Thursday, May 30, 2013

IKEA: The Mitzvah

Tonight, Mr. T and I trekked off to IKEA to track down a few clutch items for the kitchen (I can't get enough of those storage jars). We partook of the food (fish at a price more than half that of most restaurants in Israel) and picked up the dozen items we'd gone there for and headed out to the car park.

While I waited for Mr. T to pull the car up to the curb, I watched an older Israeli couple reviewing their purchase and their incredibly small car. When Mr. T pulled up, I suggested he go help them out, and that's where the fun starts.

He walked over and helped them remove the cardboard and the plastic, and we were all shocked to find this was a piece of furniture that came completely put together -- only the feet needed to be added on. As a result, the small car was not going to hold this piece of furniture. They wedged it in the best way they could, Mr. T suggested they tie it off with rope and then walked over toward me. My immediate reaction? "Ask them where they live," I said. So he went over, found out they lived in Rishon LeZiyon, where the IKEA was, and I told him we should offer to take it home for them. With a quick flip of the back seat, the chair slid in like a dream. The wife hopped in the car, and we were off.

After a winding adventure through Rishon LeZiyon (who knew it was so gigantic), we arrived at some beautiful high-rises surrounded by palm trees that reminded me of Florida. I was going to sit in the car and wait, but the wife insisted I come upstairs with them. So while the boys managed the chair in a cart, I went upstairs with the woman, who apologized to me that she didn't speak English (she has family living in English-speaking countries, so it's hard for her, she said). I realized that this woman is the epitome of a generation -- the child of survivors, most likely, and if not, of kibbutzniks who settled the land and built this country, who knew that Hebrew was the only language that anyone needed, that Israel was the Jewish homeland and Hebrew its sustenance.

When the boys got upstairs, Mr. T quickly put on the feet of the chair, removed it from the cart, and we wished them well and started to head off. But after asking again and again if we wanted a sandwich or something to drink, we finally relented when the woman offered us watermelon. She cut some up and we all went out to the mirpeset for some cool air. Sitting around the table, we joked about how far off the ground the chairs were, making our feet swing off the floor. After a few minutes, we told them we really needed to go, I gathered up a beautiful outdoor lantern the woman had given me, and we were off into the cool, humid night.

I've been having a very hard time lately -- finances, missing Colorado, realizing how permanent this move really is. Yes, I hit the six-month slump of "Wait a second, I really did this?" and am struggling to find my footing with HaShem. I'm struggling to feel grateful some days, to feel happy other days, to feel like it's all going to be okay most days. I'm blessed with an amazing husband and friends, but I miss the conveniences that I had in Colorado of inexpensive gluten-free food, being able to go into a Target and find anything I wanted, and knowing that when I'm feeling down that comforting cup of always-the-same-made coffee I always ordered would be there. It's hard knowing that if I were living in Colorado I'd still be employed right now, but it's even harder knowing that if I were living in Colorado I wouldn't have met Mr. T or started filling up that eternally empty space inside that longed for Israel.

Living here is a tug-of-war. A violent, confusing, explosive tug-of-war of emotions. It's never easy -- even the woman who gave me watermelon said it can't be hard living here, not for people who weren't born here. This sabra understands.

But it's moments like this, when you offer someone help and they ply you with watermelon and soda water on their balcony, where I remember why living in Israel is a gift. When someone takes down your phone number, invites you to come back, and makes you wish you had Israeli grandparents, you know that you're at home.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Memorial Day Tribute

I come from a devout military family that, up until my generation, treks back hundreds of years throughout Europe. My father was a Navy man, my mother an Army brat, and the military representation just keeps going.

I'm blessed because my mom's side of the family traces itself through the Duval Family Association, which documents a very well-documented family hailing from France and arriving in the U.S. while fleeing religious persecution in 1701. (Think Catholics marrying Hugeonots!) These folks rubbed elbows with George Washington and other well-known historical giants.

But let's get to honoring so many of my family members who defended freedom.

My dad's dad, Joseph Edwards, was a military man who served during World War II in France, but what he did there I'll never know because the facility that held his military records burned down in the 1950s or 60s, which I find hugely disappointing. What I do know is that he ended up in France after the liberation, but I don't know what he did there, what his rank was, or anything like that. Joseph -- my middle name sake -- died of a heart attack on August 17, 1965, just 11 days after my dad turned 12 years old (his mother died a few years prior).

My mom's dad, John Baskette, was a Navy man who served during World War II in Pearl Harbor -- and yes, he was there when the attacks of December 7, 1941 happened. He spent his entire life in the military, and when my mom was born he was stationed in France. He died in April 2007 after quite a long life devoted to retelling what happened at Pearl Harbor. When I was in Middle School in Joplin, Missouri, I got to do a huge report on my grandfather and even borrowed my dad's old Navy uniform and dressed up like him.

Much further back, we're talking Civil War time, I have oodles of family that served. John Howard Baskette was born in 1829 and died in 1884 and was a Colonel of the 68th Regiment of Tennessee Militia of Coffee Company (mmm ... coffee). Then there was Dr. William Turner Baskette (the aformentioned's father) who was caught three times by the North while traversing across the war line. His house still stands today in Mufreesboro, Tennessee, where the local Women's Club now meets.

William's father, Abraham, was a private in the War of 1812, and his father William Semple Baskette was a Baptist minister in Virginia who was a Lieutenant during the Revolutionary War.

There are dozens of other members of my family that served in the military, but I think this will suffice. I wish I knew more about my father's family line, but with his parents having died so young, there are a million questions I didn't get to ask and will probably never get the answers I need.

So here's to soldiers -- past, present, and future -- who fight for peace, freedom, and liberty!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ask Chaviva Anything: Women of the Wall

ANNOUNCEMENT: I am super stoked to say that there will be a Mr. T video coming up in the next few weeks. Brace yourselves for the awesomeness that is my husband. Stay tuned to the YouTube channel and/or here for the video. If you have questions for Mr. T, feel free to ask them in the comments of this post and/or on Ask Chaviva Anything!

And now ... back to your regularly scheduled post ...

I had a question on Ask Chaviva Anything about my thoughts on "Women of the Wall," so I thought I'd go ahead and address it since, for now, the insanity surrounding the group has died down a bit. Although the next time Rosh Chodesh rolls around it will be one more big giant display of Chillul HaShem from both sides of the issue down at the Kotel, which I find hugely disappointing and a shame for Judaism.

Women of the Wall is an organization that has been around since the late 1980s in Israel but only in the past few years has the group come under increased scrutiny after throwing themselves at the media like a 12-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. According to their website, their main goal is
to achieve the right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem, Israel.
As my understanding of the group goes, the group struggled for the ability to do this in legal battles up until 2003, when the group was granted the right to hold their services at Robinson's Arch. In 2009 a complaint was filed and the insanity broke out again, and over the past few years Anat Hoffman and the WoW crew have taken their plight to new media levels. On the WoW website, it says that Anat has dedicated her life to "the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, which literally means repairing the world." But seriously, is what WoW doing repairing the world? At all? In any way shape or form? 

I believe in the right for any person -- Jewish or not -- to express themselves and their religious beliefs in a manner that does not bring physical or emotional harm on others, in a manner that follows a standard of basic human rights, but that also is conscious of the responsibility of one human being on another human being for respect. 

(Also: I have to say that wearing a prayer shawl or tefillin or a kippah or anything like that has never appealed to me, even when I was a Reform Jew being called up for aliyot regularly. I'm a firm believer that equality is a misunderstood concept. Men are not women and women are not men. If men and women could be perfectly equal in the eyes of HaShem or Judaism or any religion, then there would only be one human and that human would be sexless and genderless and everyone would look exactly the same. Unfortunately, that's just not how we were created.)

Do I think that Women of the Wall meet that perspective? Not really, no. Do I think that the violent Haredi mobs that attack WoW meet that perspective? Definitely not. Do I support either side? No, I don't. 

Basically I think both sides are screwing up royally, and, in the process, are making the ritual side of Jewish life look like a joke and making the kotel look like a pagan shrine rather than what it is -- a retaining wall from the time of the fall of the Second Temple. Yes, it's an important site, but good lord we've turned the Kotel into the last thing on earth it was meant to be. We're treating it as if the wall itself holds the shechinah, the dwelling place of HaShem. And if that's how people on both sides of the aisle want to see the Kotel, then I think Judaism has a major, major problem. 

If the Women of the Wall really wanted to do themselves, Judaism, and ritual a favor, they'd go into the Kotel tunnels and hold their service at the space closest to the Holy of Holies. Call me crazy, but it seems to make a whole lot more sense. 

Also, as an aside, I think that their choice of name is just ... sigh ... unfortunate. Historically, women of the wall were prostitutes. Rachav, in the book of Joshua, was a woman of the wall. Prostitutes worked in the city's walls because they would catch travelers going in and out of the city and because for dignitaries it was far enough away from their homes that no one would traverse the seedy area looking for them. 

I know I'm opening myself up for criticism here, and I'm willing to take it. I believe we all connect to HaShem in our own way, in our own time, and I support everyone's right to connect or not connect. For me, what is most important is owning -- 110 percent -- where you are, defining yourself by what you believe and who you are as opposed to what you are not. I think that one of the problems with the Women of the Wall and a lot of very liberal organizations is that they devote themselves to not being Orthodox, to not separating men and women, to not keeping kosher, to not doing this and that. 

It's easy to define ourselves by what we aren't. It's a lot harder to define yourself by who you are, what you believe, and to own it. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Gluten Free in Israel

UPDATE (December 2014): 

Good news gluten-free foodies! If you're looking for gluten-free, ha'motzi challah in Israel, check out Challaluya in Jerusalem. Also, a new bakery has opened on Emek Refaim called Coney Island Bakery that has gluten-free pizza, cupcakes, cookies, and more! Although I haven't tried either location/product, I have to say the prospect alone is amazing.

On a similar note, while in Israel, I was really dismayed at visits to Cafe Cafe and Cafe Greg, two places that, previously, were amazing when it came to gluten-free eating. Now, it appears, that fear has grasped the chefs and they don't recommend anything from their kitchens, despite having gluten-free bread. In truth, they're just being paranoid, but please proceed at your own risk.

UPDATE (January 2014): 

Morgen's has closed and an amazing new restaurant has opened in Efrat, just 20 minutes south of Jerusalem, that offers not only Mexican cuisine, but gluten-free Mexican cuisine! See below.

Living in Israel as a gluten-free foodie, things have been going pretty smoothly. I've found a variety of local chains and some single-location haunts that offer up lots of delicious gluten-free-friendly options. These are some of my picks! I apologize that they're very Jerusalem-centric, but that's where I hang my hat.

I'm slowly discovering that more and more people are starting to offer gluten-free buns and bread, which is a huge bonus, because the truth is that you can eat just about anywhere these days! The places to avoid? Those classic, Israeli-style restaurants with meat patties (bread crumbs) and the heavy use of MSG- and gluten-packed soup mixes. Steakhouses and places that serve fish are always good bets, because the grill is a safe place and the fryer should be avoided. When in doubt, always tell the server that you can't eat gluten, and they will tell the chef and make sure you're set! (It's a very welcoming country!)

Yes, I know, not the most exciting place in the world to eat, but they sell gluten-free cakes and bread, so you can get a delicious breakfast with a hot gluten-free roll to go with it. In a pinch, if you want bread, it's a decent option that isn't too expensive.

Ben Ami
With locations around Israel, this restaurant is known for their gluten-free friendly menu, chock full of sandwiches, toasts, breakfast, and even some pretty amazing desserts. This is always my go-to when friends come to town and want to eat out. I highly recommend the polenta!

Black Bar and Burger
This meaty restaurant offers up gluten-free buns and even gluten-free beer for their patrons. I ate here for the first time several years back when I visited as a non-vegetarian, but on days when I am jonesing for meat, I prefer BB&B because it's nice to feel like everyone else in the restaurant.

This amazing little restaurant in Efrat sings to my heart by serving fajitas, burritos, nachos, and other delicious Mexican-inspired dishes. They've also recently added a bit of Mexican-Sushi fusion to their menu. Just mention to your server that you're gluten-free or celiac, and they'll make sure your meal is prepared accordingly.

Cafe Cafe
I don't know if this is normal at all Cafe Cafe locations, but I recently learned that they offer up gluten-free rolls with their meals if you ask! Although most of the options on the menu are not gluten-free friendly, there are plenty of salads, shakshuka, and even a gluten-free chocolate cake for your dining enjoyment.

It's next to impossible to find gluten-free falafel in Israel, unfortunately. There is one location that I've found outside the shuk (Mahane Yehudah) where they stay true to the original recipe and use chickpea flour instead of wheat flour like everybody else. I want to say it's called Number 1 Falafel, but I can't remember the name exactly. It's a small cart, outside the shuk, next to the guys who sell the nuts and gummies. Get a falafel plate and avoid the pita!

Although I haven't eaten here yet, the owners of this restaurant off Emek Refaim used to own the Village Green location. Now, they offer up gluten-free pasta, bread, wraps, and more on their cafe-style menu. I'm eager to give them a try!

Pera e Mela
Say hello to your best Italian friend. This restaurant is owned by two authentic Italians with a sensitivity to the gluten-free community. They offer gluten-free pasta, lasagna, pizza, and more. I ate here recently and the pizza crust was a little soft, but the ability to be able to go out to eat Italian style in Jerusalem? It's priceless, seriously. Try the garlic broccoli starter!

Pizza Hut
If you're jonesing for that classic Pizza Hut taste, the location in Jerusalem on Ben Hillel has gluten-free family-sized pies! I haven't, unfortunately, partaken, but it's on my to-do list.

Sushi Rechavia
The great thing about Sushi Rechavia is that they have lots of gluten-free liquor (try the plum wine) options and they will happily bring out a bottle of gluten-free Tamari soy sauce with your sushi. By and large, most sushi restaurants in Israel seem to be very gluten-free friendly, stocking Tamari!

The Village Green
With locations on Yafo and Emek Refaim (new) in Jerusalem, this vegan/vegetarian-friendly restaurant offers countless gluten-free options every day, from soup to quiche to their amazingly broad variety of options on their hot and cold bars. They also have gluten-free cookies! I always feel so full, but light after eating here.

If you're looking for snacks, sandwich bread, flour, crackers, cookies, and just about anything else under the sun, most health food stores have a healthy stock of gluten-free products. The best out there in the Jerusalem area is a store called L'Lo Gluten on Agrippas near the shuk. The store is full of gluten-free and sugar-free stuff. Oh, they have beer, too! It can be tough to find gluten-free beer in bars in Israel, but most stock plenty of naturally gluten-free ciders, so never fear.

If you want more suggestions from people who have tried out restaurants around Israel, please feel free to join the Gluten Free in Israel Facebook Group!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Three Months Later

Well, it's been three months since I hitched my wagon to that of the most wonderfully charming and loving man I've ever met.

Three months ago (on ye olde Gregorian calendar) we gathered with 24 of our closest friends and family for a small ceremony and delicious Moroccan food.

We haven't quite had a honeymoon yet (no, England wasn't a honeymoon), but we've decided to head to the U.S. at the end of August before the High Holidays so that Mr. T can meet my family, I can get a bit of my American convenience fix (hello Target!), and we can do a bit of honeymooning. I know, the U.S. isn't an exotic honeymoon location, but with my love of Colorado and Mr. T's having never been there, I plan on dragging him into the mountains for a day or two. Wish me luck!

How can I describe three months with such a gift? Well, first of all it's funny because we haven't even known each other six months yet. On the other hand, we've known each other long enough to know our biggest hangups, frustrations, quirks, likes, dislikes, and everything else you try to spend forever getting to know and understand. When it's your second go 'round, it's brass tacks in the beginning and then on to the rest of our lives.

If I'd have to guess, I'd say that Mr. T is going to be making me laugh until the end of my days, may they be long and as happy as they are now with him. Here's to dozens and dozens of years of happy moments, Mr. T!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Book Reviews: Of Intermarriage and Yiddish

This past Shabbat, I managed to finish one book and start (then finish) a completely different book of two very different genres and two very different reactions from me.

The first book I finished was Doublelife: One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope, which is the story of a born and bred Christian woman from Illinois and a born and bred Jewish man from the East Coast. Gayle and Harold fell in love over a mutual love of music deep in Bible country, and the book tracks their adventures from Texas to Boston to Russia to Israel and beyond as they begin to question their outlooks on life, whether they want children, what religion means to them, and the role of Judaism in both of their lives as well as that of their children. The book is written through a series of letters back and forth between Gayle and Harold from when they meet up through the present, with Harold's letters written in regular font and Gayle's in italics (which made it hard to read at points).

I'll admit that the clever way the book is presented as letters was appealing to me, as it didn't feel like you were reading a book so much as a correspondence. The struggle that Harold and Gayle face is interesting because Harold begins his religious adventure before Gayle considers her possible foray into Judaism, and even when she does, it struck me as hesitant. Harold is the driving force as the family becomes more religious and Gayle struggles with adapting to the potential where her music is no longer something that she can practice or experience because of kol ishah and other manners of living an Orthodox Jewish life. I found myself uncomfortable at times, however, such as with knowing that they were sending their child to a certain Jewish school without disclosing that one of the parents wasn't Jewish. I don't want to sound judgmental, but I was always sure -- when I was in-process for conversion -- to not overstep my bounds as a not-yet-Jew.

I think that this book has something to offer couples who are intermarried and curious what the mindset and process might look like when it comes to starting a family and deciding how to raise children, how to choose a community, and whether the non-Jewish spouse should or is able to convert. I do, however, wish that Gayle had gone into more detail about her experiences converting, waiting forever on the RCA, and how that impacted her and the family -- these are the useful things that people like to hear about. As the book comes to a close, it's like a quick sweep through everything that happens after a conversion in a Jewish household. Did life not change that much? How different did Gayle feel? How did being Orthodox impact the family through kashrut and the holidays and language?

The second book I picked up and finished in one Shabbat was a borrowed book from my friend Elisha, Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books. Although this book was published several years ago, the storytelling aspect of the author, Aaron Lansky is without comparison. The harrowing tales of rain-drenched dumpster dives, endless meals of gefilte fish and tea with aging Yiddish speakers, and his quest to find, save, distribute, and house the world's dying Yiddish book collection will leave you speechless, teary eyed, and wishing you knew Yiddish. I really have to commend Lansky. This is a guy who really put his entire life (and in some cases this is for real as he traveled through some shady places overseas in 1989) on the line to fulfill a mission that he viewed as unbelievably important and culminated in the creation of the Yiddish Book Center. I'm now regretting not visiting it while I was living out in Connecticut during graduate school. If you haven't read this book, stop what you're doing and download it, find it, read it. It'll take you maybe a day, probably less. It's that good.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Gush in a Moment

Tonight after Shabbat, Mr. T asked me to take the car to the gas station at Tzomet ha'Gush (the sort of central point where there's a grocery store, some restaurants, electronics shop and more) while he and iBoy ran the compost down the street. Not feeling a 100 percent but needing some fresh air after spending most of the day in bed, I zipped down the 60 to the well-lit gas station and pulled into the full-service lane.

Israeli gas stations still make me very nervous, I don't know why, but they're different than in the U.S. while living in New Jersey, I had to get used to the mandatory full-service fill-ups because it was state law that you simply couldn't get out of your car and fill yourself up on your own. But there, it was a simple process. You handed them your card or money, they filled it up, that was that.

Here, they ask you if you want them to check your oil (and even if you don't, they will), and tonight the attendant, Ishmael, asked if I wanted something to drink or maybe purchase something to eat. It was a slow night at the gas station -- the only people floating around were IDF soldiers, both those dressed down with guns slung about their backs and those dressed in full military garb, including a medical vehicle with an Ethiopian troupe in it.

I thanked the man, signed my receipt, and as I started to turn the car on, he shocked me.
Shavua tov!
I responded, stuttering, with the same greeting. It was surprising and completely unsuspected. I smiled and pulled away.

This, folks, is what I love about the Gush. This man, Ishmael, clearly not Jewish, offering up the classic Jewish Saturday night greeting. It makes me want to learn something worthwhile for my Muslim and Arab neighbors, something to say in response to show a "thanks" for caring enough to notice who I am, how I live, and the state in which we live.

That is the Gush, in a moment.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's a Modest, Modest World

For this installment, we have two great questions about issues that fall under modesty or tzniut in Judaism. (Note: tzanua or anav is the adjective form, meaning modest.) We'll start out at the head and end up at the toe!

Hair covering - do you cover all the time? At home alone? What about at home with just the family? What if you were hanging out with just a bunch of women, with no chance of a man interrupting you?
I can count on one hand the number of times I've gone around my house alone without my head covered, and there are zero times countable that I've been at home with the family or in a group of women and not covered my hair. A good example of this is earlier this week at the Pre-Shavuot Sushi Night here in Neve Daniel -- not a dude in sight, and plenty of women were taking off their tichels to try on new scarves to buy, but not me. I'm the kind of gal who will try a tichel on on top of other scarves. It's just my way.

This is the tichel I purchased at sushi night!

Consistency allows me to feel completely comfortable when I am covering all the time, and the truth is I really do love covering. For me, the sentiment from Micah 6:8 to walk humbly with HaShem is something that I try to enact at all times, and it shows that it really isn't about the involvement of a man in my hair-covering experience.
Hi Chaviva. (Great blog btw.) I live in a charedi community in Eretz Yisrael where the custom is for us to wear stockings outside (in the 36 degree Celsius heat) all year round, and most of us also in the house also. I have seen that some communities do differ in this opinion - what is the stance of your community?  How do you find tznius and Eretz Yisrael in your time here so far?
This writer (thanks!) also included a link to an interesting piece from the Rav Kook perspective on stockings, which says the following,
... in regards to the part of the leg below the knee, the halacha depends on the custom of the place: if it is the custom to cover it, it must be covered. If not, it need not be covered. In practice, since the majority of ‘poskim’ are stringent, it is preferable to act in this way. A woman who chooses to be lenient is permitted, for she has reputable sources to rely on.

To be completely honest, the entire concept of stockings isn't something I've thought much on in the past, mostly because where I grew up (non-Jewishly), stockings were meant for two things: winter and dressy occasions. For some reason, my mental place for stockings and tights is still in that place. Where I lived in Teaneck, Denver, and now in Neve Daniel, the standard of the community seems to be stocking-less in the summer and various observances in the winter. Some people wear leggings and others wear tights. Until very recently, I couldn't find a comfortable pair of tights so would often wear leggings under a long skirt or leggings with heavy socks over it.

So far, there is definitely a much more clear community dividing line than places I've lived in the U.S. as far as what people wear. Looking around the room at the Sushi Night earlier this week, I realized how very similar everyone in Neve Daniel dresses. It's very flowy, simple casual but put together, and the hair-covering style is up my alley (tichels, tichels, tichels). Although there is a certain set of women who wear pants and short sleeve shirts, it doesn't seem to be the norm here.

What do you think about stockings in the dead of summer and covering all the time? Have a related question or something off the wall? Just ask!

Monday, May 6, 2013

After the Long Hiatus

It's been a long time since I sat down and did any learning. I feel horrible about it, especially with the abundance of time that being mostly (and now completely) unemployed has granted me. I have spent the past several months crawling the internet for any and every job possible, lamenting my comfortable beginnings in Israel. I was spoiled, I was unprepared, and if I weren't married and having at least one income coming in, I don't know where I'd be right now. But I can't help but feel like I've been doing myself and HaShem a disservice.

Here I am, living the dream, and probably not being nearly as grateful as I should be for the entire situation. We get what we give, and I'm not giving much of anything, which might explain my current predicament.

And even if it doesn't, the parshah -- BaMidbar -- is clutch. I just wish I had more to say.

The best approach in my opinion? Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaks about the power of the relationship between HaShem and the Israelites when he connects the parshah to the haftarah. Despite many false starts and failures, HaShem never turns his back. There's always the promise, the commitment, the fact that HaShem just can't let go. It's the ultimate trying relationship.

I suppose no matter what I do -- or don't do -- HaShem will be there waiting for me.

I also appreciate this commentary on the first verse of this week's parshah: "And G-d spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai" (BaMidbar 1:1).
The Torah was given to the people of Israel in the ownerless desert. For if it were given in the Land of Israel, the residents of the Land of Israel would say, "It is ours;" and if it were given in some other place, the residents of that place would say, "It is ours." Therefore it was given in the wilderness, so that anyone who wishes to acquire it may acquire it. (Mechilta D'Rashbi)

There's a nod to converts in there, I think.

What does HaShem have in store for me? I don't know. Some days I feel like I'm swimming in the sand (bada ching!) and some days I feel like everything is in proper working order and right where it's supposed to be. I suppose this is the aliyah experience, isn't it?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Neve Daniel: Sushi Style

The final (veggie) sushi! Produced by me and the illustrious Ruti!

There are a lot of people who still don't "get" why I am living in Neve Daniel, or rather how I can be living in Neve Daniel ("It's not your land!" they say), but while I can't please everyone and can only defend my right and responsibility to be here to so many people so many times, I can say that living here is one of the greatest gifts in life right now.

Tonight was a women's pre-Shavuot event, complete with sushi-making demonstrations, the selling of beautiful scarves and mitpachot, and lots of delicious noshing on the samplings of Shavuot menus. I was hesitant about signing up because of my gluten-free issues, but I was assured by a few of the organizers who even went out of their way to label the gluten-free goodies for me.

As the evening approached, I wasn't feeling super hot, but I decided to power through it and go anyway, as I've been scolded for not being social enough here in the community. I mustered up the strength after a lengthy nap, put together a gluten-free, potato-crusted broccoli-and-cheese quiche, and schlepped off. (The quiche went CRAZY fast -- I was elated!)

I'll admit, it was a pleasant surprise to be there and catch up with friends and meet some new folks. And making sushi for the first time? Most excellent. It's not nearly as hard as I thought. Then again, I didn't have to make my own sushi rice.

Okay okay, so I need to be more social. More involved. Get out and get recognized by my community members. Heck, maybe I'll even organize something.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ask Chaviva Anything: The Grab-Bag Edition

As I prepare for yet another bowl of Gluten-Free Fruity Pebbles ...

This is going to be quite the grab bag, because there hasn't been a theme as of late. Question Number One asks,
How does hair care when you cover your hair work? Do you get your hair trimmed or cut, or do you just let it do whatever? And if you do get it cut, how does that work?
Since moving to Israel, I've had my hair cut twice -- once up in Ra'anana (near Tel Aviv) in December and one by a local friend before the wedding. Since getting married, I've been sort of letting my hair do whatever it wants, occasionally trimming my own bangs (or, if you're from the U.K., "fringe") against my own intuition. It's long enough now that I can put it in two little pigtails in the lower back, or one sort of loose small ponytail in the back with pins. The interesting thing that I've experienced is that my hair is reacting a lot better to being covered this time around than last. When I was married the first time, my hair started thinning out and became really frail, but this time around it's getting thicker and longer much faster. It can be hard to maintain hair while covering, but it just takes some attention to shampooing and conditioning to really make it work.
How long did your Orthodox conversion process take? 
I started attending an Orthodox synagogue before Pesach in 2008, moved to Connecticut in August 2008 and started attending an Orthodox synagogue in West Hartford around November 2008. My official "training" began in January 2009, I applied with the RCA to officially convert in October 2009, and had my conversion dip on January 1, 2010. So it was roughly, officially, a year.
I'm turning green with envy at your head covers you're posting on Instagram. I live in the U.S. Do you know where I can find some like that?
I wish I knew where you could find some of these coverings. The thing that I've noticed about head coverings here in Israel is that the fabric is more breathable, flexible, and forgiving than those I've seen in the U.S. Here, the designs are functional and easy to wear, and in the U.S. they're just ... fabric. Maybe I should start an import-export business? If you can, find a way to get someone to bring you the scarves they sell at Hoodies -- they are a lightweight stretchy cotton that is so comfortable and flexible and gives an amazing body. Also, look out for the "fake poof" -- yes, I use a fake poof to give my scarves body. Until my hair is long enough to build it up, I'm faking it. (Fake it 'til you make it!)
Hi Chaviva, I'm learning hebrew and I'm interested in knowing about you experience with this language? it's hard? what books do you use (or did you use)?
I wish I had an answer to this question. The truth is that my best and most valuable Hebrew learning experiences were by sitting in a classroom or at an ulpan desk. When you're immersed, things stick. When you're learning in a book and then going back to the "real world" where English is the norm, it's hard to really feel entrenched in the language. That being said, there are all sorts of learners out there, and some really do benefit from Rosetta Stone or similar programs. I, unfortunately, did not. The best textbook out there is the one put out by the Brandeis University Modern Hebrew program, but I'm not sure if you can find the answer book.

Does anyone have tips on hair care while covering, Hebrew language learning, or any other topics discussed here? Please share!

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