Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

Last night the siren wailed and DD and I rushed out onto the balcony to stand in silence. There were a couple of cars stopped in the middle of the road with the drivers standing next to them, a few pedestrians stopped mid-step and a number of neighbours also on their balconies. The country stood still and so began Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror.

All shops were shut. Many people were at ceremonies and services last night. Today was a half-day in school and every school had it's own ceremony. There are no lessons, but rather a whole morning of activities about the day. I got a whatsApp last night telling me that I was to help Idit in 2nd Grade for the first three hours and then be with Nechama's 5th Grade boys for the last hour. No problem.

As we left the house I noticed another WhatsApp. I decided not to waste valuable time reading it at that moment -I'd read it on the bus. It said that Idit didn't need me so I could come in later but I must be there for Nechama at 11.15. Okey-Dokey, too late.

I went into the gym to see the 6th Grade boys' Memorial Presentation. They told the lives of different fallen soldiers. They acted out parts and showed interviews with their families.

One boy who spends quite a lot of time during my lessons driving me crazy, took the part of Adam Weiler, who was honoured this year by the Government along with his brother Gideon Weiler. Whilst taking his exams at Sussex University in 1967, Adam heard that war had broken out in Israel. He abandoned his exams and rushed to Heathrow Airport where he was told that no one was flying to Israel until further notice. He saw an ElAl plane on the tarmac and ran past the security guards to board the plane. Adam survived the Six Day War but was killed in action three years later. His younger brother Gideon fell in the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

It was very moving to watch my student pushing the security guards out the way and running to get on the plane. I suddenly had a surge of respect for this boy as I forgot, for one moment, that he was only playing the part in a presentation. And then I remembered that this 12 year old boy will be serving in the army in just six years time and doing whatever he has to do to keep me and DD safe. Israel's Memorial Day messes with your mind.

We had a group of soldiers join us for the ceremony after the presentation. Mt. Herzl, the military cemetery, is near our school. These soldiers were part of a platoon who had lost brothers in arms and were visiting the graves together, along with the families of the fallen soldiers. However, these particular soldiers are all Cohens. The Cohens are direct descendants through the male line, of the priests who served in the Temple until it was destroyed in 70 CE. They are forbidden from coming into contact with dead bodies so they don't enter cemeteries - ever. Despite this, they wanted to be at a ceremony. Their Commanding Officer happens to be Idit's son so he brought them to our ceremony, and they also watched the 6th Grade presentation before it.

It added something very special to have the soldiers in uniform at our ceremony. It felt like a real honour that they wanted to be with us. And it was great for the children to see them standing still and serious and only moving when their CO gave them permission to be at ease. I noticed that the whole school was better behaved than usual. We asked them to participate by reading a couple of the prayers.

Then the 11 O'clock siren sounded and we all stood in silence again. We lowered the flag to half-mast and sang Hatikva. We sang the school song (Soar, soar to great heights, you can soar, you have wings to carry you on the wind, don't be afraid, don't hold back, soar to great heights, you can soar) and a song to God for the safety of all our soldiers (God who blessed our fathers, please bless our soldiers, protect them and bring them home to us, safe and sound, please God bring them home).

I went into Nechama at 11.15 but she told me she only needed me for the last five minutes as she had to go early. I returned to the teachers' room where the teacher who sometimes gives me a ride home (a 10 minute ride instead of a 40 minute ride on the bus after waiting x minutes for the bus to arrive) was just leaving. I explained that despite having no duties all day, I had to stay to be with Nechama's class for the last five minutes of the day.

I went into Necahma again at 11.45 for the final 10 minutes. At 11.50 she told me I could go as she decided to stay until the end after all. I got the bus home.

Tonight and tomorrow we celebrate Independence Day. We are celebrating in a big way this year so I'll be offline until after the weekend. Happy Birthday Israel, 70 Years!


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Minimalist Game - Days 24 - 26

Day 26. (3 items missing as they were thrown out in London)
I said we were done after 23 days in March but actually I managed to squeeze two more days out before Pesach (Passover). With another day added after the holidays, the running scores are 351 for The Minimalist Game and 736 for the 500 Clutters Challenge. (Now revised to the 1000 Clutters Challenge.)

March 24th: The Day before we went to London we went through all DD's clothes and found 34 items that were too small. Mainly Tee-shirts that had been kept through the years and not even worn for the past couple of seasons. You know how it is. You pick up 5 Tee-shirts for £10 every time you pass through Primark and you never throw any out. We also got rid of three pairs of shoes from last year, some shorts that are suddenly way too short, and some short dresses that I wanted her to wear with leggings but she hates that look. I love that look but I'm not the one wearing it.  So that's Day 24 sorted and 10 items towards Day 25.

Sorry no photo as we quickly divided the piles into give to a friend, give to another friend, give to the little girl downstairs, give to the school (school shirts), give to the bazaar (wellington boots), and throw out (stained). I packed them into bags and promptly whipped them away. Job done.

March 25th: We had to clear out DD's bedroom as my guest's son would be joining her while we were away. I only had to find another 15 things to make the 25 and I found them easily. Unfortunately DD was "helping" me so I had to be quick and use slight of hand to get things into the bin bags before she realized what was happening. So no photo again. I couldn't even tell you the exact things that we found. Suffice to say it was mainly old craft projects like room plaques, pom-pom key rings, papers from school, more Kinder egg toys, old pencils, etc... Two shopping bags worth of rubbish later, reader I promise you that we fulfilled our 15 items.

Then we packed and then we went to London for two weeks. Then we came home and it was a Sunday afternoon. My house guest left so I had a week of washing sheets and towels and moving my study stuff back into the spudy. Finally Thursday afternoon came and the weekend. Hooray! I was back on the game (so to speak. 😜)

March 26th: Though actually April 12th, I picked up where I'd left off with a sweep through the whole apartment. I found the following items which you can see in the photo above: 2 place mats, an old kitchen scales (I don't bake), I finally got rid of that samovar with its teapot and matching tray (3 items), a broken tablet cover, 4 pairs of knickers bought far too small and never worn, 3 pairs of socks, a silky slip, a lacy camisole, French Women for all Seasons (Lets face it - she said all  she needed to say in the first book), another cook book that I never liked, a Chanuka menorah that is too small to take the modern candles, and 4 eye shields from aeroplane give-aways.

The photo is missing a handbag and a pair of broken shoes that were not worth having mended -  I actually chucked them out in London. Also a towel that my house guests left behind.

Now only days 27, 28, 29 and 30 to go. That's only another 114 things. Simples.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Sophie, Wigel, and Fiet Primowees - Righteous Among the Nations

A week ago on Wednesday it was Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel. I didn't write anything this year. We'd just returned from London, I've written about it in past years, I don't know why I didn't mention it last week. However, today, I have the chance to write about a meeting at school with Fiet Primowees whose parents are Righteous Among the Nations.

Last year the Third Grade in my school went to see a play called Hanneke and Fiet, based on the children's book of the same name by Ran Cohen-Harounoff. It's about two little Dutch girls during WW2. Today the real Fiet came to our school. She's 80 and she came to tell the now Fourth Grade her story.

One day in 1942, when she was six years old, Fiet, an only child, came home to find a little girl at home. Her mother, Sophie Primowees, told her that the child, Hanna, was staying for one night on her way to another home. Hanna had been passed from family to family as the danger involved in hiding her was too great for many families to risk. Hanna stayed with the Primowees family for three years.

Fiet didn't know that Hanna was Jewish but she did know that it was a big secret and no one must know that she suddenly had a little sister. She did tell one school friend that she had a new sister but she wasn't a baby, she was already three years old. The friend told her that this was very strange - new little sisters don't come so old. But the friend also understood, somehow, that this was something never to be spoken about. For three years Fiet never had a school friend come over to play. They had no visitors to the house and they could not accept any invitation themselves.

Fiet told us that her family were all blond and Hanna was dark. They looked nothing like each other. There was no way they could have passed Hanna off as her real sister.

Fiet is in the middle with her grandchildren seated on the left.
Right of Fiet is her daughter and next to her, the Dutch translator. 
On one occasion Hanna was very ill. A serious illness that she could have died from. They couldn't take her to the hospital and they had to try to find a doctor they could trust to come to the house. To make matters more complicated, there were Nazi sympathizers living opposite them, who were on the lookout for any strange behaviours.

Once they went to visit Fiet's grandmother. Hanneke could go outside but her grandmother was so afraid that she told them children weren't allowed to speak in the streets in her neighbourhood. One day there was another child in the street with a bicycle. An older woman came over and asked the the child if Hanna could have a ride on his bike. Fiet's grandmother was very scared but the older woman turned out to be Hanna's real grandmother who was in hiding nearby. She had recognized Hanna but Hanna didn't know who she was.

Fiet's father, Wigel (Wim), was arrested and sent to a war camp. Before he left he told her mother to keep both the girls safe and to keep them together. For Fiet, Hanneke was  gift. They loved each other. They were sisters. And then one day, three years later, there came a knock on the door. The war was over. Hanna's parents had come to collect her.

Hanna didn't want to go with them. She didn't remember them at all, even though Sophie Primowees kept telling her that her real parents would come for her after the war. Sophie went with Hanna to stay with her real parents for a few days. Then they both came back. Then they went again. And his went on for a few visits until eventually Hanna had to go to live permanently with her parents.

The two families kept in touch and visited often. When she left school Hanna went to volunteer on a kibbutz in Israel where she met her future husband and stayed, living in Israel and bringing up her own family here.

In 1981, Sophie and Wigel Primowees were honoured by Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem) as Righteous Among the Nations. There was a ceremony and a tree was planted in their names.

On this visit Fiet had brought her daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren to Israel to see the tree. She was going to speak at Yad Vashem. And of course they were visiting her beloved sister, Hanneke.

Our children were allowed to ask questions and among the usual questions (Did you and Hanna ever fight? - No. How did you feel when you suddenly had to share your parents? -  I loved Hanna from the beginning, she was like a gift for me.) there were some quite profound questions too.

How did you have the courage to hide a Jewish child? - We didn't feel like heroes, we don't feel like heroes. It is just a part of our family story. We did what we had to do. We did what was right.

How did you feel when the State of Israel honoured you? - We didn't ask to be thanked but it was a great honour. And it is a wonderful legacy from my parents Sophie and Wigel, to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren who never met them.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stranger by Keren David

Here is the first review from Midlife Singlemum Book Week. I've been waiting for this book for a few years. Ever since Keren, whom I follow on social media, mentioned that she was writing an historical novel about family intrigues, secrets from the past, and events that come back to haunt you. Strangers was finally published on April 5th and my copy arrived the same day from Amazon Prime.

So here's the thing. A hundred years ago in Canada a young girl, Emmy, finds a wild boy in the forest. From then on nothing about the town of Astor, and the families in it, is as straightforward as it seems. In more recent times Emmy's great-granddaughter, Megan, returns home to Astor and unravels all the secrets surrounding the townsfolk.

There are lots of interesting angles to consider when reading this book. One that struck me is that Megan is nursing her own secret, revealed to the reader right at the beginning, that she had a recent abortion. Just left school and abandoned by her boyfriend, it seemed like the most sensible option. She doesn't dare tell anyone in Astor where her great-great-grandparents were founding members of the town. A town full of her extended family and where the only minor scandal she's aware of is that her own parents are getting divorced.

Can you guess where I'm going with this? Oh my goodness! This town is awash with guilt, cover-ups and lies. Only they don't know it because in those days it was easier to keep things hidden. People were arriving from the Old World with no papers to prove or disprove anything. A neighbouring Province was like a remote and inaccessible, foreign country to most people. A person could seemingly appear out of nowhere and others could disappear and not be discovered for 90 years. It wasn't so much a more innocent time as a more secretive time. Believe me, 'Victorian Values' just means no one knew and they got away with it.

I think I've said enough except to recommend that you buy this book for yourselves and for your young adults. As always with Keren David, plenty of intrigue, twists, pleasure and loads to think about.

Follow the links here to read my other reviews of David's YA novels.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Book Week - R2BC

What could be a better reason 2B cheerful than Book Week? It's not an official Book Week like Israel's National Book Week, or Jewish Book Week in the UK, or the Hay Festival (which I would love to go to one day).  It's a private Midlife Singlemum Book Week because I always return from London with books.

English books are very expensive here. In London Amazon Prime really does deliver the next day and we also like to visit a big Waterstones (preferably Hatchards in Piccadilly as it looks and feels like something out of Harry Potter).

In the photo above are the books we came home with. I'm not going to review them today - I've only read two of them so far anyway. Today I'll just tell you why we came home with these particular books. And in no particular order.

1. The Bible
Of course I know the stories from the Old Testament and some others that I've heard second-hand through teachers and discussions around the dinner table. But I've never actually read the Bible - the whole thing. Thirty years ago Rabbi Donniel Hartman told a group of us that he realized this too, one year, and he read the whole thing from cover to cover.

I decided to do the same - a chapter each week corresponding to the portion we read in the synagogue each week. I started with the beginning of Genesis every year for about 10 years and never got further than Joseph going down to Egypt. Part of the problem was my Bible which had both Hebrew and English in the tiniest print and the most old fashioned language.

So I bought a Bible. With big print. And if I'm already buying the Old Testament, I should really read the NT as well. My mother and I both said how we regretted skipping Scripture lessons at school just because we had a 'Jewish' pass. (There's a lot I regret about my education but that's a whole other discussion.)

2. The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung
I've been watching Jason Fung on You Tube and I joined a facebook group of his followers. You can listen to 10 hours of podcasts which read aloud the whole book but I prefer to read it myself if I'm going to 'read' the whole book. Despite hours of Fung interviews and lectures - you need to read the whole book to really understand why he has cracked the obesity code. I did read this book last week. Folks, throw away your calorie counters, it's not about Paleo versus Vegan, and it's not about low or high fat/carbs/protein. If you want to change your life and get healthy - buy this book.

3 & 4. The Liar's Handbook and Stranger, both by Keren David
I've read everything by Keren David - one of my favourite YA authors. Here is my review about a previous book of hers. I was missing these two books so I ordered them. I've read Strangers - review to follow but .... fabulous!

5 & 6. How to Stop Time by Matt Haig and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
There was a sale of two books for £5 so I chose two books. Obviously.

7 & 8. Mary Poppins by P.L.Travers and House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini
We went into Waterstones and I remembered that I wanted to read the original Mary Poppins. Apparently the original book is far more sinister than the musical lets on. Having seen the film Saving Mr Banks, I'm intrigued. And while we were there, DD chose The House of Secrets. I told her that it looked very scary and she probably wouldn't like it as she wouldn't let me read past the first page of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase for that reason. But she really really wanted it and when your nine year old daughter really really wants a book, well obviously you have to buy it for her.

9. Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
Grandma gave this to DD for her Afikomen present at the Seder. (The kids hide a vital piece of matzah without which you cannot finish the seder, and refuse to say where it is until they are promised a present. Or the parents hide it and the kids find it and withhold it, depending on your custom. We do it both ways - one for each of the two nights.)

10. A gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
A friend recommended this book to me and I was intrigued so I bought it.

11. Five go off in a Caravan by Enid Blyton
We didn't buy this one, it's part of the complete boxed set that DD got for Chanukah. We're bringing them home a few at a time but I particularly wanted this one as I remember something that I want to check - to see if they changed it. I'll let you know.

Eleven reasons 2B cheerful and reviews to follow. I'm linking up with R2BC which is back with Becky at Lakes Single Mum for the month of April.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Reasons 2B Cheerful - Homecoming

The seder table good to go at my sister's house. 
Late this week but heartfelt. We spent another week in London and traveled home today. Here are my homecoming reasons 2B cheerful. I'm joining the linky which will be hosted by Becky on Lakes Single Mum for the month of April.

1
A safe flight.
I'm not a particularly nervous flyer but it's always a good moment when you land safely isn't it? In Israel we have the custom to clap  as the wheels touch down. It's sort of old fashioned and many people don't do it anymore but I'm not shy and I always have a good hearty clap. We only do it when we land in Israel, not on the outgoing journey.

2
No more polio.
Over the years various visitors have left loose change in my apartment. I had a nice bag of American $s and Euros to put in the collection bag towards eradicating polio worldwide.

-2
You can't have everything. 
The woman next to me spoiled it a bit for me by questioning the steward about how much of it actually goes to eradicating polio and how much pays the fund-raisers. She works for a charity in Malawi apparently and later she told me she had been ill with malaria last week. WTF! But I think I actually had a vaccine against it once about 35 years ago so I might be covered. Glad DD was sitting on my other side by the window.

3
An easy flight.
We had to get up at 3 am to get to the airport for a 7.15 flight. It's horrible getting up so early but, otoh, we both slept for almost the whole flight.

4
A wonderful house guest.
Our house guest had left the apartment super-tidy, she'd brought in the mail, and left me a fantastic hairdryer that she bought here but doesn't need at home. Thanks Lesley - the hair-dryer is yours next time you come to Israel.

5
Our own lives
Back to our lives. Back to my own kitchen. Back to all our own things in all our own places. It became summer here while we were away which is nice after the London rain. (Of course I'll be yearning for cooler weather in about a week but c'est la vie.)

6
A pampered arrival.
It's 6pm. We ordered pizza for supper and we may be going to bed in just a little while.

7
Getting on with it.
You know how after a few days of holiday you are rested enough to start thinking and planning what you want to do when you get back to real life? And then by the end you can't wait to get started? By the time you get home some of the enthusiasm has already worn off and you're tired from traveling but it's still a bit exciting to be able to do things again.