Friday, June 12, 2020

Bezeq and the 10 Spies

In this week's parsha (those outside of Israel will need to wait until next week), the Jewish people are on the cusp of fulfilling the purpose of leaving Egypt. Before taking on the enormous task of settling in the land of Israel, the Jewish people decided it was important to take a pilot trip. Not that I know from first hand experience, but a pilot trip can be an important component of putting the pieces in place for a successful aliyah. As we learn in the parsha, it is possible to get lost in the logistical details and forget the whole reason for the trip in the first place. For the generation in the midbar (desert), it meant 'Living the Dream' would be left for the next generation.

Buying and moving into a new home presents many challenges and obstacles. Throughout the process I was amazed over and over again at the hashgacha pratis involved and how  many of our challenges we were able overcome. Some of those challenges were pretty absurd.

After a long period of calm, in the weeks leading up to the move my anxiety levels reached a point that if they were any higher they would have spun out of control, which has not happened in a long time. The level and frequency of panic attacks were also something that hadn't faced in a very long time. There were some challenges with the move that could have easily pushed me over the edge.

Peri and I had been contemplating if we should change keep our ADSL provider or if we should switch to cable internet. In the end we decided to take the pressure of switching providers would be too much for me before the move. We signed up for the 100 mbps package, not knowing what speed we would actually get and reevaluate when we settled.

They day before the move the tech comes to the apartment and discovers there are no ADSL lines. He said that we would need to hire someone privately. Our contractor said that it would cost 3000 NIS to pull the line and there was no guarantee of what kind of speed we would get. We called the cable company that the previous occupants had used. They had a reputation of offering a good product with lousy customer service.

At first they said that our address didn't exist.  Our apartment has 2 different addresses. The main one for the front of the building and one for the back off the building that is off an alley. They were able to use the second address and we signed up for the 200 mbps package. Customer service was excellent. Speed tests since installation have come in at the 170 - 190 range.  The downside was we had to go another few days without internet. My perspective on the whole episode was that, we were being forced to make the decision that we should have made in the first place. I was calm the whole time.

Earlier this week our A/C conked out on us. We were very nervous as that can turn into a very expensive repair. While trying to troubleshoot, I discovered the really hard to reach filter was in urgent need of replacing. We ended up calling the tech who installed the system, whose day job happens to be an engineer on the Rafael project. It turned out to be a burned out wire, which is a very minor repair and something that can happen with any system. The benefits of having the tech explain the in and outs of the system were incredibly valuable. He also plans on taking an idea that Peri shared and using it on the Rafael project. I am happy that the wire burned out because the knowledge and experience from the visit will allow us to make our home better.

It is not hard to look out into the world and be afraid of what we see around us. With this new home, I am doing a better job of seeing passed that. Perhaps on some level, I have internalized the lesson that the 10 spies missed.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Disclaimer not Included

I recently saw a story about a couple from Australia that met on Tinder. Due to the lockdown they had nowhere to go for a date. So he went to her house. They hit things off and kissed. That caused her to end up in a hospital due to a severe peanut allergy. The the author was trying to make the point that instead of bolting he stayed by her side at the hospital. I guess feelgood stories are hard to find these days.

The comment section read the story in a very different way. It was filled with condemnations for breaking social distancing rules during a pandemic along with other moral judgements. There was also a strong response to the criticism.  Over and over the comments were being refuted by pointing out  that Australia was at a different stage of the virus and the rules were different. Getting together in small groups was already permitted in most parts of Australia.

Around the same time, someone I know posted about how they feel pressured to put a disclaimer on every post they write. They felt that they could not share their own thoughts and feelings without having to acknowledge and validate that others have their own struggles and challenges.

These ideas made me stop and think about my own life, especially during the time that living in the wake of personal tragedy was consuming every piece of my being. Relationships were torpedoed because people who genuinely cared couldn't get the disclaimer quite right. At the same time sensitivity is important. Taking time to privately acknowledge others are struggling can be incredibly powerful and meaningful. What lengths should one go to be sensitive by openly acknowledging that others are suffering.  More importantly, why is it so important to me at this moment in time?

A common challenge of dealing with trauma is recognizing that you are allowed to be happy. How many times have I avoided the therapeutic process of writing or sharing a thought or a milestone in my life because I was worried that doing so would cause someone to be not happy with/for me. 

The rest of this post is about positive, happy thing going on in my life right now. If that is going to cause you to be upset or want to criticize me, now is the time to find something else to read.

Living with the Corona Virus restrictions has been a challenge. In the big picture it has not turned into a negative experience for me.

I live in a country that took a proactive role in keeping the virus contained. As such most things are open or about to be open, as the number of active cases continues to decline. Shlomo and Channah went back to school on Tuesday. Shlomo's ganenet was very impressed with how much academic growth he had achieved during the break.  Aside from a few schools in the centre of the country the transition to kids in school has gone fairly smoothly.

Peri and I both have secure jobs. We were not able to apply for any relief money because we didn't have any loss of income. We are also used to working from home. Spending more time with the kids, did take extra work. We made the most of the extra time with our kids and enjoyed the experience. The bond between Shlomo and Hoodie grew by leaps and bounds.

As the restrictions were first coming in place,I did struggle with my mental health. Once I got over that hurdle, I went through a period of a number of weeks that was the most mentally stable and calm period, ever since I took the step to fight my depression and PTSD. I even had one therapy session cut short because I didn't have anything to talk about. I must admit, I did find therapy by phone to be less effective than regular therapy.

Our building has been having a minyan most of the time, since shuls were limited to 100 people, the Shabbat after Purim. On and off, as the rules changed I did struggle from an ethical and safety standpoint, my relationship with the minyan. Having a minyan that I could participate in, from the safety of my balcony has done a lot of spiritual good for me. On Friday nights, davening is too late for the kids, so we make early (plag) Shabbat. We leave the door open, just enough so that we can hear the melodies of Kabbalat Shabbat fill our Shabbat meal. I join the minyan near the end, in order to count sefira and repeat Kriyat Shema with a Barchu included.

Of course the most exciting news is our new apartment. Our tenants move out on Sunday. We have time to make some minor renovations before we move in, later the following week. I am incredibly grateful with the hashgacha pratis that we have experienced with the purchase.

The dream was to move into the apartment before Pesach. However, the sellers needed an extra 2 months, due to delays with their purchase. After intense negotiations, we begrudgingly agreed to allow them to rent our apartment for 2 months. On the closing date, we were already in full lockdown. We couldn't even see the apartment to do the closing inspection. The rental arrangement lasted just long enough for us to get through the crisis. We have had enough time, with stores open to buy the items we need before moving in and complete the renovations and moving without being delayed by Government restrictions.

We also had incredibly good timing in dealing with the mortgage. We were able to lock in when rates were at their lowest before they started to rise again.

The next two weeks are super exciting. I am fulfilling a dream that  I never dreamed would ever be possible until it was. I am looking forward to being happy as we build a home that is ours.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Lag B'Omer A Tale of Two Years

For many, Lag B'Omer is very different from what they are used to. Bonfires are banned throughout the country. The only exception are the 3 bonfires at Meron that have been authorized by the Government. As far as I have seen the going rate to spend 10 minutes flying over the bonfires are between 499 NIS and $1400 US.

Lag B'Omer is traditionally a school vacation day. I have yet to find a person who has been able to explain why. The head of the teachers union has been adamant that the teachers were not going to give up any vacation days this year, outside the 9 they sacrificed when Pesach vacation started 9 days early. We received a message from the City of Haifa this afternoon. In order to keep the Ganim open tomorrow, they will be operating with 2 sayats (assistants) and no ganenet. Channah has the day off from school.

When I was a kid, I was told that in Israel on Lag B'Omer kids went into the forests to play with bows and arrows. I have no idea where this idea originated but Channah was upset at the suggestion that it was something that was ever done.

I stepped out onto my mirpeset to daven mincha and was disappointed to be greeted with the harsh smell of smoke of Lag B'omer. Apparently the police have been out in full force to enforce the ban and to stop BBQ from being used in place of bonfires. Someone in our community was visited by the police this evening. Their kids had taken the grill off of their BBQ. As they were cooking marshmallows and hot dogs, the police were satisfied it was not a makeshift bonfire and went on their way.

While my mind is focused on the hear and now, I find my brain wondering back to the same time last year. Last year, on Erev Lag B'Omer afternoon, my flight landed in Toronto. I spent a little bit of time answering my drivers questions about Israel and the Peace Process. After a while, the conversation died out and the taxi driver turned on the radio. The news was filled with stories of someone being hit by a car and a school evacuation due to a bomb threat that was found in a suitcase with a note claiming there were more suitcases with bombs inside. I couldn't help but think about how people think Israel is dangerous and how could anyone with that attitude live in such a violent city.

I finally arrived at my Aunt's house around an hour before mincha. My Uncle had tasked me with two requests for his death. He wanted me to take care of davening and say kaddish for the year.  Instead of being home, making sure all windows and doors were sealed tight, I was the shaliach tzibur and saying kaddish. A good part of that trip was making sure I was at shul to say kaddish along side my father. It caused some interesting moments, especially since they liked treating me like I did have a chiuv, even when I didn't. The convenient exception being Rosh Chodesh, when they had me daven because I didn't have a chiuv.

In the end my parents stepped in to protect my mental health and rescinded their permission, allowing me to say kaddish. I had someone who my Uncle would have approved of make sure it was taken care of. I would never have believed that a pandemic could wipe out plans for something so simple.

Yesterday, was his Yahrziet. My cousin did a great job of orchestrating a Zoom get together of friends and family, who have felt the loss of my Uncle. It wasn't easy, especially with the number of people having their first introduction to the technology. Hoodie got so excited when she realized my parents were on the screen. She kept jumping up and down and yelling 'Aidy and Mom'  She had her mind blown when my parents Facetimed right afterwards. Today she was still going around telling us that 'Bubbie, Zaidy omputer.' Shlomo kept picking out people he knew from our recent trip to Toronto along with the Israeli cousins. He also became obsessed with 'Rabbi Joe', who he must have asked about 60 times, who he was. I think it was the beard. It was also a chance to 'introduce cousins' that Channah doesn't necessarily know but are some of the people that come to mind if I have to describe who is 'My Family.'

Aside from running the get together well, my cousin spoke well about her father. She helped bring up a lot of memories, that I just couldn't bring myself to share in a coherent fashion. I have found myself thinking about our walks to shul, his career advice, Pesach seders, helping put up the succah every year, forcing  my cousin and I to learn to read benching, planting tomatoes, playing chess, a younger Channah refusing to talk to him in Hebrew because of the accent, finding Free Torah High. If you beat him playing a game, you knew you beat him and it wasn't because he let you win. No matter what I did, I knew I was going to be challenged. In hind sight he wasn't always right and I didn't always listen. He cared and would always push you to your limits. He always expected everyone around him to strive for their best. He also wasn't afraid to share, if he made a mistake.

There is one memory that my cousin jogged up that has given me something to contemplate. She said he went to Yeshiva and then he went to a kibbutz. He never told me he went to Yeshiva. He used to love telling me about the kibbutz. When he described what it was like milking a cow, it was as if he had transported himself back to that place and time.

I now own a home in Israel. In a few weeks we will be moving. I can't help but to think that it would be something that would make him proud and connects us to many occasions we spent together.

May all those who feel his loss, find strength and comfort. May his Neshama have an Aliyah.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Past, Present, Future

Today, I found myself thinking about Yom HaZicharon in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, we accidentally went to the Yom HaZicharon ceremony at the Kotel. In 2012, we passed Har Hertzl as 11:00 was approaching on our way home from a fertility appointment. We could see the people swarming for their annual day of communal grief. In 2013, Channah was living in her own world of grief, when a teacher pulled her away from the school tekes to try to protect her from the raw emotions that can come out on this day.

For me, I usually acknowledge Yom HaZicharon within the privacy of my family, as I listen and feel the blast of the siren. Having had the experience of having to head to safety upon hearing that sound, brings a different feeling from that sound. This year is not like other years. I finished davening maariv from my mirpeset shortly before the siren. An Israeli flag that was raised before mincha was lowered to half staff, as someone played 'taps' on their cell phone. A few minutes of pause and then the blast from the siren. A few families had come outside for this experience. The only movement was a small child who had been running around, walking back to his family to join in the moment of commemoration.

This year is not like other years. For the first time ever, all the military cemeteries are locked.  At one point the bereaved families, threatened to storm the cemeteries for 11:00 tomorrow.  I hope this will not happen and that families have taken the opportunity to visit their loved ones over the past few days. There are organizations that have also offered to set up virtual visits to graves tomorrow.

The threat of storming a cemetery. Completely irrational and dangerous but in some way captures the feelings, that have been felt across the country. A week ago from Sunday, the first steps of easing the lock down went into effect. All of a sudden, people were complaining if X has been released why can't Y. Then on Tuesday Ikea opened. Vendors from Mahane Yehuda, threatened that if Ikea could open, they would open with or without permission. They followed through with their threat yesterday, clashing with police. Big chain stores kept their doors closed, even with permission to open. They threatened that they deserved equally compensation to small businesses. Of course once all the stores are open, how can we keep schools closed. All of a sudden, what was promised to be a slow transition back to restarting life as 'normal' has been moving really fast. Shlomo's Gan could be open as soon as Sunday.

Yesterday was a classic example of why it is hard to have faith in those playing with our lives. The Health Ministry proposed that the limit of people going out for exercise to be unlimited, instead to the 500m current limit. As soon as the decision was published after approval, the Health Ministry stepped in to have the decision reversed. They wanted unlimited exercise distance for professional athletes only. In the end the 500m rule is being scrapped on Thursday.  The regulations confining us to 100m from our home, cannot be far behind.

There are two family members in our home that are considered high risk. I have been comforted by the results we have started to see for keeping the virus contained. I am worried about the size of the 2nd wave of infections that is bound to come. The fact the country is starting to function again, makes it easier to prepare for our move in 5 weeks. At the same time I am concerned for the health and well being of my family.  Tonight and tomorrow we remember the sacrifice those have made to keep us safe in our homeland. That is followed by a celebration (although muted this year) of what we have achieved. I pray that the threat passes soon and we can go back to building on the accomplishments of this great country.

Monday, April 6, 2020

To Minyan or not to Minyan: Lockdown Edition

It all started when the Government announced that public gatherings were to be limited to 100 people. In order to take to the pressure off of the shuls, our building was able to borrow a sefer torah. An Aaron Kodesh was even built to store the sefer torah. Shabbat davening took place in the lobby of our building. It was convenient but I did miss going to shul.

The minyan continued during the week. The social distancing protocols were put in place and those davening kept their 2m distance. There were 3 minyanim in the morning, hashkama, regular, youth in order to keep the numbers down. As I walked Bailey through the 6am minyan, I realized that it was not a safe place for me to be. I have 2 high risk members in my household and keeping us all safe along with everyone around is our top priority. I also stopped taking Bailey for his morning walk, to avoid being in close proximity to others due to a minyan.

That week more lock down rules were brought into effect, limiting public gatherings to 10 people. My former shul, immediately announced that they were closing. The minyan continued. The organizers showed a psak of how minyan could have up to 19 people without violating the 10 person rule. As soon as there were 20 people, the minyan would split.

That Thursday, more restrictions were announced. I was left with the understanding that private minyanim were no longer being permitted in Israel. This impression was also supported by friends who live in different cities in North America, where their local Rabbanim had said as much. In a discussion of the rules on Facebook, two of my friends got into an argument. My friend in chul was saying kaddish for a number of people. He was frustrated about having the ability to say kaddish taken away and how it was becoming almost impossible to find a private minyan, even when every effort to be careful with social distancing was being done. My friend in Israel, basically said that davening in a minyan was assur and he should just get over it.  I know my friend in chul was very hurt by the tone of the conversation.

On Friday night I was sitting at my dining room table, davening Kabbalat Shabbat, while contemplating the fight between my friends. Suddenly, I noticed beautiful singing coming from outside. I could here davening from 3 separate minyanim. The one in our lobby, the overflow minyan outside our building and the minyan on the other side of the parking lot. Our building faces a building with nice courtyard in between.  The next buildings on the other side of the parking lot are mostly a duplicate design. I was drawn out to my mirpeset by the singing. Even though I felt the minyan should not take place, I joined in anyways. I figured, that the minyan existed whether I was there or not and from my mirpeset, I couldn't put anyone else at risk. Davening during the day, was inside, so I davened on my own.

After Shabbat, my Facebook feed was filled with people talking about the beautiful davening from Friday night in their communities. Some had balcony minyans, some had Zoom Kabbalat Shabbat davening before Shabbat started. I found the updated ministry guidelines. It turned out that the minyanim from our building was in compliance with competent Rabbanim and the Health Ministry.

During the week, one of our neighbours complained that they were tired of the fact the entrance to their home has become a full functioning shul. The decision was made to start davening outside. The next day, indoor minyanim were banned as part of the lockdown. This presented me with a tough delemma. Should I daven with the minyan from my mirpeset? There were a few factors that I took into consideration: the minyan would happen with or without me, it was in compliance with the Ministry of Health, it was following a valid halachic opinion, a senior doctor from a local hospital was part of the minyan, the doctors boys were running the youth minyan. I decided to join. It was a positive experience for me and it added some structure into the day. On Friday night, we had too many people. The minyan broke into 2 minyanim as required. On Shabbat it was nice to have Shlomo come out and daven with me, while remaining safe in the confines of our home. Wipes were on hand to deal with issues of contact during Torah reading.

Last week, public gatherings were reduced to a maximum of 2 people. There was some enthusiasm as they tried to arrange a proper balcony only minyan. In the end the logistics were too difficult to overcome. That afternoon,the minyan continued in a section of the parking lot with a mostly obstructed view,  parking spots marking off social distancing.  Technically, I could have joined, as I could see them from my kitchen window. I didn't want to have anything to do with them. The minyan lasted one more day before being disbanded.

On Friday, Shlomo got excited as people were gathering to daven mincha. As I looked out my window, I noticed that they had a proper balcony minyan. As we davened people started to gather downstairs. We ended up with enough people for their own minyan downstairs. I decided to not let the walk up crowd ruin a beautiful davening.

There was promise that the next day Torah reading would be done in an appropriate manner. Something about people going up and down.

Shlomo and I were outside when we got to Torah reading. They brought out a sefardi sefer torah. It made sense as this new minyan was being run by Moroccans. As it is read standing up, I thought it would also work better for social distancing. During the first aliyah the person had his tallis wrapped carefully around his face. 2nd and 3rd aliyah had people putting in a half hearted effort to cover their face. After that, all precautions were out the window and I had an anxiety attack. Once I regained control, I finished up davening on my own and came inside. I decided that it was a pretend balcony minyan, with way too many people on the ground.

That minyan continued.  This morning at Shacharit they only had one person on the balcony. The Vaad Bayit from our building sent a warning to our two buildings that they were breaking the law and endangering everyone's health. Should it happen again, the police will be called. This afternoon  Morrocan minyan moved to the park across the street.

I have consulted with a Rabbi on how I should have acted as the rules keep changing. I keep running into new situations that I did not anticipate. Living in lockdown is hard. I never would have guessed that the biggest moral/ethical challenges would be davening in the most convenient minyan I have ever had in my entire life.

Monday, December 30, 2019

A Night at the Musem

Our major tiyul over Channukah was arranged by Misrad Klita (Absorption Ministry) and the Haifa Association for Immigrant Absorption who hosted a program at Madatech (Science Centre)  during after hours. We thought it sounded like a lot of fun. Our local Anglo community even coordinated a bus, to make it easier to get there.

The amount of disorganization is something that one can come to expect from Israelis. Our bus dropped us off on the opposite side of the museum from where we were entering.  We entered through an outside gate, where tropit (Grape drink) and suganiyot (Jelly Donuts) were being served as the only refreshments for the evening. The promise that the tropit would be served later in the evening, in a more contained area to avoid allergy exposure, did not come to fruition. Along with refreshments, we were given tickets and bracelets to help organize the meeting and schedule.

We spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out where the different activities are. There was an announcement for everyone to gather around the open area between the two buildings for speeches. The first speaker was a representative from the Mayor's office, with a dvar torah about the miracle of Channuakah and the miracle of Eretz Israel.

That was followed by announcement for instructions for the evening. The first set were in Hebrew, with detailed instructions of where all the events were taken place and when, along with an explanation of the bracelets. That was followed by the first attempt to make announcements by the Russian interpreter. As the instructions were complicated, they ended up taking a time out to stop and explain everything she needed to announce.  During the pause another interpreter took the opportunity to make an announcement in French, that there were not going to be any instructions in French or English as everyone was expected to understand the Hebrew. Next up was the English interpreter who said that if anyone didn't understand they should speak to her privately. Finally the instructions were given in Russian. They concluded with a message in Hebrew, all activities were going to take place precisely on time.

It was time to move on to candle lighting. People were asked to stay (even though it would have made people late for the activities) A Rabbi with a chair and a menorah was brought to the middle. He made the brachot and attempted to light the candles. It was not an easy task in the strong wind. There wasn't any singing afterwards, which was interesting as they had been playing the music half an hour earlier.

Now that our family knew where events were taking place, our family headed to the motion simulator movie. Shlomo was flagged for not meeting the minimum age 6, while a whole bunch of 4 year olds took their seats with no issue. In the end, I stayed for the movie, while the rest of the family explored the museum.

I am not a big fan of motion simulators. Unless the presentation is designed around the motion technology, such as a race car or roller coaster simulation. Otherwise I find there is too much shaking for the sake of having the ability to, rather than creating a multi-faceted experience. I found the same to be true in this case.

It was a cute presentation on the solar system, starting from the big bang, through the solar system all the way to the outskirts of the Milky Way. They then did a zoom in on a cell in the body, showing how the universe is just as expansive in the other direction, as they went down to a quark.

There were two awkward memorable parts from the presentation. After covering the death of the dinosaurs they transferred in to: A meteor will hit the earth, causing destruction to most of the species on earth. The sun will expand and swallow up the inner planets of the solar system before becoming a white dwarf.  Only after declaring a need for humans to find new places in the galaxy to live, did they mention that it won't happen for a long time. That traumatized some of the kids, who thought we were talking about their life time. Some Mom's appeased their kids by saying that nobody has any way of knowing if such an event could take place. I also saw a kid turn to their mom and ask 'What was it liking living your whole life, thinking something was a planet and then one day find out it wasn't.'  Who knew that Pluto's planetary demotion could make me feel so old.

After the movie, I rejoined the family. We decided to skip the 2nd presentation as all the kids were having a great time at the different exhibits. It was much easier to explore when the individual exhibits were all mostly empty.

Overall everyone had a great time.  It was a good reminder of the level of organization to be expected at these types of events.

Channah & Hoodie
The ball is being kept in the air from air blowing from below

One of my favorite activities at Madatech. You colour a drawing. The drawing is scanned and added to the moving screen.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Railway to Chelm

Back in May, then Minister of Transportation, Yisrael Katz came out with the following quote.

'When I work in my current position as Minister of Transportation around Israel to build roads, ports, airports, and train tracks, I know that this is the real victory over what the Nazis tried to do. Each new rail line is the answer to those train lines that transported helpless and hopeless Jews to their deaths..'

I was among many who made the same joke. If the Israeli Authorities were in charge of transportation in Nazi Germany, the death tolls would probably have been significantly lower. Anyone who has ever taken the train or knows someone who has taken the train, is probably aware of bizarre decisions made by Israel Rail. Of course the hypocritical fight over railway maintenance was a big issue a number of years ago. I never dreamed that their level of incompetence could inconvenience my entire community.

The train tracks mark the border between Kiryat Motzkin and Kiryat Shmuel. There is only one pedestrian crossing point. This crossing point is used by many within the community during the week to facilitate ease of kids getting to school, people going to work, getting to shul during the week and on Shabbat and especially for those wanting to get from Kiryat Motzkin to the beach in Kiryat Yam. Given Kiryat Shmuel closes its roads for Shabbat and holidays, this crossing is essential for those needing to get non-emergent medical care as well. Channah uses the crossing to get to school and to get to the bus for after school activities. We, as a family, all use the crossing to get to shul.

The crossing is located just north of the train station. Due to outdated technology the crossing lights and barrier are activated before the northbound trains even pull into the station. This results in unnecessarily long waiting times and impatient people crossing before the train arrives at the crossing. About a year ago, instructions to be me more careful were painted on the ground approaching the crossing. For some reason it didn't seem to change the situation. 

Last week it was announced in the local news that the pedestrian crossing would be closing. The train station could be used instead of the crossing. A 'high tech' solution would be implemented to allow crossing during the hours that the train station was closed. Confusion around the logistics of the change as well as anger at the inconvenience of the move, were of great concern.

It turned out that Israel Railway is in the process of closing all of their pedestrian crossings. The sudden push to the top of the priority list was caused by a 16 year old, with head phones that was almost hit by a train.

As of today the new system is now in place. The crossing is closed by a gate on each side of the tracks.  The gate is locked with a padlock.  A security guard is stationed in front of each of the padlocked gates. There is a ticket machine located outside the train station. (The machine ran out of tickets today) People have to go through a security check. The ticket allows them access to the platform for 15 minutes, where the stairs are located to cross to the other side.  As the train is located in the opposite direction of school and requires going through morning rush hour security, Channah estimates that it adds another 8 to 10 minutes on her trip to school. Another minute or two on the way home as the train entrance from Kiryat Motzkin is at the opposite end of the station. 

I understand the motivation for eliminating the need to for pedestrians to cross the train tracks. There is no reason why they couldn't have come up with a practical solution to achieving the goal.