Saturday, April 22, 2017

Shabbat April 20: Welcome to Ora Tehilla

Welcome back! In the last chapter, our heroes and protagonists were preparing for Shabbat and Gila was coming home for Shabbat. First, they were three, now four! A baby girl was born with all the miracles, hopes, worries and fears about bringing a new life into the world. In this case our new little princess was born a few weeks before term and as mentioned last week was going to kept in the hospital for some feeding and growing. So as we settled into Shabbat, we looked forward to a bit of down time before what proved to be a hectic week.

A Jewish baby girl is named in synagogue during the reading of the Torah. Thus, when Ariel and arrived in synagogue for services on Friday night, I told the gabbis (people in charge of organizing key things in the services) that our son and daughter in law had just had a baby. After a hearty round of Mazel Tov’s, they said that they would give Ariel an Aliyah (he would be called to the Torah the next day) which led Ariel to thank them and say he would like to name the baby. Now, we are members of a very lovely synagogue near our home, the Young Israel of North Netanya. Please don’t get fooled by the name; the majority of the congregation are retired Anglos; the majority are British, with a few Irish, Americans and Canadians tossed into the mix. Very nice people, but young is not the operative word. In fact, they probably had not had a new baby born in a while. However, they were very happy to accommodate this request and on Shabbat morning, the world was introduced to Ora Tehilla, which means Light and Hope. I can’t do justice to the explanation Ariel and Gila provided, but suffice it to say that in many ways the name is self-explanatory. Ora has had a good week, with the hospital being a very quiet place due to Shabbat and the Passover holiday. It was sort of like being in the hospital on Christmas or New Years’ week; everything in Israel is slowed down, labs are only doing essential tests, physicians are taking time off.  Elisha has met his baby sister and was very excited. As I write this discharge planning is underway and everyone should be home early next week.
Shabbat was really nice, with our synagogue community joining in our celebration. We visited the baby in the afternoon and Elisha came to visit as well, before going to a local park. In many ways, that was the routine for much of the week; parents going to visit, hold and feed Ora, and Elisha being with Savti and Sabi and going to parks, play areas and in general getting a lot of attention. Frozen yogurt for dinner, anyone?

Saturday night, Elan and Nomi and their kids moved in with us in Netanya prior to the last day of Pesach. So, we went from a house of 5 to a house of 10. Thanks to neighbors who furnished a couple of extra mattresses, we had ample room for all!. Of course for Elisa it was a super treat to have his cousins Shoshana, Shlomo and Nadav to play with. Sunday the two three year olds drove tricycles from our apartment to the city center, which is almost a km away! The two older kids roller-bladed there. It was a work-out, especially for the adults who carried a bike or two home! We prepared for the conclusion of Passover with Elan and Bruce organizing the cooking while Barbara and Nomi chased the biker-kids and roller-bladers. Somehow, dinner did get done, and everyone enjoyed Sunday night and Monday’s fare. Nadav and Elisha especially like being together; at one point they played in the playground together for over an hour without either of them checking to see if the supervising adults were around! They explored the tunnels on the playground climbing structure, chased each other around on the slides and laughed and giggled a lot!
They don’t show you this on CNN: Like most Israeli hospital, the medical staff are Jewish and Arab Muslim and Christian. They are many Arab villages around Netanya, and it has a great reputation in obstetrics, and so it is a hub for patients from all over the region, of all backgrounds and cultures. Everyone works together, and everyone is treated like a person; which is of course the way things should be.
One of the best visuals was when I was visiting Ora, one of the neonatal nurses, a Muslim girl wearing a hijab, walked to the nurses station munching on an enormous piece of hand made matzah slathered in what looked like chocolate spread. Talk about cross cultural relations! Of course, an introduction to Jewish cuisine that starts at Matzah usually does not end so well, but she looked happy.

By Wednesday early AM, Bruce was on a plane back to Montreal, and Barbara was going to stay to help settle baby Ora into her new home. She and Gila got the rooms ready and everyone is now anticipating her discharge for continued health and happiness!

Our best wishes for a peaceful Shabbat!

Barbara and Bruce

Refuah Shlema to Zysl bat Bella
Refuah Shlema to Ora Tehilla bat Gila Freda
Refuah Shlema to Noam Chaim Shmuel ben Judith

We wish Elan a very happy birthday!
We wish Joshua Samuel a very happy birthday!


Friday, April 14, 2017

Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach: Welcome to baby girl!

Some weeks just float by, some whiz by at super speed, this one just kept on flying by at breakneck speed with twists and turns, usually in unexpected places! However, as we roll into Shabbat, things appear to be coming together nicely, so, let’s recap the highlights!

 Usually the highlight of the week of Passover would be the Seder night, which celebrates the birth of the Jewish Nation and our liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt to freedom. However, this week, on the highlight reel the Seder will be pre-empted by another birth! Gila and Ariel were expecting with a due date to be in the first week of May. During a routine ultrasound, it was suspected that the baby was not growing as well as hoped and they suggested that the delivery be induced. So, after a Wednesday of running around and being finally seen at Ladiano Hospital in Netanya, Thursday morning at 8:47 a beautiful baby girl was born. As predicted she is a little small and is being kept for a few days to ensure she is growing, but she is drinking well and all looks good! Ema and Abba are also well. Ladiano Hospital has an interesting history. The Rebbe of the Hassidic Dynasty of Sanz vowed that if he survived the Holocaust, he would do something that would help all Jews, Hassidic or non-Hassidic, observant or secular. When he survived, he brought his followers to the northern part of Netanya, and established the Sanz community there. This led to him noting that the nearest hospitals were in cities quite a distance away. The project for the hospital in Sanz has led to the establishment of Ladiano Hospital, a general hospital with one of the best maternity programs in all of Israel. As a hospital established by a Hassidic group, it follows a strict religious code (on Passover, no outside food is allowed in; you should see the boxes and boxes of confiscated food at the entrance. I almost took a picture!)  One major advantage for our family is that it is easy walking distance from our apartment, so Elisha has been “at home” sleeping over and Ariel could come for meals. Gila was discharged today, so she can stay here for Sabbat and spend as much time as she wants with the baby at the hospital (without being awoken by annoying nurses!)

Passover started off with a super fun Seder, featuring Elisha! He was very well prepared (as well as a 3-year-old can be prepared), knowing a bunch of the songs, the story of the Jews being slaves in Egypt, and could sing the first of the Four Questions by himself! We told the story of the Exodus, with the appropriate props to keep a three-year-old engaged, like hand puppets, jumping frogs, spongy balls to represent hail and plastic animals representing wild beasts. If you are lost, we’ll just have to steer you to the appropriate chapters in the book of Exodus. The main theme of the Seder is teaching the children, and doing things that will encourage questions. This is a remarkably well-thought-out educational program, with lots of room for improvisation, which is greatly encouraged. We look forward to more fun Seders as the kids all grow and their questions get more sophisticated!

Last Shabbat we had the pleasure of hosting our niece Jenna, who is a medic in the IDF and was on her way home to Edmonton for a month. She’s doing great and is completing her time in August. When not on base she lives near Ariel and Gila, so she and Elisha are BFFs! It meant for a great Shabbat and when I took everyone home Saturday night, I even got to see the kibbutz she has been living on since moving here 2 years ago. Sunday was shopping and preparation for  Pesach, and Elisha and I had the pleasure of navigating the public Market in Netanya the day before the holiday. Just the two of us and maybe 10,000 other people buying fruits and vegetables, fresh fish, meat and other groceries. The produce is usually amazing and in truth we usually cook very simply here, using locally grown herbs and vegetables instead of sauces. Very tasty and probably healthier too!

Also, Israel is alive with everyone on holiday during Passover. The streets are packed with people, the traffic looks like Miami Beach in December, and everyone is out on trips or community events. As noted in other posts over the years, most of the restaurants clean out their Chametz (leaven) and open for Pesach. Check us out having pizza in the Netanya town square on the eve of Pesach, with the pizza crust made from potato flour (it was actually really good!) 

Shabbat is approaching so we will sign off for now. Elan, Nomi, Shoshana, Shlomo and Nadav are going to join us for the last day of the holiday, so Elisha will have more kid company and we can enjoy more family time together. By early next Wednesday, Bruce heads back to Montreal and Barbara will be here to help with the new baby for a couple of weeks.

We wish you an amazing Shabbat, A Chag Sameach and a very Happy Easter!

Happy Birthday to Elan!!
Happy Birthday to Joshua!!
Happy Birthday to Jessica!!
Happy Birthday to David Weisz!!

Refuah Shlema to Zysl bat Bella

I want to just add a few words about the untimely passing of a friend and colleague Mark Wainberg, who passed away while on Passover holiday with his family in Florida. Mark was a unique individual, extremely energetic, insightful and a brilliant scientist. It is no exaggeration to say he was Canada’s preeminent researcher on HIV-AIDS. He set the tone for AIDS research in Canada from the early 80’s onwards, and was a huge player on the international stage. In spite of this, he was highly committed to local community efforts and was generous with his time on many levels. Moreover, as a friend and colleague, he was always friendly, very encouraging and very personable. Mark was a grounded in his interpersonal skills as he was elevated in his scientific thoughts and commitment to the treatment and eradication of AIDS. He will be greatly missed. Baruch Dayan Emet.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Shabbat before Pesach 2017

It is the Shabbat before Passover all over the world, which means that in every Jewish community, everyone is going completely crazy preparing for the holiday. As you can probably tell, we are in Israel, so this is going to be a quick primer on how to prepare for Pesach in Israel and stay sane at the same time!

We arrived on Wednesday afternoon via Munich, which was a first, and it was actually a pretty good route to take. The flight leaves at 8 PM so if you can sleep on a plane, the timing works out for a nap. We landed in Israel at about 5 PM and went to see Gila and Elisha (and Ariel when he got home from work). Elisha is adorable, having just turned three, speaks two languages fluently (often both in the same sentence!) and really enjoyed the attention.

Now the Passover Israel primer! Thursday around noon we set off for a local SuperMarket which could be compared to a large Loblaws or a mini-Walmart, with food, housewares, wine, everything you might need (but without the famous Walmart Price guarantee). For those not initiated to Passover Shopping, during Passover we are not allowed to eat any product that is leavened: bread, cakes with yeast, and other similar foods. In the eastern European Jewish (Ashkenazi) tradition, we also are not allowed to eat any rice or legumes; Jews of Sephardi origin have varying customs but most eat legumes. We don’t even use the pots, pans or dishes that we use for the rest of the year on Passover; so we keep a whole set of utensils, etc for the week of Passover. So now, picture going to the Supermarket with about half of Netanya crowding in, piling shopping carts full of Matzah, fruits, vegetables, meat and chicken, and all kinds of other products! Now, for those used to shopping in IGA in Cote St Luc or other similar places, where the Passover products are clearly marked and isolated from the Non-Passover (or Chametz) products, at least you can navigate smoothly through the process. Even products that are OK for Sepharadim are marked, making it easy to avoid the Kitniyot (legumes). In our supermarket, the Passover products are in the shelves next to the regular products, and all different customs are intermingled together. So, everyone is busy squinting at small fine print on lables to first see if the product is Kosher for Passover, then checking to see if it contains Kitniyot, then yelling at your neighbor or spouse “I found the Matzah Ball Mix! Which aisle has the garlic powder?” Then just when you think you are done, you go to the cash and remember “Did we buy onions?” Of course your carts are so full that you couldn’t find onions unless they we labeled with a fluorescent tag (a common procedure in our lab). So, you take your booty home and set out again when you find that indeed you forgot the onions!

Israel Shopping Vignette #2.  Today on the way to pick up Gila, Ariel and Elisah, we stopped at a large multinational hardware chain to pick up a few things. You would think, being a multinational that they would know how to organize things? Now, this would be a stretch, because, although Israel is a high-tech, progressive, start up nation, some parts of the Israeli shopping experience always have to resemble the market in the Shtetle (back in the Golden days in Eastern Europe). We get to the cash, and the shortest line has a person filling out some kind of credit form with the puzzled cashier trying to figure out which side is up. Then, the line we settled in was longer but looked like it was moving. However, the client was asked if he had a membership card. When he answered that he did not, this triggered a 10 minute session with the cashier to fill out these forms! He was so excited to get his first points that he ran back and picked up a few more items! Yes, this actually happened!
On a more enjoyable note, last night we had the great pleasure of attending Adena Goldberger and Yaron White’s wedding. Adena is Nomi’s sister so it was fun to be part of the family! The wedding was beautiful, with several family members including Shoshana taking part in the Chuppa (wedding ceremony)! Shoshana was awesome! The music and dancing were amazing and the food terrific. It was really a great way to start off our holiday!

Now we are preparing for Shabbat, with more Passover preparations to be done on Sunday and early Monday. The Seder is Monday night and we look forward to the experience. For Shabbat Jenna is joining us before she heads home to Edmonton to join Roanne and her family, including Grandma!

We wish you an amazing Shabbat and a Chag Sameach V’Kasher!