Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sickness, Setbacks, and Slayings = ALIYAH

I have been home sick for a week now. It started with a cough, well, actually with a post nasal drip and that caused the cough. I figured I had a little sinus infection, but figured also, incorrectly, that it would go away after a few days. I went to work Monday morning, but after a few hours of constant hacking, I realized this was worse than I thought. I needed to see a doctor and get some antibiotic. Pleading illness, I made my excuses at work and prepared to leave for the day.

I went to see my doctor, to get an antibiotic and something for the cough, to give me some relief. She prescribed a Z-pac for me (zythromycin) which is a five day regimen of antibiotic pills that is supposed to be very intense and effective. I have taken this before and with the exception of one really bad time, it has always worked wonders for me. Twenty- four hours after taking the first dose (2 pills) I feel brand new. But not THIS time. This time, it did not seem to do anything for me.

She also prescribed a “new” drug for me called “benzonotate”. She promised me it would stop my cough. Well. It did NOT stop my cough. If anything, it felt like it made it worse. It probably did not make it worse but the fact that I had NOTHING to take to give me relief from the coughing probably made me feel that way.

The cough got so bad that I was brought to the point of dry heaves. It was AWFUL. Everything hurt me: my back, my neck, my shoulders, my stomach, my head. Every cough was so very painful. My head felt like, each time I coughed, my brain was rattling around inside banging against the shell of my skull. It WAS. I also had a sinus infection which added to the misery of my head. The dry heaves gave my torso a major work out.

I drank hot tea, hot broth, and hot chicken soup. I slurped on icy, fruity popsicles, the sugar free kind. I drank tons of lemonade, water, and some grape juice. I tried to eat some solids, but I had no appetite.

I had chills, the kind where my body is shaking and my teeth chattering and I felt like a cartoon character. Clack clack clack went my teeth. I took Tylenol every 5 hours. I woke up drenched. I took hot steamy showers, trying to breathe in the steam.

I called my doctor four times in as many hours, crying, asking PLEASE give me Tylenol with codeine, pills not liquid. The liquid upsets my stomach. Finally, the prescription was called in and I went out so fast. I looked miserable, I felt miserable. But I knew I was finally going to feel better. I got the pills, went home and downed two of them immediately. Within 15 minutes I felt SO MUCH BETTER. And then I slept. I slept and slept. Then I woke up, showered, cleared my sinuses, and took two more pills. And slept. This pattern repeated itself over the next three days. I never had taken that much T3 in so short a time. But I needed it – I had not slept prior to it in three days. So, I needed to SLEEP.

Then, on Shabbat I finally started to feel human again. I even got dressed, and straighten up a bit around the house. I had some visitors. You have no idea how AMAZING that was. When I was in Teaneck, and I was home sick, I NEVER had visitors. Here, I had SEVERAL visitors. It was SO NICE. I was feeling great. And then, Shabbat was over and I got online….

DEVASTATION. The Fogel Family Massacre. Two parents, three children slain, butchered, throats slit while they slept. I was so upset. I was angry. I was VERY VERY VERY angry. How could this be? Where is justice? Where is G-d? I was crying and sobbing and ranting and raving and raging. I do not even know this family. But how? Why? A three month old infant, her throat slit while she slept in her Abba’s arms. This was just an unspeakable horror. I finally made myself go to bed. Of course, I took two pills. I would never have slept otherwise. (I could not even imagine the horror for sweet Tamar Fogel, the 12 year old girl who found her family butchered!).

Sunday. It was a terrible day for me. I was very depressed. ALL DAY. I could not get this out of my head. I spent a whole day, mourning, trying to make some sense out of all this. But my anger was really getting the better of me. And then, I started to see some beautiful posts. Exhortations to be positive, to do mitzvot, to perform acts of chesed, to daven with kavana, to understand that this IS part of G-d’s plan and we need to both accept it and believe. Believe that He is doing what is best for us, even if we do not understand it. Slowly, slowly, I began to lose my anger. Slowly, slowly I began to gain clarity and regain my normal sense of positivity.

And then I experienced it, like a flash. The answer. Aliyah. The answer is aliyah. It is the ONLY valid response to this, to the current state of affairs for the Jews and for Israel. Never, in MY lifetime, has there been so much unabashed anti-Semitism in the world. Never, in MY lifetime, have the Jews been in more danger than they are now. We are seeing a world that rivals the world of Germany and Europe in WWII, a world that rivals the Nazi extremism and pursuit of the decimation of the Jews. Only now, it is called Islamism, not Nazism. But it is the SAME THING. The same methodology is being used, and the world is responding the same way—by turning the other way, pretending not to see what is happening. When it comes to Jewish blood, the world does not care. The Jews have been and will always be the convenient scapegoats for all the ills in the world.

The Nazi’s were wholly dedicated to the extermination of the Jews. In fact, even when they knew they were losing the war, going to lose the war, they sunk inordinate amount of resources in to killing as many Jews as possible. The Islamic movement is wholly dedicated to the extermination of the Jews. Even if Israel did NOT exist, and even if there were NO Jews in all of the Middle East – they would still be dedicated to the extermination of the Jews. They want a world with NO JEWS at all, anywhere.

Well, they are going to be sorely disappointed. The Jews are here to stay. It is G-d’s promise that we are here for the long haul. The Jews have always survived. Most of our oppressors have come and gone. The Philistines, Romans, Babylonians, and others, have all come and are gone, forever. But we are here, and here we will stay.

But Israel is our home, will always be our home and is our only home. Aliyah is the answer.

Aliyah Now!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Itamar. Never Again...

When I was growing up I thought the world was becoming a better place. I grew up in the 60’s, came of age in 70’s, experienced the decadence of the 80’s, and began the downward spiral toward cynicism in the 90’s when I realized that the better world promised to me and my children by the brave who demonstrated, marched, picketed, and put themselves in harm’s way in the violent riots of the 60’s that rocked life in the US, was not and would not become, a reality. I resigned myself to it. I did so without any real conscious thought or reason that I was doing so. I simply settled into the world, accepted that this is the way things are, the way they have been, and the way they always will be.

Perhaps this was wrong of me. I abandoned the task of “tikkun olam” – fixing the world – a task that
G-d gave us. I became complacent. But I wasn’t the only one. The vast majority of the people I grew up with, my peers, and the people in my immediate world, those I worked with, those I socialized with, those I associated with through the commonality of a shared belief -- had all settled down to the business of living our lives in the world in which we found ourselves. We did little real work of fixing the world. Some of use donated money to worthwhile causes, some of us volunteered our time, some of us even went to work in careers supposedly dedicated to the causes of tikkun olam. But the majority of us, our focus was on careers, family, and the immediate communities in which we lived. We focused on acquiring the accoutrements of a life supposedly well lived – large homes with multi-car garages to house the multiple cars we owned, many and beautiful clothes to wear, with new purchases for each and every new social and religious occasion that came our way, sending our children to Yeshivot , not an unworthy mission, yet with tuitions that skyrocketed out of control while the actual teachings fell short, way short, on issues like menschlikeit and Israel and tikkun olam.

The world has not become a better place. Far from it. In a world where terrorists can, in the name of supposed freedom can enter a private home, and kill, with knives a young defenseless mother, a father in his sleep, a toddler and an infant – they slit the throat of an infant! – no we cannot claim the world is a better place.

I can’t help feeling that we missed the boat somewhere, somehow. I don’t know when, where, or how. But we need to find our way back – back to the idealism and anger and righteous indignation that spurs our hearts to action and let our bodies, brains, and mouths follow suit. We need take back the world and make it ours again. We can no longer be complacent.

I remember as a child, a young child, going to the local Jewish Community Center in the town in which I grew up. I remember seeing posters all around with the slogan “Never Again”. Those posters, that slogan referred to the Holocaust, it would never happen again, because we would never allow it to happen again. It referred to the creation of the State of Israel, which at that point had only occurred about 20+ years prior. Those posters are long gone. In fact, sad to say, the Jewish Community Center is long gone – because the Jewish Community of that town did not see fit to maintain such an edifice. They saw no need to maintain a “Jewish Community” when they could assimilate and become part of the larger “secular” community.

But we need, here in the US, a galvanizing campaign, once again, like the “Never Again” campaign. We need to be a force to be reckoned with. We need to be far reaching and extremely visible. And once again, we need to say “Never Again”. We will never allow such terrorist acts to occur to our people in Israel – for they ARE our people. Just as they were OUR people who were slaughtered with unconscionable blood thirst and violence in Germany and Europe.

Where is our voice? Where is our UNITY? We must UNITE and say TOGETHER “NEVER AGAIN”.

Bibi Netanyahu is called for the world to condemn this most recent, vicious bloodletting of our innocents – I want ALL JEWS to condemn this act. I do not care about the rest of the world. We are Jews, we are meant to be a “Light unto all nations”. If we act – then the world will follow. That is the order of things.

Condemnation is not enough. Retaliation, punishment, revenge – those are the words most appropriate in response to this recent act of terror. And not just words will do – we must follow those words with the actions they convey.

This Shabbat I stayed home recuperating from a sinus infection that took me down hard this past week. I was alone and enjoyed the solitude while I had it. I took out some Hebrew shiron’s that I had collected. My late husband and I used to love to sing many of the old Israel folk songs. I was singing “HaKotel”. I am never able to sing that song without breaking down – and I do not simply cry, I sob, I wail, I lift my face to the sky and I ask Hashem how much longer must we wait? How much longer before He will life His sword and smite our enemies? I ask how many more deaths of our innocent children of HIS innocent children must we withstand? How many more must we bury before He will send us Moshiach?

It is said the Hashem helps those who help themselves. So, we must fight. And pray. And Hashem will lend His mighty hand to our own…

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bureaucracy in the US, not Israel

One of the first steps in my aliyah journey has been the filling out of inumerable forms -- the NBN application form, the Go North addendum, the heath affidavit, the financial affidavit, the exit/entry form -- and the production of various legal documents -- birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce certificates, death certificates -- any and all of these that apply to one's particular situation. BUT ---

One cannot simply produce/provide ORIGINALS of these items. Each of these items must be accompanied by an "apostille". So, in my case I needed an apostille for EACH one of the above mentioned items. I was born, thus a birth certificate. I was married and divorced, hence the need to provide the divorce certificate, only the divorce certificate in this case since the divorce certificate voids the need for the marriage certificate. But, I remarried, so I needed one for that marriage certificate. My husband had died so I needed his death certificate as well. No problem, I thought. A cinch. Hah!

For my birth certificate and the divorce certificate I had to apply first to the office of vital records in the county in which they occurred (Ulster County, New York) for "certified" copies of each. Then, once I had the certified copies in hand, I had to mail them back to a different office, also in Ulster County, to be "notarized" and then an apostille could be affixed to each item. Besides spending money on the postage for all this (and I did not use regular postage, I used certified postage so I could have the ability to track the items and insure them) it cost me for the certified copies, for the notarization and for the apostille. But this was not so bad. I did this inside of a month.

For the death certificate I happened to have a certified copy already in my hands. So, I sent it to the appropriate offices in NJ, along with prepaid return envelopes for expedited processing. So, what did they do? They sent it back to me, telling me they needed to know for which country I needed the apostille before they could process it! I had given them my phone number, in the accompanying correspondence. You mean they could not CALL ME UP and struggle through a phone call with me to get this information??? They wasted the prepaid return envelope! So, I had to do it over again with the word ISRAEL in BOLD RED across the damn sheet of paper. That worked. And yes, there were fees on top of shipping costs to do this.

All that was left now was my marriage certificate. As it happened Barry and I got married before a justice of the peace in New York City for our "civil" marriage ceremony. Thus that item was stored within the vast acres of files of the offices of records for New York City. I did not have a certified copy and I need that first. So, I called their office and after an interminable wait, finally spoke with a real live human being. and was told that I could not order this over the phone but must MAIL in an order. I was given all the information I needed -- how much to send, where to send it, etc. Then, I asked what the turnaround time was to get the certified copy of the marriage certificate. The clerk told me, "Ten weeks". "TEN WEEKS?? You mean ten DAYS, right?", I stammered. "No ma'am, I mean ten weeks!". I was dumbfounded. I realized that I could wait ten weeks for the certified certificate, then send it to be notarized by a NYC clerk, get it back , and then send it to receive an apostille, and who knew how long THAT would take. So, I had no choice -- I would have to drive in to NYC to do it in person and thus get it in one day.

Driving up from Baltimore is probably not a terrible drive, and while I LIKE driving, I am not overly fond of LONG trips. With gasoline at nearly $4 a gallon, tolls ONE way costing about $25, this is not a cheap trip. This would cost me $100 just for the trip alone -- not counting the fees I paid to each office I stopped at along the way to getting an apostille for the marriage certificate. But now I have them. They are nifty, neat, and beautiful. They are now residing in a glassine page protector in my aliyah album. And now, I am ready for my aliyah interview with the Jewish Agency for Israel Shlicha...

Aliyah Journey

Several years ago my daughter Chloe returned to the States from Israel. She had just spent a year in Israel, learning at Michlelet Orot. When she went, my husband Barry and I had encouraged her to consider going, and staying. I never really believed she would. Our idea was that she would go, stay, and then we would follow. But it was really just a germ of an idea, a dream. We did not know if it would really take root.


She returned and said she was going back, she was making aliyah. She applied to Nefesh B'Nefesh and she made aliyah. I was so very proud of her. I was in awe of her too. Here was MY daughter, all of 18 years old, making a life altering decision, going off to a country far away from the only home she has ever known, to live for the rest of her life. She went with three suitcases, a carry on, the clothes on her back, and the promise of money from Nefesh B'Nefesh and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

It was not always easy for her. Thank G-d, she had some good friends and thus a decent support network. She went to school and made a life for herself. In so doing, she met a wonderful young man, Jonathan. They announced an engagement pretty quickly and I found myself in the midst of planning a wedding for my daughter in Israel. On January 20, 2008 they were married. It was a beautiful wedding. Chloe got pregnant pretty quickly. The baby was due in early February. Barry and I were planning our trip to Israel once again, this time for the birth of the baby. But Hashem had other plans. On January 20, 2009 we buried my beloved Barry. Two weeks later, Gavriel was born.

The past two plus years have been not such good years for me. But I knew almost immediately that making aliyah would be the only thing for me to do. And so now, I am finally planning it.

I contacted Nefesh B'Nefesh and applied. I applied for the Go North aliyah program. After all, my daughter lives in Haifa, which is the North and they live there because Jonathan is learning at Technion. We have decided to move in together, to make life a bit easier and more comfortable for ourselves. We get along and in a way this makes up to me for the past couple of years in which I rarely got to see them or my grandson.

I created a book, binder of all the things I need for my aliyah. All my important documents, all the information I need, etc. I am itching under the skin to do this, to make my aliyah. I have been waiting now for over two years to do this. Nothing is going to stop me now.

But I am terrified. Some of what I am scared about is the practical stuff: will I be able to live in Israel? How much of a drop in my standard of living will I experience? How low will I have to go? How low can I tolerate going? I have always prided myself on being flexible, on being optimistic, upbeat, on being tolerant and accepting, and being able to just let things roll off my back. I pride myself on being a nice person, a good person, one who does the right thing. How will I fare in Israel? Will I be able to retain all this? Or will Israel make me cynical and negative? Will I become a majorly stressed out person?

I am also scared a bit of never meeting someone with whom to spend the rest of my life. On the one hand there are more eligible men here in the States than there are in Israel. On the other hand they are HERE and not THERE. If I meed a man there, then I do not need to be concerned with whether or not he is willing or able to make aliyah. Oh, such things to be concerned with!

I read all the blogs and email listservs that have to do with aliyah, the NBN yahoo groups lists, the Tachlis list, various blogs, I read everything. And I worry. Most of the people that I know who have made, or are making aliyah, are in much better shape than I am financially. It makes me crazy to hear THEM whining about things. They BUY homes in Israel (I can only rent), and they have AMERICAN kitchens with all the AMERICAN sized appliances (fridges, ovens, ranges, washer/dryers, dishwashers, etc). I am NOT going to have ANY of that.

I do not consider myself to be much of a "chalutznik" -- technically, a "pioneer" -- or one willing/able to live under tough conditions in Israel. I AM pretty used to the conveniences and comforts of living in America, and I do like them. I know I will be giving much of that up. I only hope I CAN, without it being too difficult for me.

I pray to Hashem to give me the strength to do this...