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Rosh HaShannah Greetings

The sun is surrounded and trapped in a khamsin looking more like a stubborn, fading moon that refused to exit after a bloody sunrise. (A khamsin is a dust storm from Africa.)

Less then a week before Rosh HaShannah we were forced to move. The mover gave us an estimate at 1pm on Monday afternoon and at 5pm on the very same day brought boxes. He was supposed to come at 8am the nest morning but I asked him to put it back to 9am. He agreed. Tuesday morning at 7:30am the mover, with three helpers, was knocking at our door.
Hours later, hot and tired and surrounded by boxes in our new apartment, we didn’t know if we were too electronically challenged to work the remote or if the A/C didn’t work. It was about 90 degrees. We opened all the windows and the next morning everything, including Mick and I, were covered in fine red silt.
Our landlady came by to see if everything was alright. She wanted to know why we didn’t clean before moving and I told her we did but with all the windows open, it was a worthless exercise. Before she could ask why the windows were open, I smiled and said, Ruthie, are you hot? She looked at me with an expression of gratitude that we will turn on the A/C for her. I hand over the remote control. She presses every button and to her astonishment nothing happens. Mick and I look at each other relieved. We might still be hot and tired and covered in dirt but at least we were not too hopeless to turn on the A/C. Ruthie calls a repairman.
We have no wifi, we are surrounded by packing boxes, and soon depart for the center of Naharyia to eat, use the restaurant’s wifi, buy new mezzuzot, and fruits and vegetables for Shabbat and the New Year.
The owner of the fruit store is taciturn. I usually wait for him to look at me and then while his eyes are locked into mine, I wish him a gusty boker tov (good morning). Today, he wears a big smile, reaches for my hand and wishes me a L’Shannah Tova (may you be inscribed for life in the coming year), and L’bracha. (a blessing)
At the mezzuzot store, the owner Yossi tells me he has had time to check only two of the five mezzuzot I ordered but tells me to take them anyway and to come back on Sunday. When I try to pay he tells me to wait until I come back. “I won’t lose any sleep”, he tells me.
On line at the grocery store I examine a jar that says dates, but it is in liquid form. I ask the woman in front of me if it is date honey.
“No. But you must buy it. It is delicious and on sale.” She asks if we have the store’s discount card and when I shake my head, no, she tells the cashier to use her discount card for our groceries and then wishes us a LShannah Tova and showers us with blessings.
I went to Cofix to buy freshly sqeezed carrot juice for five shekels ($1.25) and while waiting I see two very young Chassidic boys. With their very young eyes they swallow everything in front of them and when the cashier places a coffee milkshake on the counter for another customer, not only the eyes drink everything in but a thirsty mouth descends on the straw. The cashiier snatches the drink back and looks to see if the intended customer saw this partial theft of his drink. He didn’t. She throws the violated straw out, places another straw in the drink and smiling widely, hands it to the unsuspecting customer.
Aah, finally time for Shabbat. Since our stove top and oven are not yet hooked up, I cooked on our two burner hot plate and we readied for a quiet evening alone Friday night and for our luncheon guests the next day. I suddenly remembered right before candle lighting that we had been unable to reach our guests to tell them we moved. I wrote out a note and put a piece of tape on the top.
The next morning I walked down eight flights of steps, two blocks to the old apartment, up seven flights, posted the note on the door and then retraced my footsteps with my grand finale of collapsing on our couch. We were so happy when our guests arrived and thanked us for the note.
For those of you not living in Israel, we hope you too will sometime soon enjoy the warmth of the people here, the feeling of being close to G-d and the beauty of the land.
Wishing you a year filled with joy and good health followed by more of the same for years to come.
Below is the view from our living room window. In the distance is Lebanon. From our bedroom window, at night, we see Haifa all lit up.

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David Needs to Battle Goliath Again. But this time, David Needs Your Help

I had the opportunity yesterday morning to speak on the Brian Thomas Show (550KRC). Brian is a very well informed, dynamic host of an early morning radio show that hosts a variety of guests on widely ranging topics. The interview lasted nine minutes and during that time I was able to squeeze in the main talking points that I am asking all of you, on behalf of the organization Never Again Is Now, founded by Stan Zir  http://www.nain.info/jumpstart/ to present to your congressmen, either by letter, or better yet by telephone.

Their website is full of information as to why they are requesting that six million Americans, Jews and Christians, speak for the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. I beseech you to please take action and ask all those that you know to take action. If you belong to an email group, or attend meetings, please get the word out.

The talking points we suggest:

Increase sanctions on Iran

Freeze all their USA assets

Supply Israel with the Stealth Bomber 2 capable of dropping 30,000 pound bombs. These bombs are capable of going way below the surface in order to knock out Iran’s nuclear bomb plant

Please join Never Again is Now on Facebook, post the video on your page, and promote Never Again is Now to all of your contacts. We need voices in every American city organizing people to speak out for the six million Jews murdered in World War II.

God Bless you.


Hafook. Or, All About Trying to Learn a Language ©

By: Joan Gross

I learn words but a week later the words just sail out of my mind. A strong breeze just carries them away.

Or I may remember the word, but not the meaning. Take the Hebrew words “bakbok” and “boobah” for instance. I mix them up. One word means bottle and the second doll.

Worse, and my husband does the same thing, is we confuse the words “calev” and “kelev”. One is milk and the other is dog. It is a little embarrassing to go out and order coffee with or without a dog instead of with or without milk.

A friend taught me to order coffee by saying café hafook. Otherwise you get a tiny cup of very strong coffee. I had no idea what the word meant, but it worked. I got good coffee with milk and not a dog.

My husband was expecting someone to hang a political banner outside our living room window. The man showed up an hour and a half late, full of apologies which we could only half understand. We were thrilled though because we have not figured out how to remove the screen or the window and we were going to watch carefully to see how this man did it. It’s not just the language that is strange when you move to another country. Everything is different.

The man removed the screen. He took out the window. He climbed outside and hung the banner and in the process cut his finger. We scrambled to find him a band aid. He carefully replaced the window and the screen and was packing up his belongings when our neighbor walked in. She took one look at the sign and yelled “haffook.” The sign was upside down. The poor man had to go through the entire process again to put the banner right side up.

I was left pondering how “afook” applied to coffee and the banner and figured out – maybe not correctly but enough to satisfy myself – that when they make coffee “afook” they heat up the milk in the cup, and then they add the coffee–upside down from serving the coffee and then adding the milk.

But my affair with “hafook” continued. I was in Tzfat (also known as Sefad) with my husband. He was in a class learning digital marketing and I was set loose to shop. I was in a store looking at scarves, and suddenly the owner of the shop came to me. She touched my dress. What is this about I wondered. Then she pinched the seam at the side and pulled it out for me to examine. “Afook” she exclaimed. My dress was on inside out.


“Hafook” I will remember. It will not sail out of my brain but remain embedded forever. If only I could actually experience other words instead of learning them by rote. I would actually learn to speak Hebrew.


Tzfat’s Karo Synagogue is Calm and Cool

Tzfat has more knooks and crannies than any city I’ve seen. Narrow alleys give way to mountain vistas and open doorways allow you to peer into other alleys with mryiads of doors and gates.

Though in Tzfat at least half a dozen times, I never entered the Joseph Karo Synagogue. Karo, a tzadik legend, and the author of the “Shulcan Aruch” where many of us turn to with our questions on Jewish law, was born in 1488. He was a victim of the Jew haters of that time that were forced to flee Spain. His family moved to many inhospitable places until as an adult, Karo finally settled into his last residence, including at the end his grave, in the Tzfat cemetery.

A synagogue was built in his honor on the spot where he headed the Rabbinical Court of Justice but it was destroyed in the earthquake of 1837. It was rebuilt several years later but is probably not as grand as the original.

Joseph Karo was one of the great kabalists of his time and Tzfat embodies the spirit of artists and mysticism. Sitting quietly in this blue oasis, it is easy to feel spiritual and creative at the same time. Below are photos of the interior of the synagogue and two watercolors I did, including one of a gate in Tzfat (Sefad).











Short Walk Yields Surprises and Treasures

I was rescued from biking today by a friend who wanted to walk. We walked a brisk hour and ten minutes to and in Shevei Zion, a moshav next door to Naharyia. It’s population is somewhere between 500 and 1000 people. It offers more than places much larger. Today, I will share photos of just one of the homes there that has beautiful cement sculpture and bicycle flower pots.

These works of art are whimsical, colorful and lifesized. They are incredibly original. The best part is it is just another home there and if you find it, it will be a happy accident.


Senorita3 copy

Senorita2 copy

Senorita4 copy

Senoritas1 copy

Senorita5 copy

If you like colorful art, and have children in your life, check out http://www.TurnipTimes.com for info on the book “Forty Days and Forty Nights, Rain, Rain, Rain”

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If You Don’t Want to Cry, Don’t Come to Atlit

I am back in the States, but will be writing about my experiences on this last trip to Israel for a while. One of my last excursions was to Atlit, a beautiful town on the Mediterranean, south of Haifa.

My friend Ruchel and I met at the train station as we came from opposite directions. We had no idea how to get to the Atlit Detention Camp but after questioning a few residents, Ruchel talked one of them into driving us there. Surprisingly, after the tour, which took over two hours, an employee there offered to drive us back into town and dropped us off minutes from the train station at Ben Ezra restaurant where we had a very appetizing salmon lunch accompanied by about 10 salads.

Now for the serious side of this trip: Jews who had foresight in 1935 were anxious to flee Europe. Jews in 1946, who survived the Holocaust, did not want to go back to their homes where the smell of the burning flesh of their families was still fresh in their nostrils. And the Jews during the Holocaust who were able to cross borders, escape the Nazis, and get on a ship, were determined to leave whether or not Britain gave them permission. The British, who had promised the Jews Palestine for fighting in World War I, suddenly back tracked and decided to allow only about 7,000 Jews a year into Palestine. Everyone else was declared an illegal.

This created an explosive situation. Especially for the Jews whose very life depended on getting out of Europe. Once on the seas they risked German ships blowing them out of the water, or English ships making them turn around even though they knew they would be returning to a place where they would certainly be murdered; unfortunately just as the S.S. St. Louis was refused entry by everyone, including the U.S., and 1000 Jews were returned to Europe to be fed to the gas chambers.

Those Jews who did make it to Palestine were interred at the Atlit Detention Camp.

I shuddered when I saw the showers that new detainees were told to strip and get into. Many of them had traveled in overcrowded ships and had not bathed for weeks and were infested by lice. However, they did not understand what the British were asking of them and too many of them were familiar with the “showers” that held no water but only poisonous gas. They were told to place their clothing in a revolving metal closet. From there their clothes were put into a dryer that held chemicals. The detainees’ pockets held the few mementos they clung to: photos, documents, and important papers. All were destroyed.
The British tried explaining to them and after the showers rewarded them with oranges and chocolate. Some, when they realized it was really only a hot shower, got back on the end of the line for the shower, the orange and the chocolate. However, right after the shower they were sprayed with DDT which shortened many of their lives.
The camp is surrounded by barbed wire. The women and children were housed behind the wire on the left side of the promenade and the men and older boys on the right side. The British knew that the Jews would not escape and leave part of their family behind. The symbols of imprisonment surrounded them, including the watch towers. If, in the middle of the night someone needed to relieve themselves in the holes in the ground outside, they were not allowed out at night and had to use the basins provided. With 40 cots cramped into small spaces, the stench of urine had to have been very powerful, especially in the summer.

These internment buildings had no heat or air conditioning and the tin roofs made it unbearably hot in the summer and intensified the cold in the winter.

Our tour guide, Gal, from Ashdod, was very thorough and knowledgeable. Aside from lectures, there were various presentations and films that made the place come alive.

One of the films depicted a Palmach rescue, under the command of Yitzhak Rabin, of a group of Iraqis who were caught crossing the border on foot. The British plan was to return them to Iraq even though they knew they would be killed. This daring rescue took place in October of 1945.

The end of the movie is incredibly moving and I will not spoil it for you. But the bravery of the Jewish families, men, women and children, in protecting these runaways is uplifting and stirring.

Now for the photos:



This photo depicts a son who was reunited with his father in the Detention Camp.


Our guide, Gal, in front of the machine that treated the prisoners’ clothing with chemicals.


The above ship was not a ship that took Jews to Palestine but was from the same time period. Ships that were supposed to carry 1000 people might carry 3800 people. This small ship is used for multi-media presentations about the conditions and fear that the passengers faced.


Vanilla, Chocolate or Something Else – Life’s Choices

By Joan Gross

I am spending seven weeks in Israel and every day my choices are overwhelming. What should be my priority today; working, sightseeing or visiting friends? I determined today would be a working day.

My husband, who lives in Israel, has a Cellcom modem for his computer. That means even though I brought my laptop with me and my Ipad I can only use them on the train, in the train station and at the bus stop near our home. Although most of the buses do not have wifi I get right on at this particular bus stop.

So, after much nagging hubby has agreed to go to the shopping center nearby to the Cellcom storefront and do something about the situation. I said I would join him if we walked instead of taking the bus since this is the first day in five that there has not been torrential rainfall. The monotony of the rain was relieved yesterday only by intermittent hail. We got caught in it and even though we tried to shield our faces we were pelted by these sky- delivered missiles.

We set out to the shopping center which involves walking along the Mediterranean on a promenade that gives way to a gravel path with a small bridge separating Naharyia from Sh’ve Tzion, a small village. I had always laughed when I saw the danger sign about 15 feet before the bridge. Danger of what I wondered? Today the sign vindicated itself. Water, at least a foot high gushed rapidly over the bridge into the Sea. I could see myself slipping on the bridge, falling into the water and being washed right out.

I don’t mind walking a mile out of the way as long as I am not retreading my same footsteps and challenged hubby to follow me across the fields in the hope that we would find another cross over, or just wend our way to the highway. He stopped in his tracks when he saw some pottery shards. I helped search and sort through these artifacts. Of the ones I found, one is an arrowhead, another part of a rim of a pot with an interesting design, and a third part of a handle. I left him several times to see what big white birds were circling overhead. I shadowed a tree, not moving and finally one of the birds alit. It was a pelican.

By the time we finished collecting shards in the field my husband declared it was time to go back home. No Cellcom solutions for my computer today.

We came back, washed the shards and took photos. My husband is mailing these photos off to an archeologist that he has been communicating with about an impression of a sword embedded in a large rock on the beach.

I will have to save this blog entry on a flash drive to enter it on my husband’s computer and the photos you see will have been emailed from my Ipad at the bus stop.

So today I have traveled into history instead of solving my technology problems. Ah, the choices we make.

Now for tomorrow, will it be chocolate, vanilla or something else?

Daily prompt: 32 flavors