have some feeling of Purim.  It’s too hard to find guests and when the general atmosphere during the course of the day isn’t festive, there are more expectations for the meal to be exciting which makes the thought of a seuda feel like a pressure.  It looks like there will be a very nice group of families attending the communal meal so now I’m looking forward to it more than dreading it.

The kids in school are having Purim activities this week, and now that I got costumes for them a couple of days ago, I’m able to be happy for them instead of feeling pressured to get everyone ready.  I was fortunate to find what I needed at a friend’s unofficial costume gemach, which I’m incredibly grateful for.  That’s another weight off of my mind.

As far as mishloach manos, I think it’s going to be very, very minimal.  I’m not willing to do more than make something very basic, and I don’t really care if it’s original or beautiful.  I know I don’t sound overflowing with holiday good spirits, but I’m getting myself slowly into gear and it looks like it will be a nice Purim for everyone in spite of my slow start!



New yeshiva high school planned to open in Karmiel for coming year

A couple of months ago I mentioned in passing that there were preliminary plans to open a new yeshiva high school for the coming year.  At that point very few people had heard about that and I was contacted for more details. to find out if this was actually more than theoretical talk.

Yes, this is a very serious project.  And very encouraging for our family, since we’re likely to be the primary family in the city benefiting from this new school!

What is so exciting for us?  The vast majority of charedi boy’s yeshivas in Israel do not teach secular subjects.  Of the very small number of yeshiva high schools that do, almost all are located in the center of the country and are dormitory only schools.  Ds14 has been accepted to the yeshiva of his choice and it’s lovely that the administration is so enthusiastic about him but we are very, very reluctant to send a child to live away from home at this age.  We feel it’s not a positive thing for a number of reasons, despite it being the prevailing practice.  Last year I looked into schools in the north that would allow ds to live at home and couldn’t find anything suitable.  This left me grappling with a difficult decision – send him to a school that wasn’t appropriate so he could live at home, or send him to a school that was a good fit and have him living in a dorm.  No good options.

Then this year I heard about the new school being planned.  Amazingly enough, the year that ds14 will be starting high school, a charedi yeshiva that offers the bagrut (Israeli matriculation exams) will be opening in my city.  Not just in my part of the country, but in my city!  What are the odds?!  Remember that there are a tiny number of schools like this in the entire country, so the statistical likelihood of one opening right here, right when I need it is very, very small.  We like what we’re hearing so far in terms of the goals and direction of the school.  They are putting together a very solid plan, working together with chief rabbi of the city, the city municipality and the local engineering college to provide a high level Jewish and secular education.

The rosh yeshiva of the new yeshiva was decided on just a couple of weeks ago.  This will be the current administrative principal at the local cheder, who will leave his position there to head the new yeshiva.  I don’t know him personally but dh and ds14 both think he’ll be fantastic.  He is the rav of an shul that is known for it’s warm and accepting atmosphere and he does a lot of outreach to less affiliated Jews, while being a well-respected long time member of the local charedi community.  He has the ability to bridge a lot of the potential difficulties between the community and the school (I’ve been told the community is afraid that this school might be seen as attractive choice to some of the boys locally).

Regarding secular studies – here skill based classes like English and math are tracked according to difficulty level.  For example, math at the three point level is the easiest, four point (harder – many schools don’t offer anything higher than this), and five point (very challenging).  The math and English at the new yeshiva will be offered at the five point level.  They are planning for the secular department to be operated in conjuction with the Ort Braude engineering college, and the specialized slant at the high school level will be on aeronautical engineering.  They are also discussing the possibility of the students earning some kind of trade certificate like in computers or electricity, but I personally think that may be too ambitious.  If it works out, it will be nice but I’m not counting on it.

I’ve been told that they are gearing the school towards more academically accomplished students (I keep saying things like ‘I’ve been told’ because I have a degree of skepticism about everything until I see how it plays out in reality).  I believe part of this is their understanding of how easily a boys’ school with secular studies can be labeled as for problem kids (more about that in another post).

There are a number of details that are still being worked out, but those involved are very serious and very committed.  There has already been enormous interest from elementary schools in the north who want an option like this for their graduating eighth grade students.  How many students will be from Karmiel remains to be seen; ds14 is definitely a candidate, along with one kid in his class who is keeping quiet about his desire to attend a school like this.  (His mother felt it was safe to tell me after she heard that we were planning to send ds14 if it all pans out, more about why she feels she has to be hush hush in another post.)  They hope to have 25 ninth grade students in the opening class, then each coming year will add another class as the highest grade moves up.

We have another five sons after ds14 so while he is the one that we’re most immediately looking for a high school for, it’s heartening to think of having a local option that will be suitable for the others as well.


End of the day markdowns on grocery items

Tonight I got some great buys on chicken and meat, and it reminded me that I haven’t written about the potential advantages of shopping towards the end of the day.

At this late point in the day, I’ve found that you can often get reduced prices on bakery goods as well as poultry and meat.  At this point, bakeries want to get rid of whatever they have left because no one will buy day old baked goods the next day!  Since we baked from scratch, even reduced bakery prices are more expensive than what it would be to make it myself.  So if we buy the bakery goods, it’s only as a small amount as a special treat (eg to treat the  child who comes along with me to be my shopping buddy).  If you have a bakery section in your local supermarket, check it out – in the supermarket that I shop at, every night a couple of hours before closing they announce that the prices are being marked down by about 50%.

Tonight I was at the supermarket when I heard an announcement over the loudspeaker about something being marked down 50%, but both times I didn’t understand what it was that was being reduced.  The second time I asked the woman cleaning the floor if she had heard, and she told me it was the rotisserie chicken.  I right away headed over and scooped up the last chicken – too bad I didn’t understand the message the first time around!  The rotisserie chicken was less expensive than the whole chickens on sale at the same store, and to buy the sale chickens I would have been limited to buying just four kilos and only then if I bought 150 shekels of other non-sale items.  The manager told me that any night that they have rotisserie chickens that are still left, they mark them down.  It’s nice when you can get ready made food for less than it would cost to cook it yourself!

I also got ground meat and chicken wings on sale, both marked down 30% because it was the end of the day.  Usually really good sales are limited by a minimum purchase necessary and a limited quantity that can be purchased at the sale price – usually it’s a four kilo limit where I shop.  Four kilos is only about two chickens, so this isn’t really a substantial amount.  However, when I go at the end of the day or on Friday afternoon, I can get unlimited quantities at sale prices.   One time I bought about twenty chickens because the price was amazing (that was the maximum that my freezer could hold); I had to take a taxi home since there was no delivery service at that time of day, and the taxi driver exclaimed over what a great deal it was once he heard the price!

Not only are there often lower posted prices, there’s more flexibility in the pricing.  For example, last week I asked the butcher how much the chicken bones were.  (I make a lot of broth so I buy a lot of these.)  The butcher asked me how many I wanted – I told him how much I would buy depended on the price.  He told me it was the same for him, the price per pound would depend on how much I bought. When I said I would be interested in buying all that he had left, he was motivated to mark them down by 50%.   This doesn’t take hardcore bargaining; I’m not much of a bargainer but later in the day all you have to do is comment that you’ll buy if the price is right.  Earlier in the day these kinds of deals are harder to come by.


The winds of change blowing through the Karmiel charedi boys schools

A couple of days ago when I picked up ds5 from kindergarten, another mother asked me what track I’m putting him in next year.  Not understanding the question, I said something intelligent like, “Huh?”

She said she heard that Amichai boys’ school will be having two tracks for incoming first graders; the Talmud Torah track and a regular track.  The Talmud Torah track will be taught by a male teacher and the kids need to come into first grade knowing how to read; supposedly the level of Judaics will be higher. The regular track is what is in place now – a female teacher and the kids learn to read in first grade.

This was very interesting to me, since ds6 is currently in the first grade at Amichai and has a whopping total of twelve boys in his class and this is a typical class size in the early grades there.  So how do the numbers support two classes?

The answer is connected to the new policy of the local cheder – notices have been sent home with all the kids currently attending the cheder kindergarten telling parents it’s time to register, but letting them know that there is a new policy in place and registration is not to be considered as acceptance.  The school admission committee will determine who will be able to attend.  This is something new to Karmiel. There has been a good bit of speculation about this among the local Anglos ever since our family’s situation at the beginning of the year – at that time we were told that policy changes were in the works but it was anyone’s guess as to where the cheder acceptance committee was going to draw the line.  I was mentally estimating where this line would be but as soon as I heard about the plans for two tracks, I immediately revamped my guess – there’s no way they can have two tracks unless Amichai has a much higher enrollment.  And where can the dramatically higher enrollment come from?  There will have to be a significant number of kids that will be turned away from the cheder.

I wouldn’t share my thoughts on this publicly if I hadn’t gotten more solid information to back up my assumption.  A friend told me she spoke to her son’s kindergarten today who told her that the principal of the gan system is making calls to the teachers and asking for descriptions of the child and the family he comes from.  She was told by the teacher that her son has been ‘x’ed.  I asked what that meant, and she told me that her child got an ‘x’ next to his name, meaning that he won’t be accepted to the cheder and is being tracked to Amichai instead.  The teacher told her that a number of other children were also tracked for Amichai.

This still left me wondering about exactly what the criteria for acceptance were.  Then tonight I got an email from someone else who spoke to the administration at Amichai and was told that the cheder will now only accept kollel families.  I’m still wondering about the specifics of who is considered a kollel family – what is the husband learned for a number of years and then went to work, or what if the husband is in kollel but is sephardi….

Personally, I’m not very affected by this.  If my son is in Amichai’s first grade class, then he’ll benefit from staying with some of his familiar friends and having a stronger religious peer group.  We made the decision to send to Amichai when no one else was doing it and have been very, very glad we made this choice.  I don’t feel my kindergardener is being tracked because I made the choice to send to Amichai in advance of all of this and everyone knew that was our plan.  When faced with the choice of the two tracks that will be offered at Amichai, I don’t know what I would choose since I like the regular track.  I understand that they’re offering the Talmud Torah track so they can tell the families turned away from the cheder that the education will be similar in standards to they would have had at the cheder but the idea irks me since the education of the regular track has been just fine.

It makes me a little sad that this is happening.  Some will say it’s inevitable, that once the numbers are there then the exclusivity begins, but we had a unique community here in which people who weren’t typical charedi families were accepted into the cheder and that led to a wider sense of social inclusion among the women.  Now there will be a clear demarcation between the families who send to the different schools and along with that I’m concerned that there’s going to be more circling the wagons and an attitude of condescension towards those outside the wagons.

On the other hand, there are advantages.  This will create a stronger moderate charedi school in Karmiel as well as a stronger cheder for the kollel families.  I can see both of these being a draw for different kind of families who will be interested in moving here.  I’m disturbed by the social engineering that is taking place and would have rathered see changes happen more organically, but it will probably be beneficial in the larger scheme of things.


Staying in Karmiel and happy about it!

I’ve had a lot of things I’ve wanted to write about lately so that’s why I haven’t been blogging much.  I know it sounds contradictory but that’s my tendency.

Anyway, I’ve been feeling very good about life lately.  After sharing here my feeling that there were some important things missing in my life here, I began very seriously considering moving to a different community.  We found a community we felt would be good and made arrangements to spend Shabbos there, after having done lots of research online, searching the classified for housing and speaking to people living there.  Every hour of every day I was debating with myself the pros and cons here and trying to weigh them against potential gain/losses in a place that I don’t yet know.  This state of indecision has been very draining.

So I found a better place and pretty much decided that we should move.  But I was having a lot of reservations, despite being able to clearly articulate all the advantages of moving.  Logically everything seemed to be in favor of going to this other community but there are a lot of things I really like here (which I’ve written about in the past).  So I asked myself the following question:  ”How can I live a life I love right now?”

The two answers that immediately came to me were: 1) resume giving Torah classes (I stopped giving my Shabbos afternoon class when the days got short) and 2) homeschool my kids.  It was interesting that neither of these were directly related to my reasons for wanting to  move.  However, these answers also seemed to favor moving somewhere else, somewhere with more Anglos for me to teach and to a community that would be more centrally located for easier connection to homeschoolers.

But then I asked myself, what can I do to be happy in Karmiel?  I thought about what it was about teaching and homeschooling that was so important to me, and realized I could shift my life to have those advantages without fully making those changes.  I enjoy teaching because I love sharing ideas that that have been meaningful to me that can help others, but what I was missing at the most basic level was having meaningful conversations with other people.  When two people meet, someone has to initiate a topic for a meaningful conversation to happen, and I had to accept responsibility for not having been proactive enough in this area.  I was very guarded when I moved here about who I am and what I know because I didn’t want a spotlight on me, and more particularly my kids, as we went through the difficult transition period of settling in a different country.

In some ways this made a lot of sense but at the same time it cut me off from having conversations about the things that I care and know the most about, and it’s a lonely feeling to interact with people and feel they don’t really know you.  Last week I was talking to a good friend and telling her a typical example of this: someone who came to our home for a meal once commented on how helpful the kids were and asked me how we did that.  I vaguely answered by saying something like, “They’re good kids, we’ve been lucky; you have to pray and hope that things turn out well.”  My friend laughed and said how ludicrous it sounded for me to say something like that since I’ve put so much conscious thought into parenting.  This caution may have been beneficial in the beginning but it’s definitely not helpful now.  Since I’ve allowed myself to not hold back from being myself when speaking to people, I’ve enjoyed speaking to people so much more and that leads to feeling more connected.

Regarding the homeschooling, I asked myself what was it I was missing.  There are a lot of things about homeschooling that I miss, but one big daily negative of sending the kids to school is the feeling that I’m always rushing – rushing to get the kids ready in the morning, then rushing to pick them up.  Ds5’s kindergarten is a brisk ten minute walk away, so it’s about 25 minutes round trip, and then I had to be back in time to pick up ds3 from his van.  Ds5’s pickup begins at 1:10; I was supposed to be waiting for ds3 by 1:37.   If you do the math you’ll see that left me a two minute window of time, and on the way home I was walking with a tired five year old who didn’t want to rush.   One day a week I had to also pick up ds6 from his school in this same time period and to say this was stressful was way understating it – people find these overlapping pickup times hard when they have a car, and I was doing it by foot and with a baby in tow!

I took ds3 out of playgroup (I had put him in very reluctantly because of mitigating circumstances at the beginning of the year).  This decision made a huge difference since I no longer felt I was rushing every morning and early afternoon to get him to and from somewhere that I didn’t feel was in his best interest.  I did what I had to do at the time but I didn’t feel good about sending him to preschool; he was so happy to be at home with me and I felt more settled to be making educational choices that were once again based on my value.   It was amazing how much happier I got once I did this.

I also had ds5 home for a month, which was wonderful for us all.  This is when life felt the most like ‘my’ life.  Coincidentally, the day he went back to school after his long absence was the same day that his teacher returned from her maternity leave.  I didn’t realize that there were a number of replacement teachers taking over for her and it was very unsettling for the kids to have so many different substitutes (the week before he went back, there was literally a different teacher every day) – but ds5 missed out of most of he period of instability.  I really don’t know what happened with him after he went back; before he was home for the month he was regularly strongly resisting going to kindergarten but now but it’s like something flipped inside him and he’s so much happier and more relaxed now than he was before.

So…I’ve been taking steps to make my life better right now.  And it’s allowed us to not only intellectually be aware of the benefits of living here, but to feel the benefits.  So we’ve decided to stay.  And I feel so, so good about this.  Now I’m able to love all the things here without feeling torn about needing to live somewhere else.  That’s not to say that things are perfect here; that’s not realistic and it’s certainly never been my expectation.  But we can compensate for some of the downsides – eg, not having the medical and therapy resources locally for Yirmiyahu means a lot of travel, but it’s offset by my mother living locally so I have babysitting help for those long traveling days.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to be rebalancing my life in the ways that are meaningful to me – I now wake up feeling happy and go to sleep happy and in the middle of the day feel happy…..I didn’t have to move anywhere to make changes that were in line with our needs, and we’re all happy about staying put!


Homemade matching game for kids

Not long ago my ds6 brought home a cute matching game from school and it’s so simple to make with so many different applications that I thought I’d share!

His game was a set of picture cards of animals and corresponding cards with the animal names.  (The purpose of this game was reading practice.)  The cards are turned upside down and set up in rows in a graph pattern.  Each player turns over two cards on his turn, with the goal being to make a match.

You can apply this to any area – for example, colors to words, pictures to words, Hebrew words to the translation, print to script letters…All you have to do is think about what concept you’d like to reinforce with this game, make cards with pictures or words on them.  Great for memory as well as learning.

Have fun playing together!