A regular week in Israel…every day seems to be packed with so much. Last week we were able, FINALLY to secure our mortgage. It was a major accomplishment, as the mortgage process is much more tedious and interesting, shall we say, than it was in America. So, as a thank you to our friends who co-signed for us, we were going to take them to dinner Saturday night. No such luck, I was informed on the phone by a teenage girl. Didn’t I know that it was Chodesh Irgun. “Umm,” I replied, trying not to sound too dumb. “That’s right.” I didn’t remember this from last year, as we were in the throws of a new baby. Apparently Chodesh Irgun is all the rage in Israel. It’s the month when the Bnei Akiva youth movement comes together and forms their new groups. The 4th graders start for the first time, the old 4th graders go to the 5th grade group, the 5th graders go to the 6th grade group, and so on.
So, all month the kids poured their hearts into all sorts of activities. In the States, it always seemed that kids who were involved in youth groups were geeky or different. Here, most kids are involved and excited to be involved. The 10th and 11th grade kids are the counselors and there is a fierce competition to become the counselors. They wear specific uniforms and get introduced at this event. So, Shabbat and the evening after Shabbat were the conclusions of this month of activities. On Shabbat, the kids sponsored a huge kiddush for the whole community of 300 families and then invited us to see their new center. The yishuv just built a new center for Bnei Akiva, and each grade painted and decorated their section. They were really proud of themselves and excited to show off their new ‘homes’.
And then Saturday night came. The kids all met at the center and marched to the amphitheater. We were at the theater waiting for them, and they came marching up in their uniforms with drums and balloons. Yes, I started to cry as I always do. This is Israel. There is so much spirit and energy in events like this – and so much history. When I see these kids I feel like I can see the first youth movement kids – singing their hearts out in Odessa or Germany as they prepared to come to Eretz Yisrael, or forming their groups here in Israel after the war of Independence, or singing and dancing as a family, having lost so much in the Holocaust. And here are these kids who represent so much and have so much future to them.
They marched proudly into the open-air theater and did their performance. We had no idea what was going on, of course, and asked an Israeli to explain it to us. As we were waiting for the kids, a number of adults walked in beaming. They said to us, “I remember this so well! I was in group ____.” It clearly had a very powerful place in their hearts. The 9th grade group apparently gets a new name each year and then that name follows them for the rest of their Bnei Akiva years and on through the rest of their lives. It’s a big secret and the name is only revealed at the event that night. This is happening all over the country, by the way, at the same time, in similar ceremonies. It was really cool.
Yesterday I had quite an experience. The Education Ministry had messed up my paperwork in order to get paid. So, I was given the day off of school yesterday in order to tromp into Jerusalem and attempt to correct the situation. I was very apprehensive. They wanted me to go to three government offices, speak Hebrew in all of them, and get my pay check straightened out. Hmmm.. But, shockingly it went very smoothly. I finished all three tasks in about an hour! I didn’t know what to do with myself, as I had the whole day to complete the task. So, as one of the ministry officials suggested, I took myself to lunch and relaxed a little. A great accomplishment!
On the way home yesterday we heard about the bombing in Netanya. Another bombing, in the same location as one a year ago. Today we saw someone taking pictures of a check-point, undoubtedly pointing the finger at Israel and the policies we implement. When I saw him I said to Josh, “The only place that man should be taking pictures today is at the five funerals for innocent people who were murdered yesterday.” It’s too infuriating to comprehend, and it’s very weird to go about our daily lives and realize that such things are happening so close to home.
Today we went to a shoe sale in the yishuv nearby. The shoes came from a family store in Gush Katif. They had a great deal of inventory left from their store when they were expelled from Gush Katif, and the sale was to try to help them to pay their bills. I asked the owner where they are living now. While holding back tears she replied, “In a hotel.” I really didn’t have a response. There are no words.
Today was Amichai’s Hebrew birthday. We took him out for an ice cream, which he didn’t like! Then we went to Burger’s Bar for dinner, which he did like and gobbled up. A big celebration…or sort of. Just enough to celebrate his great changes and milestones. He’s a sweet, cuddly little guy. He’s certainly not walking yet, but loves to stand and run along the furniture.
And that’s a week in the life of a working mother of three living in Israel.