Monday, July 31, 2017

Fasting For Love And Reconciliation

I spend much of my life trying to find a meaningful way to participate in a religion that I feel is increasingly outdated and bogged down in unnecessary ritual. One of my biggest problems is that if we are living the 'right' way, then everyone else must be 'wrong'. Another bugbear of mine is the insularity and exclusion of others encouraged by the laws of keeping kosher and the strict rules of keeping Shabbat. I am Jewish but I want to live a life that is relevant to humanity and the planet Earth not just to a small sect within it.

The 9th day of the lunar month of Av is designated as a Jewish day of mourning. We observe a 24 hour fast from sundown tonight until sundown tomorrow evening.

There are seven fast days in the Jewish calendar. Five of them are minor fasts - from sunup in the morning till sundown in the evening. They all commemorate various events in Jewish history and I don't really identify with any of them. It actually annoys me that we are told to fast on these days but no rabbi has the power to instigate a fast for victims of the Holocaust. As if Judaism as a dynamic religion died some time in the Middle Ages. Others argue that the Holocaust is included in the mourning of the 9th of Av.

The 9th of Av (Tisha B'Av) is one of the two major fasts. The other one is Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement when we fast to concentrate on atoning for our sins made during the previous year and promising to try  better in the coming year. I can understand and identify with this fast and I participate in solidarity with Jews all over the world.

I was always taught that Tisha B'Av is the day that the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed (both of them, conveniently enough). And that this is a big deal because it lead to the dispersion of the Jews, the loss of a homeland for 1878 years, the loss of independence and the resultant suffering imposed upon us over the ensuing centuries (the Spanish Inquisition and expulsion, blood libels, pogroms, the Holocaust, etc...).

I can identify with this explanation and support it to a point. It still feels a bit like an enormous pity party though. Whilst I am sad about all the pain and suffering, I'm not so much into highlighting victimhood.

Dig a bit deeper and we are taught that the reason God let the Temple be destroyed was as a punishment for baseless hatred among the Jews of that time. In other words, corruption, greed, undue punishments, jealousy, and the pursuit of power for the glory rather than for the good.

My friend Rinat, wrote on Facebook today that she is fasting as a stand against baseless hatred. I can totally get behind that. This also appeals to my sense of global citizenship. We tend to be far too insular much of the time and Lord knows that the whole world could do with some love and reconciliation, not just us Jews who are, admittedly, also far from perfect.

So tonight at sunset and for the first time in many years, I will be observing Tisha B'Av and fasting for 24 hours as a protest and a prayer against all the baseless hatred in the world. I will try to focus on love, reconciliation, and peace for all mankind, for all religions, for all races, for all nationalities. This is my prayer and my hope for all of us on this beautiful planet.

Disclaimer: In 30+ degrees heat I do drink water. This is not an exercise in making yourself ill.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

New Skills - R2BC

The Reasons 2B Cheerful linky over at Mummy from the Heart (for the month of July), comes out on a Thursday. Posts come in slowly over the weekend and it's not unusual to see a new R2BC post on a Sunday or even a Monday. But this week I had some time so I started writing mine on Thursday. Only it came out as a bit of a moan about the holiday slipping away rather than R2BC. I posted it anyway but didn't link up.

Looking back over it now, I think the underlying problem was the heat. We're fine indoors because we have fans and it's shaded of course. But the heat outside means that though we have free time, we are essentially trapped inside for the best hours of the day. And we don't have big houses here -  most of us have modest apartments. It's frustrating.

Thanks to Candi who said it's ok to have a moan and then find some R2BC. She's right of course. No one's life is perfect so it's maybe more realistic to say so and then be cheerful about other things despite the annoying stuff.

Here are my R2BC for this week.

Game Strategy

DD has been playing Mancala by herself a lot. I can't always be available to play with her and as there are no siblings, she plays both players - herself against herself. By doing this she has explored all the possibilities and has even come up with an opening move that can't be beaten. This makes me think that one of our rules needs modifying though. Mancala is an ancient game traditionally played in Africa with seeds and holes in the ground. It can't be possible that one opening  move always wins the game or there'd be no game. We absolutely need to fine tune our game.

DD knows all the moves so well that whenever I go to pick up some stones she immediately tells me the outcome of that move and whether it's worth doing. I feel we ought to get a chess set as she seems to be good at game strategy. But I hate chess - I find it boring. On the other hand, it's almost a life skill - like riding a bike, you need to at least know how to play chess.

I used to know three different games you can play on the Shesh Besh (Backgammon) board. I think I remember two of them - I should try to refresh my memory or Google it.

Individual Salmon

I discovered individually packed portions of frozen Salmon. DD is a sworn vegetarian for about 18 months now but she loves salmon and finds it hard to resist. So I make her have salmon once a week just to be sure she getting some good quality protein. (She does eat eggs, cheese, chickpeas, avocado and potatoes but I feel safer if she eats the salmon aswell.)

I think they always did have individual portions of salmon, and of course you can buy it fresh and have them chop it into portions for you. Someone once told me that if you buy a whole frozen salmon in a supermarket with a fresh fish counter, they will chop it into portions for you while it's still frozen. Despite all this, I always bought packets of three or four slices. Great for when we have guests but unnecessary for just the two of us.

Portion size is a big issue in recent years in a climate of mass production and easy access to food. When I cook three portions of fish I have a whole slice to myself and DD eats about a half slice. Then I eat the leftovers the next day and DD might possibly have another bite if I make her. But we actually don't need that much. Half a slice of salmon each is plenty when served with greens and rice or potatoes. It saves money and its healthier to have smaller portions. Win-win.

A Good Disher

DD is in to washing the dishes. I don't mind washing dishes myself but when you don't have a dish washer [machine] it seems that five minutes after I've cleared the sink it's full of more washing up to do. So it's great that I have back up and don't have to deal with every sink full of dishes myself.

As DD told me, "I'm actually a good disher."

And she sings to herself while she washes.

Understanding the Questions

I mentioned before that DD is doing two pages a day of a maths workbook and reading a book or chapter of a book in English. Her reading has improved a lot recently. Regarding the maths, it's not so difficult as it's mostly going over what they learned in school this year but still important that she practices it and doesn't forget anything.

The thing I'm most pleased about is that she can read and understand the questions. This is the big jump forward for us this Summer. We use English workbooks and even as recently as the Pesach holidays in April, I had to read the questions to her. Now she just takes the book and gets on with it. It has made her feel independent and more willing to do it. Interestingly, it has also boosted her confidence in doing the maths. Whereas before I was only reading the questions to her but not helping with the actual maths, DD saw this as needing help with maths.

When I did my dissertation on reading skills, I remember learning that fluent reading is essential for success in every subject, including maths and sciences. It's obvious of course, that you have to be able to read the material, but it is fascinating to see it actually happen and proven.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Walking Out Of The Wood

My Dad used to like a riddle that went: How far can a bear walk into a wood? The answer was: Halfway. (Because after that he'd be walking out of the wood.) I feel a bit like that about the summer holidays.

I've been announcing the beginning of the summer holidays for weeks if not months already. There was the week my 6th graders finished school early every day so my timetable was suddenly cut by a third. Then there was the final college lesson which meant no more teaching on Tuesdays. Then my school finished. Then a day later DD's school finished. But she had three weeks of summer school in the mornings only and I had my summer course and meetings with students from last year who were finishing off assignments. Then DD's summer school finished but I still had another 10 days of meetings in college. And actually I still have one more day of meetings on Sunday - and then it really is the summer holiday. Really really really.

Such a lot of activity before the real holiday starts and by then it's half way through.

All work and no play
This week DD has been coming into college with me. I commandeered one of the small computer rooms off the library and she has sat with earphones on, playing on a computer while I work. Same as last year.

It's not been all work though, well for me it has but DD has had some after college activities - a birthday party, the outside movie, and swimming. (Three things is enough isn't it?) The weather is excessively hot - in the 30s every day.

People keep asking if we are enjoying the holiday - what holiday? I've been in college at 8.30 a.m. almost every day this month. And on Tuesday it's August 1st and we begin walking out of the wood. How did that even happen?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Necessary Reaction?!

This isn't the post I was going to write today - I had the whole week planned in blog posts. But then this happened on Friday night.....

Friends who I used to be very close with about 20 years ago when I was flatmates with the wife's sister for four years, were sitting down to their Friday night dinner when they heard terrified screams from the house opposite. Their son, who is in the army, ran to the safe to get his gun whilst simultaneously shouting at his father, who was heading out the door, not to go out without a gun. The son ran across the road and climbed up to the kitchen window where he saw a terrorist stabbing his neighbours. He shot once through the closed window and brought the man down, injured but not dead. 

The neighbours, grandparents aged 70 and 68, had been hosting their son, 35, their daughter-in-law, their daughter, 46, and five gandchildren for shabbat. After dinner they had invited friends and neighbours to drop in for a 'lechayim!' (ironically meaning, 'to life!'), a schnapps to celebrate the birth of a new grandchild. It was already 9.30 and they were preparing for the party so the front door was unlocked. 

The terrorist, a 19 year old from a local village, walked into the house and stabbed Yosef Salomon to death, he stabbed Elad Salomon, his son, to death. He stabbed Chaya Salomon, his daughter, to death. Tova Salomon, the grandmother, was also stabbed but survived and is in hospital. Elad's wife, Michal, rushed her three older children, aged 11, 9 and 5, into a bedroom where her 1 year old twins were sleeping and held the door shut. She then called the police and described what was happening. 

The terrorist, not expecting to survive, had left a message on facebook saying that this attack was to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque. 

From what did he need to kill a family at dinner in order to defend the Al-Aqsa mosque? 

Here is the background to the recent unrest surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque, copied from Wikipedia.

 "Following the 2017 Temple Mount shooting on the Friday the week before the attack in which three Muslim Israelis attacked and killed two Druze policemen outside and inside the Temple mount, Israel increased security measures in the area before the entrances of the Temple mount, including placing metal detectors. Muslim leadership refused to accept the new measures, and called on their followers to protest the new measures, and to pray in front of the Temple mount declaring that prayers of those who pass through the metal detectors are null and void. In rioting on the day of the attack three Muslims were killed in and around Jerusalem.[3]"

What sort of God is Allah who cannot accept prayers from men who have passed through security gates. And why can he accept the security gates in Mecca but not in Jerusalem? We know why  of course. But Israel, like at the Western Wall, like at The Vatican, like at the Albert Hall, like at every airport in the world, places security measures where they are needed. If you are not intending to hurt anyone these measures are slightly inconvenient at the most. Nevertheless, Hamas responded thus: 

"Hamas issued a statement calling the attack a "necessary reaction" to the new Israeli security measures at the Temple Mount. Additionally, in a tweet, they called it "heroic."[11][12]"

The four funerals will be held this afternoon. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Playing Games And Other Reasons 2B Cheerful

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. Pop over to Mummy from the Heart for the Linky.  

Wall of fame
There is a wall of photos up in DD's school and I found DD on it. I think this one is from 1st Grade. I love it - including the wet patch on her t-shirt where she would chew it in times of stress.

Up When We Like.
DD's Summer School has finished so we don't have to be up and dressed to get her there at 8 am for another six weeks! Hooray! We are not morning people. Although I'm thinking of trying some sort of Miracle Morning again. I can do all the stuff, it's just getting up to be there to do them is the problem.

Playing Mancala with DD.
There were a number of rules she picked up at school and a number of rules that I half remembered from when the game first came out. We watched some You Tube instructions and settled on our own set of rules by picking and choosing. We had to try a few variations before coming up with the set of rules that makes for the most satisfying game.

I'm going to encourage some more Kalooki and Shesh Besh (Backgammon). It's a long holiday.

Without resorting to long lists of jobs that must be done or sticker charts on the fridge, DD has accepted the fact that we don't play Mancala, or watch a DVD, or have a chapter of her book until she has read a book or book chapter in English and done some maths workbook. So far so good.

Goodbye to Narnia
Having written my definitive review on the Chronicles of Narnia, I decided that there is no point in keeping the full set of seven books. Of course you can't keep the two books you like (The Magician's Nephew and The Lion et al.) and expect to get a good price for the others. A set is a set. So I put up the whole lot on our local Facebook Buy, Sell, Swap group and someone came to pick them up, paying me 100nis. Nice.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Bedknobs & Broomsticks Revisited

Welcome Angela, it's been so long, apart from Murder She Wrote of course.
Last night DD and I watched Bedknobs And Broomsticks on dvd. She's very funny in that we saw a film we liked on Saturday night and she only wanted to watch the same film again. She has a hard time believing that anything could be better than or as enjoyable as what she already knows. I, on the other hand, know of a few more films than she does and I refused to sit through the same film again.

We are on a movie quest to find something DD loves as much as The Last Mimzy. We have the dvd of this but it doesn't work. We lent it to a friend and it came back 'wiped clean', or so it seems. Probably the FBI destroying the evidence. 

Last Monday night we watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Wednesday night we watched The Lion. The Witch, and The wardrobe and on Saturday night we watched Mrs Peregrine's Children. I wanted to watch Escape to Witch Mountain last night but I couldn't get it. Then I hit upon Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which we did manage to get on dvd. 

B&B came out in 1971. I first saw it in Edinburgh in the summer of 1972, or 3, or 4, 5. I seem to remember that I was 12 which would have been 1975, but maybe I was only 9 in 1972? The film was released in the UK in October 1971 and I also remember it being quite a new film so maybe it was in 1972. 

We were on holiday in our caravan. We'd seen the Edinburgh Tattoo and the parade for the start of the Edinburgh Festival. We'd been to dinner with a cousin who was living in Edinburgh at the time. I remember the pink and white drop-waist dress I wore and that I read my cousin's three year old son a bedtime story. Then she asked if we didn't mind that we kids, (my sister, brother and I) sat on a separate children's table for dinner while the four grown-ups sat at the dining room table. I minded very much but of course I said I didn't. That feels like being 12. 

We toured Scotland a bit. I remember going to Oban and possibly the Isle of Skye - or maybe we didn't go over to Sky but just sang the song as we motored across country. I remember talk of getting to the Highlands where there are tropical gardens. I was eager for this as I'd never been anywhere where there were palm trees. I was thinking in terms of Brazilian rainforests and Hawaian beaches, LOL. Anyway we didn't make it that far north and I've always wondered about those tropics in Scotland. FYI, I googled it and it's call Inverewe

I feel cheated that I missed that whole evacuation thing. 
So back to Edinburgh and it was pouring with rain. My parents decided to kill the afternoon by taking us to see Bedknobs and Broomsticks. This was a huge concession - we never went to the cinema while on holiday, only at Christmas. It must have been the second or third or fourth.... day of rain. I remember my Dad queuing up for tickets while we sat in a cafe across the road and drank hot chocolate. The queue went around the corner - every tourist family in Edinburgh for the festival must have had the same idea. 

I don't think I've watched the whole film through from beginning to end since that rainy day in Edinburgh 42 (or 45) years ago. I certainly didn't remember all of it. DD loved it. "You see? I know some good films, you have to trust me."

I'd love to show her The Railway Children but we need to read the book first. So, on that premis, we can watch Heidi. I'm trying to think of other films from my childhood that I loved. When the heat is in the mid-30s (that's high 90s in old money) every night is movie night. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Chronic Ails Of Narnia

The full set of Narnia
A couple of weeks ago I wrote that we were on Book 4 of the Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian, and that we were still enjoying them. Reader, I spoke too soon. And interestingly enough, this is the same place I got to as a child before I got fed up with yet another battle and another quest and more talking animals and more mythical woodland creatures, and just more and more same, same, same.

Last night DD and I finally agreed that we weren't interested in finishing Prince Caspian. However, we did want to know what happened in the end. Not what happened to Caspian - he obviously became King Caspian and who actually cares? But we wanted to know what happened to the children so we read the final few pages of the book and were totally satisfied.

And then we needed to know what happened in the final three books, although not in so much detail that we had to actually fight the battles with them. So we read the blurb on the back and the slightly longer blurb inside the front cover, and the first and last few pages of each book.


If you, like us, can't be bothered to read through seven books of very similar plot, here is a synopsis of the Chronic Ails Of Narnia.

1. The Magician's Nephew (1955). Diggory and Polly, next door neighbours in Edwardian London, are sent into another world by Diggory's magician uncle. They find a dying world and wake up an evil witch who follows them as they escape and enter into another new world- Narnia. Aslan the lion (God) creates the new world in a similar fashion to the creation story in Genesis, and appoints a human King and Queen to rule over it. It's all very Garden of Eden. The witch is hiding somewhere on the fringes of Narnia, biding her time. Diggory brings home an apple and plants the seeds in his garden. Wood from the resulting apple tree was used to make the wardrobe in the next book.

2. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (1950). Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are evacuated during WW11. They are staying with an old professor (Diggory) in his country house. The find the wardrobe and go through it into Narnia. There they find that the Witch is in power and it is perpetual winter (though never Christmas). They defeat the witch with the help of the magical creatures and talking animals, and Aslan of course. Aslan sacrifices himself as payment for Edmund's betrayal but comes alive again a few days later. The children become the four Kings and Queens of Narnia and they rule for many happy years before one day, finding the path back to the wardrobe and walking through it to return to the country house just a few minutes after they had first left.

3. The Horse and his Boy (1954). This story was fitted in later and is about one episode that happened while Kings Peter and Edmund, and Queens Susan and Lucy, were on the throne of Narnia. A boy and a girl run away from their lives in an oppressive southern land (Calormen - later thought to be based on pre-Islamic pagan countries in the Middle East) with the help of two talking horses originally from Narnia. They help save Narnia and discover that the boy is in fact a Prince of the neighbouring Archenland who was kidnapped as a baby. They get married and become the King and Queen of Archenland.

4. Prince Caspian (1951). The four children are sitting on the railway platform waiting for their trains to return them to their boarding schools, when they are pulled into Narnia where the orphaned Prince Caspian had blown the magic horn to summon them back. It's a few hundred years after their last reign and they find their castle in ruins. Another race now rules Narnia and they've tried to eradicate the talking animals and magical creatures who are of course living in hiding in the woods. They defeat the oppressive rulers and King Caspian takes the throne. The children get back to the station in time to catch their trains.

5. The Voyage of the Dawntreader (1955). Only Edmund and Lucy go back to Narnia as the other two are too old. They are accompanied by their odious cousin Eustace. In this story they help King Caspian as he voyages on a roots tour to find the seven lost friends of his father. It is Edmund and Lucy's last trip to Narnia.

6. The Silver Chair (1953). Eustace and his schoolmate Jill find Narnia as they try to escape from the school bullies and ineffectual headmistress. Eustace is of course a good boy now. King Caspian is old but his son Rilian has disappeared whilst on a journey of his own. The two children have to find Rilian. After they find him they return to school where Aslan makes sure the bullies and the headmistress catch a glimpse of the magic and are terrified into better behaviour. The head mistress actually loses her mind and her job.

7. The Last Battle (1956). This one is incredible, as in you won't believe how it ended. Jill and Eustace are thrown back into Narnia to find it at its darkest hour. All the baddies are at war in one final struggle between the forces of good and evil. In the midst of all this, Peter, Edmund and Lucy arrive. They were waiting on a station platform for their parents' train which they see approaching and suddenly they are in Narnia. And their parents are there too. And they meet all the characters form the previous six adventures, including Diggory and Polly and the first King and Queen of Narnia. (Susan wasn't with them as she had grown too old and sophisiticated for Narnia "games".)

Can you guess what happened? The train they'd seen approaching had crashed into them and they'd all died and gone to Narnia. I could not believe that that was the ending. C.S. Lewis wouldn't get away with that today. And how come I never knew that? Why didn't anyone tell me before?

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article about religion in the Chronicles of Narnia in which C.S. Lewis is quoted as writing:
The whole series works out like this.
The Magician's Nephew tells the Creation and how evil entered Narnia.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Prince Caspian restoration of the true religion after corruption.
The Horse and His Boy the calling and conversion of a heathen.
The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep).
The Silver Chair the continuing war with the powers of darkness.
The Last Battle the coming of the Antichrist (the Ape), the end of the world and the Last Judgement.[3]

So there you have it, the Chronic Ails of Narnia. Next stop E. Nesbit (yes I have the full set). And meanwhile, does anyone want to buy the full set of Narnia for 100 shekels?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Night Out On The Town - R2BC

Flea market finds
On Thursday evening we were summoned to visit my youngest nephew who's touring Israel with a group of other 16 year olds in the summer after their GCSEs. It's a sort of rite of passage for Jewish kids. They call it "going on tour" and everyone knows exactly what you mean.

35 years ago, when his mother and uncle (my twin sister and brother) were on tour (although it wasn't called that then and it wasn't such a thing), I was finishing my gap year on a kibbutz in the middle of nowhere. They had a free Shabbat so the two of them left their group in Tel Aviv on Friday afternoon, took the bus to Bet She'an where I met them (all prearranged via pay-phone obviously) and they spent Shabbat on the kibbutz with me.

Shabbat, which goes out at sundown, finished at about 8.30 pm and they insisted on leaving that night. They got on the bus that came into the kibbutz at 9 pm and headed off into the darkness, to somehow arrive in Tel Aviv and then find their way back to wherever their group was staying.

By the time my older nephew did this same tour three years ago, the once six-week tour had already been reduced to a month and there was no free Shabbat. In our day the groups spent a week on a kibbutz volunteering. Nowadays kibbutzim don't need volunteers as there are foreign workers, much more automation, and much less agriculture, not to mention fewer kibbutzim that operate like traditional kibbutzim.

Older nephew (though not oldest who did a two-week tour without any visiting opportunities because he'd spent a whole school term here when he was 14) had a visiting couple of hours whereby Israeli relatives (everyone has Israeli relatives) met them in a shopping mall and were permitted to walk around with them and buy them supper. They were not permitted to leave the mall.

DD and her cousin
(the floodlights are the athletics stadium #MacabbiahGames)
Youngest nephew, on his three-week tour, is staying at a youth hostel in Jerusalem. We were summoned to visit them at 20.00, after their supper, and stay for an hour. They were not allowed to leave the building. Luckily there was a kiosk selling coffee and a large terrace with uncomfortable chairs and tables. We had a lovely visit for an hour and then we left. He's having a great time and I didn't tell him about 35 years ago when 16 year olds on tour could just leave the group and find their way around the country on buses to visit relatives for the weekend.

It was unbearably hot on Thursday and DD and I had both fallen asleep at 4 o'clock and slept until 6.30 when we got up, had showers, and dressed to go out. By 7 pm it was cool in Jerusalem and by 9 pm it was positively chilly. We weren't tired of course and we felt like the evening needed finishing off.

First we crossed the road from the Youth Hostel and were able to watch some of the athletics taking place at the Hebrew University stadium. This is my second encounter with the Maccabiah Games (the Jewish Olympics with over 10,000 athletes competing in events all over the country) and I don't even do sports. We couldn't make out the running but we watched the javelin throwing in the centre of the track.

Then we got a bus into town where DD had pizza and I had felafel for supper. We found a flea market and music and people dancing on top of buses. It was all very street party. (Shame we couldn't share it with Youngest Nephew.) We left town at about 10.30 and went home after a very satisfying night out on the town.

We were this close #MacabiahGames

I'm linking to Reasons 2B Cheerful over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Zumba, Skype, Maccabiah, Narnia - R2BC With Strange Words

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week, It's a mixed bag. And as usual I'm linking up with Michelle's R2BC over on Mummy from the Heart.

Sexy Zumba
DD had her end of year performance at Zumba. It was the first time she's ever performed in anything and she was so excited. I sat in the middle of the second row, camera in hand, almost as excited as she was. Reader, it was a complete comedy. They were very sweet as they danced to, "C'mon c'mon turn the radio on, it's Friday night and I won't be long, I ain't got cash, I ain't got cash but I got you baby."

I was ROFLing (well not literally - ROChL?) as 12 eight year olds tried to look all sultry and sexy. Shimmying their shoulders and sashaying their hips, the hands on the backs of their necks, the pouting lips, the long pointed arm with the wiggle of the index finger....

And then it was, "Hit the dance floor, hit the dance floor...." I have to admit they did hit the dance floor very impressively. But then came the vertical backstroke move and I was giggling again. On the other hand, look at old video clips of Pans People and they're pretty funny too.

Pension Planning
Today I had a two hour skype meeting with a money management person. She's not a financial consultant but more of a guide to help you sort out what you've got, where it is, and how to access it. I've worked in so many different places over the past 30 years and each one had a different pension plan. I kept all the paperwork of course but it's all in Hebrew. The numbers are not in Hebrew obviously, so I had some idea of what was in each plan but not what it meant in terms of pension.

My favourite was a pension plan that I started 25 years ago with 10 pounds a month contributions and stopped after two months when that job didn't work out. That 20 GBP has grown to about 125 GBP and will yield about 4 pounds a month in pension when I reach 67. That was the most ridiculous but I have some more small amounts in various places and Debbbie went through all of it and told me how to go about consolidating it all into one of the larger pension plans.

After two hours I was exhausted but very happy to have it under control and to have the knowledge necessary for planning for the future.

20th Maccabiah Games
That title is a bit misleading because I had nothing to do with the Maccabiah Games - the Jewish Olympics held in Israel every four years. I'm very proud that over 10,000 Jewish athletes from all over the world came to participate, and that the spectacular opening ceremony took part in Jerusalem tonight, but sport isn't really on my radar.

My Friend, Sally-Anne, however, has a sporty family and a niece competing in the swimming. The whole family came over from London and had tickets for the opening ceremony. So to make it even more of an event S-A made a spectacular pre-ceremony BBQ on her terrace. That I went to with great enthusiasm. It was fun catching up with S-A's family who I knew years ago in London where we were neighbours as kids. And though I enjoy watching Wimbledon and ice-skating, I have to admit that one of my favourite participation sports is chewing.

Laid Back and Back in Narnia
Apart from all this, we are one week into the summer holidays. I've tidied my apartment but not yet cleaned it, I'm still finishing off with students from last year's English course who have until the end of the month and the summer course has begun, but it's all online so no pressure. It's 10 pm but there's no Summer School for DD tomorrow so she's still pottering about. As soon as I post this we're going to have the next chapter of Prince Caspian. Yes, we're on the fourth Narnia book and (amazingly) still enjoying it.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Swinging From Trees And DD's Night Out

The Moonlight Movies starts tonight with Moana. DD's friend came for supper and they are going down by themselves. I told my visiting nephew that DD's friend is coming over for supper and then the two of them are going out to a movie on their own. Then I explained that it's outside our building on the grass and projected onto a white wall. We've been going down (or not) with varying degrees of success for the past four years. I am ecstatic that this year they can go themselves (her friend lives in the next road).

Another milestone passed last week was at the end of school class party. DD's class has a very strong parents' committee so they always plan something good. This year it was an adventure and team building evening in the woods. And best of all, they asked me to bring 40 ice-pops so no cooking or cutting up vegetables or fruit for me!

They started off with some team building exercises. The one I could see and understand what was happening was where they stood on mats in a line and by passing the two spare mats from the end, up to the front, they had to walk the whole team forwards to the ropes.

Here's a story about me and ropes. I was once in the car with two friends on our way to go hiking near The Dead Sea. The driver shoved a book of trails in my hand and told me to pick one. "Number 4 looks quite good," he said. I looked at hike 4 and amongst the equipment listed was 'ropes'.

Me: We can't do this one, it says you need ropes.
Him: It's okay, they provide the ropes.
Me: No you don't understand. I don't do anything that involves ropes.

So DD's first rope activity was parallel ropes that climbed high into the trees and on which they had to edge along. DD got herself all harnessed up in the safety gear and helmet. She  climbed on the first rope, looked up, and changed her mind.

The second rope activity was a pulley system whereby two children were pulled up to the top of a tree (at a 45 degree angle) by their classmates. Then they were let go so that they slid down again at great speed. I was sure DD wouldn't do it.

However, she surprised me. I think she surprised herself too. By the time she decided she wanted to do it there were no more children left so she went up with her sporty teacher. Reader, she loved it.

The pop-ices went down well too. I bought the very big ones (that you're supposed to break in half and share with a friend) and put them in an ice box. We saved them until the very end when the food was long gone and the kids were all tired and sweaty from swinging through the trees.

So that's a sleepover, an action activity involving great height and ropes, and a night out with a friend sans adults, all in one week. I feel big changes in the air (if there was any air during this heatwave).

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Weather, The Wedding, And The Sleepover

Today it was 37 degrees C in Jerusalem. That's 98.6 in old money. The day before it was 36 and tomorrow they are forecasting a blessed relief of only 35 degrees. I hate the heat more than most and we don't have air conditioning in our apartment. So this is how I cope:

I leave home with DD at 8 am. She goes to her Summer School program and I go into my college (both are down the road). I sit in the cool A/Ced teachers' room or in the library, and do my work. Then I collect DD at 1 pm and we come home to basically do nothing until the weather breaks at about 6 pm. That's the thing about Jerusalem, it gets cooler in the evening, unlike in other places in Israel where you can be sweltering in high humidity all night. I guess then you do need to have air conditioning. I'm happy to rest during the day and get up at night.

It's now 11.15 and DD has just gone to sleep as, like me, she's a night owl. We both slept for over an hour in the afternoon so I'm now wide awake. I like this informal chatty style of blogging but I do need to catch up on the events of last week.

The Sunday before last I was invited to a wedding on Kibbutz Shluchot just south of Tiberius and the Sea of Gallilee. To cut a long story short, the groom's little sister had her Bat Mitzva on the Shabbat before the wedding and lots of people joined them for the whole weekend for the double celebration. Most of our mutual friends are close family or close friends with the groom's family so it was going to be hard to find someone driving up to the wedding on the Sunday from Jerusalem. I've also come to the conclusion that sometimes it's easier to just take public transport and be your own boss. I was actually looking forward to travelling on my own without having to entertain DD on the journey.

The bus traveled up the valley road that follows the Jordan River. We left Jerusalem on the east side and drove towards The Dead Sea. Then, with a view of The Dead Sea to our right which I was on the wrong side of the bus to get a photo of, we turned left towards Jericho. Passing the turnoff to the Alemby Bridge Crossing on our right, we continued north towards Bet She'an. The mountains rose out of the dessert landscape and were spectacular in the late afternoon sun. I took photos from the bus like a crazy tourist. I was mesmerized. You know I go for greenery rather than deserts, so I don't quite know what came over me.

Friends (a couple and another friend who also happens to be my brother-in-law who came for the celebrations) had spent the day at a guest house near the kibbutz and they met me from the bus so that I could go back and change at their place. We then went to the wedding together.

There were about a dozen of us who'd been teenage friends back in the UK and had been living in Israel for now 30 years or more. We get all nostalgic and it's as if no time at all has passed. Except that many of them are now passing round photos of their grandchildren on their smartphones. As a young mother myself, I indulge them and they indulge me talking about DD.

After the chupa (literally the wedding canopy) I phoned DD to see how she was getting on at her first sleepover that wasn't at my sister's with her cousins. She gave me a whole speech on the phone about how she doesn't miss me at all and she doesn't know what's happened to her because she's very happy to sleep there.... "and it's not just because I don't have a choice!" Hooray! We have entered a new era. What's more, my friend had her hairwashed and in bed by 9 pm. I must find out how she did that.

I came back south after the wedding in the car with friends and my b-i-l and the two of us stayed overnight with them in their house just outside Jerusalem, coming into Jerusalem for work with them in the morning. Apart from the fact that I had to then spend the day in school teaching, I felt like I'd had a mini holiday. Reconnected and relaxed.

Thanks Sarit for having DD to stay. Thank you Julie and Boaz for taking me and bringing me back and having me to stay overnight. Thanks Jonny and Sari for a wonderful wedding. Mazal Tov to Rebecca on your Bat Mitzva. And Mazal Tov to Ben and Tehilla on your marriage. I hope that in 30 years time you will be celebrating weddings with the same friends you danced with at yours - like we are.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Slimming Sunday - Vegans Vs Ketos

Vegetable Shakuka with eggs and cheese
My blogging friend Michelle from Mummy from the Heart, has been running a Linky called Slimming Sunday for about four months. I thought - great! I'll join that as soon as I have something significant to share. Sadly I'm still waiting. And I promised my real life friend Janet that I would stop writing about weight loss and just do it. Sorry Janet.

Added to that, this is not the post I should be writing today. The last few weeks of school were hectic with all the wrapping up activities, parties, reports, etc... I have about 10 posts backed up in my head and if I don't write about them soon they will become too historical for interest.

However and despite all of the above, here I am. Also because every so often I get asked on facebook how it's going. It wasn't going until yesterday. I was still at the stage of doing loads of research and not having the time to clear my mind and get it into the right place for this project. Every time I did make a good start, a party or a festival or a holiday or an invitation to dinner would open the flood gates and wash me back to the beginning. It was very frustrating.

About the research. There seem to be two camps with opposing views. On the one hand there are the vegans who advocate high carb (all whole grain and organic of course) and low fat but absolutely no animal products. I sympathize with this camp as I think veganism is the ethically correct way to go and it's certainly cheaper and more convenient to stock up on pasta, rice, couscous, oats, beans, etc... But the science doesn't add up. Carbs are just pre-glucose with little nutritional value. They keep you burning the glucose instead of burning your own body fat. They feed cancer cells, provoke insulin production until you have insulin overload and end up with a fatty liver, heart disease, and possibly Alzheimers. Go directly to type 2 diabetes, do not pass Go, do not collect a healthy old age (or even a healthy middle age).

On the other hand, you can find many testimonials that swear they have reached health Nirvana through high carb, low fat, veganism. I think some of them are too far in to back out gracefully having based their whole reputation on this theory. You'll have to do the reading/listening yourself and make up your own mind but it doesn't make sense to me. There is also some dodgy research behind it. For example Ancel Keys who showed that a high fat diet in 7 countries lead to heart disease. He conveniently left out the other 15 countries which he studied and that did not show this correlation. As a result a whole generation (us) have been brought up to fear fat and strive for a low fat diet while obesity has become epidemic. Something must be wrong.

The other camp is a combination of a ketogenic diet (to whatever degree you choose to follow it) and intermittent fasting. Just for the record, the keto diet is very low carb, moderate protein (so it's not Atkins) and loads of vegetables. To be fair, the vegans also advise loads of vegetables so that's the one thing we can all agree on.

Intermittent fasting is as little as no eating between meals to water fasts lasting several days. The most popular choices seem to be the 16 hours fasting/8 hours eating window per day or the 5 days eating:2 days very reduced calories. When I first brought this up a facebook friend commented - I bet your doctor didn't recommend fasting. I'd not spoken to my doctor about it specifically but when I did she actually said I should try to extend the fasting to 17 or even 19 hours a day.

Keto eating is not hard. Who doesn't like meat, fish, eggs, cheese, vegetables, and salad? The hard thing for me is giving up potatoes in any way, shape or form; and giving up the convenience of a sandwich as a meal on the go. And we choose not to have meat at home so that makes it even more difficult.

But I've never been a breakfast eater and I've always known that for me it's best not to eat at all than to try to eat moderately. So yesterday on July 1st, with 2 months of summer holidays ahead of us (although I am teaching a summer course but this is way less pressure than a full schedule), no festivals until mid-September, feeling relaxed and motivated, I ate between 2.30 pm (vegetable shakshuka with three eggs and covered in grated cheese and a small salad) and 5.30 pm (having finished a large salad bowl with tahina dressing).

The Slimming Sunday Linky is once a month so I'll report back about my progress on the first Sunday in August.