Not that I'm one to make excuses (usually), but I realize that it's been awhile since I've sent out a nice long juicy e-mail. I met a birdwatcher this past Sunday up in the Hula valley. She was keeping an eye on the 25,000 cranes who are there hanging out there until they make their way up north in a few weeks. She claims that neither animals nor humans are lazy (just smart!). Anyway, that would mean that my lack of communication would not be due to any laziness on my part. Yeah.
I guess the craziness began between Sukot and Chanukah. It was the usual stuff, plus dealing with our infant Menucha Rachel's whooping cough, making preparations for our son Mendel's Bar Mitzvah, when our community was struck with the tragic death of 4 of our children in a car accident, three of them 12 years old. In our entire community of 300 families, their were only 17 seventh graders to begin with. Now there are 14. I would like to say that it hit our family especially hard because of our closeness to the familie's who lost their children and because these were our son's very best friends, but everyone in our small close-knit community feels that way. Mendel's Bar Mitzvah, just one month after the deaths, was a rollercoaster of emotions. Ellie started to bawl like a baby when one of the mothers entered Shul during Mendel's Bar Mitzvah speach. What can I say? No words can describe the deep, deep pain we are all suffering as a result of this tragedy.
Ellie's father came from the States for the bar mitzvah, and then stayed on for our daughter's wedding. My mother flew in from Iowa and Moishy flew in as well for a too brief visit. Moishy needed to cut his trip short. His mother-in-law Neema Zazon of blessed memory, a very, very special person, passed away after battling cancer for years only a few hours after Moishy returned from his visit to Israel.
Enough with the bad news! The newlyweds are doing great. They are living in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot. Our children Yaakov and Mazal are expecting their first this summer. (That was another story. Mazal required surgery last month, during the Jerusalem snow storm. Baruch Hashem, baruch Hashem all is thank G-d well. But it was a scary moment for us all). The kids are doing fine in school. Bat Sheva successfully completed her first 3 bagruyot. These are the SAT like exams all High School students are required to take in order to graduate. Only 18 more to go! Mendel is having a difficult time. Both the school and the community are providing special help for him and for the entire 7th grade class from Mitzpeh Yericho.
Two years ago, especially with the encouragement of my father-in-law, I started a tour guide course in order to receive a license from the Ministry of Tourism. It is a difficult course, hundreds of classroom hours studying history, archeaology, religions, geomorphology, etc. in addition to visiting hundreds of sights around the country for in-depth studying. The truth is, I loved it! It was a great course with really great lecturers, the best people in these fields and a real learning oppurtunity. Our class of 25 students, made up of old and young, religious and secular, Jewish and not Jewish, congealed into a close-knit group of very good and close friends. It was a wonderful experience, albeit challenging. Besides all the exams and material that had to be digested and internalized, there was also the issue of time, and about making a living until the course would end. Here and there I did some unofficial guiding and some part jobs. But two years is a long time, and we thankfully received much assistance from our friends. And so with the final exams from the Ministry of Tourism looming, I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The written exam, a very intense five hour exam, went well. I scored 94.5 the second highest mark in the course. In January, I took the even more difficult oral exam, and to the surprise of all, least of all myself, I failed. For almost one hour you are questioned by 4 examiners on everything under the sun. Crusader sights along the coast. Napoleon's invasion of 1799. Pagan Temple remains in Jerusalem. Instructions for entering the Dead Sea. In addition, you are required to present a 10 minute performance that you could give at a sight in Israel. I chose the Northern Palace of King Herod on Masada. Anyway, I flopped. My presentation was boring, and my answers were too bullet point; not enough depth.
If you fail the exam, you can retake it in 6 months. Absolutely no exceptions. Six months! I tossed and turned in my bed all night. My course director assured me that he would spend time with me to prepare for the next exam. In the meanwhile, I would lose out on the business I was hoping to generate before the summer.
The final set of exams in January were postponed due to the snow storm. On Tuesday February 12 (my birthday) my course director called to inform me that for his first time ever, he successfully appealed my exam and I could come back to take the oral exam again on the rescheduled day. For the exam, I dressed up as King Herod and performed for 10 minutes describing the Temple King Herod built. It wasn't boring. They loved it. The exam went great. I even knew abouut Muhammed's whisker which is kept in the Al-Jazzar Mosque in Akko. So now I am finally licensed. Full steam ahead!
More good news. Ever since making aliyah almost five years ago, with the encouragement of my good friend Adam Brown, I have sent out these regularly sent emails as a way to stay in touch with our close friends. Some of the fans of these emails have even suggested that I put it all together for a book. Easier said than done, but I found a co-publisher http://www.simchapublishing.com/copublishing.htm . The book is scheduled for distribution in the Spring of 2009. Among the nice things they wrote after reviewing my manuscript was; "I’ve read about half a dozen aliyah “diaries” over the last few years and I can say unequivocably that yours is one of the best I’ve ever read."
They will also handle all the marketing, which is crucial. The exposure should also be great for my tour guiding enterprise.
I am looking for a sponsor to dedicate book. Are you interested?
That's it for now. All our love. Please visit soon!
Jewish Book Review » You Come for One Reason But Stay for Another: Making the Odyssey to Israel could be subtitled “It takes an Optimist”