Category Archives: parenting

Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow

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It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s the end of the school year. Schools are out for summer and the summer playschemes/school camps or as we know them here, kaytanot, are in full swing for the smaller kids. This can only mean one thing for a mother of three younglings; arguing, short tempers, over excitement followed by extreme boredom, in short, stress. So what better way to spend a Saturday but to drive up to the slightly less humid climes of Jerusalem (aka J’lo) to visit the zoo.

The Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem is an oasis of calm on a Saturday afternoon and due to the tensions in J’lo at the moment it appeared that last Saturday people preferred to stay at home and the zoo was all but empty.

Kids love zoos. They love the idea of a zoo often more than the reality of schleping around sleeping animals in cages, so the excitement when Daddy announced we were going was at fever pitch on Saturday morning.

I am not a fan of zoos as a rule but because of the setting, the gardens, the enormous enclosures and the general well-being of the animals (so it appears) Jerusalem zoo gets my vote. The chimps live on an island in the middle of the lake, not a cage in sight, the kangaroos live in an open enclosure, the lemurs walk on a path in front of you and you can pop your head out right next to the meerkats (albeit under the cover of a plastic dome).

Number 1 son said he liked the penguins best, Princess Daughter liked the crocodile and the fish and no.2 son was scared of the snakes, the crocodile, the tiger, I could go on, but liked the monkeys best (takes one to know one?). I liked the fact that the kids were happy, we were in no rush, there was wind (unlike where we live), low humidity (unlike where we live) and apart from no.2 son having a small incident when he fell into the disabled loo, bottom first, we managed to get through the day accident free.

Earlier in the year we went to the Safari near Tel Aviv and I came away feeling that zoos were cruel, people were rude and my shoulders ached because I’d had a small child perched on them for most of the trip. It was fun…up to a point. If you ever need to decide between the two, go to Jerusalem.

Due to the amount of time we were there and the age of our kids we probably only saw a third of the animals. We’ll save the rest for another trip.

With only a few weeks to go before we escape to the UK in August it is trips like this that keep both myself and the children from heat induced hysteria. No. 1 son cried when he realised the day that nursery broke up for the summer that we weren’t going to the UK the following day. If we can fill the next few weeks with special trips and family time hopefully we’ll make it through the July heat and the general exhaustion before we are cooled by Cheshire’s weather and warmed by Granny and Grandpa’s welcome.

http://www.jerusalemzoo.org.il/len/

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Remember my Name

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ImageI have always had a bad memory for names and it’s even worse now I live somewhere where the names are not familiar and have no point of reference for me.  Following a visit to Israel I telephoned the house that my Husband-To-Be was staying at and spoke to one of my now very good friends, I had met her and spent time with her only a week earlier but I called her Hagar, her name is Gali.  No they are not similar in any way but the week I had been visiting Israel I had met a lot of H-T-B’s friend’s girlfriends and there was Hadas, Hagar, Gali, Tali, Michal and Michal.  It was very confusing for someone who knew a host of Clares, Rachels, Sarahs and Helens.  You would have thought 10 years on I would have got better.  Not so.  Of course I no longer call my friends by the wrong name but a couple of weeks I made what the French would call a faux pas, the Israelis call a fedeekha and what us Brits would call a balls up.

I was on my daily power walk (yes I am old and I don’t jog) and my phone rang. The name Noa came up.  Noa is a very popular girls name here – not to be confused with Noah with a kh sound at the end which is a boy’s name.  I don’t know anyone called Noa but she was saved in my phone and when I spoke to her it turned out she was one of the Mothers from the twins’ nursery inviting us all over for dinner.  How lovely.  I said great, made a note of the date and kept walking.  A few day’s before the date I asked her to pick the twins from the nursery and I would get there as soon as poss with no. 1 son because I had double booked something.  All good so far, she was sweet enough to deal with my two 3 year olds plus hers and a baby alone for half an hour.  One hour in to our date I received a text message ‘are you on your way?’.  I was so confused.  I am here.  What on earth.  Oh bugger.  I am at the wrong house with all my children and now how do I explain inviting ourselves over, asking for the favour and who on earth really invited us?  Uh oh. I wondered why there was no sign of dinner.

To cut a very confusing story short Noa is the name of the girl whose house we had all invaded and the mother who had invited us was also Noa.  Oops. I eventually explained the predicament and  went to dinner at the other Noa’s house (whose daughter has the same name as my daughter) and all was well. Must remember people’s names, must remember people’s names.

Luckily my name also causes problems for Israelis.  There is no ay sound in the Hebrew language so Katie is often pronounced Ketie or Kitty.  As I am sure I have mentioned before, the Israelis love coffee shops.  The local coffee shop is to an Israeli what the local pub is to a Brit.  Many of the coffee shop chains have a name system whereby they call your name over the microphone when your order is ready.  I have been called Hattie, Kaley, Kitty, Ettie and my personal favourite Titty.  Yes someone called me Titty once.  Go figure. Thank goodness for Katy Perry, I now say Katie, as in Perry.

At a meeting in the early days here a receptionist asked me (in English) who she should say was here and I said, its Katie.  She promptly picked up the phone and said Skatie is here.  My Brit friends still call me Skatie to this day. So you see it’s not just me mispronouncing, messing up, not remembering names but if everyone had pronounceable Anglo name I am sure I would fare a lot better – Chen is an old school friend of my husbands, pronounced Khhhhhhkhhhen.  I really don’t stand a chance.

Is this just me or do any of you have the same problem?

Just add matches

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It’s that time of year again when the air smells of wood smoke, children are spotted pushing shopping trolleys of wood and the fire service are on high alert.  Yes, it’s Lag Ba’Omer which is which is I suppose the Israeli equivalent to bonfire night, minus the fireworks.  You can read all about the historical significance here and you may remember I have talked about this occasion in the past.

A few years ago I used to quite enjoy this holiday but now with the childers it is slightly more stressful.  On Thursday evening there were around 150 under sixes and a number of unmanned bonfires. Perhaps I am a little over sensitive but  trying to keep an eye on our three small childers (especially when one is a runner) in amongst the smoke and burning piles adds to a high level of stress. Add some skewers of charred boiling marshmallow and minus any kind of alcohol for the parents and I needed a lie down by 9pm.

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The childers have been coming home with instructions from their teachers, that you can’t light fires near trees, how you need to keep your distance from the fires and how you need to listen to the grown ups as fires are dangerous. I then saw this mini hot air balloonIMG_2236 being lit by a group of adults whilst surrounded by a group of children, whilst in amongst a crowded field of small people.  Even no. 1 son (age almost 6) commented on how dangerous it was.    I must admit it was lovely to watch it as it rose up into the evening sky but the previous 5 minutes of it falling onto the heads of the small children before it got going had me standing with my mouth open.  Let’s hope it didn’t come down over a dry forest.

 

My children stroke snails

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Whilst in Switzerland in January I ate, a lot.  My friend’s partner is a bit of a foodie.  He likes nothing better than cooking up a storm of an evening, especially when they have visitors.

IMG_1626He picked me up from the airport and we went straight from one country to another by driving the 5 minutes from Geneva airport into France so we could go to the supermarket.  I am always happy to visit a French supermarket, in fact any supermarket that isn’t in Israel is a pleasure (you may remember my distaste for Israeli supermarkets from this post).  French supermarkets are just a joy to behold.  They sell billions of delicious cheeses, ready made bouillabaisse in glass bottles, so so many creamy individual dessert pots and the wine, well the wine – it’s affordable and most of it good including the stuff in a box.  I was happy to see Vin de Pays de Laude which was the cheap wine of choice for me and my pals back in the day when we lived in France.

Stefan, my friend’s partner is the best person to go shopping with if a) you have a desire to eat anything unusual or try something new and b) if you have loads of time, patience and no shopping list.  To say he is a sporadic shopper is an understatement.  I remembered from my last visit that popping to the shop for milk can turn into a half hour excursion resulting in a trolley full of stuff you don’t really need.  Happy to go along with what ever as I was sans enfants and in a foreign country I merrily trawled the aisles whilst he filled the trolley with delicacies for my 4 day visit. I eventually made it back to Switzerland and my friend clutching bacon flavoured snacks (can’t get those in Israel) and a box of ready made fondue – yum.

The first night I tucked into snails and have been regaling my childers about this ever since.  I must admit I have never seen the point of eating snails.  They basically don’t taste of much and you could easily eat garlicky buttery sauce with a piece of bread and get the same affect albeit without the shells.  Still, when in Rome.  My childer’s screams of disgust never cease to amuse me.  ‘what, you ate real snails?’  ‘did you eat the shells?’ and the best ‘ what for?’ – good question.

I have eaten snails a few times before in my former life when I went to Michelin starred restaurants and travelled business class.  On one occasion I took my Mum to the restaurant where hubby was the pastry chef (The Providores in London – what a great great restaurant) and she ate snails.  I am not sure she enjoyed them but she was very proud of herself.  I have also eaten kangaroo and alligator, caviar and frogs legs but nothing screams euughh like snails.

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We don’t see many snails (the non vacuum packed variety) in Israel as it very rarely rains but when it does they come out in their thousands and my childer’s love them.  A couple of days ago whilst emptying number 1 son’s drawer at pre-school I found a tupperware box with holes punched in the top and a poor lone snail swishing around in a puddle of watery grass, I dread to think how long it had been there.

We always have a snail farm when the rain comes.  A snail farm for ye unenlightened few is a cardboard box with a saucer of water and handfuls of grass and a cabbage leaf tossed in for good measure.  There are usually around 5 snails at its inception and 1 hour later there could be 1, if we’re lucky.  They aren’t fond of the farm.  Tears and ‘rescue’ missions follow.

This morning after the 20 minute walk to travel less than quarter of a mile to the nursery the twins came upon a ‘baby’ snail (he was quite small) and they both sat next to him and stroked him.  ‘He’s so sweet’, ‘ hello little snaily’ (but in Hebrew).  At that point, already late, I tried to douse the flames (causing the smoke to come out of my ears) with the puddle they were all but sitting in and dragged them away with promises that we’d see him again later.  I then asked them if they’d like to eat him for dinner.  Does that make me cruel?

 

AEIOU I sometimes cry

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wmu-g-gb7You have probably noticed that that slogan t shirts are back in style after a 30 year break.  Yes it was the 80’s when we sported ‘Choose Life’, ‘Just say NO’ and ‘Frankie says Relax’ t-shirts and yes that was indeed 30 years ago.  Hmmm.  I had a particularly fetching pale pink cut off t-shirt (also in vogue again) with ‘Ne Touchez Pas’ written across it.  Rather inappropriately for a pre-pubescent 11 year old to be wearing a t-shirt like this, especially when 2 hand prints were printed above the words – you can guess where.  What was my Mother thinking?!  (she doesn’t speak French so maybe she just didn’t get it…?!).

I have been eyeing up on the style blogs a few sweatshirts and t-shirts with cool slogans printed across, my personal favourite being, ‘I have more issues than Vogue’.  Luckily here in Israel there are also slogan printed items to purchase, such as this beauty.

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In case you can’t read it, it says;

MIANI DANCELIKE

EUN DMC

MIX EVERY  CNES IMASTER

FLADN

ANO TRNASHS GOYTAR LIKG

NIRVANA

THE MUSEUM THEY DESERNE

Nope it still makes absolutely no sense but FLADN might become my word of the week.You can’t beat a bit of clothing tat off a market at the best of times but I have found that in a non-English speaking country the opportunity for spelling, grammar, general nonsensical and inappropriate English lends a whole new meaning to the word tat.  Take for example the velour child’s track suit with ‘ blow me’ written across the bum.  Obscene, offensive or just plain hilarious?

The reason for my sudden interest in the written word? I am currently trying my best to teach number 1 son to read English.  Although he understands and speaks English, his default language is Hebrew and once he gets to school in September he will be learning to read and write in Hebrew.  My plan is to get him to learn the basics before he goes to school so that he isn’t confused learning to write both languages at the same time.

We are working with educational work books and flash cards but to liven things up a bit and to keep him interested we sometimes do our lessons on the hoof.  I like to call them field trips but they are often errands that I have to run and I take him along with me and package it as an English lesson.  For example in the mall we stand outside the stores with English names and he spells them – ‘Golf’ and ‘Fox’ were easy but we looked like we were casing the joint outside ‘Honigman’ we were there so long.

There are a few difficulties using the everyday world of Israel to teach English as there are soooo many mistakes.  Menus for example that are sometimes so ridiculous that you have to read it 5 times before understanding what it actually is.  ‘Egg Plant on the Fire’, ‘Respect the Chicken’.  I know that Israel is not alone in their translating skills and I am more than certain that if a British restaurant tried to translate their menu to French or Chinese or Hebrew with the aid of only Google Translate the results would be equally amusing.

IMG_1538My personal favourite was discovered a couple of weeks ago when no. 1 son and I went on a field trip (I needed to go to the chemist) and we found a puzzle in the $1 store (the clue is in the price).  This was the piece for the letter E.  Not terribly helpful although he does remember the letter E by saying ‘it’s not a hippo, it’s an elephant’ so in a round about way it worked.

I am finding the whole teaching lark rewarding and frustrating in equal amounts.  I am stunned when he recognises words and letters, knowing that I am the one who taught him, but I do worry that I am teaching him the ‘wrong’ way and just knowing the letters and spelling out the words may not be enough.  I am hopeful that the use of song, signs and the odd slogan t-shirt will aid his learning although our field trips will bypass restaurants and market stalls for the time being.

Just another winter’s tale

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The sun is shining the temperature is 28 degrees Celsius and whilst Europe and the States is frozen in the grips of a polar vortex or 3 feet under water, the sun in Israel is shining as ever.  No sign of winter here.  In fact it would be fair to say that Spring has sprung and we hardly got a glimpse of anything we could even laughingly call winter.  My childers are so excited by a puddle (invariably caused by a sprinkler system) that full rain wear is donned complete with umbrellas and on occasion, gloves.  Yes, really, I kid you not.

IMG_1472On my return from snowy Switzerland I kept my 3 little ones wholly entertained with picture after picture of snow.  Snow on a tree, snow on a house, snow on a hill, snow on a road. I informed number 1 son that we would again be heading back to the UK for our annual August retreat and he complained bitterly.  I was so upset thinking he didn’t want to go to visit Granny and Grampy but in fact all he was upset about was that we weren’t going in the winter so he could see the snow.  I pointed out that anything is possible and a bit of sleet is not unknown in the Peak District in August.

So there we were enjoying the unseasonably warm weather when January’s lurghy hits us full throttle, in the jugular, so that in the space of one week all 5 members of the family come down with flu or a version thereof.  Other ex-pat Brits here agree with me that it’s the lack of cold that means the germs are never fully killed off, coupled with the use of those germ spreading forms of heating; the air conditioning unit, that results in half empty classrooms, queues at the doctor’s surgery and an uptake in sales of paracetamol.

Not that I am one to complain (uhum), I was ill enough to take to my bed for nearly 2 weeks and visit the doctor twice.  Unfortunately husband and all 3 childers were also ill at some point during this two weeks which led to what I can only describe as one of Dante’s layers of hell.  On one particularly awful Saturday, husband shivering in bed, all 3 children spluttering and whining, I drove them to the beach to let the wind blow some of the germs away.  The sun was bright and the wind strong, just what the Doctor (from 1933) prescribed to blow the cobwebs away.  45 minutes later as I struggled to drag  2 of the 3 back to the car, 2 in tears (me and 1 child), sweating from fever and exertion I decided that yet another kid’s animation movie would not be so bad for them after all.

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Finally we are all recovered and hopeful that we have seen our fair share of sickness for a while at least.  So its back to the grind, goodbye to way too much nonsense TV and able once again to think ourselves very lucky to be living in such an agreeable climate.

The Joys of Parenthood

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One overheated room, one five-year-old at a swimming lesson, two three-year-olds trying to get into pool to join said swimming lesson.  Just another Monday afternoon chez nous.  Last week after overheating the twins for half an hour whilst trying to hold them back from the water (without someone calling social services) we all went outside to the play park to blow off some steam.

Back in my youth our local play park, the ‘rec’, installed a new fangled roundabout that us kids lovingly named the sick machine.  It was bright orange and could turn way faster than any run of the mill roundabout.  The play park at our swimming pool has a strikingly similar roundabout.  

On this particular visit the name became a reality. After some excited spinning(‘more, ‘faster’) No. 2 son complained his throat hurt and he wanted to get down; he waited just long enough for me to pick him up before he let rip and projectile vomited all over me.  Down my shirt, on my jeans, in my hair, on his shorts, down his t-shirt and in his hair – I did say it was projectile.

Love is managing to say ‘there, there, it’s OK, you’re OK, Mummy’s here’ when in reality you want to scream a swear word followed by ‘eugh’, ‘yuk’, ‘gross’, ‘oh my god’.

I changed his clothes – mums of 3-year-olds always travel with a spare set – and then peeled off my sodden, stinking, only worn once shirt, covering my dignity with my cardigan which a) didn’t have buttons and b) didn’t fully meet in the middle (fashion you know).  I then carried the poor chicken home, cursing roundabouts and flashing the motorists.  Of course the other 2 wanted to stay at the park and their brother’s obvious distress wasn’t enough to convince them otherwise.  Empathy is not children’s strong point.

 

Once home I ran a bath, plopped poorly boy in it and then discovered on removing my underwear that a warm puddle of lumpy stinking sick had collected in my non so ample cleavage.  Cue Mummy’s turn to throw up.  I hastily showered us both with way too much soap and thought that it was over.  Wrong.

You see when you have twins everything is in twos and lo and behold 2 hours later when sleeping in her bed, his sister started making strange coughing sounds.  She also kindly waited until I was holding her upright in her bed before she projectiled all over me.  (yes I know it’s not a verb).

Mummy is covered again, so are the sheets, the pjs, the poor little half asleep princess who found herself in the shower whilst half asleep.   Back to bed, clean and washed and bleurgh, it happened again but by this time the munchkins had got their timing sorted and tandem vomiting ensued.  More dirty sheets, more dirty pjs, more upset and confusion, 2 sleepy children, 2 exhausted parents, a terrible smell of disinfectant and one fast asleep 5-year-old who didn’t stir throughout.

I am happy to report that by 7am the twins were fully recovered and eating their body weight in cornflakes.  Their mother on the other hand was slightly nauseous, battle weary and dealing with an awful lot of washing.

Ah, the joys of parenthood.

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A bitter sweet symphony, that’s life

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Parents will do anything to protect their children but sometimes it’s the little things that you can’t protect them from and though they may be life lessons, they are so hard to learn.

Yesterday was voting day for local government in Israel.  We chose a mayor and the members of the city council and so as usual I wanted to take no. 1 son to the polling station yesterday evening so he could see the democratic process in action (and he likes posting the votes in ballot box).  It was getting late so decked out in full pj regalia and ready for bed (the kids not hubby and I) we all went, en famille, across the road to cast our votes, twins in the double stroller and no. 1 son on his scooter.

courtesy of wikipedia

courtesy of wikipedia

As an aside I should say that voting in a foreign language is no mean feat.  In Israel you don’t mark the box on the ballot paper and post it like in the UK,  you choose the slip of paper with your candidate’s party already marked and post that.  Sounds simple right?  Wrong.  The party is not written on the slip of paper, instead there is a letter or a couple of letters and unless you are familiar with the letters of your party (it’s not the equivalent of D for democratic or L for Labour, more randomly S for Labour or G for Democratic – I am sure there is a reason for it but I haven’t found it out yet), its hard to know who you are voting for.  I am an old hat at this now so am ready prepared before entering the booth, but the first time I was well and truly thrown and took the longest time to vote in the history of democracy as I laboriously read all the small print to figure out which party was which.  But that’s by the by.

scooterFast forward to this morning when no. 1 son was looking for his scooter to go to nursery on.  Ooops.  Scooter was left outside the community centre polling station.  After dropping off the little ones at nursery this morning we hurried over to see if the scooter was still there.  Of course it wasn’t.  We checked with the manager, the cleaners, the caretaker, no scooter.  The more we searched the more silent no. 1 son became, not like him at all.

By the way in Israel we refer to scooters as corkinets.  I am still researching why this is and where the word comes from – it’s also used to refer to the electric scooters – if anyone can enlighten me….

As we walked away with my plans to put up a sign in the neighbourhood and worse case scenario (for me) get him a new one, the questions began.  ‘So where is it now’, umm, ‘why would someone take it?’ umm, ‘Saba and Safta (grandparents) bought it so how can we get another one, you don’t know where to buy one’.  And then the fat slow tears.  The worst kind of tears for a parent because your eyes fill too.  No screaming and carrying on, no demanding and stamping just silent wet tears because at 5 you just don’t understand that someone would take something of yours, that something that you love has just gone and that you won’t see it again.  

It’s a fact of life that things go missing, that people take stuff that doesn’t belong to them and hard though it is for him, it is, after all, only a scooter but it broke his heart all the same and a little chunk of mine too.  I wanted to make it alright for him.  I wanted him to understand that it’s not so bad, there are things we can do to make it right but the fact remained that he left it and now its gone.   I empathise, I am incredibly over sensitive and was known in childhood to give emotions and personalities to inanimate objects.  When we lost a camera in a theme park when I was 10 I couldn’t sleep I was so upset – ‘all those photos that we will never see’, ‘poor camera, is it alone somewhere in a dark empty theme park?’.  Yes really… I know.

When he comes home today he may well have forgotten about it (until he wants to ride it) but I am bracing myself for the next level of questioning ‘ did a thief take it?’, ‘will the police catch them?’, ‘will they go to prison’.  Yes, no, no, life sucks sometimes but it’s not the end of the world, possibly not what I should say.  Poor kid, perhaps the newly elected Mayor can help.

It’s life Kate, but not as you knew it

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My friend is a teacher back home and her Remembrance Day assembly this year is how wars affect families.  She asked me to write about my family’s experiences, she actually suggested I make a video to which I snorted and said no, although seeing as she is an English teacher I am a bit scared about the grammar mistakes I have made.  Anyway, here’s what I wrote.

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Until 9 years ago war was something that happened on the news, to people in the army and in history.  Then 9 years ago I moved to Israel and war, or at least the constant threat of it has quickly become a part of everyday life. Now I am the not so proud owner of my own gas mask and my home has a bomb proof safe room.

The first time I experienced war first hand was 18 months into living here when the 2nd Lebanon war broke out between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon.  My husband as a serving member of the Israel Defence Force was called up to fight.  In Israel all able men from the age of 18 to around 40 are either serving in the army or are reservists and so despite my husband being a chef and more attuned to baking on a daily basis he also has to be trained and ready to fight as a combat soldier.  When war broke out we knew there was a chance he would go, we thought as a reservist he would be needed to take over from the positions of the career soldiers whilst they went into Lebanon.  Not so.  He called me from the barracks after a week and told me in code he was going in.  That was the last I heard from him, or about him for over a week.  It was my first taste of the real fear that it really could happen to us, that it wasn’t just news and it was truly terrifying.  Life continued as normal in Tel Aviv and if you ignored the fighter jets and choppers flying overhead you wouldn’t know there was a real war going on just an hour’s drive North.  They called Tel Aviv the bubble, a bubble that on his return from whatever he experienced seem unreal and difficult to comprehend.

We now have 3 children and this time last year when the Gaza conflict broke out and the sirens were sounding throughout the middle and south of the country it affected us in a different way.  This time we heard the explosions, saw the soldiers and tanks on route to the South and had to prepare for possible missile attack.  We are lucky enough (so far) to live in the centre of Israel so a few hours from the North and South borders where, in my experience, the missiles fall.  One day during last November my kid’s play park was full of young female soldiers handing out leaflets of what to do to prepare and how to react if the siren sounded.  It also gave clear guidelines on how long each area of Israel had from the alarm sounding to detonation.  We had 2 and a half minutes.

Our children are still very young so were seemingly unaware, although my eldest did ask me why ‘they’ wanted to throw rockets at us.  Tricky to explain the intricacies of war to a 4 year old especially as there are always 2 sides, not always one right and one wrong.  The conflict was mercifully short but the ‘bubble’ that Tel Aviv had lived in was well and truly popped.  We are not really safe anywhere.

This summer’s tensions in Syria brought a new wave of panic as the real threat of chemical attack once again reared its ugly head. We were advised to buy bottled water, to ready the safe room and to make sure our gas masks were in date but for now, that threat has lessened and I hope never becomes a reality.

Since 2004 when I moved to Israel the terrifying terrorist war has quietened down, the bus bombs and unexpected attacks on the general public not so common.  But there is always the fear and you are never far away from armed security and army personnel, nor from those whose friends and family have been injured or killed.  We are vigilant and we try not to panic.  I choose not to talk to my children about it, others tell theirs everything. For me, as a Briton, it is something that I didn’t have to deal with growing up and I want to protect my little ones from the fear for as long as possible.  If we stay here then it will all too soon become part of their everyday life anyway.  My children, like all Israelis will join the army at 18; the boys for 3 years and my daughter for 2.

Although not strictly speaking a war-zone at present, life here is tough; the threat and fear is real and constant.  When the sun is shining and the Mediterranean sparkling it’s hard to envision the ugliness of war.  I cannot imagine how it must have felt to be a mother in Gaza city or Beirut, Iraq or Afghanistan in recent years.  I hope for my family’s sake that we and all families affected by war around the world experience some peace.

Ging gang gooley

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When Israelis go away for the weekend they stay in zimmers (or they camp but that’s a pretty dusty/sandy experience).   Zimmer comes from the German word and has been adopted by Israel, pronounced tsimmer in Israeli-speak and is a little self contained cottage usually set in a small garden in a rural community. Zimmers in Israel range from the most basic – bed, bathroom, small kitchen to the most decadent 5 star luxury with separate bedroom and living room, fully equipped kitchen, jacuzzi, state of the art sound system.  One thing they all have in common is that they are a fantastic escape and are fiendishly expensive, think London hotel prices.  Yet, like many luxuries in Israel people pay the price because there is no alternative.

In our family we refer to zimmers as wooden houses (bite me etz) as these little cottages would not look out of place on the set of Heidi.  In fact once we went to a zimmer with the kids and they were highly disappointed to discover it was stone built.

In the days before the childers the zimmer experience was a romantic getaway, candlelight, jacuzzis and complementary wine.  In a country with a shortage of water like Israel’s, a bath, let alone a jacuzzi has always struck me as a decadence that the country (and it’s residents) can ill afford but it is a luxury that most Israeli’s wouldn’t dream of having at home so a little treat on your hols seems acceptable.  Nowadays our holiday jacuzzi holds as many small children as we can fit to have one giant bath experience.  Woe betide the person who turns the jacuzzi on though as tears and shrieks of terror are sure to follow.

I have mentioned in previous posts about our twice yearly trips en masse with a few families, many childers and a large cheese and wine selection to a group of zimmers.  We book a place to fit all the families and no more, and have an experience not unlike the scout camps from youth; cooking together, eating together, sitting around the camp-fire, toasting marshmallows, singing tunelessly to hubby’s guitar.  During the day we take short trips, sightseeing, mini-trekking and return to our ‘camp’ with tired kids to dip in the pool, drink turkish coffee (botz) and generally put the world to rights.  Once the childers are safely bedded down, exhausted from fresh air and new experiences, more wine comes out, the guitar is open to requests and the hidden stash of choc is miraculously found.

We are incredibly lucky to have a great group of like-minded friends who we go with.  If the time ever comes that we were to leave Israel it is these trips with this bunch that I will miss the most.

view towards the Golan

view towards the Golan

This Succhot’s trip was to one of Israel’s most stunning areas, The foothills of the Golan, overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  The small village we stayed in had a spectacular view across the water towards Tiberias.  We were moments away from the Gamla valley where Griffon Vultures make their home.  Armed with binoculars this is a trip a birdwatcher would salivate over.  In fact on my parent’s very first trip to Israel 9 years ago we took them to Gamla and my Dad still talks about it.  Convinced as he was that Israel was all sand and camels, the green of the Galilee  and Golan in April with the added bonus of these gigantic scavengers (their wing span is 280cm) has firmly remained in his mind as one of the most beautiful experiences.

image courtesy of wikipedia.com

image courtesy of wikipedia.com

Now I won’t tell you once again how beautiful the country is, you can read about it here, what I will say is that when life seems a little like groundhog day, when the grind of work, child rearing, housekeeping, decision making gets you down, a few days away can certainly remind you that a change is indeed as good as a rest.  You should try it, at home or perhaps in Israel.