Thursday, February 22, 2018

Musical chairs at the red light

Here in Israel (can't speak for how it is elsewhere), in pretty much any given city, at almost any given time, one might be stopped at a red light when suddenly a van pulls up alongside. It's covered in colorful stickers, has large speakers blasting upbeat music strapped or bolted to the roof, and suddenly, the side door will slide open, a couple guys with peyot (the longer sidelocks of hair many Orthodox Jewish men have)swinging past their shoulders and large kippot (yarulka) covering their heads will jump out and run around the van and dance to the music.

My husband likes to joke that when the light turns green and the guys are scrambling back into the car, it's a tossup as to whether or not the same guy who drove the van up to the intersection is the same guy driving away.

It's fun, it's weird, it's pretty uplifting at times.

The guys are Breslov Hassidim, often called Na-Nach-Nachmans - or as I like to call them sha-na-nachmans or hey-nonny-nachmans - turning their Rebbe's name, Nachman, into some form of Kabbalistic formula.

So what weirdness have you seen while waiting at a local red light?

Clean up on aisle six aka the aftermath

Nati and I passed the spot where the bomb squad did their thing the other day. While they did a good job in cleaning things up, there was still a small pile of multicolored "confetti" made of plastic and paper swept into a corner. I was able to snap a couple photos before the local street sweepers came around and did a better job.

As I said in my previous post, white board supplies and school books.

This time.

Thank God.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

See something, say something

Reporting suspicious or abandoned packages or bags is nothing new in Israel. And it didn't come about since 9/11. We've been doing this for YEARS (although I suppose post-9/11 is years now too...). And with many things, Israelis have this weird relationship with the see something, say something philosophy.

On the one hand, it has saved countless lives. Bombs in backpacks are a very real thing in this country. On the other hand, would a random daycare center in most any city in Israel be a target of terrorists?

I have reported several suspicious bags in my 20+ years of living in Israel. What's involved is calling the police, reporting your location, explaining what you're seeing, any relevant details about location (such as you're at a bus stop, near a day care or school, etc.), and answering any questions the dispatcher may have (among the questions I was asked was if the backpack was open, could I see any wires, did it look empty).

You also might be asked to stay until the police (and bomb squad) arrive, to make sure people don't walk near it, touch it, or knock it around.

So I did. I also stayed because the backpack wasn't visible from the street - there was a truck blocking it from the street - and since it was a girl's backpack, there was also a possibility that someone would come along to claim it - as it happened the last time I reported an abandoned bag.

Unfortunately it took the police and bomb squad 30 minutes to arrive, all the while parents were pulling up to the day care centers to collect their kids, and despite living literally across the street from a fairly large police station. I honestly have to say, the wait really made me feel like a "fryer", the Hebrew term used to describe a sucker or a rube.

But they finally did arrive, they cleared the area, made everyone evacuate to a safe distance, did some X-ray stuff, chased back people who didn't realize what was going on, and eventually did a controlled explosion.

I hung around until that part, and then went upstairs to my apartment. Twenty minutes with the police on scene was long enough for me, I didn't feel like hanging around further to watch the cleanup. Probably papers scattered everywhere. Pieces of crayon and white board markers...

Stock photo of a member of the Israeli police bomb squad

So, have you ever seen something, and then said something?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Cinnamon chocolate chip cake

I've had this recipe from my mom for many years. It's slowly becoming part of my Shabbat cake rotation... especially when I ask the boys what I should make for Shabbat, and one of them requests it.

I usually double the recipe and bake it in a tube pan. When I try to make a double recipe in a rectangular pan, it tends to be underdone in the center.

Now on to the recipe (ingredients have NOT been doubled here)...

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (I used soy milk)
3/4 cup margarine
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 - 3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons melted margarine

Mix together the batter ingredients.
In a separate bowl, mix topping ingredients.
Pour 1/2 of the batter into a greased 8x8 pan. Top with 3/4 of the chocolate chip crumble. Cover with the rest of the batter and finally, the rest of the chocolate chip crumble.
Bake 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.

So what favorite recipe from mom or grandma is a regular in your own repertoire?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Holiday disillusionment

At the end of the month will be the Jewish holiday of Purim. To learn what the holiday is about, feel free to read about it here.

For the past 6 years or so, our tradition with regard to giving mishloach manot was to give mostly to people we don't know, and especially to people who might not get any from others (usually because they're secular and don't necessarily observe this part of the holiday). When we lived in Ariel, I had the feeling that when we gave to people, it was truly appreciated. Just the reaction we got when the door opened to our knock, the residents seeing us in our costumes, their momentary confusion turning to happiness when presented with the package of food; it really seemed genuine.

Last year was our first Purim in Be'er Sheva, and our first year living in an apartment building. I knew the demographics of the building was mostly secular, with a decent number of religious Jews, and even a few Muslim families.

Now, usually the amount of mishloach manot we give out is simply dependent on "we make as many packages as we can until we run out of something, and then we stop". One year it might mean "I've made 3 dozen small cakes/challot" or "I bought a sleeve of 25 medium containers, now there's no more vegetable soup, so we stop".

Last year's mishloach manot were oversized cups of popcorn, an assortment of cookies I baked, and a drink pouch. I had baked three different types of cookies, giving me about nine dozen cookies of each type, and I had bought two boxes of drinks, giving me 36 drinks. So it was either going to be "until I ran out of popcorn, or 36 packages were made".

Our first stops of course were the people on our own floor. There are six apartments on each floor. Once those were delivered, we packed up the shopping cart, got into the elevator, and went floor by floor, ringing doorbells and knocking on doors. Many people weren't home. And of those who were home... most looked at us like we were crazy. At some point, I really started getting tired of the "WTF?" looks I was getting when the door would open. And the truth is, some of the religious tenants kind of gave us looks of "why are you giving to us?"

So I'm really discouraged about this coming Purim. To help with it, I've come up with a new plan. I'm making eight mishloach manot. That's it. It will be containers of three different types of salads, and a medium-sized home made garlic pull apart bread. And we'll actually make a list of who we want to give it to, who will make me feel like my effort is appreciated.

I mean, I try really hard to teach my kids that mishloach manot is about the giving, and not the receiving, that it's important to think about people who might otherwise be forgotten, and that it's not about seeking effusive praise and gratitude. But quite frankly, it shouldn't also leave one feeling completely unappreciated.