A Little Peace and Thanksgiving


Baruch Hashem, it’s been quiet here for the past week. We all had a few mixed feelings when the cease fire was announced last week, because we partially wanted Israel to just go in and finish the job they started, but thankful that we wouldn’t hear the wail of the siren in the coming days.

We were unhappy for several reasons. First of all, Hamas learned some lessons during this war that are not beneficial to Israel. Primarily, they learned that they can fire over 1500 rockets into Israel in an 8 day period and not get so much as a potch (smack) on the wrist. They also learned that Egypt (see below: the real winner of the “war”) and the United States will push for a cease fire and try to get Israel to not ‘invade’ by foot. (I put the word invade in parenthesis because can a country ‘invade’ a part of their own borders? Would the U.S. be ‘invading’ Puerto Rico? Arizona? Just something to think about.)

Egypt really won this war because the world recognized their leader (an open member of the Muslim Brotherhood) as a vital contribution to the “peace” process between Israelis and Palestinians. No surprise that less than a week later, he declared himself a dictator by saying that none of the courts can contradict any decision that he makes as leader.

As for the amount of quiet we’ve had, there’s still some unrest along the Gaza/Sinai border, and not all of the soldiers that were called up from the army have gone home. Most recently, there was some distress on the Gaza/Israel border (see above comment for why I sigh/roll my eyes while I write this) and Israeli soldiers were needed to calm down the situation. We haven’t had a siren in Jerusalem, and I don’t think there have been sirens in the south since the day after the cease fire either.

Even throughout the whole ordeal, we weren’t fearful. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t afraid, but we weren’t full of fear. A friend of mine, who I’ll tell you about in a second, almost found herself outside during the second siren, because she had to go to the butcher. Once the siren was over, she ran out, and while she was waiting for the butcher to ring up her food, she let out a sigh, almost as if she’d been holding her breath the whole way there, afraid there would be another siren. The butcher (a Chassidic man), told her it’s okay to be scared. He said, “You can be scared because it’s scary. But to be paralyzed in fear is not good. To not do things because of the fear is bad.” In other words, being paralyzed because of fear makes you think that you are in control. To be aware but unparalyzed is to see that you are most certainly not.

We’re coming to visit America next week for two weeks, and my mom asked me if we’d had a conversation about not going back because of the war. I told her no. She asked if we would be having that conversation — and I told her it wasn’t in our radar. That it was a conversation that would not happen.

There is a clarity that comes from being in a time of crisis. Over the past week, we were scared, but we still felt safe. We’d have to be idiots to not feel safe after seeing all of the miracles that happened all over Israel. To say that over 1500 rockets fell in and around highly populated cities all over a country that’s the size of New Jersey and only six people died is miraculous. A bus blew up in Tel Aviv and only injured some of the people on board. That rockets aimed at the holy city of Jerusalem landed in Arab territory; there’s no other way to understand it. The army might say it’s because of the Iron Dome, that they are strong, and able, but we know that it’s because there’s a greater “Iron Dome” out there, looking out for all of us. We have to hold on to this clarity.

These are all things to be thankful for. Since Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Israel (not even in Har Nof, which is made up of A LOT of Americans!), our group of friends from Philadelphia decided to get together for a Shabbaton and eat Thanksgiving-themed food. Everyone made a dish or two, and it was a lot of fun. Jonathan and I made the turkey and gravy, and others contributed stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans and onions, butternut squash soup, and salad. For dessert, we had our choice of either lemon meringue pie, pecan pie, pumpkin bread pudding with a dulce de leche sauce, or chocolate chip cookies. To say that we were full at the end of Shabbos would be the biggest understatement of the year, probably.

Throughout the whole experience, all I could think about is how grateful I am that all of our best friends got the opportunity to come to Israel at the same time, and that we’re all quite literally in this together. Just to give you a little bit of background: In college, I met two girls who very quickly became my best friends. They are now here, in Israel, with us. One of those girls, Hannah, is married to a guy that I grew up with, from kindergarten through college. Obviously, he’s here too and he is one of Jonathan’s best friends. Another one of our very good friends from college is here also, along with one more couple. And we all went to college together. Now, we’re all in seminary together. Quite literally, Hashem gave us this incredible support system in college as we were becoming more observant together, and continued to give us this support system through getting married (for some of us, and for others, soon!), and now, going to Israel.

So when we want to go to the supermarket and have to take those four buses to do so (and to share a cab home!), there’s someone to do it with. When we want to go shopping for a skirt, or for gifts for family and friends, there’s someone there. Need to vent? Not a problem. Missed a class? Here’s the notes. And all coming together for a meal that we all had a part in was a beautiful materialization of that reality. And it was a lot of fun.

We missed our family and friends in America, but we’re lucky to have a kind of Philadelphia, mismatched, quirky, and fun family here. And a lot of things to be thankful to HaKadosh Baruch Hu for.

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Meet Chelsea, Wonderdog!


My parents rescued a dog fairly recently, and her name is Chelsea. She’s very sweet, looks just like her predecessor, Snickers, and has a thousand times more personality. Am I allowed to say that? Okay, maybe not more personality per say, but just a more…hyperactive personality.

One of Chelsea’s calmer moments. I may have been holding a toy. Or something shiny. She likes those.

Anyway, apparently the weather in Philadelphia hasn’t been so good the past few weeks (but today it’s beautiful!), so my parents had to be creative when trying to figure out how to help Chelsea blow off all her extra steam.

Luckily, she’s very smart.

Our New Pet!


Yes, we have a new pet — kind of. As I’m sure many of you know from reading this post, we had a MAJOR ant problem in our first apartment. Why, you may ask, do we not have one here? Because of our newest addition to the family; THIS GUY:

The awesome, ever-elusive, ant eater — FRANK!

Alright, he’s not really our pet — more like a trespasser that likes to sleep in our shoes, under the bed, and once, IN the bed — but he gets the prize for the most creative exterminator I’ve ever seen. I worry about Frank, sometimes, about when he is going to get the amount of sun he needs to keep warm, like the cold-blooded fella he is. I’m scared he’s going to get out and get eaten by one of the many feral cats that live on the Jerusalem streets. My fears were almost actualized when I almost stepped on him while sweeping the bedroom the other day — that would have been traumatizing, to say the least.

But Frank is cool, and he doesn’t poop in the house (that we can see), nor does he make noise, shed, or activate any of our allergies. He also changes colors, like a chameleon, and we find him in the strangest places (here – on our window), outside on the Jerusalem stone walls, or like I said, in our shoes.

Maybe one day we’ll get him a heat lamp and build him a terrarium, but I like the idea of him running free, as he usually is when he’s running away from the broom, or the mop, or the never-ending dust bunnies that seem to form EVERY DAY in our tiny apartment, where he builds his nest night after night. Frank’s a cool dude. And he can stay here, if he’d like. He pays his rent by killing mosquitoes, aunts, and moths (although sometimes I worry that they could eat him!).

In other news, since Sukkot is over, I needed to find a use for the 15 spare etrogim that Jonathan got for free right before the holiday at a nearby shul. So, like many bubbes and balabustas before me, I’ve decided to try my hand at making etrog marmalade — YUM! Since we had so many, it seems like we are going to be enjoying many-a etrog flavored dessert for the next few months, probably until Shavuous (in June). I researched a lot of recipes, and this is the one I compiled after reading a dozen.

Meet Etrog. Looks a little like lemon’s lumpy cousin, the distant relative to buddha’s hand citron. Also called a citron in other languages.

All of the recipes I found said to soak the etrogim, some said whole, some said cut up — so I did the smart thing: Both!

Here are the cut-up etrogim soaking for the second day.

The recipes I found said the minimum time to soak the etrogim was 12 hours, and the longest was 7 days — so I went with soak for 1 day whole, 2 days cut up (changing the water once each day.) This step is important because it helps to get rid of the bitterness from the pith of the fruit, which in an etrog’s case, makes up most of it’s bulk.

Then, the etrogim were cut into smaller pieces, and put into a pot to simmer on the stove (this is happening now). This water is also going to be discarded, and then they’ll be set to simmer again. The second batch of water will ALSO be discarded. The third time’s the charm with this one.

Esrog’s simmering on the stove for the first time.

Once the esrogs have been simmered twice, and they’re sitting in NEW water, then it’s time to add the sugar. Since this is a classic marmalade, the standard equal parts fruit/sugar will qualify. This is usually equivalent to 1 cup of sugar for every etrog in the batch.

Once the sugar is added (with water, obviously), let the mixture simmer for about 1/2 hour. Make sure you watch your jam at this point, because it can burn and ruin the whole project. To check whether you have the right consistency, I found this great trick from Food.com — if you put a saucer in the freezer, and spread a little bit of the jam on the cold saucer, it should cool down to the temperature where you can check the consistency — you want it to be like jam, not like caramel or juice. If it’s like juice, add a little bit of orange marmalade to reintroduce the pectin you removed while soaking (this is why it’s nice to have a food scientist husband). If it’s like caramel, then congratulations — you’ve made candied etrogim! YUM!

Jar and sanitize according to your grandmother’s method.

Stay tuned for photos of the finished product tomorrow!

Since etrogim also have SO MANY seeds, we thought it would be fun to try to plant a tree in our backyard. The only time I’ve ever tried this before, I planted the apple seeds DIRECTLY into the ground instead of letting them germinate and sprout, so I’m going to work a little smarter this time. (Disclaimer: I was about 6 when I tried this with apples. Also, my mom was NOT HAPPY. She was afraid an apple tree would actually grow. Me? I just really liked apples, and was a tad jealous of our neighbor’s neighboring pear tree. Now, I’m allergic to both fruits.)

Our collection of Etrog seeds — soon to be ETROG TREES…or one, etrog tree. If my black thumb doesn’t betray me.

Since I’ve had a black thumb in the past with every plant I’ve ever tried to care for, I’m a little nervous about this one, but Jonathan’s green thumb should help back me up. (Side note: seriously, blackest thumb EVER. I’ve even managed to kill SCALLIONS — all they need is WATER.)

Many more fun and exciting stories are to come!