Exploring nature

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Today we went on another one of our hikes, and guess what we found? It’s the first one I saw since we had moved here.

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Little explorer.

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A cool moss-covered rock. We had a rainy weekend, so everything was fresh and lovely and not too hot.

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We all had so much fun!

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A breathtaking view on a lovely afternoon.

And, most importantly, we still adhere to social distancing. Our government is opening everything up way too fast to my liking – but just because something is now legal, it doesn’t mean it is recommended.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

A beautiful walk (in total isolation)

Well, the final hectic rush of Passover prep and the seder night are behind us. It’s time to enjoy some well-deserved rest, and today the kids and I managed to sneak to the lovely, lonely fields near our house again. Of course, we strictly adhered to social distancing and saw nobody but this little agricultural aircraft which my children got very excited about:

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It was such a beautiful afternoon. It had rained all weekend and everything – the earth, the plants, the sky – was delightfully fresh and there was a smell of honey in the air. Thousands upon thousands of flowers swaying in the light pleasant breeze. It was like walking in the midst of a lovely fairytale.

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The ladybug season is here, too!

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They had such fun exploring. It was honestly one of the most beautiful afternoons of my life.

As the shadows were lengthening, we went home in a roundabout way, making sure not to run into anyone.

I hope we can make it out there again soon. Stay safe, everyone!

Last post before Pesach

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By this time, I have cleaned both my refrigerators and things are rising to the feverish pitch that will culminate in the Seder night on Wednesday, but we’ve still had some time to spend in the garden lately and I even sneaked in a couple of short walks with the children (strictly keeping to empty, lonely places). Last week we saw this flock of cranes right next to our house.

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These birds sure aren’t doing social distancing!

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One of our little house geckos. The kids love to play with them.

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Shira tried to make a smiley egg face here, but this didn’t quite work out. 🙂 I am so extremely grateful for our plentiful and healthy eggs these days. The stores are just empty of eggs at the moment, and I’ve read they are forced to import to meet demand – no knowing what the price or quality will be.

Overall, though we are holding up pretty well, there’s just no denying the situation in the world is kind of crazy right now. I’m so looking forward to the time when it’s possible to lift the quarantine at least a bit – I miss day trips, going to the library, and getting together with friends. There are so many people around the country, from Rehovot to Maalot and from the Shomron to Ramat Beit Shemesh, who are often in my thoughts, and though social media and email thankfully make it easy to keep in touch, nothing can replace a good ol’ cup of coffee together. So this is my post-quarantine resolution: make more time to visit with friends in person.

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and enjoying spring despite the necessary limitations. No better time to start a garden if you haven’t yet!

I’m off to take all the stove knobs apart and give it a good polish.

On the Purim-Pesach highway

Purim is in two days, which officially marks the beginning of my least favorite time of the year: the weeks between Purim and Pesach.

I always say that all the Pesach prep is probably meant to really help us get into the shoes of the enslaved Israelites in Egypt. It’s more than just spring cleaning, which many people around the world do. It’s practically overhauling one’s whole house. It’s getting obsessively neurotic over every crumb and every trace of leavened bread. It’s packing and unpacking dishes, cookware, and practically all the kitchenware – twice in the span of a week.

By the end of that time, I’m just left with my tongue hanging out, desperate to have my life back.

But there is a silver lining. This period is also the absolute best time of the year to acquire various roadside finds, as people are going through their houses and closets and throw away things, often in excellent condition. You know what they say – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A big part of our furniture consists of such timely finds that have been serving us for long years now.

While I’m generally a big fan of saving space and getting rid of stuff, sometimes you just happen to be in need of something, and then you’re actually driving by and it stares you right in the face – like for example this good-as-new bed frame we had hauled home last week. After a thorough treatment with furniture polish, I can already envision how it will shine in its intended spot. Naturally, I don’t buy furniture polish – I’m currently experimenting with a few homemade, eco-friendly versions.

Happy cleaning, everyone. Remember not to work too hard and just enjoy this beautiful time of year when the earth seems to be stirring awake.

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A decade in the West Bank: a recap

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When I was a bride on the point of my wedding, my future husband and I were looking for a quiet rural place where we could raise our children close to nature and away from busy roads and packed streets. There are such places in Israel, but they are either remote or hugely expensive. In an act of thinking outside the box, we explored the possibility of hopping over the ’67 border, or “the green line”, into the Judea and Samaria area, also known as “The West Bank”.

It was not a political statement (at least not initially). We did believe, and still do, that Jews have the right to live in every part of the Promised Land as it appears in the Bible. Otherwise, all Israelis are nothing more than greedy colonists and might as well pack up and leave. But it was not what led us to move to the settlement of Kedumim and later, when that, either, did not answer our rural dream, to the surrounding outposts.

We soon found out that our motives in living remotely were vastly different from almost every other person we came in contact with. While we essentially wanted a homestead and complete privacy, our neighbors emphasized community and “doing things together” (which did not sit well at all with me as an individualist, and which in my opinion led to lots of gossiping and people sticking their noses into each other’s tushy).

Israeli farmers and settlers have historically been forced to band together for safety reasons. Independent farms are few and far between. We have not been able to attain this dream; perhaps we never will, now. Living among the rolling hills and picturesque views was lovely while it lasted, but it came with a cost.

One was safety. I don’t have statistics, but tragedies happen all the time. People die in car accidents. Hospitals are always full. But this can’t compare to the palpable feeling of pure evil walking all around you, of knowing that there are monsters in human skin who are out there to kill you and your children just for who they are.

During our time in the Shomron, we came in contact with two incidents of such evil: the attack on the 11-year-old Ayala Shapiro, whose family were our neighbors, which left her with severe burns that had maimed her forever; and the murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, who was likewise our neighbor in the last place we had lived before leaving the area.

I don’t run a political blog, but no, civil casualties during armed conflict are NOT the same as a terrorist who deliberately sets out to kill innocents, and the more helpless and weak they are, the better. During the massacre of the Fogel family in Itamar, the scum of the earth monster who had already murdered the parents and two of the children was about to walk out of the house when the 4-month-old baby, whom he hadn’t noticed before, started crying in her crib. He went back and stabbed her to death.

During our last four years in the settlements we lived in what you’d call the “hardest core” outpost. People there were no fuzzy sunshiny “let’s all get along” types. We were publicly shamed for doing business in the neighboring Arab village. But you can bet your life none of those isolated “fanatics” would have walked into a random Arab home to kill babies.

One thing I have realized most strongly was that the Shomron is an integral, indispensable part of Israel. I used to be able to watch the sunset glimmer on the surface of the Mediterranean Sea from my living room window. That’s how tiny our country is. Look at the map and see what is left once Judea and Samaria area is subtracted – a narrow strip of land along the shore, vulnerable and impossible to defend.

Many people, in Israel as well as around the world, labor under the delusion that if we just retreat to the ’48 borders as defined by the UN, all will be peachy and the Hamas and Hezbollah will drop their guns and rockets and we’ll all sing Kumbaya together around a campfire. Sorry, folks, not gonna happen. Those who hate us and want to kill us in Maale Adumim hate us and want to kill us in Tel Aviv. By the way, don’t you find it funny how Jerusalem, where Jews have lived thousands of years ago and which had never been without a Jewish presence, is so strongly disputed, while Tel Aviv, which is a historically recent creation, is not?

Quoting the Bible as the document that gives us the right to this land might not be accepted by all, but without it, what are we actually doing here?

But I digress.

Many settlements are like small towns with no clear political affiliation. People there mostly just go about their business and live like in any other part of the country. Where we lived it was different. The place had all sorts of legal obstacles to its development. There were often problems with electricity and running water. There were no shops, post office, bank, doctors, etc, within walking distance.

This lack of accessibility, even more than the clannish segregated social structure, was what I found most frustrating about my life on that area. Without a car or reliable transportation means, I was utterly dependent on DH for every little thing. If we had run out of milk and he didn’t feel like driving to the grocery store, too bad, we’d just have to do without milk. Every trivial errand turned into a huge logistic challenge.

The decision to leave did not come about in one day. Besides being attached to the area, we couldn’t afford to move anywhere else (forget that we could barely afford to maintain our own house, as it was).

I suppose the overwhelming feeling I had experienced in those days was simply exhaustion. I was tired of never feeling quite safe, of not being able to count on having simple necessities like running water, of everything being such a logistical nightmare, from checking emails to running to the grocery store, of being utterly dependent on my husband for every trivial little thing.

I feel extremely lucky that my mom had a home to offer us. Things are so much easier for me today that I sometimes feel like I cheated. I was certainly a lot more fortunate than others in my situation. Not everyone has generous family ready to help them out of lousy circumstances.

My heart is still with the courageous souls braving a thousand risks and inconveniences each day of living where I used to. I will always feel a strong emotional bond to that part of the country. However, there’s no denying I’m a lot happier and mentally healthier here.

Sunny days

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It hardly seems fair that the weather should be so enticing when all we seem to do lately is dig into kitchen drawers, refrigerators and closet shelves, and clean, clean, clean.

My husband suggested that we all take a break and make a little day trip to the Kinneret. We now live relatively close to this largest lake of Israel.

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With the latest rains, the Kinneret has reached far beyond its usual borders, almost covering these reeds that grew along what used to be the bank.

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Though the water was too chilly to our liking to dip in, Israel enjoyed a refreshing splash. I think he looks a little like Tarzan in this photo!

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Hadassah, in the meantime, was occupied by some interesting-looking pebbles.

It was such a lovely afternoon that I wish I could have taken about a thousand more pictures to preserve its beauty, but I know it would still not have been enough.

In the meantime, we’re working extra hard in preparation for the Pesach holiday, which takes place next week, and also, in between, trying to subdue the enormous jungle of weeds that sprang up in our garden.

This is the first crop of my husband’s container potatoes – digging for them was a real treasure hunt for the kids:

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Cheering up with chickens

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Wherever we are, it seems like it’s only a matter of time until we find some chickens. It turns out we have a neighbor who has a whole yard full of poultry (we found him through the crowing of his roosters), including all my favorite chicken breeds such as Silkies, Brahmas, Polish, Wyandotte, Sussex… And it turns out we have some poultry aficionados as common acquaintance. So now hopefully, once I am able to nudge my husband (*smile*) in the direction of building a coop and giving the incubator a test run, we can get fresh eggs for hatching. Really, in moving here, there is nothing I miss like my chickens. For the time being, we go to visit and feed our neighbor’s birds whenever we can.

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Speaking of going somewhere… There hasn’t been much of that lately because the rains have been SO intense for the season. We even missed our regular afternoon in the library today! I’m surprised at the strength of my craving for sunshine, warmth and all that comes with it – hammocks, picnics, wading pools, bare feet, and working in the garden.

In the meantime, we have been trying to make the best of these days of being cooped up inside (as you can judge by Shira’s modeling clay art), drawing, reading, and taking out all our favorite board games. We have actually finished the fifth Harry Potter book, which has been our ongoing read for months.

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I have also been putting the closets in order and discovered another stash of yarn scraps that will be just perfect for a doll-making project. Once, of course, I put Pesach (and all the cleaning it entails) behind me.

I hope spring is on its way to all my friends in the northern hemisphere!