Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rain And Other Reasons 2B Cheerful

It's Raining!
I know I announced the first rain a couple of weeks ago but that was one short storm and then it stopped. Since then we've had major uncontrollable fires all over Israel resulting in over 1,000 homes being destroyed or damaged. A big part of the problem was that everything was still so dry from the summer.

Today the heavens really opened. I hope the trees and the land got as soaked as I did on the way home this afternoon.

There's nothing like a raging storm outside when you're safe and warm inside and no reason to leave the house until tomorrow. Lovely.

Problems Solved
I had some problems at work which were making me seriously consider how much notice a teacher needs to give in order to leave a teaching post in the middle of the year.

This week they sorted out the glitch in my contract that meant I was being paid for 8 hours a month less than I was actually teaching. Entering the third month of this, it was adding up to quite a sum of unpaid work.

And the problematic class that was making me miserable has been re-distributed and disciplined which makes life a whole lot  easier. It turns out that the behaviour problems weren't only in my classes but across the board. Phew.

Today I breezed through the school day and it was all rather calm and pleasant.

Good Photos
My friend took some photos of last week's gleaning which were much better than mine so I'm including them here. It's a good job her birthday wasn't one week later or  we'd have had to cancel. (Or go in the rain, but nobody does anything in the rain here.)

Happy Birthday!
It's DD's birthday on Sunday. Eight already. Nothing baby about an eight year old. I find this exciting and also a little sad. However, she's still young enough that she's always up for a cuddle and still says cute things.

As usual I'm linking up with R2BC which has returned to Becky on Lakes Single Mum, for the month of December.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Israel Is Burning 2

I have a personal rule that I never publish two blog posts in one day. For more of the background see my previous post. Except that today I'm going to break that rule because I just read this personal account from Rachel Creeger on facebook, of how she escaped the fires in a village where I know several people. I have copied and pasted it in full.

May cause distress:
I am now safely back in Jerusalem with my parents after a terrifying experience. Yesterday I travelled with some family members from the UK (aunt, uncle, cousins) to our cousin's community to spend a special Shabbat (Sabbath) celebrating the Bar Mitzvah of his son. I was hosted by a wonderful Australian-Israeli family who made me very welcome. Following evening prayers and a huge, delicious family meal, I went back to my host family and we chatted for a while then I went to bed.
Not long afterwards there was a banging on my door and one of the host's daughters shouted, "Fire, fire is coming, we need to get out!" She threw a coat at me and I grabbed my bag (luckily I'd been too tired to unpack properly) and made for the door. From the front garden I could see the tops of flames in the brushland below the house.
The hostess called out that she was grabbing her phone and I ran back in to get mine too, while her husband went to turn off the electricity. We came out and met in front of the house and there was a sudden gust of wind and I saw the flames rise up to the house. We ran down pedestrian footpath through the houses shouting at the neighbours to get out and as we came through the trees to the road at the bottom we could see the fire.
The sky was full of glowing orange embers which were strangely beautiful, then suddenly there was a terrible smell of smoke.
We began to run towards the synagogue which was the emergency meeting point but then one of the daughters remembered an elderly couple who might not hear the commotion and so my host and hostess ran down the road to check on them, shouting to their daughters to look after me. I asked the girls where the house was that my relatives were staying in and they pointed towards it saying that they were sure everyone from there had been evacuated. At that moment we saw a figure moving about behind the curtains and realised that they were still inside.
The girls ran in to make them hurry and there was another gust of wind, and what I can only describe as a wall of fire rose up further down the road. I began to scream "the fire's here, get out, run!" My relatives and their host family ran out in their pyjamas, shoes and coats, there was no time for them to bring anything. We headed for the synagogue but the wind picked up and it was no longer safe.
We began to run towards the exit of the village, literally trying to outrun the flames and smoke. Those community members who had managed to get their cars were stopping and offering lifts to whoever they could fit in. Others were shouting that they were looking for their kids or their spouse. Someone had two seats so we sent our young cousins into that car. We continued to run and eventually another car with a mother and her 2 daughters offered the 3 of us places. By the time we got to the gate we had taken in other people so there were 7 of us in the 5 seater with 2 on laps.
We managed to get out and drove away without any plan of where to go. My aunt and uncle realised that their kids didn't have phones or any way to contact us and wouldn't know where we were. We had no idea whose car they were in or where they would be taken although we knew that they'd be looked after. The family decided to stay with a relative about 45 mins away and as they were travelling past my brother's town we asked them to drop us off.
On the way, the daughters were hysterical, thinking of their friends and family and home. The driver thankfully managed to speak to her husband who had found their other kids and told him where they were heading.
Once we were dropped off, following effusive thanks to the family who'd helped us get away, we woke up my brother and sister in law who were absolute stars and took us in, they could not have done more for us. My aunt and uncle had nothing but the clothes they stood up in and we all stank of smoke. By about 3.30am we'd found out that our Israeli family members were safe and together but no one knew the whereabouts of our 2 young English cousins who'd been in the other car. We were finally able to locate them this evening with much thanks to our Israeli cousins.
My brother took my aunt and uncle to collect their kids from a neighbouring village where they had been beautifully taken care of. The Bar Mitzvah family ended up in yet another village where the community had given their son the opportunity to read his Torah portion in their synagogue this morning. He had his parents, siblings, grandparents and a few cousins with him so even though many of us were now unable to attend he became bar mitzvah.
We discovered that the house that my uncle and aunt had been staying in had only received superficial smoke and water damage and my uncle was allowed to briefly enter tonight to collect their cases, passports and other items. I'd managed to grab most of my stuff but throughout today I noticed the things I'd left behind, my DMs and smart suede party shoes, odd bits of clothing, books, my charger... and what I saved smells of smoke.
To put it in perspective though, I was devastated to learn that the house I'd been staying in had been burnt to the ground and that wonderful, warm family had lost everything. It seems likely that the lady who drove us to safety did too, as it turns out that she lived in the same neighbourhood. At least 15 houses have been completely razed to the ground. I have seen an aerial photograph and only the brick outlines of the foundations remain.
This has been a incredibly traumatic experience and I am very shaken although so grateful to be alive and well, and to have been with family.
I will never forget the kindness shown to us, especially from my host family who had to worry about a stranger as well as their children. They have a tight knit community and I'm confident that they will move on and rebuild, both literally and figuratively, but I don't think we'll forget the past 24 hours in a hurry. I'm hoping that writing this will help to relieve some of my shakiness and anxiety so that I can sleep.
I am safe and well.

Israel Is Burning

Not as dramatic as a photo of raging wildfires but rather the tragic aftermath.
This is what almost 1,000 families all over Israel are facing this week.
Since last Tuesday Israel has been burning, Wildfires all over the country have destroyed almost 1,000 homes. Hundreds of thousands of residents have been evacuated at different times over the past six days - some for several days.

Friends in Zichron Ya'akov lost their home completely. The house, along with ten other homes, has completely gone. Another friend showed similar pictures of his mother's house in Haifa where over 600 homes have been damaged and 400 completely destroyed. At my college today one of the lecturers told us that her daughter's house had been destroyed. Outside Jerusalem some of my students were evacuated. Other friends have posted photos of raging wildfires taken from their windows.

It has got to the stage where everyone in this small country knows someone directly affected.

And they have proof now that much of it it is arson (some of the original fires may not have been but at least 1/3 of the subsequent fires definitely are). A new form of terrorism for when the winds are strong and we have only had one short rain since the summer. As it's the end of November and we are in the Middle East, everything is extremely dry,

Being Israel, everyone is collecting and donating warm clothes and blankets, furniture and other household goods for the homeless families. Lists of phone numbers and locations are circulating where families are offering to take in another family or have empty accommodation to offer, The fire stations are drowning under mountains of home baked goods to keep them going over long shifts,

We have received help in the form of fire-fighting aircraft and crews from Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Turkey, France, Spain, Canada, and Sweden and Italy (and offers from others). The Palestinian Authority have sent fire-fighters to help extinguish the blazes on the ground.

They say rain expected on Wednesday. Meanwhile Israel is still burning,

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Gleaning For Leket - Reasons 2B Cheerful

My friend Netanya always celebrates her birthday with a good deed project (a mitzva project). This year she hired a bus and 50 friends went gleaning for Leket. You can read about Leket here but basically, it's a multi-faceted food rescue and redistribution organisation. This is what it says on their website....

Leket Israel is the largest food bank in Israel, and has been a leader and an expert in food rescue nationwide since 2003. The organization sources, collects and redistributes fresh, perishable, quality food, which would otherwise be considered waste, from farms, hotels, military bases and catering halls. This is done in an effort to aid the quarter of the country’s population that lives below the poverty line. Leket works with 195 non-profits throughout the country to provide nutritious food to over 175,000 Israelis weekly. Last year alone, Leket collected and delivered over 30 million pounds of fresh, healthy food for the needy.

Busy in the orange groves

I felt like the Biblical Ruth (although I'm probably more of a Naomi at my age) gleaning in the fields of Boaz my kinsman by marriage and eventual second husband. Ok, I'm getting carried way now - I didn't even put on make-up for goodness sake.

It actually took me back to my kibbutz days 35 years ago, picking pomegranates and avocados from dawn till high-noon. Ahhh those were the days.... 

Back to reality. In one morning Leket collected about 30 of these big crates (see the photo above), each holding 400 kg of fruit. We only worked for about an hour but it felt good that we, along with many other volunteers from all over Israel, helped to pick 12,000 kg of clementines to be given to people in need. At about 3 shekels/kg for clementines, that's over 7,000 GBPs worth of fruit (or $9.000). 

Who knew that tangerine trees had thorns? #learnedsomethingnew

As usual I'm linking up with R2BC on Mummy from the Heart.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Not This Turkey!

When DD was little we used to go to story-time in the library every week. I, along with the other mothers, would take my turn choosing and reading stories to the group of about 20 regulars and their mothers. As our children grew too old for picture books, we moved on and a new generation took over.

Two days ago the word went round that Jessica, one of the story-time mums from our story-time heyday, would be reading her first published children's book. Of course all the old crowd dragged our seven and eight year olds back to story-time for a glorious reunion and, very timely for the time of year if you're American, Not This Turkey!

Jessica Steinberg reading Not This Turkey! at story-time.
It's a Thanksgiving story from post-war New York. The story could have been from any time but I was able to work out the rough time in which the story is set because of the baby. The family are new immigrants from Europe who have been in the US for four years. They have a number of children including one little American-born baby called David.

The thing is, I know this David. David is now a grandfather living in Jerusalem. I taught his, now grown up, children in school.

Jessica told us that she was at David's house and he told the story of how his father ..... well I won't give it away. Jessica wrote the story, changed a couple of details so as not to give children nightmares, and got it published as a delightful children's picture book.

And me... I obviously spent all evening trying to remember old family stories that could possibly become children's picture books.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - All Round Entertainment

Full Circle
When I was little my best friend's younger sister announced one day that she was as bored as a stiff. I remembered that today when DD asked if she could go on the computer while I popped out to the shop. "Otherwise I'll be stiff board," she reasoned. Obviously I had to say yes.

It's Show Time
My year of mourning for my father is over on Sunday (so my sister informed me yesterday as I wasn't keeping track of the lunar calendar). For eleven months I've not worn any new clothes or been to any parties, celebrations, or places of entertainment.

I've just booked for DD and I to go to see two shows over the winter. Annie in December and The Wizard of Oz in January. They are both amateur productions but these shows are usually of a high standard with live music and a few professional actors along with the enthusiasts. One of my thrid grade students is a munchkin in the Wizard of Oz so that's added interest for me.

Hungry Yeshiva Bocher (young man) pops in for supper
Notice the d.i.y Yeshiva haircut
An enterprising roommate charges 10 shekels for a "BotchYaCoiffe Ltd" special
A Family Supper
I came home to find a message from my nephew asking if he can come for supper. A quick dash out to the shop for a gluten-free pizza and we're in business. He's due any minute.

As usual I have a light bulb for him to change but that's not why I'm cheerful. It's been a long time since we had family who could pop in for supper and we love it.

A Must See Movie
I found Taare Zameen Par (Like Stars on Earth) in English and I've told everyone about it.

I'm linking up with Michelle's R2BC on Mummy from the Heart.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Like Stars On Earth

At age six you expect and hope that your child will learn to read. 
My fifth graders were taken to the library to watch a film today. As it ran over their English lesson I went too. It's an Indian film called Taare Zameen Par. We show it in the original Hindi with Hebrew subtitles. In Hebrew it's called Kochavim Al Pnei Ha'adama (Stars on the Face of the Earth). In the English version it's called Like Stars On Earth. Both versions are on You Tube.

About five minutes into the film I find myself tearing up. By the end of the first half hour I'm sobbing. At one hour all the children are laughing at me as I try to mop up my face with a disintegrating tissue.

During the break (it's 2 hours 42 minutes long) one sweet girl came to me and said, "Hamorah Rachel (Teacher Rachel), I've seen the end before and it's going to be okay."

A lot of the film is in English even in the Hindi version. I can follow the Hebrew subtitles enough to get the gist of what's going on. However, I came home, found it in English, and watched the whole thing again.

The film is about an eight year old boy with dyslexia. In our school they show it to all the fifth grade every year. Personally, I think every teacher should see it. And every parent. Every child who has dyslexia and/or any other learning difficulty and every child who doesn't but who has friends should see this film. Anyone who works with children or who knows children would do well to see it. Have I covered everyone yet? If not, all those not mentioned above should definitely watch this film.

Taare Zameen Par, Like Stars on Earth, Kochavim Al Pnei Ha'adama. Whatever your language, please watch this film.