KG: It’s Ellin’s Second Birthday

Yup! Can you believe it? Ellin (and consequently Zoe since they share a birthday) has just had a birthday here in Israel. And it’s the second one she’s had. I asked her how she felt about this. Of course, the conversation was a bit difficult since she doesn’t speak Poodle-ese too well, but I think she really tried. Our conversation went something like this:


KG: Woofwoofwoofwoof!!!!! [sniff sniff!!]

Ellin: Why thank you, Rocco. You are such a gentleman to remember my birthday!

KG: Grumph brrrrrrrreakwooof?

Ellin: No thank you sweetie. You eat the kibble. It’s yours. But thank you all the same. I’ll just have my usual cornflakes.

KG: Arrrrrrrfffffff? [pant, pant].

Ellin: Sure! There’s nothing I’d like better than to take you for a walk this morning. That would be a great way to spend the day with you.

KG:  Zrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr?

Ellin: No sweetie. She’s sleeping now. She won’t be coming with us. Maybe later, OK?

KG:  ooooooooohrph. Hrphhhhhhhhhhh.

Ellin: I know. She’ll come with us later, OK?

KG: Brrrrrrrrr brrrrrr?

Ellin: Yup. I can’t believe it either. It’s my second birthday here in Israel. Frankly, this second one seems weirder than the first.

KG: Huh?

Ellin: Well, the first one was not that long after I made Aliyah. Everything was new. Wonderful. Scary. Pristine. Like in a dream. But I’ve been here for over a year already. And it seems as if I’ve been here for much longer. I’ve already done everything once, you understand?

KG: Arf! Bowwwowowowow?

Ellin: No. Of course not. I know you’re not stupid. You’re the most brilliant black standard poodle in all of Afula! How could you even think such a thing?

KG: Rorry.

Ellin: No apologies necessary, sweetheart.

KG: Boof boof?

Ellin: Cake? Yes. I think we’ll have some at Bat El’s house tonight. It’s her son Eli’s birthday as well.

KG: Yayayayayayaya!!!!

Ellin: No, Rocco. No cake for you. You know what it does to your stomach. I tell you what. How about a kong filled with peanut butter? You love that, OK?

KG: Uh huh uh huh. Owww! Yip yip yip yip!!!!!!!!

Ellin: OK. Time to take you out for your walk. You can uncross all your paws! Let’s go!!!


. . . .and that was how Ellin and I spent her second birthday. Bet you’re jealous, huh???


KG Signing off.

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Just the Facts, ‘Mam. . . Just the Facts.

I’ll tell you right from the start that there will be no pictures in this blog entry since you can’t take pictures on Yom Kippur. You also can’t drive your car home late at night after spending Yom Kippur eve with friends. It’s “forbidden.”

I am the first person in line when it comes to following the rules. I’m usually such a Goodie-Two-Shoes that it’s disgusting.  I cannot abide by or tell a lie and have the worst poker face on earth. It’s just not in me. That saying, I need to explain that last year, my first Yom Kippur in Israel, I did not use my car. I didn’t have a car then, come to think of it, but I probably wouldn’t have used it. I was aware that the streets are almost devoid of any traffic, save for an occasional car driving around the periphery. It was explained to me that it was just a custom not to drive. A custom. And so when friends at a nearby moshav, who had been born and raised right here in this area, asked me to come for dinner, I didn’t think anything of it. That was until I tried to drive back home at 10:30 pm.

The scene went something like this:

Roadblock on Rt. 65 (that’s the outer road that leads up to Nazareth). Earlier there was police activity at that spot, but I though it was for an accident or something like that.

I quietly got in my car, being careful not to make noise closing the door, willing the engine to start as quietly as possible. I exited the moshav and headed down Rt. 65 toward another outer road that skirts all neighborhoods and would put me exactly in front of my apartment.

I approached the traffic light. A policeman waved me to a stop. He walked over, followed by an armed soldier, who carried his rifle in his arms. I slowly rolled down my window and the sun-tinted, darker, rear passenger window so that they could immediately see it was just Rocco and me in the car.

“Where are you going?” asked the policeman, speaking Hebrew in a heavily accented Arabic accent.

“I’m going home.”

“Where do you live?”

“47 Gilboa. Gilboa and Begin”

“It’s Yom Kippur.”

“Yes. I know. I’m just going home.”

“Don’t you know it’s Yom Kippur?”

“Yes, I know. I am only a few kilometers away.”

“It’s Yom Kippur!”

“I’m not Dati (religious), but I know it’s Yom Kippur.”

Assur!” (not allowed).

“OK. I’m sorry. Can I just drive home now?”

“No. You must turn back. Turn around.”

I looked back at the road, relatively empty except for a few more cars waiting behind me.

“Where should I go?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugs. “Just back.”

Then I get the gesture of the thumb and two fingers which, in Italian means, “what the hell do you want me to do about it” but in Hebrew sign language means, “wait a second.”

The cop goes over to the other cars behind me. A family of Arabs get out of their cars, speaking in a quite agitated manner to the police (not the usual loud conversational tone, but a few levels above it. Obviously something is up). I’m not worried, just aware that something has happened to these people.

The policeman comes back to my car telling me that I must turn around and go back, away from Afula. The religious are throwing rocks at any car that passes and they obviously have just attacked the car behind me.  It’s not safe. I must go back.

I’m speechless. I can’t even gather the emotions or words to help me sort through this. What’s going on in my head: Anger that I can’t drive home. Anger that I didn’t realize there would be a problem (my Israeli friends knew I’d be driving and they’ve lived right here for 50+ years . . . so any hesitation I had about driving was squelched when I received their offer. Surely they would have said something). I’m embarrassed that an Arab policeman had to tell me it was Yom Kippur. I’m embarrassed that Jews in my little Afula area were throwing rocks at the Arab families behind me, and would have probably felt even more entitled to do so had they found me in my car. I don’t understand why they can potentially harm someone but I can’t try to mind my own business and go out of my way to go home quietly. I’m also totally confused because I had been told that Yom Kippur was the biggest day for people to be out on their bicycle. Erev Yom Kippur. More bike sales that any other day in the year. It’s fine to schvitz and work out on the hills as you bike around, but you’re not allowed to quietly get in your car late at night and purposely take the outer circle to get home quietly because it’s Yom Kippur.

A quick call to my friends ensued: “Hi. It’s me. Sorry to bother you, but can I come and sleep on your couch? The policeman won’t let me get back to Afula.” Two minutes later, I’m back in their house after having had to place a call again to get them to electronically open the gate.

“Well, no problem!” they say. This is Israel. Grab a pillow and we’ll see you in the morning. Maybe then the road blocks will be gone.

What can I say? Something that evening told me to bring Rocco with me rather than leave him at home (what would have happened to him if I couldn’t get back to let him out to go pee?). I also thought to bring some solution for my contact. Never know when the dust will get in your eye and you’ll be in trouble without it.

The outcome: 5:45 I headed back out, prepared to take a really long, circuitous route to my house. But the police were gone, as were the roadblocks. I was home in 3 minutes, passing a total of 4 other cards (I counted).

This will take me a few days to process. It’s my first taste of having the government enforce religious customs. And that was very odd. The inconsistency of what was allowed and accepted strikes me as having just as much hypocrisy as does its parallel by Jews observing the holiday in the U.S.

I can also say that this was the first time that being approached by a policeman and an armed soldier made me uneasy, especially as I understand that they were protecting me. From other Jews.

I suppose that was the turn of the screw.

Shana Tova,


KG: I’ve Been Thinking. . .

You know, it’s not just you people who do some heavy thinking in the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Any creature with the capability of thought and reasoning tends to put these days to good use. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here . . . No. I haven’t learned how to read the calendar or Hebrew. I’m still working on Canine. But I AM an extremely empathic creature, and I can sense a different feeling in the air here in Israel. First, the weather is beginning to change. It’s still hot, but not as bad. And Ellin doesn’t need to put the fan on during the evening. The trees have started to get greener, and people seem to be much calmer. Frankly, I think it’s more due to the difference in the weather than in the approach of the holidays, but who cares? Even the DOGS are nicer to me. Unbelievable.

So what have I been thinking about? First, I’m thinking about Zoe. She was here for a month and now she’s gone. Ellin tells me she’s still here in Israel . . . she’s moved to a kibbutz where she and a bunch of other kids learn Hebrew. And supposedly she’s working with COWS! Can you believe it? She’s not just shoveling cowpoo, but she’s kind of herding them toward the milking station. Zoe told me that the cows don’t really like people, so if you want them to go right, you walk on their left side. I find it strange, because I never heard of an anti-social cow! If you think I’m not the brightest bulb in the store, have you ever tried to have a conversation with a cow?  That’s really a challenge. Unless you have a bale of hay in your paws, they don’t want anything to do with you!!! Go figure.

Anyway, Zoe is supposedly with a bunch of other kids about her age, and they come from all over the world. I think she said something about Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Austria, Germany, Australia, Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, Canada and some very strange place called WestportConnecticut! Unreal! I am hoping that she’ll be a little happier than she was before, especially as she’s hanging out in her own cowshed with a bunch of kids that all have their own stories.

I was also thinking how strange it is that a year has passed already. And now it’s Zoe’s turn to have her “firsts.” although I’m not sure she’s thinking of it in those terms. But I think Ellin realizes it . . . and it seems a little odd to her, too. I know she wishes Zoe was enjoying herself more. Maybe she will at some point.  Who knows? Maybe she is already, but she’d be darned if she’d let Ellin know. I think it’s a kid thing, you know? Woof! As much as I love having family around me, I don’t mind not having a teenage poodle turning my curls grey.

Did I tell you how much I love to sleep with my walrus? He came all the way from America to be with me. We cuddle every night!

Did I tell you how much I love to sleep with my walrus? He came all the way from America to be with me. We cuddle every night!

And what else do I think of? I think about how lucky I am to be here with Ellin and our friends. Since we moved to Israel, Ellin and I are hardly ever apart. I come to work with her, walk with her, eat next to her, and even snuggle with her at night. We are together way more now that we ever were when we were back in Connecticut. And I can tell that Ellin is happier with spending so much more time with me, since I can feel it in the way she gives me chucks under my chin and good strong pats on my side. I love being loved! And she loves having someone to give her love to on a daily basis.

So Ellin and I are both grateful for our lives here. We know that everything isn’t always easy, but somehow we hit our lucky strike, and doing it together is a good thing. We have a simpler life here, we get to be with the incredible children at the Center each day, we work with people who have incredible hearts and who have opened their arms and lives to include us and make us feel at home. I have a feeling that Ellin acknowledges this, quietly, every day. It’s just the way she wakes up with a smile on her face before she gets out of bed. She wakes up, looks for me, and then ruffles the curls on my head. She never used to do that back in Connecticut.

I know that Ellin would join me in this thinking process—thinking about our good fortune, our good health, our good friends and family. She would join me in telling you that you don’t have to be a canine to realize that the stuff you can’t buy are the most important. There are many way to count your wealth, and it doesn’t have anything to do with how many biscuits you have in the doggie jar. It’s just a different type of currency, once that you can take and interchange with you, no matter what country you are living in. To find it, all you have to do is look in the right place. Frankly, you don’t have to be as smart as I am to figure it out.

KG signing out (with love).


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