It was 60 years ago today that my grandparents made the decision that they would leave Hungary.
It was the middle of the the Suez Crisis, and my grandparents were already packing, ready to leave to fight for Israel. The original idea was that they’d eventually return. It was also the middle of the Hungarian uprising of 1956, and many people had the hope that a country freed from Soviet rule will transition into a democratic state, and my grandparents wanted to be a part of that. As they had been part of the birth of the State of Israel, they wanted to help build a new Hungary. However, after they arrived in Israel the news reached them of the death of Imre Mező on November 1, and the circumstances of it. Mező, a Communist leader, was among those defending the party headquarters, and he was one if those people who exited the building under a white flag to surrender the building to the revolutionary forces. All three of them were shot to death, most likely by revolutionaries.
Grandpa, himself a socialist with communist leanings, an acquaintence of Mező and a supporter of Imre Nagy’s politics couldn’t reconcile the events and actions of either side with his personal values. Something broke in him when it came to the country that rejected him again and again. After November 4, when Soviet troops invaded Hungary again as the Western powers were tied up in the Suez crisis, any real chance to return was no more. It took nearly 50 days for my grandparents to return to Budapest again. It took them 25 years to be reunited with their then 13-year-old son, who opted to stay behind with the Christian couple who had rescued him as a baby when his parents were deported.
So while today is boring in Israel-hospitals are always boring, aren’t they?-60 years ago today it was anything but.
So things got crazy here. I have posts written on my phone, where the app refuses to connect to publish my posts.
Sukkot this year didn’t work out as we hoped. First out petrog (our etrog gets treated like a pet) was lost on a bus. Kevin came home from school with a nasty cold and by the time he got through it, some of the kids got it, and from the kids I managed to catch it. Mine turned into pneumonia, so I have had the opportunity to test how much hospital food has improved. I hope to be discharged soon, and then hopefully share my thoughts on the whole UNESCO fiasco, SNL, and Jack Chick.
Erev Yom Kippur means the night of Yom Kippur. Jewish days begin at sunset and end at nightfall, so they overlap a bit, and when we say that we fast for a day on Yom Kippur, it means about 25 hours. When we talk about the longest day (incorrectly), many people mean Yom Kippur. LDS people shouldn’t laugh: when you do it only twice a year, it is a much bigger challenge!
(Now when I mean we incorrectly refer to Yom Kippur as the longest day I mean that the longest day is, in fact Rosh Hashanah: a holiday that is two days both in eretz and in the diaspora.)
By the time this post appears, Yom Kippur has begun here. We have left for the synagogue, and some of our older kids are out riding bikes. We have carefully turned on the radio and left it on–a modern day “tradition” that began with the Yom Kippur War. Statistics say that more than half of Israeli Jews fast on Yom Kippur. A smaller percentage attend synagogue. On the other hand, many secular Israelis use this day, when you won’t see a car on the roads, to go on bike rides throughout the city. We do both, at least some of us do either or both things.
Have an easy fast!
On previous years I posted about Yom Kippur more in detail. I have also said it is my favourite holiday. It still is, and I’m still not religious. I plan to fast this year, as most of our kids and Kevin as well.
I’m still not religious. I still don’t believe in any supreme being. But I am Jewish. I am my people. Yom Kippur is mine.
Every year there is a moment when I remember this wonderful piece by Vanessa Hidary during the days of repentance.
Not only because Yom Kippur is mentioned, and it’s on a Tuesday. It’s because someone will question my reason for observing it. Even if I don’t do it perfectly.
Ever since every second Sunday morning we started taking one of our boys back to Jerusalem for school, Sundays have become very busy. I usually get up around 4:30, and get ready to drive the boy back to school. We get there a bit after 7, and I head back to TA. If I don’t have anything urgent in the mornings, I might stop at the shuk or one of my favourite little shops in J’lem. Today I did that, as I had till noon as free time.
I had also promised a friend to do a small thing for her next time I was at the Kotel, so I stopped there, too. I am not sure when the next time is to clean the notes out of the cracks of the wall, but her intention is now there.
Rushed back to TA, went to my classes, went home, did laundry, made dinner (breakfast for dinner is a favourite around here), started a slow cooker meal for the kids for tomorrow and then I finally sat down to type a rather boring post.
If you talk to me with any regularity, you know that the only reason why I wanted to go to the States the past year was to see Hamilton. When in Hungary I try to take advantage of same day half price theatre tickets. Here, however, the last time I went to the theatre was when Next to Normal was playing here in TA four years ago. Ok, I went to matinees with the kids like Peter Pan and Aladdin, but all of those plays had one thing in common: Harel Skaat.
When we went to see Les Miserables the other night the pattern wasn’t broken: in this version of the musical both Harel Skaat and Amir Dadon have great roles. Now I had never seen Les Miserables before. I played Gavroche as a kid in community theatre productions twice, but I had never seen the whole play before. I haven’t seen the movie either, though I have read the novel multiple times.
What made this show different is that… I understood quite a bit of it. Only eight years after making the move here, I can finally enjoy a musical in Hebrew. So in a few weeks we’ll see Evita. Evita doesn’t have Harel Skaat. It has Ran Ydanker, though. 🙂
Today has been way to busy, with a quick run to the capital to pick up family. So. Here’s a video.
I was not really going to write about it, at best I was going to link an old post from Operation Protective Edge, because this series is about Israel, and because I like that post. So go click that link. Then come back, because what happened yesterday needs a few words.
By yesterday I mean today, because I’m writing this post on Wednesday. As I was standing in line for coffee (maybe I should rename this blog kosherkoffee) during one of the breaks, I saw the details of the rocket attack of Gaza earlier today. The first news only said that the rocket was fired from Gaza and landed in the Israeli city of Sderot. Sderot is a city close to the Gaza border. Once a rocket is launched, residents have about 15 seconds to find shelter.
Today’s rocket didn’t cause damage. Two people were treated for shock. The rocket landed by an elementary school.
Let’s review that again.
The rocket landed by an elementary school.
Because, as so many anti-Israel Facebook activists claim, Hamas doesn’t target civillians.
An elementary school. Where our children use earthquake (and mostly) rocket-proof desks so they have somewhere to hide when the rockets fall.
It took 32 years for me to be diagnosed with Autism, replacing some other diagnoses during my life. It only happened once we’ve lived in Israel for several years, and some people more educated in Autism noticed some signs and recommended testing for me.
So this morning, when I was reading Ynet over my coffee, an article about further findings in research of the genetic background of Autism caught my attention. Researchers at my sister-in-law Maya’s alma mater, the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev discovered an evolutionary signature associated with Autism. Their findimgs can help develop better therapies in the future, which is exciting news.
And maybe, finally, this news will prompt people to vaccinate against deadly childhood deaseases.
Over tea I was reading the English edition of Jerusalem Post online, and in it I read that Temple Emanu-El in New York City charged between $850 and $3000+ for Rosh Hashanah services. The JPost calls the synagogue posh, and points out that the more expensive tickets would have paid for two tickets to see Hamilton. To be honest the expensive tickets include the yearly membership fees as well, but still, if I had 3000 dollars to blow in NYC, I’d definitely opt for seeing Hamilton over pay to pray.
In full honesty, my synagogue has membership fees, and we sell tickets for high holiday services to non-members. That’s because just like Christmas and Easter Christians attend church twice a year, many Jews only come to shul for the high holidays and Passover only. Many of them won’t formally join a synagogue. When they come, our synagogue fills up, and while we love having them, regular members and attendees are guaranteed a spot to sit down. We sell tickets for NIS 20 (4 cups of Cofix coffee or less than $5) for seats, but everyone is welcome to come join us–we might not be able to seat them, but people are pretty good with bringing folding chairs. These tickets bring in less than 1000 dollar/event, and we usually spend it on replacing worn siddurs (prayer books) and buying books for our library. We also serve refreshments, so it’s not a bad deal. But chargimg 3K? Excessive, even if the members are generally well off.
In our shul membership fees pay for the maintenance of the building, the rabbi’s and the chazzan’s salaries, bills and other necessary expenses to keep the congregation running. On the ither hand, members regularly carry out tzadakah, but contributing to various charities, causes, or giving directly to those in need. This is an obligation to us, and generally about 10% of our income goes towards tzedakah.
Oh herr is the original article referenced by JPost from The Telegraph!
As I raise this glass of pommegranate wine to the new year, I am giving thanks for being an impulse shopper, and buying 15 chickens to freeze when they were on sale last month.
You see, one of the leading news a few days ago was the chicken shortage expected over the high holidays due to the alignment of Islam’s and Judaism’s holy days this year. Luckily I had plenty of chicken to feed the 40+ people who had dinner with us to usher in the new year of 5777!
This year, once again, we skipped the pommegranate chicken, this year in favour of a honey glazed chicken that involved a lot less work. When you cook for 40+ people making things simpler is important! A bushel of apples, several jars of honey, a lot of pommegranates (our first harvest!) served as dessert. For today, I made some honey zserbó, because I am glutton for punishment, and baking for three days is just what I wanted to do while preparing for exams.
So what have we done to welcome the new year? First of all, cleaned and cooked. Then went to synagogue to welcome in the new year, while our non-Jewish family members remained home. We had picked up two lone soldiers to spend the holiday with us, while our current soldiers, unfortunately, couldn’t come home this year. We called them after the new year came in, and we could FaceTime with one of them. While there was a dinner at shul, too, this year we hosted some of our extended family, too, so we hurried home. We ate outside, and I can’t wait for Sukkot to do it again with these lovely people.
This year the Islamic New Year coincides with Rosh Hashanah (and this year Ashura will be October 11, and Yom Kippur will begin on October 11 as well), and while the new year usually involves fasting and introspection–not unlike the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur–we were joined by our beloved former neighbours from the time we lived in Yafo to celebrate our new years. It is 1438 for them, and 5777 for us. This is the neighbour who named his daughter Leia, because he is a geek, an his younger son is named Luka, both for Skywalker and Picard. 🙂
My grandmother and great-aunt came to visit from Eilat, and while they chose to stay at a hotel this year, they joined us both last night and today. I am not surprised they chose the hotel, a total of 35 of us spent the night. I’m glad my sister at point wanted to teach yoga and ended up storing all the yoga mats at our place! They double nicely as temporary beds.
Obviously one of the most important parts of Jewish holidays is the prayers we sing. One of those thatw e sing at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services in Avineu Malkeinu.
This version by Barbra Streisand is one of the most beautiful ones and it always gives me chills. Only a few days ago, at Shimon Peres’ funeral we heard another moving rendition of the same prayer by David D’Or.
Today in Hungary a pointless referendum is taking place. Pointless, because Hungary had already agreed to the EU refugee handling policies, and now the government asked the question if voters wanted to allow the EU to move asylum seekers to Hungary.
People serm to be uninterested, as the expected participation level is around 44%. Anything under 50% means the referendum itself will be unsuccessful or invalid. Also Hungary’s joke party–who are growing into quite a political force–recommended casting invalid votes, like the above one, where both the yes and no are marked as part of the wish for a good year!
L’Shana Tova, everyone!
Just as America re-descovers its founding fathers, we Israelis just said farewell to our last founding father, Shimon Peres.
Shimon Peres’ shiva concludes today, but the ache caused by his passing will be felt by millions for a lomg time. You see, Shimon Peres was one of the most universally loved people in Israel. He will be remembered as someone committed to peace, and who represented the whole country.
That hadn’t always been the case, though. Peres, like all active politicians, had people agreeing and disagreeing with his policies. Benyamin Netanyahu, a friend of Peres, was a great political rival. Peres’ participation in past governments, his stand on the peace process were all controversial at one time or another. At the same time most agree that Peres helped turn Israel into the technological hub and start-up paradise during his long career.
I missed out on most of the controversy. When I arrived in Israel Peres was no longer a member of the Knesset, or seriously involved in day-to-day politics, as by then he was the 9th President of Israel. As the head of state he was committed to be the president of every Israeli, regardless of political associations–something that our 10th president, Reuven Rivlin is also trying to do.
Peres wasn’t only a politician, he was a poet as well. He also could summarize important truths into a short sentence.
But most of all, he was kind. He wanted to be lived by his people and he wanted to love his people.
I had the opportunity to meet President Peres once, and I’m sure he shook hundreds of people’s hands during that event, he was genuinely interested and focused on the person he was meeting. A real smile, and asking back when he didn’t understand my name at first were just a few seconds, but meant a lot to me.
Now Shimon Peres is gone, but his legacy lives on. May his memory be a blessing.
It’s Saturday evening, the scent of the Havdala spices and the recently extinguished candle still lingers in the air. Kevin just poured himself a glass of wine, I am curled up on the couch with my gigantic cup of tea, and the 186th Semiannual General Conference of the LDS Church is on TV (thanks MormonChannel app!). Why we still watch it every six months? Not sure. But is is something that is part of our family’s traditions, unless General Conference clashes with one of the Jewish holidays so often falling around the beginning of October.
The grocery store just recently opened after the Shabbat went out, so some of the boys ran out for snacks, and now they are watching this slightly Stepford-wife looking Young Women’s General President with a weird intonation talk about something very important, but we can’t quite decide sometimes where a sentence ended. At least President Eyring looks the exact same as he did when I officially left the church 14 years ago.
The littles are packing their school bags, so tomorrow morning they can catch 5 more minutes of snooze time before school. Yes, our week begins on Sunday. While the MoTab sing (that’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, btw) I load the washer and set the timer so it will start in the morning. One of the girls asks if there is anything left to eat and she is instructed by a brother to look in the dairy fridge.
Today was the last Shabbat of 5776. Tomorrow evening when the sun sets 5777 begins. It’s a time for introspection and repentance, and because of that I didn’t dare to like a photo of bacon today. You see, my rabbi is a friend on Facebook. (Ok, just kidding, but really, for the Jewish soul, this is a time to prepare for not only the new year, but for the day of atonement, Yom Kippur as well. I have written about both holidays before, and I imagine I will write about them this coming few days, again.
If you are here from the #write31days link up, please feel free to click around. Eventually it will start to make sense.
And now the compulsory Harel Skaat video.
So I decided to try it once more. I will attempt to blog every day in October. Of course, as each year, it took me by surprise tha September 30 is followed by October 1. So I crowdsourced for ideas on Facebook and people somehow seem to think that everyday life in Israel is more interesting than in their respective countries. Trust me, it’s not. However, I will try to show tiny tidbits about life in Israel that might not bore everyone to tears.
That said, I will link all posts here.
It was dark outside already, an October evening when I was sitting on my room’s hardwood floor wearing a blue turtleneck, a handknit sweater, and indigo coloured jeans. I remember that outfit because I wore it almost every day in the autumn of 1994. I had gotten my first CD player a few months earlier, and my friend Miki brought over his father’s LGT CDs. (My brother says they were tapes. It could be.) One of the songs we listened to that day was from the 70s, A Kicsi, a Nagy, az Artúr és az Indián. One line cracked me up. “Somló got lost in Warsaw.” Somló, of course, being one of the band members of Locomotiv GT, the one with the wild hair, who started out as a circus performer. The one whose voice was unmistakable.
After my introduction to LGT that cool evening Somló Tamás and the rest of the band have always had a cherished spot on my playlists. I bought their solo projects as well, and I only went to see that awful awful remake of Hyppolit to listen to the theme song by Somló.
And now Somló Tamás is gone. He passed away after a long battle with cancer during the night.
And here I am, sitting on the hardwood floor with my children, and my iPhone is playing A Kicsi, a Nagy, az Artúr és az Indián, and Vallomás and the finale of Képzelt riport.
Arra születtünk, hogy tiszta szívvel szerethessünk, boldogok legyünk, boldogok legyünk.
May his memory be a blessing.
We heard the silence when a mother of six was murdered by an Arab terrorist in Judea and Samaria.
We heard the silence the numerous times civilians were stabbed, injured and killed by Arab terrorists the past year.
The silence was deafening when Arab terrorists attacked a school bus three weeks ago. (Oh, you never heard about it? Why am I not surprised?)
The silence of many last week when two Arab terrorists killed four and injured four in a shooting in Tel Aviv was heard by us.
And now there is silence again. 50 dead and 53 injured, and people still having their profile picture in French colours are silent.
Dafna Meir, the other shooting, rock throwing and stabbing victims, the students from Makor Chaim High School, the people at Sarona market were Israeli Jews.
We heard the silence, and the strange breaking of tge silence when a US military veteran was among the killed.
Those killed two nights ago in Orlando were members and allies of the LGBTQ community. We hear the silence.
The outrage is by friends and allies, mostly. Some comments are by Trump supporters, who see their blind Islamophobia justified in the killings. However, there is a lot of silence.
I grew into my Judaism, my secular, non-G-d-believing, tradition-honouring, peculiar-minority-being Judaims in the Diaspora. I was surrounded by Jewish pluralism, in a society where celebrating Christmas by most secular Jews was kust as normal as kids from mixed marriages attending Chabad schools, where they were welcomed with open arms… And not being indoctrinated. It was a place where the Chabad and Orthodox schools proded themselves in providing quality secular education as well as Jewish education to their students, and proudly displayed their national ranking based on univrsity acceptance, foreign language exams, and other academic measurements. It was somewhere where an openly gay Jew from a Reform background was called up to the Torah in a Chabad shul just because. Where Chabad’s chanukiyot stood next to the far right party’s crosses during Chnukah/Advent. Where the Jewish Summer Festival had more non-Jews perform than Jews in some years, and where the targeted audience was definitely the non-Jewish majority. It was a place where Jews networked and pulled together, and as a result, were successful.
It was also a place where Antisemitism was alive, and where the above mentioned far-right party’s vice president, upon realising he was halachially Jewish, could be kicked out of his party and become an observant Jew qlmost overnight. It was a place where they claim their Jewish Nobel winners as Hungarians, but generally “hate Jews”.
It was a place where the first Nobel for literature for that country and both of it’s Oscars for a foreign language film went to Jews. (Though the first film was directed by a Jewish-Catholic man, many of whose films examined his complicated relationship to Judaism.) How proud most of those people who saw a Zionist conspiracy in everything were of those writers, directors, actors!
Being a Jew then and there made me more Jewish. Where Christian holidays were public holidays, but my kid staying home on Yom Kippur meant an unexcused absence and a visit from the school’s child welfare representative, where only one kosher shop was available and it was cheaper to drive to Vienna and shop for the month than going to that shop, where on Facebook people I knew blamed the Zionist lizard people (I wish I was kidding) for everything from rain to drought, I learnt to embrace my Jewishness. Those challenges were sometimes annoying, but they were insignificant compared to what my ancestors went through to maintain and live their faith. Living in the Diaspora I had the opportunity to choose to be Jew again and again every day.
8 years ago my family moved to Israel. As a friend said, it’s a wonder I’ve been in Israel, living the Israeli secular existence “And managed to maintain such a positive relationships with Judaism”.
If she had said that eight years ago when we made aliyah, I wouldn’t have understood it. After experiencing minority existence and blatant anti-Semitism for years in Europe, Israel seemed to be THE place. As Hannah Szenes said,
Living in Israel, however, took away our daily choice to embrace and live our Judaism. Living according the Law is enforced left and right, while our Jewishness is constantly questioned. In this split mindset of enforced and doubted Judaism we are still learning to navigate Israeli life.
There are moments when I’d love to just pack up and leave, never to come back. But then every time I am away from home for more than a few days I suddenly start to miss Home. Against all odds, challenges, discomforts, dangers, Israel has become our home.
Pesach (Passover) is now over. A week of not having regular bread was easier than I thought. We celebrated the exit of the holiday by making hamburgers and eating them in our garden, then taking a walk on the beach.
While we, Jews celebrated the last days of Passover on Friday and Saturday, most if Israel’s Christians were commemorating Great Friday, and today celebrate Easter. It is only a few days after a Druze holiday, commemorating one of the prophets. Sitting by the sea, sand between my toes, the prayers are still in the air as the new week begins.
The title is inspired by Hannah Senesh’s “Walk to Ceasaria”, a poem, and a song known as Eli, Eli that I have blogged about before.
This early summer weekend was about the sand, the sea, the prayer of man. People enjoyed the nice weather in the forests, by the Kineret, or on the beaches. We were among them, and once again I got to enjoy the colourful tapestry of what Israel is. Yet, days like today remind me of my complicated relationship with Israel and Judaism. This month I hope to explore more of this topic on my blog.