Sunday, January 28, 2007

Shamefaced but moving forward

I'm SO SO SO SO SORRY for not posting for two weeks. I know there are people who have been worried about me, especially since I wrote in my last post that I'm still sick. Here's what's been going on:

I'm still sick. It's true, thank God, that I'm doing much better than I was two weeks ago, but believe it or not I am still coughing a lot, and my voice is extremely hoarse. Other than that I feel pretty good, though. I think maybe the reason my cough/voice isn't getting better is that I don't want it to: people are telling me that I sound very sexy. That's pretty fun.

My parents were here! It's true! They finally came to visit me! This was their first trip to Israel in 13 years. They stayed for two weeks, and despite a few arguments here and there we all had a great time. My father did a lot of sight-seeing, and my mother did a lot of shopping, and every day they took me out for dinner, so all three of us were happy.

I spent a day in Hebron. My father wanted to see the Cave of the Patriarchs, so we found a tour group with a bullet-proof bus and went together. I'd never been there and wanted to see the town (and the site of the Cave) for myself. That day is definitely a blog post all on its own. Boy, do I have a lot to say about that day, much of it self-contradictory.

I took a teaching job. Yes, indeed. After years of nightmares about my teaching experience in the Bronx, I found a job that met all of my requirements: Starting next week, I'll be teaching American teenagers (who are in Israel for the semester), and I'll be teaching just one, relatively small, class, of kids who are actually on grade level and more or less do their homework, in a safe and supportive environment where the administration cares both about the kids and the teachers, and where I don't have to worry about the school running out of basic necessities like chalk or photocopying paper. Actually, a bonus in this job is that they don't use blackboards, but rather dry-erase boards, for which my lungs are grateful. It is unbelievable how much chalk dust teachers breathe in. I'm surprised no one has done a lung-cancer study about it. But moving on . . .

The February UYO class is officially full! Yes, indeed, with over three weeks to go before the class, all 24 spots are full, and there is one person on the waiting list. If you would like to attend the class, you are welcome to register and hope that a space opens (in fact, two of the 24 students have indicated from the get-go that they may have to cancel, so waiting-list registrants do have a chance). Anyone who doesn't get in this time can have their registration fees rolled over to the May class. Also, Beth and I have been discussing a lot of exciting plans about the future of the course and our huge ideas of how to transform Israeli society. Some of the people coming to the class are in positions to become important partners for us (which they know about, and are coming to the class to check out how we could work together). And we have a system all set up for fundraising, which Beth is working hard on. Go, team!

I have so much work. Most of it, unfortunately, is left over from when I was sick, so it's not new assignments. But still, it's there, and I have to do it (thankfully, most of it is very interesting. And, very thankfully, I am continuing to earn money).

I'm planning a Barnard event. Next week there will be an event for: a) students who deferred their matriculation at Barnard for a year so that they could study or tour in Israel first and b) Barnard students who are spending Spring semester at Hebrew University and c) Alumnae who live in Israel - some are coming from as far as Tel Aviv. I leveraged my status as an Admissions Representative for the school to arrange this, since I remember vividly how scary it was to leave Israel and jump into secular life (for the first time) in the Big Apple (where I'd never lived before). So the Admissions Office kindly agreed to sponsor the event. If you know anyone in the above categories (especially the first two) who didn't receive information, please have her get in touch with me, or send me her information at chayyeisarah at yahoo dot com. We sent emails to everyone, and I'm following up with phone calls, but I have a strong suspicion that not everyone who was invited has read the email.

Whew! As you can see, I've got plenty of good reasons not to have time to blog. However, I will definitely try to check in more often in the future. Also, from February 1-15, I'll be filling in at, summarizing and posting links to interesting posts by other English-language Israeli bloggers. Come over and see me some time! :-)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Status Report

UYO: With 5 and a half weeks 'til the next course, we have filled 19 20 of the 24 spaces for students, and are discussing the waiting list that it seems we will surely need, as more than an additional 5 4 people have indicated a desire to attend. We've tentatively scheduled the next two courses as well; details TBA.

My health: Fever's mostly down. Nausea not completely gone, but more under control. Coughing is still very much a problem. Yesterday my friend Gila came to visit. Like an angel she sat and talked to me, made havdala for me, and washed my dishes and took out my garbage and swept my floor and folded the laundry that had been taking up all the space in my kitchen since Tuesday. Wow. Thank you, Gila.

Today I went to the doctor by myself. She said I do not have pneumonia, prescribed Mucolit for the cough, and said to rest and drink plenty of fluids. If one more person tells me to drink lots of fluids I will strangle them.

Bottom line: I'm mostly better, but coughing all day is very tiring.

That book I wanted: Remember I said I wanted to read A Confederacy of Dunces? Well, Rachel M., she of the generous spirit, amazing library, and impeccable taste in all things Talbots, loaned me her copy. I could not get into it. I tried. At around page 40 I said "I will read this until page 100, and if I am still not immersed in this story, I will give up." At page 105 I gave up. Did I understand the humor? I think so. Sometimes. Was it enough to keep me going for another 200 pages? No. Sorry, mother of John Kennedy Toole. (Thanks to Rachel, who happens to be Gila's roommate, also for driving over cough medicine before Shabbat, along with flowers from the third amazing roommate, Estee. Pink roses. Awwww.

That big project I was working on: I don't know if I ever mentioned I was working on a big project. It was BIG. One of those "this will only take you a few days" projects which got bigger and BIGGER and BIGGER per requests of the client. Thank God, I was charging by the hour. Anyway, I can now bill for 60 hours of work. The last time I spent 60 hours researching and writing for one project was in the spring of 2001, for a grad school class. Maybe this project is why I got sick, ya think?

People helping me: So, speaking of things getting out of my control (but in a good way) and people helping me (always great), comes along this development, the new non-profit organization by fellow blogger (and friend) Beth. The mission of her new organization is to "help individuals and groups discover their personal gifts and commit to using those gifts in service of the Jewish people." And guess what program is the FIRST for which she is fundraising? Yup. You got it.

For the past five years, I have been a grant liaison helping non-profit organizations in Israel and the US develop their programs and effectively work with US based foundations. In this capacity, I have raised and reported on over $3,000,000 in programs.

As of Sunday, I have begun the process to officially begin my own non-profit organization in Israel. It is called Tafkid and its mission is to help individuals and groups discover their personal gifts and commit to using those gifts in service of the Jewish people.

My vehicle for doing this, at this point, is the UYO course that I took in November. As such, I am fundraising to subsidize the course for participants in Israel. When I raise $12,000 the course scheduled for February 21 will take place. After that, I’m shooting for 1 million dollars to transform Israel!

It is ironic that I ask people for money to support other people’s dreams every day. Somehow asking to support my dream is much harder. I’m practicing. So why not use my very own blog as a way to help support my dream.

So… if you would like to help me build ahavas yisrael and bring the redemption please send me an e-mail at and I will let you know how you can make a donation in Israel or a tax deductible donation in the US.

Here are some ways you can help…

¨ $12,000 Sponsors the entire course

¨ $3,000 Sponsors an instructor

¨ $2,000 Sponsors one day of the class

¨ $533 Sponsors a student

¨ $100 Sponsors a segment of the class

¨ $50 Sponsors books for students

Any help is appreciated.

If you would like further information (or just to give me some encouragement in this endeavor, drop me a line)

Beth, thank you so much for supporting my dream! I'm so glad I've provided a way for you to fulfill yours.

If anyone out there is interested in helping fund the "after the Jewish people comes the rest of the world" piece of my dream - or wants to know what that means to me - drop me a line.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I hope you've been worrying about me in my absence . . .

. . . because a big reason I haven't posted is that I've been VERY sick. It started as a chest cold, turned into a fever, and then after another day of fever and chills and throwing up, I woke up yesterday morning knowing, just knowing somehow, that something was really wrong, and I needed help. You should just know that I almost never go to the doctor when I'm sick, and I'm terrible about asking for help when I need it. But I was lying in bed, shivering and coughing and crying, and knowing that if I don't ask for help, I'll be in very big trouble.

So my friend Chava left her baby in the care of her husband and came over to bring me to the doctor. Thank God no one I knew was in the waiting room of my community clinic, because I was a mess. As soon as I got into the doctor's office I plopped down on the examination table and started to cry. I was petrified, because I was so thirsty, but couldn't keep down water. Feverish, and so cold. After examining me, the doctor said I have a very severe case of the flu, and that I'm dehydrated, and no, he's not sending me home, he's sending me to a clinic where they can give me fluids by IV.

So Chava helped me into a taxi and we drove to the Meuchedet clinic. I apologize to the workers of the gas station across the street from the clinic, who witnessed me throwing up into the garbage can on their curb.

At Meuchedet, I only had to wait a few minutes to get into the nursing clinic, and within 30 minutes of arriving I was hooked up to an IV, and given the magic Acomol (aspirin) to lower my fever. Chava was amazing. She sat with me for over three hours while I became hydrated again, even though it meant having to call in reinforcements to watch her baby so her husband could get ready for work.

I just want to take this opportunity to do an Appreciation Wednesday. I don't know who figured out how to make and administer IV fluid, but that person probably saved my life yesterday. It seems like such a simple thing, IV fluid, but seriously, after the way I felt yesterday, I started to understand why people used to die so often of the flu. And still do. I feel like bentching gomel.

After being given 1.5 liters of fluid, and a prescription for anti-nausea medication, I came home. Chava made sure I was plied with chicken soup, sprite, apple sauce, bread for toast, and tea - not that I've ingested anything other than water and chicken broth, and two pieces of plain toast, since getting home. At least I'm keeping it down. Maybe by tomorrow I'll graduate to Sprite.

Anyway, that's why I haven't posted, even though there are, in fact, other things I could have blogged about. And will. But now I need to go lie down.

Thank you, Chava.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Reminder for People who Live in Israel

The Early Registration deadline for the next Understanding Yourself and Others (TM) class, which I am planning, and which is scheduled to take place February 21-24, is on January 10. Meaning, you can still register after January 10, but it will cost you 50 nis more.

So, to enroll for UYO and save 50 nis on the tuition, write to me at chayyeisarah at yahoo dot com and I'll send you all the registration materials.

By the way, I am still getting INCREDIBLE feedback from students in the last course. Even two students who were still sort of skeptical about it after the course, are now telling me that they are still using tools they learned there, and that they are really glad they came. As for the rest, well, I can't get into details (yet) but let's just say that, inspired by the course to "think big" and follow their dreams, a lot of the students have made some pretty impressive changes in their lives, from starting a new non-profit organization, to switching to a school they prefer, to deciding to become a rabbi, to reconciling with their estranged parents. And the course was just a month and a half ago! Wow!

We are moving, moving, moving, doing incredible things. I can't wait to see what else happens as a result of all of this.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sad Neighborhood News

As noted two posts ago, I've been out of Jerusalem quite a bit this week, grabbing food on the go at bus and train stations (yes, kosher food), and in cafes. So I haven't done any grocery shopping.

Tonight I ran out to get a few staples before my local grocery closes, and it was all locked up! An hour early! What the ---? That never happens!

I thought that perhaps the owner's wife, who is quite pregnant, had gone into labor. So I went into the much smaller grocery nearby and asked the owner of that store whether everything is OK with Shabi.

"I guess so," he said.

"Do you know why his store is closed at this hour?" I asked.

"What? Didn't you hear? His father died. On Friday. The funeral was on Saturday night. He's sitting shiva."

Whoa. I didn't see that coming. Shabi's father, Shimon, had founded the store and until recently was there quite often. I knew he was old and sick, but there was nothing in particular to tell me his life was coming to a close. Maybe his family knew.

It's a strange relationship, that between the friendly every-day shopper and the friendly grocery store owner. I've seen Shabi and/or his dad almost every day since I moved into this apartment more than three years ago. They've taught me Hebrew, I've helped them with American references in crossword puzzles. They've let me buy things on credit, I brought them mishloach manot on Purim. Shabi knows what I eat, and I know that he works too hard and that his wife hangs out at the store in the evenings because otherwise she'd never see him. I know that since they got married she's become an excellent cook, and they know what I look like when I'm recovering from the flu and have no makeup on. I know that Shabi's devotion to his father was obvious and heartwarming.

And yet, I don't know their last name.

There's a poster on the outside wall of their store, announcing the address for shiva. I see these people every day, but tomorrow when I pay them a visit it will be my first time in their home. Shimon was one of the first native Israelis I came to know after moving here, but I cannot say he was someone whose absence will make a big difference to me personally, except insofar as I feel very bad for Shabi, who loved Shimon very much.

It's hard to know what to feel, when someone has passed on whom I knew, and yet did not know.
An Open Letter to Israel Railways

(UPDATE: Soon to be sent to: Israel Railways, The Public Commissioner, PO Box 18085, Tel Aviv 61180. Fax: 03 693 7443)
From: (me)
Date sent: January 3, 2007

To whom it may concern,
I am an olah, and a frequent rider of Israel Railways. My work as a reporter often takes me from my home in southern Jerusalem to points in the North and to Be'er Sheva. When train service began from Malha, I was elated. Even though the trip to Tel Aviv was 20 minutes longer than the bus ride, I was more than happy to trade the 20 minutes for a more pleasant ride.
However, on my most recent trip to Haifa, after the new train schedule began and I had to switch in Bet Shemesh, the trip from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv took almost 2.5 hours!
It is bad enough that the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv trip was 20 minutes longer than the bus, but it was shown that many people like me are willing to sacrifice a small amount of time for comfort. Having to switch in Bet Shemesh, however, creates two problems:
First, even if the train schedules are coordinated so that the wait in Bet Shemesh is only a few minutes, it is an annoyance to have to pack up one's belongings after only 40 minutes, leave the train, and then re-settle oneself on another train.
Second, the train schedule was NOT coordinated, and I waited in Bet Shemesh for 48 minutes for the train to Tel Aviv!
I have been thinking about what benefits you think you will gain from the new schedule, and have decided that this new plan must be politically motivated in some way, because certainly none of your customers who travel between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem benefit in any way. You will certainly lose many customers who travel between Israel's two largest cities, because as pleasant as the train may be, I cannot imagine anyone being willing to spend over two hours traveling between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
If I were just slightly more cynical, I would believe that you are deliberately attempting to undermine Jerusalem's urban infrastructure.
Until you restore direct Jerusalem-Tel Aviv service, you can certainly count on thousands of people deciding, as I have, never to take the train -- because train travel into and out of Jerusalem has been rendered absolutely pointless.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

How did I get this life?

It's only Tuesday, and already this week I have:

1) Attended the annual New Year's ball in Haifa sponsored by Goshen, an organization for Jews from Egypt. Yes. Me. A New Year's ball. For second-exodused Egyptian Jews. With Moroccan catering. And other than myself there were two people under the age of 50. Oh, I forgot the belly dancers. Yes. Belly dancers. Where oh where do I even begin?

2) Found myself being driven past Hebron, on the way from Beer Sheva to Jerusalem, by the son of Dudu Fisher. Is that the most random thing ever?