Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MySpace Comments and Animated Gifs

Happy Birthday Deb!!!

Picking Up License Attempt #1

Living in Israel you just have to accept that the first trip to any government office is likely going ot be unsuccessful. Yesterday was my first attempt at picking up my license. I had the hasa to work drop me off near where I had to go. There was a hand written sign saying the felt like being closed for the day. As I saw my driver instructor, it appears closing the office did not effect driving tests.

I was disapointed and did not want to pay the 22 NIS to get into work. I arrived at the bus stop just in time to catch a nesher. The ride would only be 6 NIS (still more than the bus) but I would get to work right away. It was my first experience on a Nesher and my first experience crossing a highway during busy traffic. The only draw back from the taxi is taking the hike up the steep hill on a really hot day. I am hoping to get a ride into Bet Shemesh from a coworker over lunch in my next attempt to get my license.

We're moving :)

Movers are booked for August 3rd, we have already confirmed with the painter just need to figure out if he is going in on the Friday or the Sunday (he will do this place after) and we are good to go. I now have 4 weeks to pack up and get ready to go. I am pretty sure we did it with having to go through 10 years of crap in last time last year.

Monday, June 29, 2009

To answer the mission dollar questions

"So how far are they going to be from you." We are "A". They are "B". Google now has the nifty options of getting walking directions :) I am not sure who is walking a consistent 4.7875km/h to get there in that length of time, and that does not include getting from the entrance of either location to our respective homes (roughly another hour or so on our end at least) but this is the gist of it. They are roughly 75km away, mostly straight up, and it is an hour and a bit by car or 16 ish hours to walk. we will likely not be going just for shabbat lunch, but will probably see them more often than we see people in other countries.

Pictures for those who could nto see the video

Welcoming the guests. Most of my dancing pictures are not so hot, so if you want the really cute stuff you need to watch the video. Tough when there are 31 moving objects in the frame...

kisses and hugs all around

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Driving Test

Today was the big day for the driving test. I was up early this morning in order to catch a cab to the testing place for an 8:00 lesson. Much appreciation to Rachel, as it is normally my job to get Channah ready and off to school in the morning.

My practise lesson went really badly. I was really nervous plus I was trying to remember and apply a whole bunch of different sets of instructions. I was not executing my hand over hand technique as well as a I could. For the most part he was telling me to put my hands in positions that I had always learned and practised were not correct. Every decision that normally comes naturally were judged on is this the right decision followed by do they agree with me? My first ever driving test I failed for going 40 in a 50. That experience was in the back of my head when I kept being told to either slow down or speed up.

I had at least 3 automatic fails during the practise. One of them was coming out of a traffic circle I crossed a white line that was so faded that you couldn't see it. However it was legally there and therefore I should have treated it like a wall. That was one of two occasions that put my nerves over the top and had to pull over to regain control.

After my lesson I had a choice to either hang around or go along for the lesson of the other person taking the test with me. I choose to go along for the lesson. The other driver was someone who had been in Ulpan with me for a little while and also had Rachel do some repair work. Even sitting in the back seat made me more nervous. Seeing the road again helpped me think about what things I could possibly expect.

After he lesson we had about 40 minutes until our scheduled test. We both took a short breather and bathroom break. When we came out we were told to head to the car immediatly they were going to do the test right away. As I didn't really have a preference we decided earlier that I would go second.

The examiner comes to the car after being instructed to give the test in English. The way the documents are handled here the date of issue is always entered into the system with how much driving experience you have. The examiner asked how much driving experience we have.

The first thing was a left turn at a T - Junction heading towards the traffic circle leading into big. With the heavy traffic and no light it is one of the hardest turns in Bet Shemesh. There was then about 5 minutes of driving before, it was time to pull over for my turn.

For the first 30 seconds my right was shaking. I ended up taking the approach to drive as best I can taking into account the extras that were floating around through my head. I didn't focus on every little thing and I was aware of stuff I had overlooked. 5 minutes later it was all done. A quick meeting with the instructor and grabbed a cab to work.

They don't tell you if you passed or failed right away. You have to find out from your instructor after 2:00ish. At 3:00 I found out I passed. I was happy and relieved. I posted on Facebook. A few minutes later a girl in our department let out a Mazel Tov. The rest of my department all joined in. Then my boss said he was confused the only reason event was that someone in a department we work with wrote a bug. He was told Facebook is the place for all the news from accross the room. I guess I could have posted it on Yammer but I am still really not sure what it is for.

Now I have to go back to the testing centre to pick up my temporary license. Then I need to pay for it at the post office in order to receive my full license. I am now officially an Israeli driver with all of the meaning that goes along with it. We are going to start keeping our eyes out for an opprutunity to purchase an little old clunker.


We just rolled over the odometer to 10,000 hits to this blog since we started it roughly a year ago!

Congratulations are in order :)

He passed the driving test :)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Learning to Drive

The process of transfering over to an Israeli driver's license has many steps. As we had no intention of getting a car right away and my Ontario license is good for a year, it was easy to push it down on the priority list. The first step I took care of right away. At the eye glass store in Jerusalem I had my picture taken, received the main document and had my eye test. With the clock on my Ontario license starting to count down it was time to get things moving. I went to the doctor, who I had never met before. He confirmed I have been in perfect health over the last 3 years. Then I contacted the driving instructor. Before I could take my first lesson, I had to go to the driving license office in Bet Shemesh and have them sign my documentation.

Once all of this was taken care of, I gave the documentation to my driving instructor. It was his job to book the driving test. I found out earlier in the week that my test would be on Sunday and I had to find time to squeeze in the two lessons. This morning was my first lesson. The second lesson will take place around the test area before the test.

The instructor called me an hour before my lesson and asked if I could be picked up immediatly. I quickly grabbed everything I needed, or at least I thought I did. What I thought was the photocopy of my driver's license was last night's shopping list. It is not a problem and will be fixed on Sunday.

I was picked up towards someone else's lesson. An older Haredi guy was having a lesson. On the Hasah, I generally try to not look out the window at traffic. This was even more nerve racking. At least I knew the instructor is in full control and I hope that it was just a learning curve early on his lessons. I have always found driving to be more intuitive than a lot of people. His lesson ended when he was dropped off on the 10.

It was my turn. I was a little bit nervous and heavy on the gas at the beginning. It was a strange feeling considering how comfortable I was driving last week in much more difficult situations. The instructor was really good and a lot of the advice was based on falling back on what I already knew from Young Drivers. At one point, he wondered why I was looking behind me when changing lanes. Apparently the blind spot check I am only supposed to be turning to the side and using the mirrors for the rest. He said his South African students tend to do the same thing. I also learned the rules about handling traffic circles inluding when to properly use turn signals. He said that the test is hard to fail. They are really strict on new drivers but easy going on people who can drive as long as they keep about 4 things in mind.

I was dropped off at the Post Office to pay for the test . The instructor didn't have the form I needed. The post office refused to handle the payment without the form. After speaking to the instructor I got back in line and tried dealing with the other clerk. She also refused to help. To add the confusion I was trying to figure out what to do about the fact that I had mistakenly paid for the written test and was trying to figure out how to get the money back. At that point a woman behind me got involved because she thought it was a language issue. They told me to go to the driving license place (which was closed) get the document and come back to the post office. Keep in mind this must be done before I can write the exam. I walked out very disappointed and not knowing what to do.

Before I could even collect my thoughts the woman came out of the post office to tell me to go back inside. She offered the advice that "sometimes you need to cry a little bit," I finished paying when my instructor walked in. The woman let's out a "Hey that's your driving instructor." Apparently they knew him at the post office and explained some sort of rule change that was causing some of my problems. He confirmed all of the documentation I received was correct. Hopefully everything will go well on Sunday and I will have my Israeli driver's license.
Standard for our klita,

We waited and waited and hmmed and hawed and finally signed Channah up for camp. 2 days later we get a call camp is cancelled because not enough kids signed up. We signed up so recently no money have actually been taken out of our bank account so we do not need to worry about getting anything back.

2 hours later we hear about another camp, with room, for 500 shekel less than we had planned to spend (which, co-incedentally, is the exact ammount we just agreed to pay for swimming lessons that we were not sure if we should do or not because of the cost).


Life seems to work itself out a lot easier on this side of the ocean.

End of year festivities

Tonight was Channah's end of year displays for both Ballet and Gan. They were wonderful. I have such a cute little dancer.

The theme for the year in gan was "Ahavat Yisrael". Lots of cute songs about loving other people and friends being friends.

It is about 8 minutes long all said and told. Enjoy! (It was still "processing" when I posted this, but it should be up soon ish)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Swirsky combined stats

11 years
10 ways to reach us
9 jobs
8 years of school
7 months pregnant
6 inlaws
5 "regular" shuls
4 places of habitation
3 cars
2 continents
1 gorgeous kid

Happy-holy-crow-it-is-over-a-decade-anniversary to us!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Price of Greed

The last few years living in Toronto killed any sense of bitachon that I may have once had. The decision to move to Israel has restored it as I can clearly see how things work out, even if it is not the way we planned. The events surrounding our apartment are a perfect illustration of this point.

For those who have not been following here is the brief summary. When we took the apartment we wanted to stay long term so we had a an option for a 2nd year. With our time constraints we ended up agreeing to a double lose clause where we would be on the losing end of a fluctuating dollar whether it went up or down. At the time the negotiations started the dollar was hovering between 4.1 - 4.2 when it had been under 3.5 when we negotiated and signed the lease. Sticking to the lease put the rent at significantly above market value. Everytime we tried to negotiate the response was a new condition to staying. We made what we consider a generous offer. When he turned it down we starting looking around. He assured us that he was not worried about renting the apartment and had cousins scheduled to see the apartment the day after our renewal option expired.

We have found something a block away better suited to our needs and cheaper. Moving is a pain but it is still better than having to deal with renegotiated again next year.

We got an e-mail over the weekend. The cousins (who live two streets away) have decided not to move to Bet Shemesh. He offered us exactly what he was offering before in dollars (before he wanted that dollar amount converted to shekel at the rate on Sept. 1), which is what the apartment will be listed at. Thanks to events in North Korea, on the day he made the offer the exchange rate was only 110 NIS above what we had previously offered. Based on what we have seen there is a good chance that he will be stuck with an empty apartment. If it sits empty for just one month, the Vaad Bayit (building fees) and Arnona (property tax) will take at least over a year to recover.

The Road Goes On

Not having a Sunday means Fridays are reserved for family time and errands the cannot be run during the week. This Friday we rented a car to take full advantage of the day. Our plans were to go to Tel Aviv to refill on oxygen tank, then to Gush for the Cherry picking festival before heading to Jerusalem for Shabbat with my Rosh Yeshiva.

Friday was a day that simply did not work out as planned. The normal car rental place (who had plenty of cars of Pesach) was out of cars first thing in the morning by the time I called them. This meant going to the place that opens at 9:00 instead of 8:00 giving our day a late start. We pulled Channah out of school, if we were early we could head straight to Gush and if we were late we did not need to worry.

Driving through Tel Aviv when you do not know where you are going requires two people. You have to know which lane you need to be in before you hit the intersection and can see the street sign (asuming you can see it at all). Rachel has learned to use the Hebrew map book really well and has become an exellent navigator especailly in Tel Aviv. I always trust her 100% for her driving decisions because she is usually right. She had been having a rough morning on the navigation side and we ended up on a road along a less efficient route we used to take. The store was busy and took longer than we had planned. We ended up being behind schedule but with still enough time for the afternoon.

We headed direclty to the cherry picking festival. It was our first trip to the Gush together. At one point Rachel points, "Is that our Quarry?" I thought it was possible but there are a few around the outside of Bet Shemesh. Suddenly we were passing the water tower that we can see from our mirpeset on a clear day. It was really weird seeing our mountain from the side. We missed the turn off the first time because the handmade signs marking the dirt road had only been on the other side of the road.

As I mentioned before we don't have Sundays and the country is small, so even big events are not that big. This was nothing like Chudleigh apple picking. First we drove down a winding (almost one lane) dirt road with sharp turns and hills. At least a dirt road is some what flat. This had large rocks sticking out that had to be navigated. This is as close as you can get to off roading with only some risk of serious damage to your car. Rachel had a panic attack. We finall got to the end and they told us the sweet cherries had gone really early in the morning and there were only sour cherries. We decided to get out of there and head to prepare for Shabbat.

We went to my Rosh Yeshiva who lives in Ramat Shlomo. We had a really nice time. I used to have a much more positive view of the Yeshivah/Haredi world and I realized that it is a testament to the qualities of himself and the other Rabbis at the Yeshiva. He commented a couple of times about how Obama would be upset if he decided to close in his mirpeset. He asked a question at dinner. After spending time thinking about it, I came up with an answer that he said was fairly close to the Ramban. As the Ramban is the champion of rational Jewdaism, I like the approach I took to the answer.

We had a great time and this entire week is super crazy busy. I think the craziest ends when I take my driving test on Sunday.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The List

So one of the things that I rather like about our location is that there is an Anglo, city-wide list serve where you can psot things going on. There are a number of smaller lists as well, some shuls have their own, one for the Ramah in particular, some in Hebrew, even one in French, but there is one, huge list that goes out a number of times a day, to anyone who chooses to recieve it.

People really do post about anything and everything. we found our current apartment becuase someoen posted it as being for rent on the list. Channah got to meet kids in her class before school started because we posted to the list looking for other kids in her gan. We get information on all sorts of communal programs, sales, shows, events, etc, all delivered to our computers, without needing to figure out where to find it all. Not sure what to do about a particular problem? Not sure where to buy that specific widget you need? Ask on the list. Someone will know and chances are they will be very helpful.

Even knowing you can see anything on the list, this post from this morning still made me crack up.

Names are deleted to protect the ammusing

From: xxxxxx@xxxxx.com
To: list@...
Subject: [BS/RBS list] Transportation Needed for Shidduch

I have a rare Male double yellow head amazon parrot. His name is Basil. We
live in Nofei Aviv.
His Kallah is a female of the same background. Her name is Peppi. She lives
in Mevo Modiin.
Their shidduch is being detained due to lack of transportation and the
Chasson is getting very
anxious. B"H, They want to start a family as soon as possible! We need to
get Basil to Mevo Modiin
hopefully this week.
Mevo Modiin is a wonderful place for a tiyul with your children. If you have
a few hours available
to do this mitzvah and provide a great time for your kids as well, please
contact me.
Basil and Peppi will be most grateful!
Mazal Tov!

Monday, June 15, 2009

There are things I hate about this country

The healthcare sytem to begin with. Did I just say a few weeks back that it was not so bad? Apparently I lied. Big time.

So walking home the other night in the dark I tripped over some out of place brickwork (gee thanks local construction site for leaving uneven bricks in the middle of the sidewalk!) Yes I should have been paying closer attention. That is nto the point.

Anyhow, so there I was walking home, listening ot my ipod and wham! next thing I know I am on the ground in rather a lot of pain. Not, as one might expect, in my "Hey look I really am related to the rest of my family" bad knee, but in my foot. It feels like a rubber band is squeezing my foot.

I get myself together and hobble my way back home. Lord knows people fall. I can move it. I can walk on it. No big deal right?

Well, I get home to discover it is a little bit swollen but nothing major. I ice it and put it up a little. I go to bed shortly thereafter. I woke up in the middle of the night at least 4 or 5 times in pain- God bless advil and some slightly stronger Israeli stuff I have in the medecine closet.

In the morning I try to figure out what to do.

Ok, so I am pretty sure it is only a sprain, so not an emergency. Then I find out that even if I knew, 100% certain it was broken, and you know, bone was poking out of skin, I would still pretty much have to follow the same rules anyway.

The below is all hypothetical as I just went with "It's a sprain", got JASon to grab a tenser bandange on his way home and am going with the RICE (rest, ice, compress and elevate) plan. So far it seems to be working.

1) Make doctors appointment online (no appointments are available until Tuesday morning- 2 days later. I find out after I can just go, sit and wait and hope ot squeeze in between people. I find out much, much, much later there is also a nurses room you can go to without needing an appointment. By the time I find that out the office is closeing in under a half hour. I should remind you we do nto have a car, for variosu reason I did not have cab fair in the house, and I was not in a position to walk either to the office or even to the bus stop).

2) Once would have seen a doctor they would give me a referal for an xray. I take that down the hall to the secretery for the kupah in that location. Before she can send me over to the xray, I need ot get a hitchayvut, literally an authorization from the kupah that they will pay for whatever the procedure in question is (in this case the x ray).

3) Once I have the referall and the hitchayvut I can take both of those over two one of two places where I could actually have the x-ray done. No it isn ot in the same location. In fact, it is across town. Literally. One of which is in an area not even easily accessable by bus. Did I mention no car and no cab fair?

4) If there wasa break, and it was simple they could set it there (most likely- maybe) or if it is bad they would send you, (not by ambulance unless you know, the bone happens to be sticking out through your skin and, I don't know, jabbing you through the heart or something- so yes, one hell of an expensive cab ride) to Jerusalem where, (you are going to love this) you owuld need a seperate hitchayvut from your kupah to get the issue dealt with! Yes laddies and gents, if you kupah is not associated with the hospital in question, you could theoretically be turned away or have to pay out of pocket foe having a bone set.

I should add it is not like there is no health coverage. Every single citizen in the country has health care under one of four "kupot". Each of the four has it's own pluses and minuses. Each has gold plans avaialble for purchase if you want, otherwise each citizen is entitled to make use of their regular coverage as needed. We carry cards in our wallets just like OHIP cards- only showing it does not get you in to see the specialists.

It is the single most ridiculous thing I have ver come across (and I say that having come across a lot of ridiculous things!)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fire, Aim, Ready! Settling the Land - שלח לך

In shul today (next week outside Israel) we read the story of the spies that were sent to scout out the land of Israel. Their negative report resulted in their entire generation losing out on the oppurtunity to settle the land that had been promised hundreds of years earlier.

Was the decision to send spies the right choice? It is important to do due deligence research and investigation before reaching makeing important decisions. The IDF major military successes could not have been achieved without accurate intelligence reports. On the other hand God had protected the Jewish people through the exit out of Egypt and wandering through the desert. He performed many miracles. For at least this generation should they not have trusted that if God said it was time to take the land it was time to take the land?

The question for those who hold that it was not the right decion is why didn't God tell Moshe that he was not allowed to send the spies. Up until this point whenever Moshe didn't know the answer he took his question to his Posek, who happened to be the creator of the entire world. He always had a black and white answer of the correct decision. This is the first time God turned to Moshe and said that you are the leader of the Jewish people, you make the choice.

Today our leaders have some very tough choices to make, that will have a far reaching impact on the Jewish people. There is no Siman in the Shulchan Oruch on how to make these decisions. Our leaders will have to take the lessons of the Torah and apply them as best they can to situation. Only time will tell if they made the correct decision.

Our Aliyah plans was best described as "Fire, Aim Ready!" We had told people two years before we left that we were planning to go. It was not until 5 weeks before we left that the decision was final and there was no turning back. We gave notice on our apartment before Nefesh B'Nefesh confirmed we were on a flight. 3 weeks before we left we decided on RBS as opposed to Haifa. We didn't have a pilot trip and our last trip to Israel was in 2000. We had never been to Bet Shemesh and I wasn't 100% sure where it was on the map.

We spent years contemplating the ifs, ands, or maybes. When the time came and we saw our window closing and made the leap. We didn't expect miracles but we were confident it was the right thing to do. It turned out to be the best decision we ever made. A year ago we could never have imagined how much our lives would improve.

Many people contemplate Aliyah. They spend there time sending out 'spies' contemplating if it is the right decion. They spend time making sure Aliyah is a perfect decision. In the end they listen to the negative reports from the media or cases of others where Aliyah was not the right decision. Just like the generation in the desert they miss their window of oppurtunity and never make it to Israel.

I firmly beleive that every Jew should at least discuss with their Rav if making Aliyah is the right decision for them. Failing to look at the deicison objectivly will result in the same mistake as the spies in the desert. A chance to live in the land promissed to the Jewish people thrown away on a few negative reports when the positive was right there if they were only willing to look.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Door l'Door

I always found it funny how people would tell stories about the days when milk was delivered directly to your home. Now there is a recommendation that Canada Post stop all door to door deliveries.

In our neighborhood the we get all kinds of traffic. The most common is people asking for money. If they are friendly or have a letter from Leman Achai or Rav Spector we are willing to give something. The difference here from Toronto is that they are quite content to take one or two shkalim. Even on such a small donation some of them are willing to shower you with brachot. I had one guy get mad at me (not literraly) after giving him 2 shekel because Rachel was unable to come to the door (she just got out of the shower) to receive a bracha and could only give to me and Channah.

There is also the world of commerce. Grocery stores offer delivery, although it is cheaper to pay for the cab and take it home our selves. We recently started having 2L of fresh squeezed orange juice delivered to our door once a week. Yesterday we placed an order in two weeks from the door to door egg guy. Today I bought beautiful flowers for Shabbat from a kid selling door to door.

I like the fact that small time customer service is alive and well.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Visiting dignitaries

I do not think |I have ever had as much fun with Abba as I did during this trip. He was like a whole different person and to those naysayers who told me to find them a hotel, I say "pfffft" (picture me sticking my tongue out with my thumb on my nose).

Truthfully, I was, to put it mildly, TERRIFIED of how the trip was going to go. It has been a long time since we all had to live under the same roof- and clearly things are not exactly the same in my life now as the were when I was 19. But I really need not have worried. Although I am certain that the accommodations were not quite 5 star quality, I did my best to make sure it would pass health and safety inspections.

They landed on the Friday and being that it was a Friday afternoon there was no way I was going to be able to go get them (remember we do not have a car). We hired a local driver to go get them. Needless to say I bit my nails to the quick worrying about whether they would find each other, if the luggage would fit in the car, if the guy would be even somewhat professional. I should not have worried. He was great and my parents got here quickly, cheaply, and happily.

Obviously There was nothing on the agenda for Friday. They pretty much handed over the scotch (Yay! Thanks!) and became one with my living room furniture. We made it through dinner and all crashed pretty early.

Shabbat morning Abba went ot shul with Jason, and mom came a little later with Channah and I. It was packed! There was a Bar Mitzvah so my parents got to see a full contact kuddush Israel style. Actually, it was cute. The man they went on their first double date with was here visiting his daughter so they had a little reunion at shul.

We had some friends join us for lunch and then slept for a bit before going to the park to meet up with a woman who used to be my baby sitter back when I was 3. She now has 5 kids (I think) and a big dog and lives not far from here. We met at a reasonably local park and shmoozed for a while before we took my mom "park hopping" on our way home for seudat shlishit. After Shabbat we got a sitter and went for a night on the town Beit Shemesh Style. Ok, so we took the bus to get coffee at Aroma- but really, that is a Saturday night out Beit Shemesh style...

Sunday we sort of did nothing and everything. They were still pretty jet lagged, and I needed to stay around Beit shemesh as I teach piano Sunday afternoons, so I just took them on a little excursion to see Ramat Beit Shemesh. We took what is normally a 20 minute walk down to the mercaz (central shopping area) but it sort of turned into a 12 step program for photohaulics. Roughly every 12 steps Abba found flowers that needed to have their pictures taken. Truthfully, they really are beautiful right now, and it was really nice to see Abba having such a nice time and relaxing with something he enjoys.

He has been complaining for a while now that his favourite kippah is getting a little ratty but that he can not find one to replace it. I am proud to say we managed to get him enoguh on this trip that if each lasts as long as the ratty one he will have enough kippahs to live ot be about 230 years old! the only problem was he liked them so much he did not bother wearing a hat.

No hair + kippah only covering the centre section of your head =
looking like you have a really bright idea but the lightbulb just can't get out.

Later that evening they took Channah out to ride her bike and hung out at the park while I had students. We bbq'd Nile fish for dinner and it was amazing!

Monday Jason got up and went to work and the rest of us took off for the Old City. We took the bus. We spent the morning at migdal David (the citadel) so Channah could show Zaidy one of her favourite places.

We wandered through the old city, down through the shuk, stopped for lunch in the Rova and meandered our way down to the kotel.From there we decided we were just going to walk around a little. As I refused to walk around East Jerusalem with my 5 year old we decided to take a cab over to the midrachov (Ben Yehuda).

Again we wandered around and took in a bunch of street preformers. Abba took Channah to the candy store and I am not sure I ever saw the two of them on such equal footing. He was, well, like a kid in a candy store! Jason joined us after work for dinner and more meandering. We had dinner at some french bakery that Abba knew about. It was, to put it mildly, a gastronaumic affair to remember.

Tuesday they took Channah to the zoo. They had a great time. Channah came home pretty much all over Zaidy and telling us what a great time they had.

Wednsday Jason took the day off work. We rented a car and went to the Animal safari outside of Tel Aviv (we told them it was going to be animals before they decided to go to the zoo but as they were letting a 5 year old plan their iteinerary there was not a whole lot they could do about the plan). I really enjoyed the safari. It is not exactly African Lion Safari back in Toronto (no baboons on your car for one thing) but it was really nice and peaceful. We spent the morning and early afternoon there before heading up to Hertzaliya to check out the marina.

I think if they could move in tomorrow they would! Even I have to admit that it was gorgeous and friendly and interesting and would be perfect for them. We spent a couple of hours wandering the area- Abba wanted to see the marina house. Channah wanted to check out the candy store (they found these banana marshmellow things that one member of our party went a little bananas for).

We also spent about 45 minutes or so in the local arcade. Jason and Channah challenged Abba to a bumber car duel. I am not sure who won but I am sure that I can not remember the last time I saw Abba laugh that hard! Ok, so it was not exactly defensive driving- but man was it a riot to watch. Did I mention that ISraeli bumber cars actually cause damange to each other when they bump?

Being as we had a car and were less than a half hour from Ikea I sort of demanded we make a stop there becuase I needed some more stacking baskets for my studio. We ended up having dinner there (only mehadrin kosher ikea in the world!). Swedish Meatballs are as good as everyone says! Seriously though- where else am I going to be able to feed Channah kosher chicken fingers, fries, a salad and juice for 9 shekel (about $3)?

Thursday was erev shavuot so we only had the morning for doing stuff. On Abba's suggestion we actualy went down to help support the community in Sderot by doing our Yom Tov shopping down there. We also went out to lunch and got what was truly the best salad we ever had- also the biggest. We ate it for all 4 meals on over the weekend as well.

That brings us to yom tov and shabbat. It was nice and quiet. We went to shul. First day mom and abba came with us, second day they went to a minyan for chutznikim (people not from Israel). Shabbat ended, we made havdalah and took Abba to the airport (Mom stayed back with Channah).

Ok, week two at another time because I seriously need to go to bed.

The rest of the pictures to follow when I am more awake (yes that means you might be waiting a while)

Gratuitous cute pictures

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Well that was rather anti-climactic

For weeks here they have been telling us that at 11:00 on June the 2nd there was going to be a HUGE, country-wide emergency drill to not only test the siren system but also to ensure that everyone in the country knows what to do in case of a real emergency. For weeks it has been talked about everywhere. "Don't forget THE DRILL." "Remember not to forget THE DRILL." The whole thing has taken on the implications of a nuke going off in your living room sort of scale that YOU. MUST. NOT. FORGET.

For information in English on THE DRILL check here.

Drill just happened. It was about a minute long, not as loud as the normal Yom HaZikaron siren, and sounded like an ambulance driving by. Mom and I went to the mamad (sealed room) and sealed it. By the time we got the door closed it was over.