Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Swiffer, our sombreros & two bottles of “Lechera”

It’s like Chanukah in October! As I previously mentioned we received our shipment more than a week ago. Our home looks like the back of a Wal-Mart store with boxes, cartons and paper everywhere, however we are getting there. It’s exciting opening every box and finding something we (or the kids) really missed, and it’s also funny opening other boxes and wondering “what were we thinking?”.

It’s amazing how simple things become so necessary. When you don’t have them you really miss them. For example, one of the two greatest inventions of the 20th century: No. 1 Swiffer (note that I do not get any money for saying this, but I should) how can Israelis continue to mop their floors the way we did 20 years ago? We have even seen a great funnel invention for when we run out of the cleaning solution. No. 2 “La Lechera” on a squeeze bottle (Mexican brand of Sweetened condensed milk). Yes, we did bring two of them. For those that know me very well my favorite breakfast since the introduction of this product is Wheaties with Lechera and milk. Wheaties are unavailable on our Eretz Haktana (little land) but they can be easily replaced by Quaker Oat Squares (Hey, I have to support my own brands). You get the point, the adjustment has to happen even in the smallest things.

As we were going through the boxes, we started to open one that did not weigh much, in fact, we thought it was empty. After opening it and taking out layer upon layer of paper we discovered our two sombreros. A huge box for two sombreros… That was the easiest box to unpack and the dumbest items to bring (not counting the plastic supermarket bags that somehow made their way to the boxes). Someone is being paid by volume here… I can’t complain, the packing was so good that casualties so far have been only one broken glass plate.

Enjoy some pictures of our home full of boxes, boxes and more boxes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The beginning of "after the holidays"

It arrived. Achrei Hachaguim (after the holidays) just begun. Everything for the last 3-4 weeks was halted until “Achrei Hachaguim”, so I guess it’s now time for everyone in the country to get all those things done. We are in the beginnings of the “after the holidays”.
Sukkot and Simchat Torah were wonderful. It so nice to see that the entire country even though they are not all celebrating it at least they all know of its existence. No need to explain to my boss and colleagues why I can’t work most of the days on this month (I actually enjoyed explaining my holidays but it was hard missing work while everyone else was working). In here everyone was out, they all wish each other Chag Sameach. It was wonderful looking at all the Sukkot (Huts) built everywhere we went. Walking out at night and listening to everyone out singing, eating and chatting in their Sukkot. We were invited to some of the holiday meals at the Sukah of new and newer friends from Israel, England, Ireland and we also met there other families from Scotland, Gibraltar, England. We also hosted to some of the meals to friends from Mexico, Israel, Pittsburgh, distant and “new” family, and our cousin from NY. Isn’t it miraculous that Jews with different backgrounds from around the world are able to celebrate together as Israeli citizens the holidays in the land of the Jews?
Our experience in Mea Shearim (Ultra Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem) was very different. Everything turned black & white and our time seemed to go back a couple hundred years. The streets and sidewalks were all taken by waves of people buying and preparing for Sukkot. Scrutinizing every single inch of their Arbat Haminim (fruit and plants used on Sukkot), buying decorations, etc. Sukkot hanging from every balcony and rooftops filled with them too.
Simchat Torah was very nice too and a little weird given that it was the first and only day as opposed to the second day outside of Israel. The kids were happy dancing in circles with the fake stuffed Torah we got them and eating all the candy they were handed. Kol hanearim was also beautiful hearing all the children singing hamalach, although we missed and are curious to know how the big talit went at Shaare Torah.
I’m grateful that we were able to experience this season in Israel. Take a look at the pictures below for images of Sukkot in Jerusalem, our Sukah and the kids and family, I hope you get a taste of the holiday environment.

Got ballot?
We got our absentee ballots to vote in the American Presidential Elections today. Who will it be?
Also next month we are voting for Mayor in Modiin. I’m not sure how that one works. I’ll just vote for the Jewish candidate…just kidding there is no other choice.
I’m just missing the Mexican elections. We’ll have to wait until 2012 I guess.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quick update: Work, Sukah and a ton of boxes.

I don’t want to leave you hanging in there. So here is a quick post.
Things have been very busy. Work is getting busy by the minute and is not leaving much strength at night to write the blog, but don’t worry I will find the strength back. I’m getting plenty of responsibility which together with the language barrier adds to the challenge. I feel like I'm in a good place.
The shipment arrived today (Oct. 16) with a 45 minute warning. You would think that something that left more than 3 months ago (July 8) from Pittsburgh with a cost of some thousands of dollars could simply give you a day or two in advance, right? Wrong! It didn’t! What is this box doing here? I don’t know ask those other 90 boxes… :)
Sukkot has been beautiful. It’s such a happy environment seeing everyone celebrate it. I would like to describe later with more detail the experience. It’s just wonderful to see so many Sukkot, and have family, friends visiting as well as being invited by friends. I’m so happy we are experiencing the chagim (holidays) in Israel. And by the way we celebrated 1 day only (vs. 2 anywhere else in the world). Only in Israel.
We will be spending Shabbat at Holon with Israeli friends from Mexico.
Shabbat Shalom.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Yom Kipur & trip to Jerusalem

Yom Kipur like a pro.
We had a very special Yom Kipur. This time I was prepared and I bought my own Machzor (prayer book) so that I can too feel like a pro. The prayers were very nice, everyone participated in the singing. Although many tunes were new to us, the most traditional ones are the same ones we know from Mexico and Pittsburgh. Isn’t it amazing how hundreds of years pass and around the world we are all praying the same prayer with the same tune?

I remember vividly how I singed and danced last year at the end of the long fasting day “Beshana Havah V’Yerushalaim…” (Next year in Jerusalem) hoping that G’d would show me the way to get to Jerusalem for next Yom Kipur. This year the singing and dancing took a different meaning because he did show me the way to Jerusalem, not only that but he made it so easy for us, with health and even a job. Being on the holiest of all days (Yom Kipur) at the holliest of all lands (Israel) was spiritually special.

The fasting was easier than ever. Because of the change in clocks last week the fast ended by 6pm.

Having a Brit Mila (Circumcision ceremony) during Yom Kipur is rare and very special. This year we had the honor to attend and participate in the Brit of the son of our good Mexican friends in Modiin. It was beautiful and he got the most beautiful name: Lior David. We felt very honored to take part of the ceremony as Kvaterim (Loosely translated as Godfather) of Lior. After the fasting there was a nice braking of the fast to celebrate the Brit. What a Yom Kipur, we got two shows for the price of one.

No Fui Yo!!!
As we were all getting dressed for Yom Kipur in white clothes Ilan wanted to wear a red T-shirt. He insisted and was stubborn about the fact that he wanted to wear his red t-shirt. In the end he did not wear that t-shirt but then it hit me. Yom Kipur is the day when we repent from all our sins and wrongdoing, right? Ilan’s red T-shirt had a legend in Spanish that reads “No fui yo!” (It wasn’t me). He might have known exactly why he wanted his “No fui yo!” T-shirt for Yom Kipur.

Havtacha vs. Haftaah
I did not have work today, Liora did not have Ulpan (Hebrew classes), however the kids did have school. Sounds like a perfect day to go out and do those tours we are never able to do with kids. Today we visited Jerusalem without the kids and had a very nice and interesting time. We started having a quick breakfast in the old city, then we went to the Kotel (Western Wall) and then attended two tours: The Chain of Generations and The Kotel tunnels. The first one was very moving and showed in glass sculptures the continuity of the Jewish people through names of our ancestors (take a look at the pictures). The other tour felt more like an Indiana Jones tour going through archeological tunnels that follow the continuation of the Western Wall (take a look at the pictures) it was very interesting and the best part was that it had a special religious significance as well. At one point in the tour there is a part of the western wall that is the closest a Jew can get to the Holy of Holies. Almost at the end of the tour, which was all in Hebrew, the tour guide said that we would be exiting and there would be “Havtacha” (security) which I mistranslated as “Haftaah” (Surprise). Well to our surprise the tour ended in the middle of the Muslim Quarter and required 2 armed security man to escort our group to the Jewish Quarter (see pictures). I must say that we were all very scared especially as we heard loud music in Arabic, people walking through the group, busy shops. Suddenly the heads changed from Kefiot to Kipot and we were back in the Kotel plaza.
After that we drove to Meah Shearim (Ultra orthodox neighborhood) to experience the Sukkot atmosphere, more on that on upcoming postings.
Enjoy the photos.
Chag sameach to all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My first email.
Do you remember the first time you sat in front of a keyboard (typewriter for most of us) and started to type? I had that feeling yesterday.
For the first time I sat in front of a keyboard in Hebrew and typed my first ever email in Hebrew. Can you imagine that? Our ancient language, the language of our holy Torah, on an email? Isn’t that amazing? I wrote about two full sentences but it took me about 15 minutes or so. I still haven’t figured out where and why the letters are positioned that way. Also I must thank Mr. Gates for adding a spell check to his software, it came in very handy. I have decided for now to write in English.

Some other complications Hebrew brings to the computer is the fact that you can go back and forward from writing right to left and then left to right, however numbers are always left to right. The calendar on Outlook goes from right to left, so you need to scroll to the left to go to the next day (not to the right), a couple of times I have scheduled a meeting for yesterday instead of for tomorrow.
I have done 3 days at work and now I’m on vacation until Wednesday due to the holidays + pre-holidays + bridge + Friday. They have been interesting days, all charged with lots of Hebrew. I’ve got a lot to learn about the Israeli market as well as the company and everyone at Diplomat has been very helpful and understanding. It’s very interesting the differences found in marketing for a country with 300 million people vs. 7 million, between 3,500,000 square miles and 10,200 square miles or 8,400 square miles without Gaza and the West Bank (slightly smaller than the state of N.J).

I’m looking forward to mastering the language and fully understanding the business and processes.

Regarding the cultural differences, I’m still trying to figure it out.

It is a funny feeling to be able to eat freely at the company’s cafeteria and ask for the meat Kreplach. Only in Israel.

It’s amazing also how the entire business and decisions are affected by the Jewish Holidays. Religious or secular we are all affected. This new product launch would not work in April because of Pesach (Passover), we could do a costumes’ promotion for Purim, this will have to wait until after Sukkot, how about a special sale for Chanukah? Only in Israel.

Back to the Oscars
A sequel for “Driving Miss Daisy” came out but did not do much. We have finally received our drivers license after all that we went through, waited and paid (see blog “And the award goes to”). Not much happened after we went to the post office to pay for it.

A great sequel is still underway from “The Hunt for Red October”. Our shipment finally arrived in Israel last week, but it took another week to be unloaded and go through customs. But wait, we didn’t know that it passed customs until yesterday that the shipping company said that they cannot release it until they get a document we previously gave them at a meeting in a park that they lost. Very professional. Did I mentioned they also charged us slightly more because the shipment is coming from the Haifa port vs. Ashdod because of the unloading in Turkey driven by the strikes in the Israeli ports? Well, to top that, now that they have everything they have it will have to wait until after Tuesday because of the holidays. I will not name our shipping company (we are so close to Yom Kippur and it would not look good on my records J) but I’m not too happy with them, however if there is anyone out there looking to ship their things give me a buzz since we should not “Place a stumbling block before the blind person”.
The only thing we were hoping to get at this point was our Sukkah (Hut) before Sukkot, but it doesn’t seem feasible now. However by posting an email to a Modiin e-list I was able to get a Sukkah from someone we are yet to meet who will not be in town to use it. What a great Mitzvah (good deed/commandment) is for someone to let a complete stranger perform another Mitzvah (building and using a Sukkah). Only in Israel???

Gmar Chatima Tovah to all. Easy fast.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Very active first week of the year

Gooooood morning Jerusalem!
It was a great experience being able to go with Batya and her Gan (Kindergarten) to this special trip to Jerusalem last Friday.
We met at 4:10am by her Gan, 2 buses took us to Jerusalem. We passed through Meah Shearim (ultra orthodox neighborhood) were we saw people walking towards the Kotel (Western Wall) for Slichot (special season prayers). We got to the Kotel and it was packed. The children prayed on the plaza under a Talit beautifully as you could hear people praying in the background and shofars blowing, it was an unbelievable scene. After that all the parents got in and prayed Slichot and the morning prayers. As always visiting the Kotel especially during this important days of the year was very emotional and spiritually significant. After the prayers we gathered in the plaza again and the children sang.
We then walked through the Jewish Quarter and listened to the guide’s explanations, remember this is still before 8am. Walking through Jerusalem’s old city gives a special feeling of walking through history.
We then went to Gan Hapaamon to have breakfast and saw the replica of the Liberty Bell which was a gift from the US to Israel. From there we went to Mishkenot Sheananim where Montefiori’s wind mill stands and the children sang the songs they learned about him. I was so proud to see Batya singing with all the children songs in Hebrew I never heard before.
We closed the Tiyul (trip) at the Gan Hamifletzet (Monster park) which was by far the highlight of the trip for the children. We returned home at noon very tired but with a priceless experience.
It’s something amazing that we were able to do something like that. Just in Israel.
Below are some pictures and videos of the trip.

Welcome Home Bnei Akiva
It took a couple of months until we were able to make our home a Bnei Akiva hub once again. This Shabbat we hosted 9 Mexican kids that are spending one year in Israel just like Liora and I did after finishing high school. They had Shabbat Dinner and Lunch here with us. They had a great time and we enjoyed hosting them knowing how good it felt back then when someone gave us a decent meal. It brought great memories. We have now been officially named their adoptive family.

Back to Work
Today was my first day at work since beginning of July when I left Heinz. Later on I will describe more in depth but it was a tough day. I’m working as a Marketing Manager at Diplomat’s food division (www.diplomat.co.il). They distribute consumer products from around the world in Israel including Heinz, Procter & Gamble, Quaker, other. They were very nice to me but I know it’s going to be rough. Today everything was in Hebrew and I forced myself to keep it that way. I have a lot to learn and many people to meet but I’m looking forward to the challenge. Hey, it’s not the first time I’ve done something like this before, it will just take some adjustments. I'm thakful for the job I have.

Who moved the Clocks back?
I love this place.
Today (Sunday) at 2am we moved the clock back 1 hour. So now we are 6 hours ahead of Pittsburgh/NY, 7 hours ahead of Mexico and 9 hours ahead of San Diego (let me know if I have any other zone Blog readers to calculate the time difference for you J ).
Why now?
The clocks are moved back the first Sunday before Yom Kipur so that the fast can be finished “an hour earlier”. Isn’t it amazing? I love seeing the interaction of Torah law and tradition with how the modern state of Israel deals with regular government and national matters taking into consideration that we are a country like no other. Only in Israel.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fisrt Rosh Hashana in Israel

Recounts of a very good year
Our first Rosh Hashana in Israel was very nice. First, as I wrote previously you could feel the holiday environment weeks before everywhere (even at McCartney’s concert). As the holiday got closer you could start seeing people buying at the supermarket fish, pomegranates, honey and other traditional products as if they were products under extinction threat. The neighborhood smelled like a blend of deliciously homemade dishes (far from the Gefilte Fish smell on Mexicali 20).
The day finally came. Our first Rosh Hashana after moving in Israel… how do I start recounting for last year and begin to think of the new year, so many huge things happen to us physically, professionally, emotionally and spiritually. Endless prayers I had to make to thank for last year’s help, thank G’d for helping us see clearly and guiding us to get to Israel. Everything went and is going almost perfectly and there has been no doubt in my mind since the start that it’s all His work, showing us that we are in the right track for the purpose he has in our lives.

Praying with the Pros.
Going to the Bet Hakneset (synagogue) here was a nice experience starting with the fact that it’s less than 5 minutes away. It reminded me of a sermon that Rabbi Wasserman gave regarding being like a pro. When you go out bowling you can clearly distinguish between those that are there to just have a good time and those that are real bowlers. The pros bring their own bowling ball and shoes and the rest of us just use the ones they give us there. Well, at our Bet Hakneset it was all Pros., very few Machzorim (prayer books) were available for people, everyone had their own (I had a similar experience in Raanana Israel back in 1989 where I shared a Machzor with a Mexican man who ended up being my father in law 11 years after), it was definitely not a spectator’s sport, we were all playing in it, all singing and praying with great intention. I was praying with the Pros. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipur were the few days I wore a suit & tie during the year, not anymore, the fashion here is white shirt, no tie, I love it… but need more white shirts :)

Time with family
This time of year always brings great memories. The family meals with the dishes I loved (Galupchikes) and the ones I never dared to even try (Pasha/Fis). Walking to shul early with my father and brother and praying together. Having everyone at the meal was something very special and something I miss tremendously since we moved from Mexico. It has been a blessing to be able to share those meals with friends while away from Mexico. We had 4 very nice meals with friends, 1 at our home where we also had guests and 3 out, it filled out part of the gap of being away from home, we feel the love in those that surround us. Thanks to our hosts and visits. It was nice to host Jill for these couple of days and I hope you felt at home and with family as much as we felt it by having you visit us.

Year’s First week forecast
Many interesting things in the not too distant horizon. I’m going with Batya and her school tomorrow to Jerusalem at 4 am (Yes 4 AM, don’t ask, I’ll write about it soon), also coming up is a huge Bnei Akiva Shabbat at our house with the Mexican Hachshara (coming soon to your favorite Blog) and on Sunday I’m starting to work and I hope I can continue to write as often as I have in the past.

Below are some recent pictures. Enjoy!

Shabbat Shalom to all and G’mar Chatima Tova.
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