Friday, February 29, 2008

Parashat Vayakhel

It was festive downtown on Friday. From the high fives and handshakes, hugs and smiles, you might have thought this was a family reunion. A DJ played Israeli music in the square and while nobody danced, it added to the sense of simcha – joy. Streamers hung from windows, cars, wrists, hair increasing the party like feeling. In many ways it felt like any town festival on any given Friday. What was different was the location – not downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but downtown Sderot.

On Friday morning, we joined over 10,000 people who answered the call to demonstrate solidarity with the residents of Sderot and other embattled towns near Gaza by going to there to do our Shabbat shopping. As we approached the town, we could see large blimps in their air – not the Goodyear type you see at sporting events – but large white balloons that the IDF uses to conduct surveillance on areas. I am sure the cameras were pointed toward Gaza as a way to provide an added measure of security. There was a strong sense that this would be a quiet day in Sderot – that Hamas would hold off doing any shooting, or would be held off by the IDF – until evening.

Red streamers were everywhere. In Sderot, “Red Alert” means that you have very little time, a few seconds at best, to get into a shelter or a safe area before a Qassam lands, and so the color of solidarity is red. We bought bright red t-shirts for the family, the money from which goes to support families still living in this front-line city. We made donations for bumper stickers to support youth group chapters in Sderot. And everywhere we turned, there were signs, stickers, shirts, people colored in bright red.

Those of you who know me well know that when it comes to driving, I am exceptionally directionally challenged. While the GPS guided us into Sderot, it could only tell us where to go if I knew our actual final destination, which I did not. I Fortunately, Udi’s friend, Avichai, who lives in Sderot, talked us directly to the parking area. We got out of the car, got big hugs from Udi and were welcomed by his friends from Ashkelon – now a frontline target for Hamas as well. We walked together to the center and were introduced to Eli Moyal, Mayor of Sderot, and Doron Jamchi, a former star basketball player for Maccabi Tel Aviv, who also came to demonstrate solidarity with the community.

Eli Moyal thanked us over and over again, and Doron finished giving autographs, and then Udi, Meital, Nimrod, Avichai and Moriel took all of us shopping! We went into the main area and found hundreds of people shopping at the local branch of a major supermarket chain in Israel. A woman was standing out front lecturing people to go and buy from the small makolets – small, privately-owned groceries or mini-markets – that were owned by residents of Sderot” “The big chain needs your money a lot less than the small store owner does!” She was right and so off we went.

We walked down a few side streets until we found a makolet, grabbed a few baskets and started to load up on soda, bread, and basically a lot of junk food since that was all he had. As we paid, he thanked us again and again for coming. It was embarrassing. We weren’t doing anything other than what Jews do. This was like Bikkur cholim – visiting the sick – or any other mitzvah. Sderot is part of Medinat Yisrael and its residents part of the kehillah – the community of Am Yisrael – the People of Israel, and, therefore, family. And this is what you do for family. We talked for a few minutes about what it was like to live under the threat of Qassam missiles. He asked if we wanted to see how close they fell and then he sent us to a playground just a minute walk from his store where a missile landed months ago. “Go and look, and then you will understand.”

We crossed the street and Udi showed us the new bus stops in Sderot. They are dual purpose – wait for the bus or run inside when the red alert sounds. They are reinforced concrete designed to protect you from a missile landing. From there, we crossed the street to the playground where the evidence of the damage, and potential damage, was clear. The slide was damaged from a missile attack months before and had holes all over it, as did nearby posts. This was a playground, not a military installation; a place of civilian kids, not soldiers, but it was targeted nonetheless. “Momi,” short for Shlomi, an older gentleman, told us about how children had been playing at the spot just moments before the missile hit, just a few weeks before our visit.

We walked back to the center of town to drop off our purchases and then went for lunch at a local Shawarma place. We listened to more stories from Moriel and Avichai about what it was like to live under fire and listened to Meital as well, a student at Sapir College in Sderot. They told us about how little time they had once an alarm went off, how stressful it was for everyone, and how difficult life was. Walking back we saw cars with signs reading “We are with Sderot!” and other slogans. We bought our flowers and Shabbat cakes, and headed back to the car. Hugs all around, resetting the GPS and then back to Yerushalayim to get ready for Shabbat.

During our time in Sderot, all was quiet. Not a single Qassam rocket was launched, there were no red alerts, and we did not have to run to seek cover. While I explained in general terms to the children why we went to Sderot, the absence of alarms made it almost too easy. We drove back and other than Amalya getting car sick, the drive was quiet and uneventful. We went, we did our mitzvoth, we demonstrated solidarity, spent some money, and then returned to safe Jerusalem while the residents of Sderot waited for the next alarm.

We were lucky. Roni Yichyeh, a 47 year-old father of four, was not. He was killed this week by a Qassam that crashed into Sapir College where he was a student. He was not fighting in a war, he was not invading a place, he was not in so called “occupied territory.” He was just going to school, like our friend and former shaliach, Tal Dorot, or Udi’s friend Meital, at Sapir College. He was going about his business, learning, growing. And now he is gone and his children are fatherless and his wife a widow. This week, over 100, if not 200, rockets were fired from Gaza, many from the sites of former Jewish settlements in Gush Katif, at Sderot and other places. The fight escalated further this week when Hamas launched over 20 missiles at Ashkelon, a large Israeli city on the coast. The Defense Minister announced that Ashkelon now will also have a red alert system, a further indication that the escalation is not expected to be short lived. And Itzik, the owner of the makolet around the corner from our apartment, reminded me that it if you add just a little more powder and a slightly larger tube, you have a missile that can reach Ashdod and Tel Aviv. Oy.
Vaykhel, this week’s parashah, teaches about the construction of both sacred time and sacred space – the Shabbat and the Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle. It also tells us of the community, the Human contribution, required for the creation of both. Last Friday, sacred space was created in Sderot, if only for a few hours. But the city of Sderot and the people of Sderot form central parts of the State, the Land and the People of Israel every day and we, those of us who don’t live there, are obligated to continue supporting them every day. There are a multitude of tzedakot to which you can contribute to support the people and the city of Sderot. And there will be more organized trips you can join. I only hope and pray that this Shabbat, our sacred time, as the community tries to comfort the family of Roni Yichyeh, and others work to heal the wounds of those hurt in Ashkelon and elsewhere, that there will be quiet along the border and Peace for Shabbat.
Shabbat Shalom.
To learn more about Roni Yihye, go to:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Parashat Ki Tissah

On Wednesday, 6,776 people attended “Empathy with Sderot Day.” This wasn’t a march or a gathering in a specific town; rather, it was a Facebook event linking people all over the world in an act of solidarity with a beleaguered city. Participation included: changing the profile picture on your Facebook page, wearing red, or just joining the group. With no infrastructure or overhead, and in about a week’s time, 20,000 people were invited and about one-third took part!

Why Sderot? On and off for the past seven years, communities in Israel proper that lie close to the Gaza Strip have been subjected to almost daily Qassam rocket attacks. Since the withdrawal from Gaza, rocket attacks have increased significantly and Sderot is targeted on a near daily basis. While most of the rockets land in open spaces in the Western Negev and cause no injury or damage, a growing number of Qassams are finding their way onto Sderot, causing damage to homes and injuries to Israeli citizens. And even when they fall in open areas within residential areas and cause no physical damage, the mental stress caused to residents of Sderot and other border towns is immeasurable.

At a time when the general consensus is that the government here in Israel is not doing enough to support and protect the residents of Sderot, when there is general lack of faith in the government on this issue, two young Israelis decided to step in and make a difference: Udi Ben David, a shaliah at Camp Ramah Darom and a personal friend, and his friend Yonatan Saban. They created the Facebook event that raised the attention of Sderot in the virtual world. Theirs is not the only Facebook group for supporting Sderot, but it has garnered media attention here in Israel on the website of Yediot Acharonot and other Israeli newspapers, and on one of the morning news shows here. Moreover, their virtual event inspired others to create real world events to take place in Toronto and other cities starting next week. On Friday, the two friends will lead a group to Sderot in a demonstration of support.

Among the key themes in parashat Ki Tissa is a message about leadership vacuums and lack of faith. In the absence of leadership, people will fill the gap: sometimes well and other times, as in the case of the Golden Calf, poorly, focusing energy on the wrong things or acting narcissistically. At a time when there is little faith in either short or long-term solutions, where there is a perceived or real leadership vacuum in Israel on this, and other, issues, people like Udi and Yonatan are filling the vacuum in the most positive of ways: looking beyond themselves, reaching out to the world, supporting those who need to be supported, and hopefully restoring a modicum of faith to the residents of Sderot. Yasher Koach Udi and Yonatan and thank you for inspiring us and so many others to stand in solidarity with Sderot.

Shabbat Shalom.


  • You can watch Udi on Israeli television by going to and you can read the article in Yediot Acharonot, in English, at,7340,L-3509028,00.html . Hebrew readers can see the article on the event at .

  • Limmud Southeast + Atlanta is right around the corner. The Limmud phenomenon, which started years ago in the UK, is a gathering of Jews of all flavors who spend one to four days together engaged in Jewish learning. Limmud is expanding across North America and this will be the first annual Limmud in the Southeast. The program takes place March 1-2 in Atlanta. Among the many volunteers coordinating the effort are Jodi Mansbach, a Ramah Darom parent, and Anna Robinowitz Hartman, a long-standing member of the Ramah Darom family and a master educator! Rabbi Aaron Alexander is among the many presenters. Surf to for all of the information.

  • And for those of you who get hooked on Limmud, you can attend Limmud Colorado at the Keystone Resort May 23-26 which is being coordinated by executive director Beth Steinhorn, a classmate of mine from Willowbrook Elementary and Maple Junior High School. Thanks to Sue Parker Gerson for making the reconnection. More information on Limmud Colorado can be found at

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Miracle Girl by Katie Green

Yonatan Ariel of Makom - The Israel Engagment Network - shared this powerful piece with me. for those of us who grew up demostrating for his freedom, celebrating his release, and viewing him as a hero, it is wonderful to read about joyous moments in the lives of Natan and Avital Sharansky. This is long but well worth reading and is shared with the permission of the author via Makom.


A Diary Note
by Katie Green

There are weddings and weddings in our lives. The weddings of ourselves, our relatives and our friends, and one generation later, the weddings of our children and our friend's children, which of course, are even more poignant than our own. There are the regular, every day, run of the mill weddings, the weddings where we ate too much or the music was too loud or we sat next to somebody’s Relative From Hell, and then there are the other weddings - the one or two weddings, which for the rest of our lives, we will never forget.

The wedding of Rachel Sharansky, the eldest of Natan and Avital Sharansky's two daughters, and Micha Danziger, a new immigrant from the United States, was one of those weddings.

The Sharansky wedding at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel last Friday morning was never going to be, never could be, in any sense a normal wedding. During the coffee and cake reception before the ceremony, I observed among the hundreds of people there, two distinct groups: the young people who were simply happy to be participating in the celebration and who had little idea of the historical significance of the event, and the older people who had taken part in the drama of the Refusenik struggle and for whom Rachel's wedding was the grand finale and closing chapter of that astonishing narrative.

My husband I wondered over to an alcove in the reception area to congratulate the bride. Rachel, more than radiant, more than happy, positively sparkled with her enjoyment of the day. Her lovely face, with its expression of intelligence, warmth and humor, looked up smilingly at every guest without a trace of nervousness of self-consciousness. The thought crossed my mind, as I stood at a distance where I could just enjoy looking at her, that this magical person very nearly did not come to be. In the configuration of the universe as we knew it in the early 1980's, the chances of there being a glowing Rachel Sharansky standing here in her wedding dress in 2008, were statistically very small indeed. All of us who participated in the demonstrations of those years, remember perfectly well, that whether Natan was in solitary confinement or on hunger strike or doing both together, there were times when we very nearly lost him.

On one memorable occasion I remember how shocked my parents were when, twenty-five odd years ago, a group of us disrupted a concert of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Half way through the performance, we shed our outside clothes to reveal the striped “prison uniforms” we were wearing underneath, and handcuffed ourselves to the railings of the balcony in the auditorium, yelling our Soviet Jewry slogans and shaking our fists. As the cellos and violins and violas of the Moscow Philharmonic came slithering to halt, we knew, in the deathly silence that followed, that our Refusenik brothers and sisters would be listening thousands of miles away on the BBC World Service. It was only a few minutes before infuriated police officers arrived on the scene with large metal pincers to cut us free from the railings, but it was enough.

I speak of it now as if it were a childish prank, but it was not an easy thing to do. We were young and idealistic, but we were also nicely brought up middle-class Jewish girls and boys. We had all been taken by our parents on one Sunday evening or another to hear a concert at the Royal Festival Hall. We had learned to sit politely and not fidget and not applaud between movements. For years we had enjoyed Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saens and Schubert in this bastion of British culture, and now we were more or less spitting in its face.

The second before I had to stand up along with my friends, and shout at the top of my voice into the silent abyss of the stalls, my courage failed me and I did not think I could do it. The only thing, the only thing, which enabled me to get to my feet, was the thought of Natan in his solitary confinement cell, the thought of him never seeing Avital again. The reason why so many Jewish youth were participating in these demonstrations all over the world, was that Natan’s story was not just a prisoner story, or a persecution story, or even a Jewish story. It was a love story.

And it is this love story I am thinking of as I watch Rachel laugh and talk with all her guests, before her parents accompany her to her Chupah, before she marries Micha under the Jerusalem skies. I am here with her but I am not really here at all; I have risen in one second to my feet at the Royal Festival Hall, and have screamed : “Free Sharansky!” like an animal, at the respectable Russian musicians playing classical music on the stage below.

I have always known, across all of the years, what I was shouting for that night. But today, looking at Rachel’s face, at that beloved and wonderful genetic combination of Natan and Avital, today I really know.

At the wedding reception I did manage to exchange a few words with the mother of the groom, Mrs. Danziger. “It’s a great day for all of us”, I said and she smiled and answered, “I know it is”. But I couldn’t leave it there. “She’s the nation’s baby” I explained, trying to hold back my tears. “She’s our miracle girl”.

The weather forecast for Thursday, Friday and Shabbat had been discouraging – Rain, rain and more rain. On Thursday it rained all night. But G-d, one of the guests at the wedding, had decided to momentarily dispense with regular weather patterns for January, and Rachel and Micha took their place under a raised outdoor Chuppah, with a stunning view of the Judean hills behind and below them. The sun shone warmly and benevolently on the hundreds of people, Russians and Israelis and Americans and Brits, members of Knesset and rabbis and journalists and intellectuals, millionaires and philanthropists and activists and chairmen of committees, family and friends and very young babies and old age pensioners, who had gathered, with upturned faces, to watch the wedding ceremony unfold. A soft breeze played across the bride’s face and lifted her veil into the air, so that she looked, for a moment, like a floating figure from a Chagall painting.

“Sometimes a place is named for its future”, said Rabbi Moti Elon who was the officiating Rabbi. “Kibbutz Ramat Rachel was named for you, Rachel. It was named for you to get married here.”

When it was time for the groom to break the glass, Natan took the microphone to say a few words. “I’d like to say something about why we are breaking this glass” he said, alternating seamlessly between English and Hebrew. “Thirty-four years ago, in a Moscow apartment, Avital and I stood under a sheet held up by four boys, for our own Chuppah. There were barely enough people to make up a minyan. We had never been to a Jewish wedding before, and we had no understanding of what to do. We mouthed the words that the Rabbi told us to say, without knowing their meaning. But the breaking of the glass, this we understood very well. We had one challenge, and the challenge was very clear to us. We knew that we had to get to Jerusalem. No matter what it would take, no matter how many years, we had to get to Jerusalem and build a home there. And this is what we did.”

“So now you are standing under the Chuppah Rachel, a child born in Jerusalem, overlooking Jerusalem, the first sabra in our family, marrying Micha, the first Oleh Hadash from his family. And this begs the question: Why should we break the glass at all? We are here, after all. Jerusalem has been rebuilt, and it is a vibrant city.

But the reason we are breaking the glass is this: the challenge that faces you, Rachel and Micha, is different to the challenge that faced us. You will make a home in Jerusalem, yes, but you must simultaneously have your feet on the ground, building a Jerusalem shel mata, a physical Jerusalem, while always keeping an eye on the Jerusalem shel ma’alah, on what it means, on what it represents. It will be your mission, and the mission of all your generation, to defend Jerusalem, to protect her, to keep her safe. And I think that your challenge may, in the end, be even more difficult than ours”.

It will rain later, but not yet. I am standing in the sunshine, listening to Natan, looking at Avital, and glorying in Rachel, who has pushed her veil away from her face, so that she can see better, and hear better, everything that is going on at her wedding. She looks up at her tall, straight, young husband and smiles, and all of us watching her feel, that this is the just kind of person to whom we can entrust the future of Jerusalem.

Mazal Tov on your wedding Rachel Sharansky. Mazal Tov, miracle girl.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Man of La Mancha

This week saw the return of my incredibly talented soul-mate, Becca, to the professional stage. Starring as Aldonza in The Man of La Mancha, Becca was glorious and powerful, her voice rich in depth and intensity. She was clearly back in her element and took the breath of the audience away! One couple told me it would just be wrong for such an exceptional voice and talent to leave Israel. Kol HaKavod! You can see Becca as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz in just a few weeks, where Mira will make her debut as a Munchkin!

Parashat Tetzaveh - 2008

A true Tzaddik died this week. Rabbi Ben Hollander z”l was a talmid muvhak – a dedicated student - of Nehama Leibovitz, a gentleman in all of the meanings of the word, and a mentsh. Ben was a scholar-in-residence for many years at Camp Ramah in Canada and at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. He touched the souls of thousands of students. There were few like him.

I only really met Ben once. Four years ago, Rabbi David Soloff and I had the privilege of enjoying Shabbat lunch with Ben and his beloved wife, Judy, who would die unexpectedly one year later. The conversation was invigorating and the aura of Torah emanating from Ben was exceptional. I left with incredible admiration for this exceptional teacher and mentsh. Upon returning home to Atlanta from that trip, I learned that my father had cancer and he would die one month to the day from when he received his diagnosis. One night during Shiva, the phone rang. It was Ben Hollander. This man, who I met for a total of two hours at a Shabbat table, was calling to comfort me as a mourner. We talked for over half-an-hour and the conversation was deeply moving. It was as if Ben was sitting next to me in my home even though he was across the world.

In his final years, Ben suffered like Job suffered. One struggle after another: the death of his beloved wife, Judy; cancer that wracked his body; a stroke and other tragedies. Yet, from all of the eulogies delivered in his memory, it was clear that Ben never expressed misery. He was always upbeat and optimistic. An exceptionally gentle soul, Ben took every tragedy, every pain, with a sense of humor and a smile.

Our parashah opens with instructions regarding the Ner Tamid – the Eternal Light – that was to burn in the Mishkan – the Desert Tabernacle. The Cohanim were to tend to it in order to insure that it would burn eternally. I don’t know whether or not Ben Hollander z”l was a Cohen, but I do know that he was a glorious keeper of our Ner Tamid, our Torah, working tirelessly to make sure that each successive generation would be warmed by its fire and illuminated by its light. May we all aspire to live as genuinely, as authentically, as happily as Ben did and may we all strive to inspire others to live and learn Torah, in its broadest definitions, in the fashion that our teacher, Rabbi Ben Hollander z”l did.

May his memory be for a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Parashat Mishpatim - 2008

Sitting in Café Aroma on Thursday, the young girl energy produced by Mira and Amalya was increasing as the sugar from the hot chocolate / decaf milk and sugar coffee was kicking in. It grew so quickly that Elan escaped back to the apartment on his own. Mira and Amalya and their friends, Hannah and Abigail were drawing looks from the emergent adults at the surrounding tables – looks that were not of aggravation but more of the “oh…they are SO cute” category. As they chatted away, Judah and I were able to maintain some semblance of complete sentence, “grown-up” conversation.

So, there we sat, discussing the upcoming parashah, Mishpatim, especially in relation to last week’s portion, Yitro. The center piece of last week’s reading was God’s revelation to the Children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, both revelation of the Divine Presence and of the Ten Commndments. Power, mystery, thunder, and lightning frame the drama of the moment. Fast forward to this week, ואלה המשפטים – And these are the laws… - a compendium of rules, one after the other, completely absent of drama. At the time, I noted that I loved that the Revelation at Mt. Sinai was followed by a more mundane, or seemingly mundane, set of rules. For me, this represented the reality that not every moment in every day was going to have the power of the Revelation, that some moments in life, in fact the majority would be mostly mundane.

Thinking about it today, however, I wish to amend my thoughts from yesterday. The fact that Mt. Sinai and the Ten Commandments is followed by day-to-day civil law actually comes to remind us that every moment of every day can be imbued with kedushah – with sanctity and specialness; that every human interaction we have contains within it the potential to encounter the Divine – literally to meet God; that each mitzvah we do brings a modicum of tikkun, of repair, to the world. Moreover, Mishpatim reminds us that the earth need not rumble, the heavens need not cry out in thunder or burn in lightning, for every day moments to be Revelatory in nature.

How we relate to the “other,” to the person for whom we do not particularly care, for personal property, therefore takes its place together with the laws of sacred time – Shabbat and the Yom Tovim – as equally important in meeting God in this world and of even greater import in bringing God into more places in this world.

So…as you traverse the minutiae in this week’s Torah reading, remember that these are guide posts to remind us that even our smallest choices bring us into interaction with God and turn the most mundane moments into those that are as powerful as the thunder, lightning, and Divine voice at Mt. Sinai.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Loren Sykes


We had a wonderful, though cold, trip to Ein Gedi. We arrived on Sunday and after dropping things off at the hotel, we went down to the Dead Sea. Mira was brave and went into the water despite the waves, wind and cold. We then retired to the hot mineral pools in the spa which were gevaldic until we emerged with bright red rashes all over our bodies.

On Monday, we hiked in Nahal David, a beautiful spring and waterfall area just beyond our hotel. Again, the cold got the better of us and after one swim in the pools, we were out and moving on, first to the ancient synagogue floor and then to lunch. In my brilliance, I decided that we should drive to see the end of the Dead Sea, which, of course, REALLY excited Mira and Amalya, and which also meant that they needed to make a pit stop at precisely the moment when there was no gas station to be found. Brilliance I was only exceeded by brilliance II which was driving to what the map showed as towns where we might find bathrooms which really meant tiny villages where we found none.

Tuesday, we left Ein Gedi early to make it to Tel Aviv. We wanted to avoid Jerusalem because of the heavy rains and so once again headed to the end of the Dead Sea toward Arad. The drive was really glorious. The road takes you back above sea level and into the desert where we met wild camels in the middle of the road. We made our way through Arad to the coast and then to Tel Aviv, where we stopped at the Azrieli Towers for lunch and shopping.

We made it home before the snow started and Burger’s Bar was waiting for us just after we arrived!

Snow Days!

If I didn’t know better, I would think I was already in Chicago. I experienced snow in Jerusalem a few years ago, but this was a totally new level. It started snowing two nights ago and with a few interruptions for rain, it did not let up until Thursday morning. Several times, we had white-out conditions. I didn’t even dare go out on the mirpeset but from the window you could not see very far down Derekh Khevron. The wind was gusting up to around 60 miles per hour (I have no idea what that means in kilometers) and it was really howling.

The kids didn’t have school on Wednesday or Thursday –snow days in Jerusalem! Our friend Tova told us that the Tayelet, the Promenade that overlooks the Old City, is where everyone goes to play on a Jerusalem snow day, so Elan, Mira, Amalya and I bundled up to make the five minute trek to the Haas – Sherover Promenade. We were outside for less than two minutes when Amalya demanded to go back inside! The wind was so strong that it was pushing her backwards. Hovering at around freezing, the air felt like it was significantly below zero, especially when the wind kicked up. Elan and Mira, however, wanted to get out and play, so off we went.

We don’t have winter clothes here and certainly not Chicago winter coats. It was freezing! Worse than the general cold was the fact that I only had gym shoes, mostly mesh, and the ground was exceptionally shlushy so my feet were instantly frozen. We got to the Tayelet after what felt like an hour – I am sure it was only five minutes – frozen to the core. Elan and Mira ran to the snow and made Shlomo the Shnowman and had a great time. This of course changed when the snowball fight started. I am sure you remember the expression it is only fun until someone loses an eye – and then it is twice the fun? Well, that was pretty much the case for the kids.

When they finally agreed to head home, the weather took a turn for the worse. The wind kicked up and what started as snow was now a driving sleet storm. Each small frozen pellet struck the face like a boulder. There was more slush now so we got more and more soaked through – pants, coats, gloves, shoes – until we finally made it back to the apartment. We are really going to have to toughen up a little bit before we move back to Chicago. The blood really does thin when you move to the South for a decade or more.

The rest of the day was like any other snow day – stay inside, make do with what there is to eat, watch the Marx Brothers, Tom and Jerry, and other oldies, make some hot drinks, and just hang out (in the hopes that the children won’t drive each other, and us, crazy. The snow trucks – bulldozers not being used for other purposes – were out trying to clear the roads, and were moderately successful. The snow continued well into the night and the next day. Because so few people knew how to drive in the snow, everything stayed whiter longer. It was and it is truly beautiful. The snow blowing down Derekh Khevron was a natural wonder and kept accumulating.

Thursday was similar to Wednesday except that the sun finally came out and it warmed up just a little. We moved slowly along and finally left the house at around noon to have lunch and hot chocolate with our friends Judah, Hannah, and Abigail. Sarah joined us at home later and we watched more films, ordered in (the kosher delivery business probably made its entire year in the two days that just ended) and then it was time for bed for the family.

The snow overshadowed the major news of the day on Wednesday, the much awaited release of the Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War. The report was highly critical of the IDF and, evidently, less critical of the government. It is still unclear as to whether or not Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will survive the report, what Barak will do, or what will happen next. But for two days, the snow covered the city and future concerns were put aside in favor of a rare two day Jerusalem snow. We had a wonderful time and…are looking forward to returning to our regular schedule!