Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Real Story of Chanuka, A fourth Election, And Why I Blame the Miracles.

Tonight is the eighth and final night of Chanuka. It's the Jewish winter festival of lights. We added presents because everyone around us was doing presents at this time of year so why not? There's no law against giving presents. 

Like every religious festival in every religion everywhere, there is an historical element, a religious or spiritual element, and a Pagan element connected to the natural world. 

The Pagan element is obvious. It's the deep mid-winter, around the winter solstice, and a time when we desperately need uplifting with a festival of lights and stodgy comfort food like latkes and doughnuts. The traditional chanukiah (nine-branched candelabra) is a similar shape to the seven-branched menorah in the Temple. It's no co-incidence that they both resemble a tree. Maybe it was meant to be the tree of life or the tree of knowledge from the Garden of Eden? Either way, here it is at the traditional Pagan Yuletide along with the Christmas tree that never appeared in the story of the Nativity. 

The historical background is that while the Jews enjoyed a large amount of autonomy under the Greeks during the rule of Alexander the Great, when the Macedonian Empire split and several generations later, in the 2nd Century BCE, the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV was more power hungry.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem there was another power struggle between the Tobiads (the assimilating Jews who embraced Greek culture, named after their leader Tobias), and the Oniads (the more othodox Jews, among them Matathias and his five sons, including Judah the Maccabee or Hammer). Both sides wanted control of the Temple. Tobias went to Syria to collude with Antiochus IV who made him the High Priest in Jerusalem, where he built a gymnasium in the Temple (apparently)!

Civil war ensued, Jew against Jew, and after two long years of battle and various stories of heroics on the part of the Oniads, Matathias and his five sons won, he rededicated the Temple to God, and Judah the Maccabee went down in [Jewish] history as one of the greatest warriors of all time. 

One of the heroic stories I was told in my youth, was about a woman called Hannah who encouraged her seven sons to sacrifice their lives rather than bow down to an idol of Antiochus. Is it only me or is this story somewhat suspect? And why do we still tell it in an age where this mother would be considered heartless, brutal and abusive? For that matter, we still tell the story of Chanuka as us against the Greeks. 

Moving on, the rededication of the Temple involved re-lighting the menorah which burned at all times to symbolize the eternal presence of God. So a good time to celebrate was when we light candles anyway and need a festival to break up the long winter. At some point the rabbis realized that all this celebration of a victory of war needed to be brought back under their jurisdiction. Lo and behold a miracle was added to the narrative. 

The oil for the menorah had to be pure olive oil. When they started cleaning up, one cruse of pure oil was found - enough to last for one day. Either because the nearest supply of pure oil was an eight day round trip away, or because the men were impure for seven days after touching a dead body so could not produce suitable oil until the end of the eighth day, they expected to be in the dark again after the first day. Miracle of miracles, the oil lasted for the full eight days until more oil could be procured. 

Now I don't mind telling the story of the miracle of the oil and concluding with, "and that, children, is why we celebrate Chanuka for eight days." It's part of the fun. Like Father Christmas on the 25th of December. (Btw, no coincidence that Chanuka falls on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev. Winter solstice anyone? ) However, just as the Archbishop of Canterbury might tell the story of the Nativity but would never include Father Christmas (or even Santa Claus) coming down the chimney of the cattle barn in Bethlehem bearing gifts - because that would be silly - so too should we differentiate between history and fantasy. 

There is a similar battle going on today for control of Jerusalem. We call ourselves the Left and the Right, but could easily rename ourselves as the Tobiads and the Oniads. It's the reason Israel is now facing a fourth election with no resolution. (If we reach eight elections do we get a festival?) The Ultra-Orthodox on the extreme Right see it as a fight against assimilation. The largely secular (or at least Modern Jews) aren't assimilating so much as rejecting fairy-stories told as miracles. Rejecting the fantasy world of religious despots for the real world that pays for their fantasies. 

We've not quite reached a state of actual civil war, but if we do, I will blame the "miracles."

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Bat Mitzva

It wasn't what we had planned by a long shot. However, a series of intimate events, which by their size hardly warrant being called events, turned out to be fun and ticked most of the boxes.

DD's class capsule (bubble) of half her class meet up in the school playground once a week for an activity. It's her first year in middle school and after two months of remote learning they realized that some students knew nobody in the class. The outdoor lessons, though educational, are primarily a social exercise to help them make friends. 

I secretly arranged with the teacher to bring in cupcakes and chocolate milk for their mid-morning break. I was given permission providing all food items were individually wrapped. DD was horrified when I turned up with the treats on Wednesday morning, about an hour after she had left home. "What are you doing?! Stop!" I left them to it as their break wasn't until later. A very happy DD called me on her way home. 

Cupcakes from Sweet Art Creations 
On Thursday evening we invited four friends from primary school to a pizza and dessert (more cupcakes) party. I disappeared into my bedroom and let them get on with it. The first half hour was spent zooming with the three friends who were avoiding indoor gatherings (and one who had moved to America). It was a great success and we promised to do it again (without cupcakes or gifts) as soon as the covid situation is over. Or in the park when the weather is more predictable.  

On Friday we recieved fruit platters from my sister in London and from a group of my friends here in Israel. And a bouquet of flowers, fancy chocolates and helium balloons from my sister-in-law, also in London. 

A friend and her daughter came to stay for Shabbat. We spent Friday night after dinner, playing Perudo and Rumikub. On Saturday morning we went to a Bar Mitzva in the morning and returned home in the afternoon for lunch and more board games. 

On Saturday evening we zoomed with the family in London. 

And finally, we have six guests coming to light Chanuka candles with us on Wednesday evening. This isn't strictly Bat Mitzva related but they were supposed to come for brunch on the Friday morning of the Bat Mitzva and DD's actual 12th birthday but two of them were in quarantine and another two were preparing for their Bar Mitzva the next day. The other two were staying for Shabbat so we postponed the brunch until Chanuka. 

As the shopping malls have opened this week, we are going shopping for clothes one day this week. I told DD she can have whatever she wants. After all, despite the temptation, it wouldn't be fair to use the whole of the Bat Mitzva fund, which I've saved up over the past two years, to pay my council tax and building dues for 2021. 


Saturday, November 14, 2020

Such Is Life

I'd like to say, "trying to stay healthy,"
but I'm way beyond that and now into
"trying to get healthy again." 

This week, after receiving two messages from blog-friends about my absence,  I realised that you can't just disappear from the blogosphere with no word of explanation to your blog friends. 

Apart from not having much to write about due to the current restrictions on going anywhere, seeing only a small circle of people, working from home, etc... I've been reluctant to write anything about how I'm organising the apartment, how we binge watch tv series together into the night, coping with zoom teaching, cooking and sewing, or any other pass-times that are keeping us contentedly jogging along during corona times. 

Even mentioning sitting out on our balcony and enjoying the view with a cup of coffee in hand seems like a slap in the face to those who live in less comfortable domiciles and cannot go out. A Reasons 2B Cheerful post at his time would just be rubbing salt in the wounds. 

Everyday I read on FB about people who've lost their jobs or businesses that they've spent years building up, about people who can no longer afford to pay their rents or mortgages and are afraid of becoming homeless, and people who can't afford to put food on the table. In Israel we now have 25% unemployment. Like everywhere, the tourist, hospitality and entertainment industries are dead, many shops and other commercial concerns are shuttered until further notice, and those who still do have money are not spending it anyway. 

Added to that the fact that I have an almost teenager who doesn't want me to write about her or post photos of her on the blog or occupy any space or speak or breathe. Fair enough but take out the 'mum' bit and I'm just Midlife Single, which is a bit sad and certainly doesn't define me. I thought of closing the blog down but I still want to write. I though of changing the name or starting a new blog. All still possibilities as I approach my 10 year blogiversay in January. 

So that's where I'm at re the blog. Here are a few other observations from my dining table in November 2020.  

1. Whilst actually teaching far fewer hours than in previous years and saving on the travel time, my online obligations to the school seem to stretch and take the whole day, even on days when I'm supposedly not teaching. 

2. Princess Diana died because she didn't wear her seat-belt. End of. 

3. Just call me Harry and wife are desperately trying to stay relevant in an organisation that they left. It would be like me calling the Head of the school I left a few years ago and asking her to include me in the school magazine. No one would care. The Markles are playing at being Royals in America and no one cares.

4. It's my daughter's Bat Mitzva (12th birthday) in three weeks and I'm waiting to find out the regulations for the next few weeks before trying to arrange something meaningful with fewer than 10 people. Or a few fewer than 10 people events. I'd like to take solace in the fact that this has saved me a fortune by not having a big party, but I'm not earning the fortune that would have [eventually] paid for it all.

I can't promise to be back next week, or even the week after. Probably another round up of thoughts and a brief catch-up in December. Which is a shame because I've just made it back into the TOTS100 top 500 and I'm going to slide down the scale again next month. Oh well. Such is life. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Tonight I saw Mars And It's Beautiful

This is Mars with a crappy camera. 
To my naked eye twas beautiful. And red.
Late this afternoon DD's class teacher whatsapped a poster. In a nutshell, the planet Mars is usually 228 million km away from Earth. Tonight it is only 62 million km from Earth and is visible to the naked eye. The next time this will happen is in 2035. 

The poster said to look to the south. I went onto the balcony soon after nightfall, and I looked west. I caught a sliver of the southern view but my balcony essentially faces west. When I bought this apartment 20 years ago, I had no idea that I was swapping a closeup view of Mars one night every few decades for a nightly full-on sunset.

I was gong to give Mars a miss but I got involved in a whatsapp discussion which ignited my curiosity and motivated me to go down three flights of stairs to look for Mars. I looked south and saw two contenders but my whatsapp pals informed me that these are Jupiter and Saturn. I sort of remember seeing them before and they were bright white so this made sense. 

Apparently there's a star chart app but seriously, I just wanted to see it and go home. So sans app, I set out. If I saw it I saw it and if I didn't I'd wait until 2035 (peh peh peh, please God, thank God, all being well).

A whatsapp came in. "It's rising in the north and travelling by way of the east, to the south." South of where I live is Bethlehem. I decided not to follow the star even if I saw it because the beginning of October is ridiculously early for that sort of thing. Besides, I had no gifts to bear bring. 

The buildings were in the way and the street lamps dazzled. I walked down to the school playground at the bottom of the road. I looked up towards the NE. I definitely saw it. It was small and not white. If I stared long enough I could convince myself that it was red(ish). There was possibly a red aura about it - or possibly not.

Another whatsapp came in with a photo. 'Beautiful!' declared the caption. 

There was a teenage boy playing on his phone in the pergola. "Hey!" I called out to him, "do you want to see Mars?" Of course he did. He was as underwhelmed as I was. We agreed to meet back there in 17 years for the next showing (lockdown permitting of course). I said I'd wear a red flower so he'd recognize me. He said he'd bring more space on his phone so he could take a photo of it. We bade each other farewell, but not goodbye obviously. 

I went home. The rest of the evening passed and suddenly it was 02.30 (it's a school holiday this week so no early zooms to get up for). I decided to take one last look from the balcony just to see. And there it was! A little west of south (S by SW?) and in perfect view. Big (for a star), bright, and decidedly red. It was awesome. I keep going back to take another look. 

I may not have seen the Northern Lights or tasted real truffles (both near the top of my bucket list) but I've seen Mars and it is beautiful. How cool is that? 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Creativity In Lockdown - R2BC

I re-covered the sofa cushions at no expense.
Time for a Reasons 2B Cheerful. No linky this week but it's time to look on the bright side of not being struck down so far and having all this extra free time. 


DD's Remote Learning

We've only had a couple of days of distance or remote learning but so far she's doing it responsibly and independently. I'm reading about families with lots of younger children who require constant supervision while the parents are supposed to be working from home. And how one family computer has to accommodate zoom lessons for four children all scheduled at the same time. 

A friend wrote that the parents of her 1st grader told the teacher, "forget the zooms. Just give us the assignments and we'll do them with our kids when it's convenient during the day." I feel their pain and reward my one daughter with ice-cream. 


The Cushions

I had these four big sofa cushions that I bought because I got an unexpected voucher for 600 shekels when I purchased my new fridge a few years ago. These vouchers tend to expire, be forgotten, or are subject to ridiculously restrictive small print that no one reads. So I rushed upstairs in the shopping mall to Fox Home and looked for anything that I vaguely needed. 

I did need big sofa cushions but the only design included the colours orange, lime green and turquoise. I promised myself that I would re-cover the cushions in the future. How hard could it be when you already have good quality square shaped cushions? 

Reader, I am no seamstress and I don't own a sewing machine. However, I also promised myself that I wouldn't waste this lockdown as I wasted the last one. Using an old blanket with a reversible pattern, I made two slip covers for two of the cushions. I then used two pillow slips that had been gifted to me when friends left the country, to sew a panel onto the front of the other two. The strip of turquoise and the lime green backing are now perfectly acceptable with the blues. The orange is banished! 

Thank you Netflix for 31 hours of binge watching Outlander, allowing me to achieve this transformation painlessly. 


The Headboard

Another project on my list was do do something with the plain wooden headboard on my bed. I had already placed a quilt over it that my friend Amanda made for DD as a cot blanket when she was born. I gave away all of DD's baby things (except for some loved stuffed animals and teddies) but this quilt is too beautiful and personal. And it's about 15 cm too short on either end. 

I had an old woven floor rug (a kilim?) that I loved because of the colour but we don't use woven rugs. Unlike proper carpets, of which we have two, they can't be hoovered easily and they just get dirty and dusty on the floor. So I washed it in the washing machine, cut off the tassels, folded it in half lengthways, and sewed up the two ends. This sleeve fits perfectly over the headboard and comes down as far as the mattress. The quilt sits on top of the kilim and voila - an all washable, upholstered headboard. 


Coffee And Shul (Synagogue)

I had two days worth of Rosh Hashanna services without having to get dressed or leave my home. I sat on my balcony with a cup of coffee and heard the whole thing below in the street, including the blowing of the shofar (a hollowed out ram's horn). Now that's my kind of shul. 


Not Yet In Total Quarantine

We're in Lockdown but can leave the apartment for essentials. Quarantine is much stricter and more and more of our friends are put into quarantine at home every day. One nursery school teacher had subbed in three different kindergartens last week before testing positive. One of the families we cancelled going to for lunch over Rosh Hashanna is now in quarantine because the son had been in school with a tested-positive child. I hope none of the above will actually get sick and apparently 90% of cases are mild or asymptomatic. We're taking no chances and so far we've been lucky. 

So as Israel careers into total loss of control over the pandemic, I wish you all a good week. 


Thursday, September 17, 2020

State Of The Fed Up Nation

I've not blogged much for a couple of months because I didn't feel like it. We don't go anywhere and it's been over 30 deg C for the whole summer and the mercury's still up there. On the one hand, we're fed up at home (fed up in every sense of the words) but on the other hand, I'm thankful that I've not had to go out to work or anywhere in this heat. 

Israel is entering its second lockdown starting tomorrow at 2 pm, the eve of Rosh Hashana - the Jewish New Year. We got the rules a few days ago and they were vague enough that, as someone wrote on fb, you can't leave your house unless you need to go somewhere. 

The one clear directive was that we're not allowed farther than 500 m from our places of residence - except to go to work, shop for essentials, health care, exercise, to assist someone in distress, and various other caveats to do with prayers, children and special needs.

Fine. We have friends who live very close by as do many people. So we all arranged our two-day festival with meals together in each other's homes - not exceeding 10 people at any one meal. Then today - 24 hours before the lockdown, after we'd shopped, after many people have already cooked, after all arrangements have been confirmed, they clarified that we are not allowed to visit other homes (although we are allowed to meet in the local park),

Meanwhile there are thousands of ultra-orthodox men trapped in no man's land between Belarus and Ukraine because they thought God would open the border for them when Ukraine made it very clear that they are closed to tourists until the end of September. It's an annual pilgrimage to the grave in Uman of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. Basically it's a rave party for men and they won't give it up. And their rabbis told them not to give it up because these ultra-orthodox rabbis are power mad and won't be told anything by a secular government, secular doctors and, God forbid, scientists. It hurts because, as one of the leaders of the opposition, Yair Lapid said, we have all had to give up on our personal "Umans" this year. 

These hassidim, including lots of male children, are sleeping rough in the cold and relying on the red cross for food. Israel is telling them to return to Minsk where there are planes ready to bring them home but it'd be a shame if they left and then God sent a miracle - right? Did I mention that traveling on Rosh Hashana is forbidden (Like on Shabbat) so if they don't leave now they will be stuck there until Sunday night. 

The ultra-orthodox are a law unto themselves - they do what they like and bugger the rest of us. Two mayors of ultra-orthodox towns are among those waiting for the Ukrainian border guards to be touched by God. You couldn't make it up. 

So while I'm bashing these hassidim, others are blaming everything on Bibi Netanyahu. They're not wrong. He has put himself and his interests before that of ordinary citizens at every opportunity. But others love him because ...... they have reasons and I'm not going into all the politics now. However, the hatred on and off of facebook is astonishing. 

The Bibi bashers throw vitriol at Bibi and the religious respond with disgust that political demonstrations are permitted with thousands of demonstrators while the rest of us point fingers at their massive weddings and overcrowded prayer services and study halls. They're not wrong either - I also don't understand why demonstrations are allowed.

It's all political. Bibi cannot alienate his religious supporters by banning all religious gatherings, and democracy must be seen to be sacred, hence the demonstrations. Meanwhile the Yeshivas (religious colleges) are open while schools are shut. Ultra-orthodox men travel to Belarus to visit the grave of a man who died in 1810 while we (like many others) can't visit my mother who is very much alive.

I don't even know if a lockdown is effective or not. There are heated arguments on both sides. The only truth is that no one's opinion is totally subjective. 25% of the country are currently unemployed. If I had lost my own business that paid the rent on my family home or was in danger of losing the home that took me decades to buy, and I had more children to feed, etc.. etc.. I'd also be shouting about the unnecessary lockdown. 

But I wore my mask properly when supermarket shopping today while many didn't bother. My motives are not political. I'm scared of getting corona and I don't want to have to pay a 500 shekel fine if I'm caught. For these reasons I tend to follow the rules. 

I canceled our plans for the holiday weekend. Others are sticking a finger up to that and going ahead. I don't blame them and I won't judge. Everyone's situation is different. I'm an older, overweight, single mother and so I will err on the side of caution. 

So as we go into the New Year in a state of mud-slinging, blame naming, anger and hatred towards each other, I wish everyone a happy new year in lower caps. 

Friday, September 4, 2020

Some R2BC And The Crisis To Come

First day of 7th Grade. This is all I got.

I only blogged once in August because there was little to say. We watched Netflix and You Tube, we had dinner a couple of times with friends, DD went to one Bat Mitzva party (a picnic in the Botanical Gardens), she had a friend over a couple of times, and we got fat. That was our summer. Reason 2B Cheerful - we didn't get corona. 

Today is my birthday. I'm nearer 50 than 40 (and always will be). So that's one Reason 2B Cheerful. And another is that we're invited out to dinner tonight. 

DD is back at school for four days a week for half days. This week she was in the second shift - 10.50 am till 2.20 pm. Next week she'll be in the 8 am till 10.20 group. The second shift isn't so good. They have more school hours but there's a lot of hanging around in the morning waiting to leave. It's only a 12 minute walk to her school. 

Only on Fridays it's different because the school closes at 12.30 pm for the weekend. I thought she had a 10.20 start this morning so I didn't hassle her about the time. Suddenly she flies into a panic at 9.40 because that was when her first lesson started. I had no idea. She ran out of the house crying to run up the hill (it's a mountain) in 35 deg C heat. She'll be ok but I felt for her. It's not nice to have to walk in late in the first week of a new school. 

On Sunday and Monday she has distance learning from home for the full 6 hours. It's a R2BC that DD has some sort of schedule again, even if it requires keeping on the ball to know where she should be and when. 

Israel has gone from being among the best coping countries during the first wave, to being the worst as of this week. We are now the top country for the number of new cases in relation to population. R2BC - I did an online supermarket shop and we have enough food in the apartment to see us through the threatened lockdown in the coming weeks. 

Did I mention that my salary a my college has been reduced by 60% for the same amount of work? I'm prepared to take one for the team during this crisis but the great terms of employment we had BC (Before Corona) will never be reinstated AD (After Disaster). What we have now is what most colleges do and have done for years. I enjoyed extremely generous terms for 10 years and now it's over forever. R2BC - thanks for the great first 10 years. 

I'm not panicking about the salary situation because there are about 3 million people in this country who are worse off than me. People in service industries, tourism and all 'non-essentials' related jobs. All these people have either lost their jobs or are on greatly reduced income. People who rent and have a number of children to feed. People in the early years of a large mortgage. Older people who might never find work again. This is not a R2BC but the government will not allow half the country to be homeless and starving so solutions will be found. This is a Reason 2B Hopeful.

I read that the real economic crisis won't hit until next spring when we'll have the beginnings of people using up all their savings and redundancy money, and unemployment payments stop (you only get a year of dole money here). 

My nephew tried to explain to me that he heard from an economist (his brother) that because it's a world wide phenomenon, governments will be allowed to print more money without devaluing their currencies as long as all countries print the same amount of money. This money can be used for stimulus projects and income support. So R2BC - we will cope and we will survive. 

The sad thing is that these drastic stimulus measures will only be implemented when most people have used up all their savings. They will survive but all dreams of a better future (buying a better property or even just getting on the property ladder, opening a business, a comfortable retirement, etc...) will have been dashed and we will have to start from scratch. Or maybe a more modest world will be good for all of us. R2BC? I'm not sure. 

So amongst the doom, about eight or nine Reasons 2B cheerful or at least grateful and hopeful. And this is why I've not blogged for the past few weeks.

A last R2BC is that the R2BC linky is back on Becky's blog - Lakes Single Mum. Check her out for beautiful photos of Kendal and The Lakes. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

One-Upmanship - Let It Go

🏆 In 1952 Stephen Potter (1900 -1969) published the infamous guides to Lifemanship and specifically One-upmanship.

On holiday with a friend, we played several rounds of backgammon in the hotel lounge and I won. "You're very competitive," she observed, "I never realised that about you before." Say it with a smile and it's not an insult right? She lost at backgammon that night but she won at life.

Another time a friend was telling me about a wonderful place she'd visited on her travels. It was the most spectacular scenery in the world. She ended her description with, "I don't care how many pictures or videos people see, you cannot understand the full beauty of it unless you've been there." What is there left to say after that? You've been to better places than boring old me so you win?

Lifemanship is making yourself appear more accomplished or knowledgeable, or the better person. It's chatting with an accomplished writer and saying that you plan to write novels when you retire. It's following a story about a walking holiday in the Lake District with, "When I went hiking in the Himalayas..."

It's basically disrespect for the knowledge and experiences of others.

One-upmanship is altogether more sinister. A back-handed compliment but more nuanced. Use it clumsily and you look mean. However, with some practice it can be honed into an art form. By all means use One-upmanship on your enemies, your adversaries, or your competitors. Be aware that you'll still look mean and people will hate you for it, they just won't be able to pin anything on you.

"One-upmanship is making the other man feel that something has gone wrong ever so slightly" (Stephen Potter). It's leaving the other with a slight feeling of discomfort. You can't argue with One-upmanship. "What do you mean? I gave her a compliment!"

It's meeting an older friend for coffee and saying, "How lovely to see you out and about and looking so well."

Another example I read once, went like this: You invite guests for dinner and you've obviously spent much time and effort cooking a lavish selection of dishes and desserts. One guest compliments you with, "Thank you so much for tonight, it was a lovely evening. The mayonnaise was delicious. I would love the recipe. I can't stop thinking about how good it was. You are clever."

Or the parting that ends with, "I've really enjoyed meeting you and spending time with you. I hope you find what you're looking for in life." (What? I'm concerned about you.)

Have you ever been One-upped? What do you do? You smile to yourself and remember that One-upmanship is the tool of the insecure. It's used by people who feel that: "if you're not one-up, you're one-down" (Rilke). Feel sorry for the habitual One-upman but never confront him. He'll pretend  not to understand why you're upset. If he needs to always feel superior he's not going to apologise, is he? Let it go. And you can feel a little superior if you like, because of your maturity and stronger sense of self.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Corona Changed Everything

I am no worrier. I've lived in Israel for a very long time. I have friends. I even have childhood friends who also moved here. I work, I bought an apartment, I did IVF and had a baby, I've been a single mother for almost 12 years. And all this in a language I'm not 100% comfortable with.

I hate the weather in the summer which is far too hot for me, and getting hotter apparently. I hate the national pass-time of hiking in the countryside because I can't see any countryside - only Mediterranean scrub. Otoh, I love it that we live 45 minutes from the Mediterranean. In theory. We're actually not beach lovers.

I love visiting the UK. I love the countryside, I love walking in the countryside. I love London, I love the humour, I love listening to the radio talk shows and understanding all of it. I love dealing with bureaucracy or commerce on the phone or by email because I have full command of the language and all its nuances.

I've always been torn between living here and living in the UK. The more years you expat yourself, the harder it is to go back. The more you have invested in your expat life and the less you have to go back to. However, no one expected covid-19 or that it would change everything. Not just highlighting what I already knew, but bringing up things that I also already knew but had buried deep.

We are far away from close family. It wasn't a problem when a short plane ride was available and traffic went both ways - they came to us and we went to them. But now what happens if I get sick? Who looks after DD? Would you take in a traumatised child who needs to be in quarantine for two weeks and could endanger your own family?

So I'm being over cautious about social distancing. DD came to me last night and said sadly, "Mummy everyone else is out having fun." In theory she's correct. In practice, we both know that we hate that sort of hiking or even picnicking in 34 degree heat sort of "fun". I don't even know what other kind of fun there is in this country in this sort of heat. In past years we went along with friends and endured the heat in order to enjoy the company.

I have a drivers' license but I don't drive here because I don't have a person to call if we break down, get stuck or have an accident. I mean, I have people to call in an emergency but once the emergency bit is over, I still have to deal with all the mechanical and insurance issues. This scares the hell out of me. So we don't have a car and as much as I say it's cheaper to take a taxi any time we want to go anywhere out of town (which it is - I've done the maths) we don't. Our lives are limited.

Our lives are limited, not only by lack of private transport. It's a language thing. I shy away from too much responsibility at work, at school (DD's and mine) and in the community. This is tragic for a natural joiner and organiser.

Finally, as we face DD going into Middle and High School, I feel I'm limiting her education. Her Hebrew has surpassed mine but due to our English lives at home, she doesn't have the language skills necessary to excel. And though I can help her with the material, by looking up the information in English, I can't help her with presenting what she knows. School is half about what you know and half about presenting what you know according to the teachers' requirements.

Maybe covid-19 has turned me into a worrier. Or maybe it has just made me face some difficult truths. Whichever, it has changed everything.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

One Of Those Women?

A dress. It's not a photography blog, ok? 
Many years ago my flatmate and I decided to have a party in our apartment. We were living in the middle of a building with windows front and back. Left, right, up, and down were other apartments. They were mostly occupied by retired women - probably because it was a building of tiny apartments in an old neighbourhood. So being British and polite, we knocked on all the neighbouring doors to tell them in advance, apologise for the noise, and assure them that it would be over at midnight.

Back in our apartment, my flatmate said, "did you notice how every door was opened by a bra-less middle-aged woman?" We fell about laughing. We didn't get it. We didn't understand how not going out to work, not having a partner or flatmates, not having friends popping over without notice, can lead to a level of not bothering to get dressed heretofore unimagined.

I have DD of course but she's as laid back as I am. When we made the list of what clothes she needs for this summer it boiled down to 1 T-shirt, 1 pair of shorts, and 14 pairs of pyjamas. Even on a normal Shabbat (Saturday) we sometimes don't get dressed all day if we're not meeting up with friends. So I was halfway there before this isolation business. I blame a lot of it on the extreme heat in the summer but essentially, I had become one of those women.

My current neighbour, one of the first of us to go into quarantine after returning from the US in March, is also a single woman. However, she got up early every day, dressed as if she were going to work, and kept to some sort of routine. I want to be one of these women. I was not in quarantine at the time and we'd meet on our balconies - she in full make-up and executive blouse, me in my bathrobe.

The Fly Lady says the first thing you should do every morning is get up and dress till shoes. There is so much common sense in this. When your friend brings something round for you and asks if you can meet her at the corner as she's in a rush, you can just nip down to meet her. When someone says, "meet me in Roladin for coffee in 20 minutes," you can be there in 20 minutes because you don't have to also shower and dress in that time.

Yesterday I decided that with another five weeks of summer break still to go, I was not going to be one of "those" women anymore. So this morning I got up early, showered, and dressed till shoes (my Fitflops do double duty as shoes and slippers). And here I am. All dressed up and nowhere to go - because we're actually trying not to socialize atm.

So did it make any difference? Yes of course it did. Not sure yet. I'll give it a few more days and let you know.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Tomatoes But No Abundance - R2BC

A few weeks ago I cut up a tomato and planted it in soil.
Now I have three tomatoes growing. 
This week was productive. Who was it who said, "when you look back on days you were proud, they won't be days when you did nothing."? 

The Linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum and here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. 

The End
I wrapped up three college courses and submitted the final grades to two of them. (The 3rd course has a retake exam at the end of August for those who need it (failed or absent).

Cleanliness is next to Godliness
Wrapping up those courses freed my mind to start cleaning my apartment which has been neglected for a few weeks. It feels good to restore some order and DD appreciates it too.

Abundance - Ha!
I walked away from Deepak Chopra's Abundance course. I still believe in the power of the mind but on the third session the task was to start your own course and invite your own friends to join it. In other words it was a scam to get more hits on DC's You Tube channel - where the sessions are located.

My friend who invited me was only doing it as part of her course. I thought she'd chosen me among her friends as a spiritually open person and I believed she had a calling to guide such a course among her friends. I'm cheerful because I had the sense to just walk away when my instincts told me to. It was abundance for Deepak Chopra that's who. My abundance will come and meanwhile, it freed up some much needed time in the mornings. Actually, I'm over-abunded with work atm.

I got a refund from DD's school in lieu of the class trips and other activities that didn't happen last semester. At least that.

Lots of bank and bureaucracy to deal with this week. Yes it's a hassle but I'll feel great when it's done.

Summer Course
My summer course starts in one week. I'm actually looking forward to setting it up on the website. It's something new this summer. I'm using more of the website's wigdets and gadgets for quizzes and forums, rather than just asking students to submit work.

Stairway to Heaven
The building committee in my block has sprung to life over the past couple of months. Suddenly things are getting fixed. This week our stairwell is being painted. I've set up a Paybox account to collect money from all the apartments. (Did I mention that I was coerced onto the building committee?). Let's see how much of a hassle this becomes. So far I'm only one who has paid up.

That's it for now. Have a good week.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Corona Car Rally - R2BC

A car in a mask.
My Reasons 2B Cheerful this week are about DD's graduation from primary school. In a normal year the 6th Grade go on a two day trip with a sleep over, they spend weeks rehearsing a full show, and there's a graduation ceremony. It's a big deal.

This year they were barely in school for any of their final semester and obviously there was no trip. The parents' committee came up with an alternative keeping to the corona restrictions and gave the 6th Grade a great sendoff.

We met at the school (HQ) at 16.15 with decorated cars. The first event was a car rally around Jerusalem. Each car had two pupils and two parents. We were given five clues to places we had to go to in the correct order, and at each station we had a task to complete and then send photographic evidence (still or video) back to HQ. It was cleverly organised so that everyone had different stations and tasks in different orders.

As the photos and videos came in they were forwarded to the class and parents' whatsapp groups so we could enjoy seeing everyone else's efforts as we completed our own tasks.

Our route went as follows:
1. Cinema City to the person who said, "Sometimes it's the smallest things that fill up your heart." We googled it. It was Winnie the Pooh. Unfortunately the Disney statues were closed off. I felt I should have got extra points for finding a Winnie the Pooh stuffed toy in a vending machine. But we didn't and other groups were told to just skip that bit.

2. Sing this song in the appropriate place. Our song was Under the Sea so we went to the aquarium. Our girls were too embarrassed to sing so I took over the performance - making up the words as I went along in Hebrew. Then they had a better understanding of what embarrassment is.

3. The clue was a sculpture at the Science Museum where we had to build the tallest tower we could build.

4. We had to go to the house of the school nurse, where she had laid on healthy fresh fruit for her visitors. (Other cars went to other staff members with similar related treats.)

5. This is where we cheated. Although I claim that we were in credit for finding the alternative Pooh. Our final task was to go to the Jerusalem Forest, a good hour's drive round trip, and write a message in sticks, stones, and cones. We found some local trees near the school and faked the forest.

Back at school a burger supper was served in four different classrooms. Then parents who'd been on the car rally went home and the second parents arrived because only one parent per child was allowed, to keep the numbers down. First time ever being a single parent has been an advantage.

Parents of one class went to watch a slide-show while parents of the other class watched the kids performing some skits, dances, music, etc... followed by the graduation ceremony. Then the parents swapped places and the whole thing was repeated. There was a lot of hanging around.

For me the highlight of the performances was a group of kids marching onto the stage, chanting, "and then we returned to school!" Halfway across the stage they turned and walked the other way, chanting, "and then we didn't return to school." This was repeated a few times: "Then we did return to school!" "Then we didn't return to school!" "Then we did return to school!" Etc...

OMG, this is exactly how it was. As a teacher myself I can tell you that at least twice a week we were waiting for someone's test results to see if the whole school would be closed, or if just one class would be in isolation (and all who taught in her), or what the new government regulations were regarding which classes go to school and which get remote lessons and on which days. Absolutely crazy.

We came home late, exhausted but happy. It was hard leaving the building because it would be the last time. It wasn't the building, obviously, it was the last time these particular parents would meet as a group. We were a good group. And it was a final letting go of DD's young childhood.

As always, the linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Last Day Of Primary School

First Day at Kindergarten, aged 3 3/4
Can you believe it? I'm the single mum who just had a baby on my own. Only apparently that was almost 12 years ago and that baby just left primary school.

I'm the friend who dropped out of social events in the evenings because she had a baby/toddler/little girl at home. Only now there's no little girl at home. Only an almost teenager who looks remarkably like a young woman.

I look at the school opposite our house and down the road and it's no longer our school after eight long years.

I took DD to the kindergarten when she was still 3. It was two year groups together and the twins who 'adopted' her were almost 6. She was tiny and a bit like the mascot of the kindergarten.

In 1st Grade I had to take her into the classroom every day and wait for the bell. Some days the Headmistress had to prize her off me saying, "A kiss from Mummy and in you go." What she meant was - off you go Mummy and be quick about it.

By 2nd Grade I was leaving her at the school gates and watching her run inside.

In 3rd Grade she wanted me to stop half way down the road and let her walk the last bit with her friends. I watched until she'd gone through the school gates.

By 4th grade I only had to see her across the road.

In 5th grade she went by herself, carefully crossing the road as I watched from the balcony and waved. She got her own front door key for the days that she arrived home before me.

In 6th Grade I often had to go to work early, leaving DD to lock up and go to school. Three times a month she was the supervisor for the crossing guard.

I tried to send her to bed tonight. I don't know what I was thinking. "Good luck with that," she replied, "No school until September remember."

I remember.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bat Mitzvah Perfect - R2BC

The Judean Hills
View from the Bat Mitzvah girl's garden.
Reasons 2B Cheerful are indeed 3 this week. The linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum as always. And here they are.

Bat Mitzvah Party
We went to a Bat Mitzvah party on Friday. It was a perfect gathering of a few families in the garden, a bagel brunch, dessert, some singing, some praying, some performances in honour of the Bat Mitzvah girl. Then the adults went home and left the Bat Mitzvah girl's friends for a sleepover.

They have a small pool in the garden and they put up tents for the girls to sleep in. I had a small glass of wine on my balcony at home and slept in my bed. And DD was delivered  home today. It was the perfect Bat Mitzvah celebration imo.

We talked about how corona has caused many events to be scaled down and it's sad when it means that family from far away can't be there. On the other hand, a more modest celebration can be extra special and meaningful in its intimacy and hygge.

Semester End
I have one more week of school and two more weeks of college until this semester is over, including grading the exams. During that time I still have to set up my summer online course ready to start on July 15th, but that's a new beginning. I love the ending. When every pupil's report card is written, most students have their final grade (because there are always some with extensions), I can almost close that door on a job done and relax.

Tomorrow morning I'm starting a meditation programme facilitated by a friend on facebook, and based on 21 Days of Abundance by Deepak Chopra. You can find it on You Tube and do it yourself but I'm looking forward to the guidance, commitment, and energy gained by being part of a group.

I've done a programme like this but different, before, #Breakthrough with Devorah Sisso. That time, although motivated, I came up against a brick wall in lesson 5 out of 6, when I had to write my aspirations for the future. You could ask the universe for anything you could imagine. And I was paralysed by the chasm between what I would love and what I saw as realistic.

I read The Secret. I watched the movie. I read another book about letting grace into your life. I did a course run by a fellow blogger called LifeCircle. We have a roof over our heads, we have food to eat, we have our health, and we have friends, so maybe they all worked. Otoh, I didn't get my yacht in Monaco or my Chateau in Provence so maybe I didn't do it right?

Anyway, I'm ready for another bash at being one of the world's amazing women so I'm giving it a go. Obviously I'll let you know how it turns out. I may be writing from my poolside suite at an exclusive spa or I may be writing from this dining table still piled high with stuff waiting to be put away. Or something in between.

Have a great week.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

From One Day To The Next - R2BC

The lettuces on my window sill are doing well.
As soon as I plant them outside the birds get them.
Maybe I'll stick to the hydraponic approach inside this time. 
I didn't have any Reasons 2B Cheerful on Thursday when Becky published the R2BC linky on Lakes Single Mum. I didn't have any big reasons not to be cheerful but there was nothing particular to write about. By Friday God had provided me with three R2BC - because the world is running so smoothly he obviously had time on his hands to sort out my petty niggles. 

Dinner With Friends
We used to do this every few weeks. Friday night dinner with another single mum at either their place or ours. A friend for me and a friend for DD. Nothing grand, just company and good simple food. But then corona happened and we stopped doing it. So last night we walked over to their place and caught up, ate far too much, and had fun. (I need to get my place in shape so that they can come to us in a couple of weeks.)

The Home Front
Talking of getting my place into shape, I saw the funniest meme on facebook. Of course the funniest ones are the most true. 

Is my house clean and tidy? - No
But are we having crazy fun times making memories? - Also no. 

A friend told me yesterday that when they got the notice that it would be back to school and work in two weeks in their State of the US, he panicked because they'd not done any the things he'd planned to do during lockdown. That too. 

School Changes
Talking of going back to school. DD had one week of the two day arrangement and her school decided that they're all going back on Sunday - full normal schedule, full classes. 

My school was a nightmare because when they were splitting the classes teachers got put in wherever they were needed. The English staff got shuffled around (at least we're still teaching English) and now we're with classes we've not taught all year. I don't know any of the kids' names, I'm taking over specific remedial programmes for the weaker students (who are also less motivated) and I have no idea how these programmes work, and all in masks with no breaks because every teacher is on playground duty and lunch duty three times a day because of staggered break times. And if you found that long sentence difficult to read and take in - that's how I feel all day in school. I honestly didn't know if I could do it for another three weeks. 

The primary school teachers union had agreed with the government to continue school until July 12th instead of the usual June 30th. Meanwhile the middle and high school unions were still saying they want to finish on June 20th as usual, instead of continuing until June 30th. Then yesterday afternoon the labour court sided with the teachers. Middle and high school students are suddenly and abruptly finished for the year (except those taking public exams over the next month) and us littlies have only a week and a half to go. 

Hooray! I would have been happy to teach for the extra couple of weeks but I can't do this babysitting lark whilst pretending to teach. And K - 4th grade are getting free summer school until August 6th.

The Summer Holiday
Talking of breaking up from school, obviously we're not going anywhere this summer but what plans I have for us whilst stuck at home for two months. LOL. See R2BC 2 above. #procrastinatingoptimistsyndrome  No seriously...

Sick Note
I got a sick note from my doctor for the two weeks that we were in enforced quarantine. So I'll get paid for the full month of June and not just for the two weeks I went back to school. Hooray again! 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Unschooling Happened

Real homeschooling would involve trips to Kew Gardens,
learning photography, about plants, and Chihuly. 
Unschooling is a thing. Really. And it's allowed in places where homeschooling is legal, which is in most of the world these days.

Unschooling is leaving your child to his or her own devices in an information  and experiential rich environment and trusting that they will educate themselves. Perhaps with some gentle guidance and a few rules like only educational screen time during the day, a certain amount of out of house time, obligatory chores that promote useful skills, etc...

The rich environment could include books; the internet; the library, museums; available adults who are willing to engage; group activities like scouts, a choir or orchestra, swim team; family experiences like travel, camping, religious rituals and celebrations, cooking, gardening; play with other children; a part time job; and anything else that provides stimulation and opportunities to learn anything at all.

The coronavirus lockdown is nothing like homeschooling. It's temporary, we're not set up for it, we can't use the library, museums, go on nature walks, etc... There's distance learning from the schools, and regular parents have their own work to do. It's a sad but true fact that only families in which one parent can do flexi-hours from home, can do homeschooling. Most families don't have this choice.

Most important of all, there are at least seven different methods you can adopt for homeschooling and/or combinations thereof. It can take a while to explore the options and see which method works best for your family. For example, recreate a classroom at home and follow the national curriculum with textbooks and a weekly schedule. Co-op learning with other families and each parent teaching their field of expertise or passion. The Charlotte Mason method of real literature and learning till noon followed by outdoor pursuits in the afternoon. Place Based Learning uses the local environment, community and culture. Remote online learning. Umbrella or theme based learning. You get the picture, it's not just staying at home and working through the textbooks.

Despite all this, a lot of unschooling by default has taken place over the last three months. In our home I had lots of online teaching going on. DD also had some remote lessons but also a lot of free time during which I wasn't available to occupy her. Add to this that she's an only child and I'm almost dying of guilt as I write this. I admit that there was far too much screen time and not enough no baking, balcony gardening, art, teaching her to sew and knit, playing the recorder or piano, learning a foreign language, board games, jigsaw puzzles, or reading aloud.

All of the above were mentioned by various mother friends on facebook as a job well done. I let it go and put my trust in the theory of unschooling. Largely my trust was misplaced but I was surprised by some definite indications of unschooling success.

1. DD suddenly got interested in world affairs. She became obsessed with the corona numbers and statistics. She listened to Trump's daily media briefings in order to analyse how vague and ignorant he sounded. She told me about the murder of George Floyd before any of the protests had spread around the world. She gave me an hour by hour update as events unfolded in the US. She knew all about racism and white privilege, and started expressing strong opinions about the racism in various tv series and movies she watches.

2. She asked me to help her get rid of her lisp and stop saying f for th. I showed her how to place her tongue and she's been constantly practicing. It's almost perfect now.

3. She has been reading more, out of sheer boredom. And also because I say no treats until she's read a chapter in English and three pages in Hebrew. Ok, so that's not exactly unschooling, but I've noticed that more reading is being done without the bribe incentive.

4. She has decluttered and organised her whole bedroom, deciding what she wants to keep and what needs to go. She's started making her bed and hoovering the carpet because she likes a clean and tidy environment.

5. One day she wanted to make sushi so we bought the equipment and made it. We tried a few times with grilled salmon and tinned tuna - because I didn't trust the raw fish that was available. We don't love it but we know how to make it.

6. I've noticed an inclination towards documentaries on You Tube and Netflix. So far DD has watched the whole series of History 101 and Explained. She also chooses to watch Sky News Live at least once a day. And of course she doesn't just watch these programmes, she asks questions and we discuss them.

So we didn't do half or even a quarter any of the things I'd planned for us to do during lockdown. But it seems that a bit of unschooling magic happened. Not much but enough to renew my interest in unschooling as an alternative method of education.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

R2BC - In Limbo

I  was playing with a photo editing app.
This one seems to reflect how I feel atm.
It's not good and it's not bad. Sort of in limbo.
I'm writing my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week with somewhat of a heavy heart due to the way the long overdue and necessary fight against racism is playing out in the UK. This is not the post to explain - perhaps tomorrow if I dare. Today is R2BC day so here are mine. 

The linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum and recommended for anyone else who needs cheering this up weekend. 

1 Life of Brian
I made DD watch Life of Brian with me. She didn't fancy it but within five minutes she was screaming with laughter.

2 Big School
We signed up with DD's new school for September. It's actually called Middle School here but is akin to the American Junior High. We gave all the necessary information, chose Spanish as a third language (Hebrew is first, English second), and wrote the name of a friend she'd like to be in the same class with.

Now I sit back and wait for the list of things to buy, the bill for school extras, and the days and dates of meetings for each of us. I'm assuming that school will be back to normal by September but who knows?

3 Semi-isolation
I went back to my school on Thursday. It's extremely difficult with all the changes and physical restrictions and I'm also nervous about the virus. However, I want my salary so I went back. It's only another four weeks.

DD's school has been thoroughly disinfected after the whole school ended up in quarantine. Different year groups are going back on different days and learning in capsules (bubbles in the UK). DD gets to go to school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The other three days they'll return to distance learning.

Semi- isolation is better than full isolation I suppose. I'm still nervous.

4 The Virus' Demise
I heard a doctor on British TV who has studied all the evidence of past pandemics. He firmly believes that Covid-19 will burn itself out and just disappear. He says keep working towards a vaccine as this virus may yet come back for a second wave, or the burnout may take longer than the race for an effective vaccine. However, there were no vaccines in the distant past and every pandemic in history has burnt out and disappeared as suddenly as it came. You could look at this as a R2BC or you could retort with, "at what cost?" - you choose for yourself. I was encouraged.

Friday, June 5, 2020

R2BC In Isolation

The pink flowers are radishes and the yellow flowers are lettuce.
Grown from Kibbutz Alumim vegetables received at the beginning of April
Birds have eaten most of the lettuce leaves...
...I didn't have the heart to scare them away. 
There are, surprisingly, a lot of Reasons 2B Cheerful whilst stuck in quarantine, so here are some of them. Then if you fancy you can visit the linky on Becky's Lakes Single Mum for more R2BC posts.

1.10 days after DD's exposure to a covid positive pupil at school we are both still asymptomatic.

2. DD hasn't actually missed any school because although only 6 pupils from her class (but 83 pupils and 13 staff in the whole school) are in enforced quarantine, the Parents Association shut down the whole school. Well, it's open but only about four kids show up each day. I love it that when the government didn't close the schools because of the economy, the parents took matters into their own hands and closed the school for the health and safety of our children and families.

3. There's no online learning going on but DD's teacher has been holding a daily Zoom-in with the whole class, just to keep in touch and make sure everyone is doing ok. This is so important in case someone is struggling but also because not all kids have friends that they can call and chat with if it's not organised for them.

4. As soon as I let it be known that we're in isolation, loads of people sent messages asking if we needed anything. Three of my neighbours messaged me again today to say they are going shopping and please send a list if we need anything for the weekend. I know people are kind, but it's heartwarming to be on the receiving end once in a while - even though we didn't need anything. And lovely to be reminded of what lovely friends and neighbours we have.

5. I registered DD's quarantine on the Ministry of Health website on Sunday night and first thing Monday morning our healthcare provider called to give me instructions about isolation and testing. I was impressed by that.

6. I've not been able to do an online shop with my supermarket of choice for almost a year. When my credit card was renewed last year, the number was the same but the expiry date was obviously different. The online website couldn't deal with this wildly bizarre event. I called customer service a couple of times but kept being told that it was a problem with my credit card and I should call my bank. Bollocks to that because they accepted my card every week in the store. In the end I gave up trying to shop online.

This week I didn't have a choice. So I did the shop, my card was rejected because they already have the same number registered to another card (mine), and I called customer service. This time I had the inspired idea to go directly to technical support. I explained the problem, I suggested that all my card information needs to be deleted so that I can start again, and I emphasised that we are in quarantine so we need this shop or we will starve to death.

It took less than two minutes for the woman to make it all go away. She put the order through for me, gave me the order reference number, and sent confirmation to my email. Sorted. And the delivery came on time the next day. It was so easy I'm going back to online shopping big time. I think this R2BC ties for top reason with neither of us having coronavirus symptoms.

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy weekend. xxx

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

To Test Or Not To Test? - Not Even A Question

My Mum took this photo on her daily walk through
Stanmore Country Park.
We can only dream of such freedom.
DD's school is pressuring all the students to take a coronavirus test. Every day there's a message about it. First they said that no child will be allowed back into school without a documented negative result. Then the principal announced that she had been tested and how it only took a few seconds, it didn't hurt, it was just a bit uncomfortable. Next it was announced that all the teachers had been tested.

DD's teacher keeps texting me to ask if we've done it yet. And the class are meeting for daily zoom-ins where they're seriously pushing the testing.

DD is feeling the pressure and keeps asking me to get us tested. I keep explaining to her why we're not testing yet. I've also explained it twice to her teacher but I guess he's also getting pressure form above. So here's the situation...

Our health fund have called me twice and whilst they recommend that we get tested, it's not essential. It's more important for us to stay in quarantine where we can't infect anyone if we are corona positive.

The way they would prefer us to be tested is to get into a car and drive to an outdoor testing centre. We don't have a car. In order to go to a testing centre we would have to potentially endanger a driver - either a taxi driver or a friend. If either of us tested positive, that driver would have to go into isolation for 14 days. Or worse - s/he could become very ill. Or worse. I'm not prepared to ask anyone to do that for us when it's not an emergency.

If we show any symptoms, MADA (The Red Star of David) will come to us and test us at home. DD's teacher urged me to insist on this even though we have no symptoms. I understand that the school wants a full picture of the situation and I could probably make this happen if I were insistent. However, these testers in hazmat suits don't change their suits every time they visit a new home. They go from home to home where people have corona symptoms. I am absolutely not comfortable with one of these suits coming into my home when it has been around possibly tens of corona positive people. So we won't be doing that unless we develop symptoms.

If the school still needs a documented negative result we will go to be tested next Wednesday when we come out of quarantine .

Another valid point that was made by a friend on facebook, is that we owe it to all the people we were with over the weekend  (and the public at large), to get tested. Otherwise they could also be walking around with asymptomatic corona and infecting more people. It's a moral dilemma but in the end I decided that it was enough to inform them of the situation and they could choose to get tested themselves or not. I don't think they would thank me for sending their whole families into isolation for two weeks.

As for the public at large. Last week, before we started having more than 100 new cases a day and everyone thought it was all over, they came up with a great initiative to help the local economy. Each day one of the local shopping streets would be closed to traffic so that the cafes could spread outside and people could stroll and socialize (at a distance of course - hahahaha) and spend lots of money. Tonight they went ahead with this street party on one of the shopping streets near us. A friend posted about it on facebook and I could hear the music from my balcony.

I don't think my friends would be silly enough to go an event like this but if the virus spreads more over the next week, I wont' let it prey on my conscience when there are street parties going on around the corner.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

10,000+ In Quarantine - It's The Economy Stupid

Since yesterday and because of rampant corona cases in the education system, they changed the rule about which schools have to close. Initially it was if three pupils and/or staff tested positive. As schools with even one case were effectively shut (or shuttered - ugh!) by the parents associations and because the problem is bigger than they thought, all schools with any person testing positive have to shut and all the pupils and teachers need to be tested.

Today 36 schools around the country were closed, including DD's school. Around 10,000 people country-wide are in quarantine - and that's just the ones who registered but doesn't include family members who are quarantining with them, like me. 

We got a note from school saying that when they open, only children with documented negative test results will be allowed back. We don't know when this will be. For the moment they are urging everyone to be tested. I expect they will make decisions only when they know the extent of problem. 

Of course we all know that a negative test tomorrow doesn't mean the virus won't show up in another few days. Negative test results won't be a sure way to keep coronavirus out of the school. 

The government is adamant that they're not shutting (or shuttering - ugh again!) the whole education system because the problem is concentrated in certain hotspots. The main hotspot is in my area. They also mulled over the idea of shutting just middle and high schools - because that has least effect on the economy. Seriously, most parents will not send their children to the local primary school if it's not safe for anyone over 12 to be in school. That's just ridiculous. 

I am a bit angry because the original plan was to lift restrictions in phases with two weeks between each phase. The first phase was grades 1 - 3 in primary schools and 11- 12th grades in high schools. I admit that I was glad we weren't included in this experimental period. Then suddenly, after only half a week, they announced that all grades would return to school the following Sunday - just  one week after phase 1 began. 

There was talk about each grade going in for two days and having split classes and strict separation but they quickly decided that everyone could go back. IKEA opened, the shops opened, you could go to the hairdresser. It was all very quick and not according to the plan. One week after that the shopping malls opened, synagogues allowed up to 50 people, it was effectively all over. Except that they forgot to inform the coronavirus. 

I really wanted DD to stay home another week but there was no way I could stop her going to school. She's an only child and hadn't seen anyone in over two months! She was so excited to see her friends at last. Every instinct in me said that this was not a good idea but I couldn't fight the system and my 11 year old daughter.

So DD went to school. On the very first day she said no one was bothering with masks and the girls were all hugging each other. Then we had the hottest and longest heatwave for decades. 37-38C (around 100F) every day for five days straight. It was impossible to sit with the windows open and wear masks. We were officially told that the kids didn't have to wear masks at school during the heatwave. Well try putting that cat back in the bag a week later. 

And here we are in quarantine for 10 days only two weeks after the return to school. Us and 10,000+ other Israeli citizens. We could all stand at our windows and shout, "I knew this would happen!" or "We told you so!" It wouldn't make a blind bit of difference. It's the economy stupid.  

Monday, June 1, 2020

Enforced Quarantine: It Is What It Is

View from my window (not tonight)
Yes, we are in enforced quarantine until the 10th of June. Just as we started to socialise a bit, just as DD was getting back into the school routine, and the evening before I was due to go back to my school... we got the WhatsApp from DD's teacher.

First some background. A big high school in Jerusalem had a few students who tested positive to corona. They shut the school and set up testing for all students. The closest primary school decided to close for a few days - until the situation was clear, because more than a third of their pupils have siblings in the affected high school.

The official decision was that primary schools should remain open, even those with siblings in the high school. However, the parents committees of various feeder primaries, including DD's school, directed everyone not to attend until Tuesday (that's two days off) when the high school testing will be completed. The parents committees have a lot of clout. A few pupils went to school yesterday and overnight the number of cases at the high school went up to over 100. I heard that only 4 pupils turned up at DD's school today - those whose parents absolutely had to go to work.

Back to last night, DD's teacher informed me that one child in 5th grade had tested positive for corona and that DD had been in an art class with this child last Wednesday. Thus she has to be in quarantine until the 10th of June. I can't make her stay alone in one room for 9 days so we are isolating together in the whole apartment.

Before I did anything else we quickly collected up all the rubbish around the apartment and I took it down to the bins. Unfortunately it was too late to run to the supermarket. And it would probably have been illegal or at least morally wrong anyway, so I'm glad I didn't have to make that decision.

I had to register DD with the Ministry of Health, giving the reason for isolation, dates, and the name of our health fund. Then I WhatsApped everyone we saw over the weekend during two meals out with friends. They would only have to isolate if we test positive but I thought it responsible to let them know the situation.

I messaged both my work places. My school to say that I won't be returning in the morning after all. And my college to say that if they do decide to return to frontal teaching next week, I won't be available until Wednesday and that this won't affect my online lessons at all.

I also sent a WhatsApp message to my building so that the neighbours know not to come calling. And because I'd sat with one of them only that afternoon. We wore masks, mostly, but still.

DD was distraught. Her best friend is also in quarantine so they cried over the phone together. Then I ordered pizza because we needed cheering up.

This morning our health fund called to say that we don't need to be tested, but we can if we want to. If we develop symptoms they'll send someone to us for testing. We don't have a car so we can't drive to a testing centre anyway and frankly, I'd rather not know. We're not going to pass it on as we're isolating and so far we have no symptoms. If we were to be tested and it came back positive I'd be worried about it for the next two weeks and everyone we were with over the weekend would have to go into isolation. They all know the situation so they can make their own decisions about testing.

Meanwhile the numbers are rising steadily. So far almost 200 staff and students from the high school have tested positive. About 8 other local schools each have a smaller number of corona positive students/pupils or teachers. DD's school seems to have decided to stay closed for another few days.

Other schools around the country have also been affected -  mostly middle and high schools. The government is considering closing all middle and high schools again but leaving primary schools open. Good luck with that. Parents are freaked out and mostly voting with their feet if they have the choice.

And here is a confession. I was going to go back to my school today. They have very strict rules about masks and distancing. It's a mess because it doesn't really work but they're doing the best they can under the circumstances. After wearing my mask for 20 minutes while I chatted with my neighbour yesterday, I was reduced to coughing fits throughout the rest of the day. I have a 40 minute bus ride to and from school. And if I get sick, we have no immediate family in the country who can take DD in immediately.

I really really really didn't want to go back to school but all the teachers are putting themselves at risk and enduring extremely difficult and uncomfortable working conditions. I didn't feel that I could wimp out with a clear conscience. I was scared but felt pressured to conform. And at the eleventh hour, I was saved. At one point last night I jokingly called DD my little get out of work free card. I was joking but I'm now less stressed than I've been for a few days while thinking about going back to school.

Today I did an online supermarket order and not very much else. Don't think you're going to get amazing blog posts about cooking and crafting and all sorts of productive activities during our 9 days of quarantine. I managed to waste the past 2 1/2 months so I don't expect this small reprieve to be any different. It is what it is.