Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Local Library

With Channah being an avid reader and the budget not being able to drop 80 NIS on a book that she will finishing reading within a day or two the library has become an important part of Channah's life. Setting up Channah with library access was a high priority after the move.

The Kiryat Shmuel Library

The library system is very different than it was in Ramat Beit Shemesh. In RBS we paid an annual membership that allow Channah to take out 5 books at a time. With political changes in the Matnas housing this year, the library had cut down the days open to 3 days a week and significantly cut down the size. Channah would regularly have books on hold for months. Often she would find the books she was waiting for sitting on the book shelf.

The Kiryat Shmuel Library is located in it's own independent building.  The time we went there to set everything up for Channah they had 3 staff members working. They are open one morning and three afternoon/evenings a week. There are no membership fees for local residents.

The library only allows each member to take out one book at a time. After an unspecified probationary period the amount of books increases to two. The standard work around is each family member takes our a library card. We did the same, allowing Channah to have 3 library cards every time she goes to the library.  Our library membership also allows us access to some sort of online resources through the Haifa Library network.

As the library users are made up of 70% kids, the only books that can be reserved are adult books on adult library cards.  There is a 2 NIS fee for requesting a hold on a book and you have only 24 hours to pick up the book when it becomes available. Books can only be returned during library hours. A list of all of the books currently in the library is available online. This can streamline the book selection process without having to leave home. We asked if our library cards would allow us access to the other libraries in Haifa. They said no but it wasn't clear if they couldn't be used in other Haifa libraries or if they were just offended by the concept of using other libraries.

Between the local library and the school, we hope that the two libraries can maintain Channah's appetite for reading. If not there are two other bigger libraries (Kiryat Yam, Kiryat Motzkin) that are much bigger but not considered local because they cross municipal boundaries. We will look into the cost of membership should the need arise.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Fresh Beginnings

For almost 8 years, Ramat Beit Shemesh has been my home. In that time the city has grown and changed a lot. Often for the better and sometimes, not so much. As much as I have enjoyed living here, it has been clear that our family needs a fresh start. 

For over a year, Peri and I have been actively searching for the best place for our family.  Our first choice was a community with a very limited rental market. That left us open to also considering some of the surrounding neighbourhoods.  We had a back up plan in case we could not find suitable home. 

For the past month we have been making multiple trips checking out apartments. A lot of the apartments were too small, re-emphasizing how lucky we are to be in a large apartment, even by the standards of this neighbourhood. 

One apartment I have started referring to as the Mafia building. The apartment was gorgeous. The 18 page lease was filled with clauses keeping the owner in full control of the apartment even though it was being rented. We negotiated most of them out of the lease. The clause that we should pay the structural insurance on the entire building as the deal breaker. We didn't even go as far as him wanting to have the insurance (including content insurance) to be with his insurance company with his name on the policy.  We decided not to enter a lease with an over-controlling, abusive owner.

Another one was a nice sized apartment that was not finished being built. It didn't have a bathtub or electricity. They hadn't applied for the Tofes 4 (building completion certificate) and it wasn't certain the electricity could be turned on before the move in date. The owners want to sell and were looking at renting as a possibility to eventually initiate a sale. The biggest selling point was the illegally built and walled in 120m of living space that could be opened up, upon purchase. In the end, there were too many variables in the air and it also fell through.

Yesterday, morning we signed a lease for our apartment in Kiryat Shumel. It is located in the flat part of Haifa, north of the city. The building is only 3 years old. One of the things that really impressed us, was how well thought out the apartment and the building was. It is going to be a great place for our family to get a fresh start. 

The keys to our future, without shlissel challah.

Every time I have been to Kiryat Shmuel I have fallen more and more in love with the community. I do have some fears about leaving the comforts of a community that has been really supportive over the years and ongoing. We need to be able to step outside of our comfort zones, if we want to grow and become better people. This move gives every single member of my family the best opportunity to grow and be the best that they can be. A fresh start is really exciting.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Reaching a huge milestone, Channah's Bat Mitzvah

As the sun set this evening, Channah reached the age of Bat Mitzvah. She automatically took a step forward in her life where she halachically takes responsibility for her own actions.  We went out for dinner as a family to celebrate the occasion.

 I keep thinking back to the night Channah was born. 5 weeks earlier Rachel's water broke. Channah blocked the hole with her head, allowing the pregnancy to continue in the safety of the womb. My Mom had come to join us for Friday night dinner in the hospital room. We sent her home earlier than we expected when fetal distress started to set in. Channah was born 12:45 am weighing a whopping 1320 grams. I didn't meet her for hours after she was born as she was quickly whisked away to receive medical attention. At 3:00 am I was kicked out of the hospital in order to let Rachel get some rest. I went bouncing down the street back to the apartment I was staying at. As there was no one else around, I excitedly shared the news with the security guard for the building. In the morning, I shared the exciting news with the strangers staying in the same guest apartment for the night.

A friend of mine wrote an article and used a quote that truly rings true in my head.  The quote is from Rebbe Nachman which had been a major song from my NCSY days. 

 כל העולם כולו גשר צר מאוד, והעיקר - לא לפחד כלל

'The whole world is a very narrow bridge. The most important thing is to have no fear at all'

The night Channah was born, I was completely clueless at how much danger Channah was in. I looked at the entire 6.5 week NICU experience as simply the path to bring her home. It never occurred to me that her life was in danger.

If someone told me at that time her Bat Mitzvah would be taking place in Israel with a Canadian theme, I would have thought they were crazy.

Tomorrow morning, Channah and I will be driving to the 'holy' city of Metula for the only hockey tournament in the world that has a daf yomi shiur.  Over 4 days, I will be playing in 5 games for the Grey Team as we attempt to win the tournament. In between games, Channah and I will be picking food from the fields for Leket, a trip to the hot springs, a 2 hour ATV ride of the area and a tour of how they make pomegranate wine. I truly look forward to this time to bond with her as a young lady, and truly see how much she has grown.

In two weeks she will be celebrating with a skating activity followed by an elaborate party with her friends. I would never have guessed the unique Bat Mitzvah experience combined with recently allowing Channah restricted access to WhatsApp, would break down the walls of isolation that Channah has been struggling with for so long.

The hospital Channah was born at follow their preemies for 6 years. Their research found that preemies tend to have a stubborn streak. They were not sure if the stubbornness was a natural character trait that increased the chance of survival or if it was a natural reaction to the NICU experience.

Channah is as stubborn as they come. At times it can be frustrating when she decides to start a battle of wits. Once you get through to her, she has the power to excel. Every teacher who has ever had her has loved to have her as a student. Her grades show it. She also has poise to handle the most difficult challenges that life can throw at her. She has always been something special.

Life can be scary. Sometimes looking back at what we have overcome together can be shocking when I realize how afraid I should have been. Without fear we can achieve anything. I am so proud of the young lady she has become.