Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In Times of Darkness, I'm Thankful for My Jewish Family

Yom chamishi, 5 Kislev 5775, Thanksgiving.

Along with all of my fellow Neve Daniel residents, I received a note with the following several-times-forwarded message:

"this is what Har Nof ppl got on the door handle this morning"

I wasn't sure what to expect. Threatening messages, God forbid? In the current terror climate, after the events of the previous week, that was the first thing that came to mind. As soon as I opened the email and saw the first sentence of the note and the chocolate bar, I got a lump in my throat. Not of fear, but of an emotion you can only feel when you are surrounded -- physically or even only spiritually -- by family.

The letter basically says the following:

Our brothers, dear residents of Har Nof!

The Nation of Yisrael is one body, with one soul.

The pain is universal:

The community of Yisrael is in terrible grief

and in deep pain.

In our difficult hours -- many of Am Yisrael stood by our side.

Now -- we are by your side.

You are in our hearts and in our prayers.

We add [our voice to the collective] Torah, faith and prayer

"In the name of all of Yisrael."

God's blessing upon you, only be strong and courageous!

With love,

The citizens of Itamar

After I read it, I tried to tell the letter over to the Dearly Beloved... and by the time I was finished, we were both choking back tears.

There is much here that is beautiful. The act is touching, by itself. The letter and the gift of sweetness were from a community which was devastated by a terror attack in 2011 in which six members of the Fogel family were brutally massacred as they slept.

And while this is a beautiful story all by itself, there is more to this lovely deed that is worthy of note.

The love letter was delivered by the citizens of Itamar -- a primarily Israeli Dati Leumi community in the Shomron -- read that "settlers dwelling over the Green Line" -- given to a largely Anglo Hareidi community in Jerusalem -- read that "not East Jerusalem, and therefore mostly uncontested Jewish property." It is a reminder that we are all one family of Jews, undivided by how we dress or daven or learn Torah, where we live, or if where we live is considered to be politically correct. I only mention this to you in case you are fooled by the media into believing that when the going gets tough the family will be divided. We are truly one body with one soul -- and we are in this together!

On this eve of the American Thanksgiving -- this is something for which I am truly thankful.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Life as the Sea, Friends like Waves

Yom sheni, 3 Cheshvan 5775.

I am so far behind in writing to you about what has been happening in Israel! It seems to happen any time there is a great weight of sadness. I have much respect for my friends in the Jewish blogosphere who continue to write even when their is much collective Jewish pain. So I have to catch up soon, with God's help, as I climb with everyone else out of the well of sadness.

I want to write about our seventh aliyaversary which passed on October 10. I want to tell you about the wedding of Stunt Man and Molly McMolly! I also mean to write about the Parade of Nations (who love Israel. Admittedly, some countries were probably represented by all five of the people therein who love Israel...). You need to hear about the storyteller I met at Stunt Man's place of work. And about the chol hamoed trip up north to see the Atlit detention camp, and the Tomcar rides, and the visit to the Druze villages.

For now, I'll just share yesterday's adventure in Netanya with a few of my "Coffee Talk" online friends. (We have been meeting for a few years online. At a certain point, it occurred to us that meeting each other f2f -- face to face -- was an important component of our friendship. We have met several times now, at various places around Israel.)

As with many other stories, this one is best told in pictures. Whenever my friends get me off of my beloved yishuv, I am reminded of how easy it is to move around this fascinating country... and I mean to do more of it!

 We juggled locations and times and dates and schedules... and in the end, only seven of our group could meet this time. What did we discuss? Our brilliant children and grandchildren, of course. Our latest endeavors, artistic, professional, or related to our hobbies. ("You are looking at the Summer Triangle; and those three bright stars are called Deneb, Altair and Vega...") I hang out with very talented, smart ladies: musicians, photographers, biologists, hematologists, psychologists, restaurateurs, writers, mothers, wives, friends... So the conversation is far from boring.

We met at a mehadrin dairy restaurant right on the water. I can recommend the food; though for the prices, the portions were not as generous as some of my favorite places in Jerusalem. (Except for the health salad -- which could easily have fed two or three of us!)

During our meal, we also shared Torah thoughts, and spoke about the concepts of achdut (Jewish unity), especially given current events. We managed to discuss politics and our very strong opinions about Israeli foreign relations with complete respect and peace -- which is one of the reasons I love this very diverse group so much!

 I arrived earlier than the rest, thanks to catching an Egged bus before the traffic jams that trapped my friends began. The downside was that I had a lot of time without them. The upside was that I had a lot of time with God's amazing creation, and with other interesting people I was privileged to meet.

They introduced themselves as Izzy and Denise Edelstein, formerly of South Africa, and now living in Atlanta, Georgia. They were here for weddings and grandchildren, the best of everything! Izzy was for many years a family doctor ("They don't make those anymore," he said). We chatted about the home visits of the family doctor in the "olden days." He and Denise have been married for 61 years, and are clearly best friends.

They took a photo of me, too, "just to prove you were here!"
Lovely people, who seemed to have all the time in the world to chat with me about travel and children and getting older. May the Dearly Beloved and I grow older with as much grace, and with the blessing of the fine friendship they share.

I also met a young couple with a baby named Tzippy in her stroller. I explained to her that her parents would not always take her on their romantic dinner dates. She was really fun! Her father mouthed the words silently with a joyful-but-hollow-eyed smile: "She's. still. up..." I commiserated, and gave him the bracha that she would not still be up at 3 AM...

And then there was the Decorator Cat... and the mongoose. Yes, we have it all in Israel.

 Strange but cute little fellows! Fortunately, they seemed calm about being photographed.

 Of course -- next to the wonderful and charming human beings with whom I was blessed to spend a few hours -- the best part is the sea and the setting sun. May we always remember to be grateful, no matter how sad, difficult, or frightening our world becomes, for all of the beauty and goodness around us.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has made the great sea.*

We dedicate our words of Torah and our acts of kindness to each other from this special evening to the memory of Yemima bat Avraham Avinu, הי״ד, that her innocent neshama might have an aliyah.
photo from Voices magazine online
Treat life as the sea,
heart as the seashore, and friends like waves.
It never matters how many waves there are.
What matters is that one wave touches the seashore.
an anonymous Urdu poem

*said upon seeing the ocean or the Mediterranean Sea for the first time in thirty days

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

War Report: Three Teens and Bombs and Tee Shirts; Feeding and Praying for Our Boys

Yom revi'i, 3 Av 5774.

"Together we will win!"
Was there ever a time before the three boys?

Many very sad things have happened lately, and are still happening. Yet my Nation is more united than it's ever been. Most people in the various "camps" -- religious vs. secular, politically right vs. politically left, carnivores vs. vegans, what have you -- are setting their differences aside to stand behind the soldiers, as they clear the tunnels aimed with death at Israel's heartland.

Individuals and organizations are taking turns traveling to the south and to hospitals to feed, cloth, pamper, encourage and entertain our troops.

Here is a letter I received from a friend about her sons at the front:

When your kid calls from a war, racing toward incoming rockets seems logical. What did he want from home? Anti-fungal cream, especially if it would help with ringworm and athlete's foot. Apparently, nine days without changing your socks or taking off your army boots is not great for your feet. "And Mom, can you bring those two boxes of Wacky Mac I didn't eat on my last leave home?"

The soldiers were mostly relaxed. They are determined and motivated to carry out their mission. There was NO complaining. On the contrary, we were shown the incredible piles of things that have been donated to add comfort where possible: mountains of socks, baby wipes, mosquito repellent, food, drinks, etc. Their vehicles are covered with letters and pictures sent from a loving and grateful nation. Shocking how much 20-somethings appreciate the efforts made with crayons. But they do!

Photo from Facebook - no idea who took it
My son lost a friend today, a guy who was with him in their early days in basic training. War, even when it appears that you are winning, is not the game our guys would prefer to play. His friend will be buried tomorrow. May his family be comforted. His buddies from basic will not attend the funeral. They will be back in Gaza by then working on the tunnel they're assigned to destroy. Their efforts to protect their families, their friends, and their nation trump their need to mourn right now, even though this hit them very hard.

We do live in a crazy country. I doubt there is another place in the world that allows/encourages soldiers to invite family and friends to visit during a war. And maybe this is one of the few places where you keep the radio on so you can hear the announcements of where rockets are headed as you are driving in that direction; but you drive on nonetheless, praying that at the end of that journey there'll be a 21-year-old who needs a hug from his parents as much as they need hugs from him.

We did hear from our other son after Shabbat. He is fine, but more than ready to finish what his unit needs to do and turn the rest over to the younger guys. He says that he and his reserve unit buddies are too old to be away from wives, children and their lives. 

Tonight we hugged one son with a sigh of relief. Tomorrow he goes back into Gaza. Our married son awaits the next mission (unless he's already there); and we pretend to go back to our lives. May God grant them success and return ALL OF THEM home healthy and whole!

Normal summer moments still exist, thanks to the IDF and the Iron Dome.
The days run together. You try to stay as "normal" as possible. It's not as challenging for us as for our friends in the south, as it's always been for our friends in the south, living under rocket fire for nearly fourteen years. Fourteen years! Children have been born and have grown up with rocket fire and the "Tzeva Adom" siren as the background music of their entire lives.

But even for the rest of us, the war plays in the background if you are a mother, father, sister, brother, significant other, or friend of a soldier. Which everybody is. Your heart breaks over and over again at the losses felt by others, the losses that won't end. Our hearts ache for our family members and friends.

If your son calls, you cling to his voice with every ounce of love and faith and hope your heart can produce. I've asked friends how they are coping, and there is a consensus: you live with two minds. "The bad guys must be eradicated; the shelling must once and for all be stopped; we mustn't yet again stop before the job is done, or we'll be sending another kid to the front in eighteen months or so." (I've sent three sons so far to three wars -- as have many other mothers.) But the other half of our brain is saying "Make a cease fire already. I want him home NOW."

Last Monday was a beautiful little oasis in time, as Stunt Man came back to civilization for the first time in three weeks. He was a little thinner, but he was in pretty good shape physically and emotionally.

Stunt Man on 24-hour leave, seeing his future apartment for the first time. "Nice job, Molly McMolly!"

I discovered something interesting today. If I get away from the news, I feel a bit lost. Unless I get away from the news, leave my house, and go and participate in a mitzvah. Today I joined a group of dedicated people in Efrat to put together yet another of the collections of presents to be delivered to the soldiers at the front. One of the organizers said, "We gave first to the soldiers in Nahal, Tzanchanim and Golani, because they had lost friends. But we are trying to get enough donations together to send out 40,000 packages, because each soldier needs encouragement and our gratitude." (A shout-out to the Maresky family for opening their home and for hosting this effort.)

"Looks like a Neve Daniel kaytana out there." Romi, managing the troops.

"They've had enough candy. Let's send them some nutritious junk food!"

Need your spirits to be picked up? Do a mitzvah with a bunch of nice people. [Photo by Jonty Maresky]

Our kids writing love notes to the soldiers

All the goodies wrapped up to look like a big piece of candy.

People of all ages work side-by-side to prepare the packages.
The T-Shirt Project – A NEW INITIATIVE

Many of the chayalim are not able to carry their siddur​im, tefillin, tehillim, onto the front. Many in the IDF don’t have them. Every soldier needs extra protection to defend us in this war​ – right now. While they appreciate all the items we send in a bag – the treats and necessities – we can’t help beyond our human capacity.

This week – we will be giving soldiers a T-shirt with a printed message on the inside of the shirt – written over their hearts​.​ It is a short Passuk from  King David’s Tehillim, (Tet Zion - 16) which beseeches God to protect, and give refuge.
The passuk is (מכתב לדוד שמרני )
         שמרני אל כי חיסיתי בך – “Protect me, O God, for I have sought refuge in YOU.”
There will also be a personal letter to the soldiers to give them chizuk and remind them that King David conquered Goliath, and the side of Good will win over the enemies.

The outside of the shirt will be illustrated with "Thank IDF Soldiers."
The main idea is to give each soldier their own "Personal Protective Iron Dome" –  a strong Passuk connecting them to Hashem, in a subtle and yet strong way​, and understanding deeply that we need Hashem’s help in times of war as our ​S​ource of protection, refuge and life.
This is a "NU Campaign" and "Thank Israeli Soldiers" initiative.

How can YOU help?

Our objective is to supply every soldier in the IDF with this good quality ‘Dri-Fit’ T-Shir​t – eventually – (with your help)​. Connecting each one of them to Hashem, to us, to Am Yisrael and to the world.

Contact Nu Campaign and send to friends overseas:

What if you're not in Israel, and you want to do something, anything, to help the soldiers? It can be very frustrating to be "outside," while your heart is inside. Or perhaps you are in Israel, but cannot get to any of the "hands on" projects. Are there alternative ways to help?

The Shmira Project might be an answer. The concept is to pair names of soldiers with people anxious to pray on their behalf. This project originated with Rav Simcha HaCohen Kook, Chief Rabbi of Rechovot and The Hurva Synagogue with the Bostoner Rebbe, zt”l in 2009 during the Gaza Operation Cast Lead. It has the support of people across the world and across all denominations. It's being organized in its present format by the mother of a former IDF paratrooper (whom I know and love, but who prefers not to be named unless I can name the incredibly long list of other people who are working on this project with her, both in the Diaspora and in Israel).

I can tell you that it is very comforting as a mother to read the following message on the Shmira Project's Facebook page: "My five-year-old daughter said Tehillim with me after candlelighting on Shabbat for 'our soldier,' [Stunt Man's Hebrew name]."

War is terrifying. But the Jewish people have known terrifying forever. What we have always needed is unity. The loss of those three precious teenangels brought us together in a way I have never seen. There are those who see miracles in this recent war, and attribute them to the merit of that togetherness.

I don't have answers about these days. In fact, I have a lot of questions. But I know absolutely that we can only succeed together, as a united and loving family, a family whose differences pale in the presence of our love for each other and commitment to each other. We proved we could do it for eighteen days. Let's see where we can take the love for each other, and ultimately give it out to all of God's creation.

Monday, July 14, 2014

War Report: Operation Protective Shield

Yom shlishi, 17 Tamuz, Erev Tzom Tamuz.

What's really protecting Israel, with all due respect to the IDF and the Iron Dome
While he is supposed to be tucked away in his reinforced bomb shelter, my friend Marc Gottlieb instead makes a photo of his version of the true Iron Dome. It goes viral, with comments that indicate that there are a lot of hopeful believers out there.

A woman's gotta know her limitations. To paraphrase Dirty Harry.
It's a weird, weird world. We talk to our children at war. (My mother certainly never chatted routinely with me, back in my army days. Fifteen minutes a week on the mess hall phone, if we were lucky.) My son calls me from the front periodically with instructions for wedding preparations, and laughs at my wedding outfit woes. "Young, tanned people look really good in seafoam. Older, pasty-faced Irish ladies should not wear sea-foam, at least not around their faces. I'm sticking with the navy part of my navy-and-seafoam ensemble as far as the hat is concerned." It's so damn good to hear him laugh.

Another of our sons says to his father, "You and Ema really should go to a shelter when there's a siren."

"We go to the hallway," his father answers.

The wise young soldier smirks. "Oh, yeah. Like that's safe."

"Look -- I'm with my best friend. And if the landlord's mamad gets hit and the landlord's family rains down on us through the ceiling, we'll know we're in trouble." We amuse ourselves with the image of raining balebatim. It's hard to explain the idioms to the landlord's family, because "raining humans" doesn't really translate into Hebrew. But they laugh anyway, because Americans perplex and amuse them.

My army sends warnings via cell phone and dropped leaflets in Arabic to the civilians among the enemy, warning them of an attack. The IDF gives the civilians time to leave the area. Then, they send a "knock-knock" bomb to tap on the roof of a building they plan to bomb (because it is pinpointed as a source of rocket fire). Only after these warnings do they actually bomb buildings. WHO IN THE WORLD DOES THAT???

Meanwhile, my husband and son plan the coming football season, recruiting from among the new olim -- because Jews are still making aliyah, even during war. Another son plans to travel to Israel for his brother's wedding, wishing he could be here sooner, to "do his part" in uniform, rather than standing on the sidelines, feeling ineffectual. We understand him. Many of our friends abroad express the need to be here with us in this time of crisis, rather than being safely far away. Yet another son writes passionate pleas for peace, between Israel and her enemies, between Jews and Jews.

My chavruta, a long-ago immigrant from Morocco, laughs with me about perspective. "Everything is so crazy right now," she says, showing off her grasp of American slang. I ask what she means. She stares at me, incredulous. "We're at war," she says, as if that explains it.

"Esther, I've lived here for nearly seven years. In that time, three of my sons have been called to the front in three different wars. This to me is normal."

But, of course, she is right. At three in the morning, when I cannot ignore it any more, I think and pray about how much I need each of my guys to live to be really old. I ask myself if I am crazy to be living here. And then I get out of bed (because fighting to sleep doesn't bring sleep) and read the world news, and hear about another random school shooting or mall shooting in the US, or the terrifying siege of a French synagogue, wherein the trapped congregants were praying for the safety of the Jews in Israel; or I read about the entire Middle East on fire around us -- and I realize that crazy is the new normal everywhere in the world. Might as well be in the Holy Land, where I at least know that every step we take and every sacrifice we make is for our own land and for our own people.

Someone tells the poignant story of getting off a bus with a bunch of Tel Avivians and tourists when a siren sounds. They look at each other, and realize that there is no bomb shelter in sight. So they make a group decision to huddle together and try to protect each other with their bodies. An elderly lady cannot get down on the ground, so a couple of people forget about their own safety and stand with her to cover her with their arms. The girl telling the story relates that she is brought to crying and terror by the elderly lady's screams. She begins to cry, lying on the ground. A girl in pants and a short top takes her head in her lap, and recites Tehillim over her, forgetting about protecting herself. What a remarkable people is this nation Yisrael!

Lucy Aharish of i24 News asks a 16-year-old girl in Ashkelon, who has lived under rocket attacks for eight years, what she would say to her 16-year-old girl counterpart in Gaza: "I would tell her to stay strong, to stay safe, and maybe one day we can live side by side in peace."

Please share with me the quote of one young person on the other side that is as full of humanity. Please. I need to hear it.

Bottom line: life is not easy anywhere just now. Proof we need Mashiach, RIGHT NOW. But there is nowhere I'd rather be, no people I'd rather be with, than in this land of Israel, with this people Yisrael.

The Nation Israel Lives

Have an easy and productive fast. May this be the last of the sad fast days. May it finally be enough.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Our Mother Rachel Weeps: Bring My Children Home

Yom chamishi, 21 Sivan 5774. The end of Day 6.

The mothers of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali 
I'm listening to Ruchama Raz in the background. Her sweet voice connects me with something old in me, before my birth, that itself is connected to this Land. I'm listening to this because my husband has told me to stop listening to the news so much. (I joke with him that one of the signs of an Israeli is news addiction. So I'm a real Israeli now.)

Stunt Man comes in with a tub of kruv adom (red cabbage salad). Towering over me, he asks with absolute trust in my kitchen wisdom: "Ema, could you smell this or taste this, if you don't mind, and tell me if it seems okay to you? It smells okay to me; but I'm not sure." Dutifully I smell. Taste. "It's fine to me. I wouldn't have any problem eating it." Except for the calories I can't afford, I don't say. He takes his tall, handsome frame out the door, after giving me that gently grateful smile... full of trust.

And I get tears in my eyes, thinking of three mothers, wishing with all their hearts they could say "Yes, you can eat that." or "No, that's not good for you. Throw it out."...

אנגן שיריך... I will sing poems...

And then Sports Guy comes in. "Can you wake me up at eight tomorrow?" "You don't really need it anymore," I chide him, gently, gently, loving my "job" of being his back-up alarm. "It's okay. If you don't want to, I..." "No. It's okay. I don't mind. Just letting you know that I notice you've been getting yourself up lately." To lay tefillin and daven, sometimes in his room, before he goes back to sleep before work. Before he leaves in his olive drab uniform.

And I get tears in my eyes, thinking of young soldiers, searching for boys only slightly younger than themselves, and their mothers who send them out the door, with kisses and prayers...

 בארץ אהבתי... in the land I love...

Yeshiva Bochur drops by with laundry. "Do you mind if we come by for Shabbat dinner, Ema? It will be good to have all of the brothers home together..." All the brothers. And yes, I'll change the laundry, and hang the things that shouldn't be put in the dryer.

And I get tears in my eyes, hoping the boys -- all the brothers -- will be home for Shabbat dinner...

היו לילות, אני אותם זוכרת... There were nights, I remember them...

Soldier Boy calls me from the States, so very anxious to get back to this family, to his dear brothers, to this crazy land... He sings a song of love in his sweet, strong voice. He always makes me cry, even when there is nothing about which to cry. And I think of all the mothers who want to see their sons in the same room with them, to hear them laugh and sing, to hold them close...

And I get tears in my eyes, thinking of the prayers set to song, saying them fervently, for each and every boy and mother and every brother...

היה לי חבר היה לי אח... Be for me a friend, Be for me a brother...

Please God, bring them home. And don't let me take for granted a single day with these brothers.

I light a candle at precisely 20:30 with other mothers in Israel, praying that Hashem will rescue these boys in the merit of our Mama Rachel, and all her tears for her dear children... And then I tune back in, hoping for good news before another night of fitful sleep...

May we all share laughter and hugs and the wholeness of life and family, very, very soon.

איל בן איריס תשורה
גילעד מיכאל בן בת גלים
יעקב נפתלי בן רחל דבורה

Eyal, son of Iris Tasura
Gil-ad, son of Bat Galim
Yaacov Naftali, son of Rachel Devorah

Sunday, June 15, 2014

When Will We Have Made Enough Concessions to Appease Our Supporters?

Yom rishon, 17 Sivan 5774.

Last Thursday night, three yeshiva boys were kidnapped.
Without the swearing and vitriol that this topic usually seems to arouse, I would like to hear a reasoned discussion on the possible scenarios.

There are (at least) two different opinions among those who claim to support Israel.

On one side of the discussion are those who, for religious or nationalistic reasons, believe that Jews are entitled to land beyond the so-called Green Line, that we have a right to populate and rule over the region called variously the West Bank, Yehuda and Shomron, or Judea and Samaria. On the other side of the discussion are those who, for reasons of the pursuit of human rights or merely for peace and quiet, believe that Jews have no business occupying the land beyond the Green Line, that this land rightfully belongs to the Palestinians. For the sake of this discussion, I won't present all of the arguments of each side, about which much has been written extensively already.

In 2005, the Israeli government attempted the experiment of removing Jews from Gaza. For years, no Jews were there (except for Gilad Shalit). It is true that Gaza was not left unmolested -- but only as a response to attacks on Israel emanating from Gaza. This did not bring an increase in peace. Those on one side of the argument saw this as proof that moving Jews out of the area was a mistake, only allowing for another (and nearer) launching pad for terrorism. Those on the other side believe that it was not enough, and that the terrorism will stop when Israel withdraws from all of the land the Palestinians claim.

For the sake of this discussion, I won't deal with the chimera of settlement construction, as it is only a stepping stone. Why does settlement construction matter? As has been proved many times, it is not about building new settlements in areas currently occupied by Palestinians. In most if not all cases, the construction is happening in existing Israeli communities. Settlement construction is offensive to one side of the argument because it indicates that Israelis are planning to stay on land the other side covets. So let's cut to the chase.

If I and my neighbors in Judea and Samaria left our homes and moved into other parts of Israel, would the attacks stop? If they did, if there were peace, I guess we would have to concede that the other side of the argument was correct -- that at least for the purposes of peaceful coexistence, moving out of these areas and leaving them to the Palestinians was the necessary approach. But if peace didn't ensue -- if instead attacks now moved into Haifa and Tel Aviv and other areas that (so far) many of Israel's supporters (within Israel and without) believe Israelis are entitled to inhabit -- would the other side begin to believe that perhaps the Arabs do not want peace at all, but merely an absence of Israelis, and specifically Jews?

Or would that side merely suggest that it is fine and understandable for the Arabs to still be attacking, because Israel waited too long to pull out, or because Israel isn't doing enough to support the new Palestinian state surrounding her, or because the Arabs have a legitimate right to further chunks of Israel?

When will it finally be enough? Is there any way to prove to those on the other side of the argument, to our friends outside of Israel and inside her (accepted) borders, that Hamas and Fatah and Hizbollah and indeed the Palestinian and greater Arab world have no intention of making peace with even a sliver of Israel?

Please pray for the safe and speedy return to their families the following young men: Eyal ben Iris Teshura (age 19); Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim (age 16); Yaacov Naftali ben Rachel (age 16, and a US citizen).

איל בן איריס תשורה
גילעד מיכאל בן בת גלים
יעקב נפתלי בן רחל דבורה

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ezra's Aliyah - a children's book review

Yom shlishi, 16 Adar II

Aliyah is not easy for adults. For children, it can be bewildering. Sometimes parents make the mistake -- in life in general -- of forgetting to see change through the eyes of their children. And even those for whom their children's perceptions are paramount can use a little reassurance that they are covering all the bases.

Tzivia Jennifer MacLeod's newest book, Ezra's Aliyah, tries very hard to anticipate the questions and concerns of her young character; and she doesn't sugar-coat or dismiss his objections or his worries. She states truth with simplicity.

One example: there will come a time when Ezra will speak Hebrew better than his parents. Her simple statement of the fact has wisdom, for it can prepare children and parents, and take away any negativity associated with this eventuality. She also drops excellent hints about how to make the transition to life in Israel less painful (for example, packing unnecessary but comforting cake mix for Ezra's upcoming birthday).

I liked Ezra, his sense of humor, and his honesty. His parents' honest answers to his questions were appreciated. The illustrations were a pleasing combination of cheerful cartoons and photographs.

I was sometimes confused by the order of the illustrations: there is a photo of grandparents without any comment about grandparents where I would have expected it; and when Ezra's grandmother at last appears, she doesn't look like this grandmother. (The other grandparents? Random elderly Israelis? I don't know. Will a child reader notice or care?)

Back to my favorite part of this sweet little book. I can feel Ezra's worry, hesitation and hope as I read. Here is one passage, in which he tries to imagine his future through past associations:

"A couple of years ago, a new kid came to our class.
He didn't speak much English. Nobody talked to
him, but then it turned out he was a great basketball
player, and everybody wanted to be his friend.

"Will the kids in Israel talk to me? I hope so. I'm not
so good at basketball, but I know a ton about planets
and about astronomy."

Someone once said of aliyah: "Don't make your dream your children's nightmare." This lovely little book is a step in the direction of preparing children for aliyah by taking into account that their aliyah experience matters, too.

About the Author: 

Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod is a proud mother of four (two big and two little), who recently made aliyah to the north of Israel. A freelance writer for magazines and newspapers, she also loves writing stories for her kids and their friends.

Follow her own aliyah adventures at:

While her book can be purchased at Amazon, the author has a special going on right now: her two newest books (Ezra's Aliyah; and Zoom! A Trip to the Moon) for $9 plus shipping. To take advantage of this sale, go to her website Write Kids' Books! Tell 'em Ruti sent you. It won't get you a bigger discount; but it will make Tzivia smile.

All illustrations used with permission of the author