Friday, April 3, 2020

A Live Concert - R2BC

In a week of much loss, there are still some Reasons 2B Cheerful. If you want to read more cheerful posts, you can find them on Becky's Lakes Single Mum, the home of the R2BC linky. 

Neighbours That Pray Together
I wrote last week that we prayed from our balconies to allow one neighbour to say the mourners' Kaddish prayer in a minyan (a quorum of 10 men). Then on Shabbat we heard that another neighbour's father had died. Instead of only Shabbat services from our balconies, the neighbours arranged for services three times a day for the shiva period of mourning seven days after the funeral.

A Concert
This morning a lorry with a stage parked itself right opposite our building and a half hour concert was performed. We all stood on our balconies and danced and clapped. Some people from other buildings came and stood in the street and the police patrolled to make sure that family groups kept 2 metres apart. It was half an hour of pure fun. Jumping up and down in the sunshine didn't hurt either.

The lorry moved on to another street corner and two hours later I can still hear the music getting fainter each half hour as they work their way around Jerusalem neighbourhoods.

Vegetables From The Kibbutz
I've ordered a box of fruit and vegetables. My friends' agricultural kibbutz are stuck with a load of fruit and vegetables that they can't export as usual. Thus they've set up a box delivery service to your door. They're delivering fruit and vegetables that you order online, to different parts of the country each day. Jerusalem is on Monday.

There've been loads of jokes and cartoons about how we're all getting fat from being stuck at home all day with nothing to do but eat. It's funny but it's not funny. We were grazing between meals, losing track of how many meals we'd eaten, unsure about what to classify as a snack and what to call a meal, etc... I was putting on weight and I could see that DD was also beginning to.

We had a serious talk about health, food and finances. DD's annoyed that we have no more snacks left but she also understands that we have enough proper food to last us until Tuesday, after the fruit and vegetables arrive on Monday. She is also coming to terms with the fact that I may make dishes that she'd not normally eat (like fried rice with egg and vegetables - I don't mean escargot or eels) and that she has to eat it or go hungry.

My big adjustment was letting go of the things I have in the freezer. Having filled the freezer to help us through this time of limited shopping, I was reluctant to use any of the frozen food. There's a certain reassurance in having a full freezer and it can be alarming to see the stocks run down. However, if you don't eat the food you've only fed the freezer and not yourselves.

My discomfort in eating out of the freezer was more than balanced by my pleasure in spending much less on food this week.

I wish you a safe and healthy week with many Reasons 2B Cheerful. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Welcoming Shabbat In Lockdown From Our Balconies

My neighbour Hagai called in the early afternoon. "We're doing the Welcoming Shabbat service from our balconies at 6.30. Can you spread the word?" Actually we have a building WhatsApp group so I sent the word (and asked for Hagai to be added to it).

You need 10 [men - grrrr] over the age of 13, for a full service and one of our neighbours is saying Kaddish (the mourners' prayer) after the loss of his father, so it was especially important for him to have a minyan (quorum of 10 men). 

At 18.30 we all went onto our balconies and those without balconies stood at their front windows. The sun was setting. Chuck from downstairs, who is saying Kaddish, stood out front and counted the men. We had 10 but we were still quite spread out so some of the men from Entrance A came and stood spaced out on the road between Entrances B and C. 

At the beginning it was a bit like the intro to The Brady Bunch when they're all in their own boxes looking up and down at each other. But as we they started to pray, it became more like a scene from a shtetl in 1800s Eastern Europe. I half expected to see the Fiddler on the Roof come dancing down the street.

Chuck led the afternoon service for weekdays. Then Hagai came down and led the Welcoming Shabbat service. Finally the new tenant from apartment 4, Saadia, went down to lead the evening service for Shabbat.

Along the way, others who were walking past or had heard the singing from nearby buildings joined us. Some went back to get their prayer books as all passers by lived within the 100 metre limit from their homes.  

It was very special. The last time all the residents met up without arguing over the building maintenance was when there was a fire in apartment 20 and we all ran out into the road, The time before that was during the last war when we all met up in our pyjamas in the bomb shelter. Nothing like a good crisis to bring people together. 

I took photos though you're not supposed to be using a camera on Shabbat. I didn't have the chutzpah to go down to the street and take a photo of everyone from below. (Which is why I could never be a journalist.) 

Hagai asked who wanted to meet at 08.30 tomorrow for the Morning Services. He counted to see if they would have enough men. "We are three, Saadia and his son, Mendy, Oz, Michael.... where's Michael? Michael!?"
"I'm here, yes I'll be there."
"Chuck, Ivan, Brigitte's husband. Where's Brigitte's Husband?"
"He didn't come out."
"He went to a minyan around the corner."
"I'll be there!" came a voice from below me.
"Ok, I think we'll have enough. See you all tomorrow morning, Shabbat Shalom!"
"Shabbat Shalom!"
"Shabbat Shalom!"

I shall sit on my balcony in my dressing gown, with a cup of coffee, reading my book, and generally soaking up the atmosphere. Now that's the perfect way to do synagogue if you ask me. 

And if we're still in lockdown next week it'll be 18.40 on the balconies to welcome next Shabbat. 

Shabbat Shalom xxx

Thursday, March 26, 2020

R2BC - Back With A Linky

Planter meadows on my blacony
Reasons 2B Cheerful is back with a linky so we are a community small group again. Hooray! Here is the R2BC Linky  on Becky's Lakes Single Mum, and here are my reasons for this week of lockdown. 

Meadow Garden
After so much rain this winter and even into the spring, my planters on the balcony are looking like tiny meadows. I should do some gardening and plant some vegetables, herbs, etc... but in the Middle East, any greenery is welcome so I don't want to dig up my tiny meadows.

A Long View
I live on the side of a mountain, facing down into the valley. Opposite my building is a school two storeys lower than my apartment and further down the slope. This gives us a long vista over Jerusalem and the mountains beyond. However beautiful your garden might be, I think it's much easier to be in lockdown if you have a long view from your window. You don't feel so shut in.

The Kinneret
As of today the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) is only 44 cm from the upper red line. I.e. almost totally full to capacity. They will almost certainly have to open the Degania Dam and let water flow down the Jordan to the Dead Sea. This is hugely exciting in a region used to droughts. It hasn's happened in 28 years, since April 1992.

Being Home
I actually like being at home. I love my home. I like not having to jump to the alarm clock in the morning and being able to guiltlessly stay up as late I want. I like pottering about, cooking, organising, watching tv, reading.... I could be happy with this for another couple of weeks.

We, and that's a global we, are no longer sleep deprived.

Lots of helping initiatives have sprung up and are being shared on facebook. From shopping for those in enforced isolation to listening ears and emergency information and advice.

Videos Of Love
Our school music teacher, Na'ama Berlowitz, has been putting together short presentations and videos that are sent to all the children in our school via the class whatsApp groups. The latest is the school choir singing Yoter (More) with pictures sent in by the staff of them illustrating each line.

The song tells us that we have everything we need already, just ask for more of the good things: more love, more hope, more peace, more trust, more respect, more thought, more understanding, more faith, more God, more happiness, more soul, more prayer, more purpose, more life, and more togetherness. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Seder Night
The link above gives a brief explanation of seder night as well as the story of the last time it turned out very different than planned for us.

We went from planning to go to London to be with our family for Pesach (Passover) and specifically the first night for the seder, to arranging to go to friends in Jerusalem, to realizing that it would be just us two on our own, to hearing that one of the chief rabbis in Israel has allowed families to do the seder with Zoom. Ordinarily we'd not use any electrical devices as it's a holy day like Shabbat. So maybe we won't be so alone after all.

When the youngest present sings the refrain, "why is this night different from all other nights?" the full answer won't be written in the order of service this year.

Lots of hilarious jokes and memes. Not to make light of a very serious and for some, tragic, situation, but you need to laugh to save your sanity. My favourite from today was: Starbucks is closed so I made myself coffee, called my name out incorrectly, set fire to a $5 note, and then walked around the house looking for a place to sit.

From yesterday: I got so drunk last night I don't even know how I got home from the kitchen.

Clean Air
All this has been a plus for clean air and global warming. Pollution is down, greenhouse gases are down, less fossil fuel being used up, fewer trees being cut down, less building. Some have suggested that it's Mother Earth fighting back. Who knows? Whatever you believe. However, there's no denying that the natural world is benefiting from this pandemic.

Feel free to add your R2BC in the comments.
I wish you health and sanity, xxx

Saturday, March 21, 2020

I Discovered Sport

Although I've been out a couple of times this week to the bank and to the supermarket, DD hadn't left the apartment for over a week. She was quite happy staying in - we're an indoors sort of family. However, it's also been very cold and wet so the sitting on the balcony for a while every day, in the afternoon sun, to boost vitamin D wasn't happening.

This afternoon one of DD's friends asked her to go to the school with her roller blades. I also needed some fresh air and exercise so I went with her. DD's BFF was already there with her Dad and their dog. So they have to go out a few times a day to walk the dog anyway. The rule in Israel atm is that unorganised sport of no more than five people is allowed. And we are allowed to go for short walks in the nieghbourhood as long as we keep the 2 m distance.

Not only were we unorganised, we were disorganised as well so no rule broken there. DD and BFF went on their roller blades. The Dad had brought along a basketball and he was shooting hoops. I joined him. Not since school days have I played netball but I do remember that I liked being goal shooter best as I was ok at that - you didn't have to do much running.

It was actually fun. "Hey, this is fun!" I exclaimed. And a bit later as I chased the ball, "Hey look!, I'm running!" I know this is pathetic and I do keep meaning to get more active and fit but for the longest time I had bad knee problems - a bursitis and some other stuff. I couldn't run for ages but since then the knee things seem to have improved a lot.

Tbh, after a while shooting netballs did get boring but by then super-family had pulled out the frisbee. I took some photos of that while the dog took my place in the game.

Then it started to rain so we sheltered under the covered pergola, made some conversation phone calls, and went home. (Just kidding, of course we chatted.) We'd been out and active for two hours and here's the amazing thing.....

1. We felt happy and relaxed.
2. I served a late lunch and DD sat down and ate it all without a whole fuss about what she didn't like/want and what she wasn't going to eat.
3. For the rest of the afternoon we didn't have one blow up or even a tiny argument.

Obviously I knew the theory of this beforehand and I have tried to get DD outside during the week but she never wanted to and I didn't want her to come to the supermarket and bank with me, which were the only places I went to last week.

This coming week, we are so going for regular walks around the park.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Home Schooling In A Foreign Language

She started her education with so much promise. 
First lesson, 09.00 - 10.00 maths. We got off to a good start. The assignment was to complete five pages about area and one page starting the notion of volume. There wasn't actually much calculating to do but there was a lot of explanation and wordy word problems. This is our downfall as it takes us ages to work out what it means. I was with DD all the way - it's easier for me because at least I know the maths in advance. Needless to say I didn't get any of my work done.

10.00 is supposed to be a snack break. We missed it as we were still doing maths.

At 10.something history started. DD abandoned the rest of maths only half done. We went to the page in her history book and were horrified to see a double page article to read, in Hebrew of course, on the autonomy of the Judean State in Hellenistic Times. My cultural background at this age is A Day in the Life of a Viking. I was lost before we started.

The first question was: What does autonomy mean? That was easy. I wrote a sentence straight onto Google Translate and DD copied it into her history notebook.

Next, and final question: Describe the autonomy of Judea in the time of the Hellenic Empire. I went to Wikipedia in English, copy-pasted a paragraph onto Google Translate, edited it down, and DD photographed it with her cell phone. Done.

Before we got to the next subject - English, a message from the class teacher came through that there was a live interactive broadcast of something at 11.00 and they could tune in to it. I scanned the message and saw the word, "tosefet". That means it's an extra not an obligation. Phew. We didn't go there.

But we'd missed the start of English at 11.something.
DD: "Shall I do the English now or finish my maths?"
I thought it was better to get maths out of the way but DD was concerned because it was English time. Suddenly a message came through with a link to a maths quiz on percentages. You had to do it over and over until you got it all correct. I don't know if there was a time factor but the pressure was on and DD kept making mistakes. In the end I sat with her and told her the answers.

We had the 'shall I do English or maths?' discussion again. I insisted that she we I finish maths. Suddenly DD was asked via Whatsapp to write five good things that happened today. I had loads of great ideas: I didn't have to go out in the cold, rainy weather, for example.
DD:"No! That didn't happen. It has to be things that happened or we did."
Me: "I finished my maths and photographed my History and I'm going to do my English if I get a moment's peace from Whatsapp."
DD: "Mummy you're ridiculous."

In the end she looked at what everyone else was writing and copied a few of the others. Then I made lunch as it was already 2 pm and school was supposed to finish at 12.30. Then I made her do her English. Then I sat down to do some of my own work and found that I didn't have the energy.

And now we learned that today is the final day of home school. *DD dances around the apartment with joy.* Instead they are taking 9 days off the summer holiday, with the optimistic view that we will be returning to school after Pesach. *DD virtually in tears.* Life is indeed an emotional roller coaster atm. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Will Universal Basic Income Save The Economy?

Don't be so quick to object. 
I am no economist although I did do Economics A Level, and this is a blog post not an in-depth analysis based on hours of academic research. That said, here are some half-baked ideas after reading a few popular articles about how to save the economy. Please feel free to discuss it with me in the comments or on facebook but don't be rude. This is an idea that deserves a conversation at least.

The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) is not new. It means that every individual gets a government grant to cover rent, modest utilities, basic clothing, and food. Here are some benefits of this system:

1. Basic needs. No one need worry about basic needs.
2. Social benefits. UBI is given to individuals, not households, so people in difficult marriages would be able to leave but otoh, it would encourage people to live in families or shared accommodation in order to pool resources.
3. Lifestyle, health and relationships. More free time will allow people to do more voluntary work, invest in family relationships, be less stressed, and pursue employment that makes them happy rather than being forced to take jobs they hate.
4. Empower the workforce. Workers will not need to accept bad working conditions as they can now walk away. As an example, I would rather work in a shop than clean a school or hospital. As no one needs to clean a school to keep a roof over their heads, less desirable jobs like this would have to pay more in order to attract employees. Some people with limited employable skills would take these jobs because they pay more than easier employment.
5. The corona effect. After corona we will have proved that working remotely is effective. Fewer employees need to live close to work. This will allow people to move back to once thriving but now dying towns where there is plenty of cheap housing. More housing can be built in sparsely populated areas far from the centres. This will reduce demand in the centres and rents/house prices will go down. Meanwhile in the new areas, they will need new schools, shops and other services to help build up a thriving economy and society. Living will be cheaper.
6. Increased employment opportunities. Shared and part time employment will distribute the available work hours among more people. No one will need to work 10 hours a day so most people will opt to work fewer hours.

Some potential problems and why they're not necessarily founded.

1. Where will the money come from? Other social benefits, including pensions, will be stopped. Most people will still work and be taxed (see below). Increase taxation on carbon footprints for industry and commerce, not individuals. Inheritance tax (this one hurts but it encourages people to spend, it encourages a slower pace of life i.e. not chasing wealth that you'll never spend and in a fairer society it evens out the starting line). Property and land tax. VAT.
2. Why would anyone work? Because most of us want to go out to eat once in while, go on holiday, travel a bit, buy things other than basics, upgrade our lifestyles, pursue hobbies, redecorate, etc... Also, we live in communities where we need to keep up with the social norms be it hosting barbecues or evenings/days out with friends.
Most people want to feel useful, the social aspect of getting out and meeting people, idleness becomes boring after a while.
There will also still be a status attached to contributing to society, a moral aspect that most of us will buy into as we already do.

*When I write 'most people' this is just my opinion not a proven statistic.
*Although limited experiments on UBI have been done around the world and it seems that my opinion is largely supported.
*I have not done the maths and I have no idea if this is financially viable.
*I wouldn't even know how to do the financial analysis of this.
*I'm not recommending UBI but rather opening the conversation.
*There are many articles online about UBI, just google it.
*I did google it so please don't send me the articles you find online. Just comment on what you found interesting.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Reasons 2B Cheerful And Grateful

Some Chihuli for serenity
After yesterdays's meltdown post it's time for a Reasons 2B Cheerful and Grateful, Here are some of my reasons in no particular order:

1. The internet makes us feel connected. During the 1991 Gulf War we could only talk to one person at a time by landline, if they were home. News was passed one person at a time and from the hourly news on the radio. Back then we felt informed but thinking about it now, it was a joke.

2. I have one child who is old enough to entertain herself. We are two people in a not big but certainly spacious enough apartment with a balcony big enough to sit out on. And even though DD spilled water on her laptop a few weeks ago, so we are one computer down, we still have two more laptops, two phones, and a smart tv with Netflix. Oh yes, and books to last the duration.

3. My next door neighbour who is in quarantine got her corona test results back this week and she tested negative. Also, of the 60 boys (two classes) from my school who are in quarantine until tomorrow evening after a visiting teacher came down with corona, none of them have tested positive so far.

4. Home school starts at 09.00 which is far more civilized than the normal 08.00, especially as we don't have to allow time to get there looking presentable. Call me British, but I'm British and we're programmed to start at 9.

5. After screaming and shouting at me yesterday, and reducing me to tears, DD came to give me a big hug and apologize. Hearing her say, "I'm sorry Mummy," made me grateful that she knows how to say sorry. It's so important to be able to say sorry when you messed up or lost it.

6. The message is going around and sinking in that three assignments per day per child is overwhelming for many families with lots of children, parents working from home, and limited tech devices.

7. DD's teacher asked them all to write on the class whatsapp what they learned today. The first child wrote that it's possible to learn at home and it's actually fun. Then 28 students all said the same thing. So DD wrote that too. Me: "What? After all the hysterics today?"
DD: "Mummy, you don't understand, you have to be more laid back."
ME: "You mean you have to lie?"
DD: "Sort of, but it's called laid back."

8. I won the internet today but I cheated. I saw a meme on Whatsapp in Hebrew (thank you Yana) and I translated into English for the English corona in Israel facebook group..... The truth is that it's not so boring to be stuck at home. However, it is interesting that one sack of rice contains 7,885 grains of rice and another sack - 8,143. Nearing 200 haha emojis as I write.

9. Lots of blogging fodder and the time to blog. If I don't get back into the TOTS100 top 500 by next month I'll be extremely miffed.

10. We, and all our family are still healthy.

I wish you good health and sanity for the duration. xxx