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.

Rocco signature

 

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,

Ellin

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).

 

Rocco signature

 

Things to Know /Things to (Hopefully) Not Need

1.  Zoe started Ulpan. She’s now at Kibbutz Mishmar ha Emek. It’s a rough transition. I give her credit.

2. All kids are back at the Emunah Center after the summer. I missed them. You can’t believe how much some of them have grown.

3. Burgerim (the hamburger chain) has veggie burgers. But they were all sold out.

4. Never watch an apocalyptic movie before going to bed where there is news coming from Syria that is not so great.

5. Things to keep in your safe room (aka bomb shelter) when you have a feeling that something’s up . . . .

 

Gas mask (in carton), bottled water, tool kit. World band radio that I have no frigging clue how to use. Crossing fingers that I can find an FM station that broadcasts in English. Flash light. Tool kit (hopefully with some duck tape in it). Print out of some basic instructions from Home Command to use in Case of Emergency.

Gas mask (in carton), bottled water, tool kit. World band radio that I have no frigging clue how to use. Crossing fingers that I can find an FM station that broadcasts in English. Flashlight. Tool kit (hopefully with some duck tape in it). Print out of some basic instructions from Home Command to use in Case of Emergency.

6. Stickie note to put on your safe room door for last minute things to grab if a siren should go off. Three guesses what the bucket is for.

Last minute things that I can grab should I feel the need. Three guesses what the bucket is for.

Last minute things that I can grab should I feel the need. Three guesses what the bucket is for.

KG: Aren’t I Splendid? / Ellin is a Banana

Oh my stars and garters! It is so incredibly hot here in Afula. Ellin finally passed out from the heat, so I was able to sneak in and send you this long over-due missive! I won’t write too much because I don’t want to ruin my new manicure. Don’t you just HATE when that happens?????

First, I’m not one to brag, but I AM a poodle, so . . . .aren’t I just splendid? I just came back from the spa where my locks were shorn to an appropriately and fetching summer length. MayaTheDogGroomer was so pleased with herself that she took countless photos of me to put on her website. I have no doubt that she is the envy of all her friends. But I’ll let you decide for yourself. What do you think (note the breeze from the fields outside wafting through my tresses. . . . )

Fresh from the spa, the soft breeze from the Almond grove, messing with my hair.  Am I not dashing????

Fresh from the spa, the soft breeze from the almond grove messing with my hair. Am I not dashing????

Thought you'd like to see me in the "noir" version. I am a FRENCH poodle, remember?

Thought you’d like to see me in the “noir” version. I am a FRENCH poodle, remember?

I suppose you’re all dying to hear about what’s the latest concerning my BigSisterZoe. Well, she arrived almost a month ago, and aside from spending time hugging me (I know . . . I am irresistible), she has been slowly adapting to her life as an Israel. But she is doing it Zoe Style, which means that she enters into her version of a chrysalis and then prepares herself as she completes her metamorphosis into a parpar (that’s Hebrew for butterfly). This means sleeping all day, and staying up all night to watch reruns of Breaking Bad and the Oceans Eleven Trilogy. Something tells me that there is a lot of struggle going on inside of her cocoon, but we’re hoping that when she does emerge, which is due to be on August 25th when she moves to Kibbutz Mishmar ha Emek for her Ulpan, that she will be all smiles. For now, Ellin says that Zoe is just storing them all up for the big reveal. I hope so. It’s been rather hard on me to see her seemingly so isolated. Maybe it’s her version of “getting into character” like all those big Hollywood actors do. Zoe did tell me that she visited MHE (I just can’t bear to keep typing that name so I’ll use MHE for short),  that she loved it. It’s a pretty big and wealthy kibbutz. I have no idea what that means, but I’ve heard her and Ellin say it a few times, so I suppose it’s a good thing. She visited her new dorm and was thrilled. She’s even asked if she could work in the refet (the cowshed). So glad I don’t have to sleep next to her each night! She has to attend classes for 8 hours a day every other day. The off days, she has to work (it is a kibbutz, ya know).  According to Ellin, she said, and I hearsay quote, “I am REALLY excited about coming here!” So we’ll see. She’s begun to stockpile some things she thinks she needs for her new dorm—the same kind of “stuff” that she’d bring to a dorm if she were going to college. And I’ve heard her worry aloud that she hopes she has a nice roommate. As long as it’s not another poodle, I’m down with that. All in all, I think this has been, from this KG’s point of view, a rather difficult transition for her. It’s not going quite as smoothly as we’d hoped (I hate to see her sad), but it will just have to take time. Where are all those gorgeous Israeli guys when I need them????? I’d like to fling them from my newly manicured paws and pads to her feet. Maybe then she’ll start to get excited about this new chapter in her life.

And what do I mean about Ellin becoming a banana? I’m not doggie dissing her. It’s not that she’s going crazy. She’s already arrived there (heh heh heh). I’m telling you the truth. While Zoe gets into a cocoon each day as she prepares to emerge as  the new OlahHadasha ZoeSaraYassky, Ellin crawls into her South American hammock each evening to escape the heat  (it’s that time of the year and her wonderful, big bed is just a distant memory in my canine dreams) and pulls a thin blanket over the top, completely obscuring everything. She looks like she is the banana trying to squeeze back inside the peel! Is she hoping to emerge tall, thin, and blonde each morning (just like a banana?) or is she just trying to get some uninterrupted shut eye without having to take a 3:00 am shower to cool down. Sure beats the heck out of me. All I know is that the swaying of the hammock above my outside sleeping-in-the-ruff-camping bed makes me seasick, and so I’ve taken to sleeping ON THE HARD TILE!!! In the corner. I’m hoping that she’ll get the message and just tug my bed out from under her hammock. And beside, if she falls out, she’ll plop right on me!

And you know what that would do to my new ‘do?

KG signing out.

Till next time,

Rocco signature

 

More Than a Year and a Lifetime Ago . . .

Yes. I’m a month late in writing this. So shoot me.

July 3rd was my 1 year anniversary of being an Israeli. I celebrated it quietly and singularly in Fairfield, CT. I was back in the States for a few weeks visiting my family and friends, and doing a bit of work as well (that included a trip to Cleveland, of which I will talk about in a bit).

I stayed the first week or so at my neighbor’s house, directly across from my old house on Woodbine Lane. I swear to you . . . it bothered me none. I had left that house long before the day I moved out. Actually, it was a rather freeing feeling. Not having something as big as a house filled with all the “stuff” that one accumulates was almost heady. Of course, a small portion of that “stuff”still remains at Fran’s basement in Weston, awaiting disbursement to the various kids who will need something for their apartments. Eventually, I’ll have to cull through all that stuff and simplify dramatically, but for this year it was good to know that I had a bit of leeway. Should you need something for one of your kid’s apartments, please let me know. I’ll bet I’ve got something down there.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share one most remarkable experience while back in the US. My friend, Laima, married the love of her life, Mukund Nori. It happened in a series of ceremonies that spanned a private wedding in one of the most exquisite back yards I’ve ever been in—pond, gentle jets of water arching into the air, rolling hills, cupola . . .  then a quick ride to a 2-hour Hindu wedding ceremony. The beauty of that ceremony will surely stay with me for years, with everything movement being a symbolic gesture. It was a pure delight and the 2 hours raced for me. If I remember anything about that day years from now, I hope it will be how their saris were tied together in a knot—put into that knot was money, then sweet and bitter spices representative of their future lives together. Tying the knot. Literally and beautifully.

Cleveland. Ohio. Have you been there? Are you Jewish? If you are and you’d like to know what it would be like to live in an American Israel, I recommend a visit there. It’s as if  the city is Jewish Disney Land. I never saw so many large, new, impressive buildings that all were there for the Jewish community. The Federation building is amazing. The schools. The synagogues, the Jewish shops. There’s no recession there. I will never make cracks about the Midwest again. Never.

 

But back to Afula. While I was gone to the US, I received so many phone calls and emails from friends wanting to make sure I was OK and would be coming back to Israel. Did they really think I would get to the US and decide that I didn’t want to return? I guess so.  Was I happy to return to Israel? Yes. I wish I could pack up my family and bring them with me. Doesn’t seem likely, but they’ll just have to come for visits. Being with my brother, my children, my family, my friends . . . it was wonderful. But I began to get antsy. I wanted to begin my return home—2 hours to drive to the airport (my dear, dear friend June drove me there), 3 hours at the airport, 11 hours on the flight, 1 1/2 more to get out and wait for a sherut to Jerusalem, 2 more to drive to Jerusalem where I could pick up my car, have a very strong cup of coffee, and begin the 1 1/2 hour drive back to Afula.  When I finally approached the city, I began to cry as the surrounding hills and then my apartment building came into view. I just wanted to get “home.”

I’m now back 3 weeks. In that time I’ve forgotten what it was like to be in the US. Rocco has forgiven me for leaving him. The children at the Centre are on a bit of a break, staying with supporting families and friends, returning on Sunday to begin the next part of our summer program. Many of them remarked on my absence and were happy to see me again.

My daughter Zoe has arrived on her aliyah a week ago. It’s been a difficult week for her as she mourns the ending of her life as an American teenager, and tries to wrap her mind around all the un-knowables to come. Saying you’re going to have an adventure and move to the Moon and then unpacking your 3 suitcases when you land at Tranquility Bay are two very different things. I wish her much success. And I wish myself much patience. It will be interesting to read this entry a year from now and see where we all are.

And so my readers, I will let Rocco write the next entry, as he is straining at his lead to do so (a dog’s version of “chomping at the bit,” in case you didn’t get it).

I’m off to go swimming at Merhavia, a life-saver for me. Hugh pool, shaded spots, some on Astroturf, some on real grass . . . take your pick, I guess. Tonight I’ll go for another walk through the almond groves across from my apartment and see if I can’t filch an almond or two as it lay on the nets upon the ground, drying in the intensely hot Israeli sun. I rank the experience of eating one of them with that of pulling a fig and pomegranate from the tree and eating it within minutes of its detachment. Frankly, it doesn’t get much better than that.

 

 

Yup. It’s a Year Already. . .

I’m sitting here at the home of my friend, Fran Bongarten,  in Weston, CT, where I am crashing during my first trip back to the US after having made Aliyah. July 3rd marks one full year since I arrived at the airport in Israel as an American and left as an Israeli citizen, complete with full medical coverage, shekels in my pocket, and registration for Ulpan, the country’s language immersion program. I had very few ideas of what would happen once I left the airport, but knew for sure that I could only walk ahead. Not backward. A year later Ireflect on a myriad of adventures (most of which you have already read about if you follow this blog), and consider how do describe what the passage of time feels like and how I see this  huge change in my life.

Let me reassure you all that I love my life in Israel. I’m happy to be here visiting my friends, hugging my children and brother and family members. I’m enjoying having this opportunity to do my first friend/fund-raising stint for Emunah and sharing what has become a burning passion to help and aid the quite remarkable children at the Emunah Children’s Center. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I miss everyone back at Emunah. And I miss Rocco, who is currently vacationing with Shelley, the vet’s assistant back in Afula. Lord only knows if he’ll even speak with me when I get back. Poodles get pissy, you know. But I have a strange inkling that he’ll be blogging his own version of his time away from his mom in the near future.

I am at a complete loss for words to explain or evaluate what this passage of time and change means to me. The question, “What’s it like being back?” has been asked innumerable times. The answer is, that I just don’t have an answer. I’m just here. I don’t feel like I’ve been away. Nor do I feel any nostalgia when I drive past my old house or through the neighborhoods. I am not aware of any passage of 365 long, adventure-filled days in Israel. They just “are.” And I just “am here.” I suppose that means that I’ve been able to let go of the difficult years and final days that led to the moment my brother picked me up here at Fran Bongarten’s house, exactly one year ago, to take me to the airport to begin my new life of many unknowns.  I’m only aware of how much I’ve done and learned since I left, and how alive I feel again. I had forgotten what having a purpose felt like. That feeling is what jumpstarts my heart each morning. I realize how much I love to smile and laugh and how easily it comes to me in Israel and around my friends friends and colleagues.

Many of you know that Zoe is coming to Israel to begin her own adventure and new life. She will be coming some time in the next few days, hopefully no longer than a week from now. But she is in charge of making that date. She is overwhelmed with ambivalence on an appropriately massive scale. For me, I walked, semi-zombie like to the airplane. I knew things could only get better (little did I know how quickly I would embrace my new life). Zoe is 18 and her experiences are, and should be, different. From an adult’s point of view, I don’t see why she should feel any anxiety. Her new life is tapping it’s foot, impatiently waiting for her to arrive and begin the new dance. But I’m not 18 anymore. Thank God.

As with Rocco, I’m sure there will be some Zoe-related posts once she gets over to Afula. In the meantime I continue to turn progressively more grey. For those of you cognoscenti, you’ll get my drift. For the others, you’ll just have make intelligent guesses and wait until the update comes.

The aroma of coffee is dragging me out of bed, where I lie, supine, typing on my MacBook. It’s time to grab my mug of coffee, sit on the deck with my dear friend, Fran, and see if we don’t spy some deer munching on the lush gardens that form her backyard. Let’s hope that the bear who was spotted taking a little stroll here the other day has decided to forage in forests further afield.

Yup. I’m good. 365 days and counting. It’s a good life. I’m grateful for it every day. And for all those that preceded it. Today I  celebrate my independence as well. Fireworks all around!

Happy 4th!!!

KG Reports: Holy Cow! It’s Coming up on a Year!

While I know my sense of timing is off a little, I am a creature of habit and I do believe that Ellin and I have gotten into a regular grove that’s been going on for about 12 months or so. So I think that’s about 1/7th of a year in people lives. Give or take a woof.

By now we’ve gotten ourselves into such a great drill every morning: Alarm goes off at 7:00am. Ellin resets it to 7:20 90% of the time. Why? No clue. She gets up to run into the shower and I get my butt off the bed and plop down  in front of the door, just in case she needs me to pass her the soap or scrub her back. Funny, but she never asks me to do either of those things. What on earth does she think I’m waiting there for? For Dogs Illustrated to come and take my cover photo? Jeesh! While she’s dressing and getting ready for work, I move on into her office just in case I need to answer one of the many fan letters I get when I write this blog. Of course, I strategically position myself in just the right place for her to trip over me, every day, as she’s running around getting ready. You’d think she’s notice me laying there!!  Anyway, after she’s dressed she goes into the kitchen and sits down to eat her breakfast. I then place myself on the couch with my head resting on my crossed paws so that I can gaze lovingly at Ellin while she eats her breakfast of yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola and make sure I don’t need to run and do the Heimlich. Not quite sure how I’d do it. Probably I’d have to wait until she stands up, get a running star,t and leap with all 4 paws aimed precisely at her lower back. This, in turn, would cause her to yelp in surprise while she bends of the table to keep herself from falling down. The table would then push her from the front while I’m pounding her from the back. No problem to dislodge the raisin or date or whateverthehell it is that made her choke. And they think I’m dumb!

Right. Where was I? Yup. Almost 1/7th of a year here.

So last week, we take another trip to see JillfromJerusalem. This time, we bring LaimafromLithuania  with us. Laima is a friend of mine from Fairfield (OK. She’s a friend of Ellin’s, as well), and she came to stay with us for a week while she was trying to waste some time before her wedding next week in America. Makes sense, right? Yup. Works for me, too. So, LaimafromLithuania comes to us after a trip to visit her MomfromLithuania. She and Ellin had lots of fun running around (with me as the guide, of course). Probably the best was going with JillandLaima to Jerusalem to see the light show! Oh! I must tell you. It was magic. Better than any dream where I fall into a vat of brand new, yellow squeaky balls that have been dipped in peanut butter. I know! Hard to believe, right? But this was great, too.

They had flying fish that changed color, a magic tree on Damascus Gate, watering cans held by invisible ghosts, a glowing geodesic dome that had light-sensitive flowers stuck on it placed deep with in a cave under the Old City, and a few other things as well. We walked all night in the crowds of people looking at how the Old City was transformed into a magic show. Man! I loved it. The only thing missing was a giant, neon dog biscuit and some red neon hydrants strategically placed along the narrow alleyways of the shuk. Maybe I’ll write a letter to the lightshowcommittee and suggest it. Here are some photos I surreptitiously took (I am such a NinjaPoodle!!!).

Zedekiah's massive cave/quarry, lit up with all different colors in the recesses.

Zedekiah’s massive cave/quarry, lit up with all different colors in the recesses.

"The Globe." Place you hand near the flowers and the light from inside finds your hand, and the petals of the photo-sensitive flowers close up.

“The Globe.” Place you hand near the flowers and the light from inside finds your hand, and the petals of the photo-sensitive flowers close up.

Each night a different tree was shows against the backdrop of Damascus Gate.

Each night a different tree was shows against the backdrop of Damascus Gate.

Flying Fish. These three behemoths flew effortlessly in the air, high above the walls of the Old City. They changed from red to blue to beige. If I were a cat, I would have been out of my mind.

Flying Fish. These three behemoths flew effortlessly in the air, high above the walls of the Old City. They changed from red to blue to beige. If I were a cat, I would have been out of my mind.

Ghostly watering cans. Each night, the ghosts come out to water the plants along the gates of the Old City.

Ghostly watering cans. Each night, the ghosts come out to water the plants along the gates of the Old City.

The word "or" (light) was shown in Hebrew, Arabic, and English against the walls here. They moved larger and smaller, resembling everything from a suit of mail for a knight to a naughty child's homework scribbled countless times on a blackboard.

The word “or” (light) was shown in Hebrew, Arabic, and English against the walls here. They moved larger and smaller, resembling everything from a suit of mail for a knight to a naughty child’s homework scribbled countless times on a blackboard.

 

Now things are back to normal. Ellin’s getting ready to go back to the US to see family. She thinks I don’t know, but whenever she starts doing loads and loads of laundry, I know something is up! I have a feeling I’m staying with Shelley, the assistant at the Vet’s office. Don’t tell Ellin but I don’t mind at all. The idea of being in another crate for 14 hours is not for me. I’m an old dog, man! My 11th birthday is coming up soon!!! And besides, Shelley is some looker!!!! I really have the hots for her, even if Alana Fodeman does think I’m gay!

Oh No! Here she comes! Damn! I never get much time to opine my canine inner feelings via this blog. I’ll just have to try to sneak another one in.

So for now, KG signing off!

 

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Circles. My Life is Full of Them.

I give in. Uncle! My life is full of circles, whether I like it or not.

Like this afternoon. I’m going to attend the wedding of Naomi Shaish on a horse ranch near the Mediterranean. Naomi and her brother, Nim, lived with us in Fairfield probably about 10 years ago. They were among the 10 or so different kids who lived in our house in Fairfield. My kids always joked that they never had a bathroom to themselves. They always shared with some kid who was staying in the guest room for varying lengths of times and for various reasons. Many of those kids were Israelis, looking for a place to live near the Trumbull Mall so that they could hawk nail care products and save up some money for the Israeli version of a “walk-about” between military service and university. Naomi and Nim came to stay with us soon after Max’s bar mitzvah. Naomi stayed about a month; Nim for eight. Today, Naomi is a young fashion designer in Tel Aviv and her wedding invitation is a beautiful small square of blue, floral-patterned fabric topped with a pasted piece of paper that provided all the pertinent information. AND it came with its own magnet on the back so you could easily put it up on your refrigerator. Nice. And so today, that circle brings me to her wedding, her parents, her siblings, and a wonderful way to usher in Shabbat. And none of this seems strange to me. Not even the part that I’m attending the wedding as an Israeli citizen. It just “is.”

Here’s another circle: you all remember Kladno, right? Many reading this, and who knew of my passion for that research probably remember that I repeatedly emphasized how things just “fell” into place. More likely, things were always in place—they just revealed themselves as I went along. And so today I received this photo of Alan and Denise Pransky from Massachusetts who came to visit Israel en route to Kladno and the Czech Hussite church and made a stop in Afula. From Massachusetts to Afula to Kladno. What’s so circular?  Their synagogue and Congregation Beth El in Fairfield each have a Torah rescued from the Holocaust that originally came from Kladno.

In the Kladno church,  formerly the synagogue of Kladno. The Torahs were once housed in an ark where the white cross now stands. Left to right: Kladno's new pastor, Denise Pranksy, Irena Veverková, Eva Bodlaková, Alan Pransky.

In the Kladno church, formerly the synagogue of Kladno. The Torahs were once housed in an ark where the white cross now stands. Left to right: Kladno’s new pastor, Denise Pransky, Irena Veverková, Eva Bodlaková, Alan Pransky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another circle will coincide with one more wedding on June 16th. Lina Golub, the Israeli emissary from Afula who lived with my family about 5 years ago, is also getting married. Her invitation? A drawing of a bride wearing a chef’s toque next to a groom with military epaulets on his shoulders (Lina’s a professional baker and Mayan is an officer in the Israeli army). During the time that Lina lived with us, she lost her mother to cancer. Since then, we have always maintained a rather special bond. Lina became a part of our family and so every time Max, Zoe, or I visited Israel, we made sure to see her. In 2 weeks I’ll attend her wedding. She delivered the wedding invitation personally. It was one of those beautiful, sweet moments that you always cherish. I told her that I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Circles? Jewish Geography? Six, no make that two or three, degrees of separation? I’ve no clue. And I’ve stopped being surprised by any of it. I just smile and nod at the surety that there are many more yet to come.

Shabbat shalom.

 

KG Movie Review: Most Magnificent Marigold Afula Hotel

I’m not sure if you know this, but I absolutely LOVE to watch TV. When Ellin goes out (and has the audacity to leave me alone in the apartment), she either leaves the radio or TV on so I won’t feel alone. I do appreciate the effort. Once she left me with “Dog TV” (they had a promotion) and I must tell you that it was so boring. Whose stupid idea was that, anyway? Do they really  think that watching a bunch of squirrels or cats racing around on a TV screen (even a flatscreen) can compare to the marvels of being out in nature where you can smell them, see them really scoot around, and not be interrupted with a commercial for some over-priced dog food? They must thing that all dogs are really stupid. Or maybe they think that their humans are stupid. That actually makes more sense to me.

Anyway, today Ellin decided to make the most of her Saturday (her only day off) and do a huge amount of cooking and cleaning. She is getting a little tired of coming home after work and making herself some scrambled eggs. So today she decided to clean out all the veggies in the fridge. The result was Ellin doing what she loves best—cooking without any rules, time constraints, or expectations. Just having fun and being creative in her new kitchen. Before she began to cook, she placed everything on the counters, grated about 6 big carrots, cleaned and try a huge bunch of Italian parsley, cut up whatever wasn’t wilted to go into salads, and put the rest aside to make a vegetable stew. Who she thought was coming over to eat all this, I don’t know. Sure as heck isn’t for me. She has me so tightly regimented to my “sensitive stomach” kibble that I can only drool over the smells that came wafting in from the kitchen. Anyway, the end result was a barley salad with mid-eastern spices, carrot salad, cucumber salad, mashed cauliflower (instead of mashed potatoes) and some big bunch of stewed veggies that she’ll probably eat for the rest of the week.

The point of this entire tale is that while Ellin was busy playing a vegetarian Julia Child, I was sitting on the couch watching this incredible movie—The Most Magnificent Marigold Afula Hotel. I sure wish that Ellin would have stopped cooking long enough to watch this. She probably could have related to some of what the story was about. Basically, it’s a bunch of these old guys who decide that their world needed a little shaking up, so they sell everything, get on a plane, and move to a country where they don’t even speak the language or really understand the culture. It’s hot, the food is spicy, the buildings are old, things don’t always work, and there is so much noise coming from the crowds of people all the time. Yup! They actually made a movie about people with grey hair moving to Afula! Can you believe it???  I did find some things a little confusing, though. Like, what is ProfessorMcgonagall doing in Afula, and why is she sitting in a wheelchair? Can’t she just use her wand? She must really be getting old and forgetful. And I could have sworn that James Bond’s mother was in the movie as well. But you know, it’s often hard to tell one human apart from another. (They really do all look alike!).

Anyway, I was thinking about the movie. There was this great line in it, something like “everything will be OK in the end and if it’s not OK, it’s not the end.” I’m going to have to figure out how to tell  Ellin about this. Sometime she still gets so worried about her kids back in America or what her future will be like in Israel. She’s really happy here, but I know that sometimes she thinks too much!!!!!  The other day I heard her tell someone back in America that she does worry about making ends meet, although it’s not like it was back where everyone speaks English on the streets and all the dogs are more well-behaved, less agressive and fixed and neutered. I hear her talking to herself and she does know that being here is the best thing that has happened to her. She’s got a fabulous job. She loves her boss, the staff she works with, and she adores the kids at the Center. Sometimes I get a little jealous about how much she cares for them, but then, I’m the one she goes back home with every night, so I feel OK about that. But I know she worries about our kids (Max and Zoe, that is), and about something she calls moolah. Must be some word in Hebrew that I’ve never heard before. But it’s something that I don’t have and I seem to be making it OK. I wish she’d just lighten up sometime! But still,  there are  so many loose ends to tie up, and she just gets really frustrated when she can’t make things happen on her timetable. That’s when that dreaded spiky brush comes out of the drawer. She usually sighs, tells me that my hair is all tangled, that I’ve got too many brambles in it from the local fields, and that she has to brush me! When she gets really nervous, she brushes me about 20,000 times a day. I look like some freaking French Poodle ready for the Westminster Dog Show! Is she kidding? Sometimes I luck out and she just cooks, or cleans. Usually both. When she does get extremely preoccupied, she cleans, cooks, and brushes my hair. Today she did all that, replanted something out on the porch in her “garden” and then ironed!!!!! Sheesh! are you kidding me? I wish she’d use all that extra energy and study her Hebrew! Maybe she’d be less frustrated if she could speak a little more fluently. But far be it for me to tell her that. Actually, far be it for me to be ABLE to tell her that. I’m pretty good with my expressive eyebrows (I can even raise them independently!), my body-penetrating stares when I really have to go pee, my nose butts to her side when I know she’s had a hard day, and the way I creep up the bed at night and make sure that I’m scooped up next to her, just to make sure she’s safe. But more than that is really out of my control. I wish I was one of those dogs who could dial 911 or press the TV remote or something like that. But my talents lie elsewhere and we can only do what we can do.

Miriam, Pax, and Shoval were lucky to get some hand-knitted dolls from this nice lady from England! These happen to be some of my favorite girls at the Center (actually, I think they're ALL my favorites!).

Miriam, Paz, and Shoval were lucky to get some hand-knitted dolls from this nice lady from England! These happen to be some of my favorite girls at the Center (actually, I think they’re ALL my favorites!).

Speaking of kids and worrying about making sure they’re all OK, aren’t these girls the cutest? These are a few of the younger girls and Ellin loves to go in and see them after they  get back from school and have had their lunch. The one on the left, Miriam, is also called Mascha. She has a small sister named Dascha. And a brother named Pascha. They are very cute kids and are always running to give her hugs (not Pascha. He’s a boy and it’s just not cool). Paz is great too! She’s one really bright girl. And I’ve heard Ellin say that Shoval would be a fabulous new president of the Women’s Club or Sisterhood  at some synagogue. She’s always right in there, helping to set up and clean up. Really a doll. And now they’ve got their own hand-made dolls. Some of the supporters of  the children at Emunah really go out of their way to bring special things to the kids. A lot of thought. Who knows? Maybe one day someone will come with some yummy treats for the Center’s  very important Ambassadog!!!

Oh oh . . . .the vacuum cleaner is coming out! I’d better hightail it (get it? I’m a dog and I’m “high tailing” it? Yuck yuck!) before she decides to vacuum me! She’s already done 2 loads of laundry (the sun dries the clothes in about 1/2 an hour), folded them, put them away, cooked enough for everyone on Gilboa Street, and I  think she’s running out of things to clean!!!! Someone please get this woman a nice man-friend or let her win the lottery!!!!!

Yours truly, KG, the cleanest dog in Afula, signing off!!

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