Pesach: so far, so good. I found it was quite easy to dispense with that second seder. You'd think, after nearly thirty second seders, I might miss it just a tad. But you'd be wrong.
Some other highlights of our first Passover as Israelis:
As all you Bawlmoreans know, biur chametz is taken very seriously in the city. Every year, the same member of the community takes it upon himself to organize the mass Burning of Leavened Stuff at the Glen Avenue Fire Station. He also, frequently and with feeling, cries out, "Thank you for not burning plaaaaaastic!" In Israel, or at least in Modi'in, it seems as if every year the chevra wakes up erev Pesach and says, "Heeeeey! Wait a minute. Tonight is PESACH! I still got some chametz in my house. I know, I know! I'm gonna BURN it! Yeah, that's what I'll do! Gee, how to do it, though." [Moment of thoughtful silence, broken only by the sound of crunching Bissli.] "Well, guess I'll grab a match, find a random patch of dirt and burn away! Yeah, that's it!"
I had actually attempted to find out ahead of time (silly me) the info for biur. I posted twice to the Modi'in email list. The first time, I didn't receive a single response. (This is a community that will respond to, and argue about, just about anything. Election candidates, doctors, restaurants, electricians, testing dog poop for DNA....you got a question, about twenty people will have an answer or opinion.) The second time, I got some vague responses that generally amounted to "Every man for himself." So after our final pre-Pesach shopping trip Wednesday morning, Donny said they were burning some chametz right across the street! So I quickly gathered our stuff, removing the plastic bags and wrappings - I am a Baltimorean at heart - and we set out the door. Sure enough, right across the street on Yigal Yadin were some roaring fires. Three, to be exact. There was the Ashkenaz fire, the Sephardi fire, and the Teimani fire, and under no circumstances would they ever join together as one. We picked the Ashkenaz fire and asked if we could join in. They heartily welcomed us, and within ten seconds had disappeared. We soon figured out why. We started burning our chametz - well, considering the amateur nature of this fire, it was more like "smoking our chametz" rather than "burning." Then we looked at each other. "Now what?" Do we leave this fire unattended? That did not seem prudent. Clearly, the people before us were simply waiting around for suckers to come and take over their fire. So we would have to do the same. Pyro Tag! In the meantime, Donny summoned his best Bert Miller and tried to stoke the fire with bits of paper bag to get some flame going. Finally, with the aid of the paper bag and some wind, we got our flames. The chametz was burning nicely. Then, a man drove up on his motorcycle and asked if he could join in our fire. Aha! Our sucker! At this point, our chametz was nearly burned to a crisp, thereby fulfilling our "k'afra d'ara" obligation. And then, Mr. Motorcycle - the horror! - threw a frozen pita into the fire, nearly causing all of Donny's hard work to fizzle out! He was not happy when Donny politely requested that he wait a few minutes before dumping in the rest of his Frozen Fire Killers - he was gazing longingly at the Teimani fire a few feet down, mentally kicking himself for joining up with the crazy Ashkenazim. Then, another man arrived with his daughter, and - are you sitting? - threw into the fire - I can barely write this - his plastic bag of chametz! Hello!!! Thank you for not burning PLAAAAASTIC! Our chametz was now most definitely bits of sulphur, so, feeling bituled, we grabbed our children and ran as quickly as we could, leaving Mr. Frozen Pita and Mr. Plaaaastic Bag to gaze doubtfully at the quickly dissipating fire. Yes! They were It!
Matza Meal Pancakes
We had a very wonderful seder with the Balsam clan. Kids and grownups alike had a great time and we felt very fortunate to spend chag with Lisa, Nafi, Meira, Moshe, Michali, and Lisa's Chicken Soup. Moshe summed up many people's feelings about Pesach food. He was huuunnnggrrry, and I offered him a roll. His face lit up. "Yeah!" he said excitedly. I reached for the bag of Pesach rolls. His face fell. "Oh. No thanks," he said sadly. Ariella played with Moshe and Meira, and Yaakov and Michali spent most of the afternoon "shotting" each other with the toy syringe, very nicely taking turns being "doctor" and "patient." Anyway, for lunch, I had decided to make matza meal pancakes. To make a long story short, I used waaaaaay too much matza meal, so by the time I was done adding various liquids to make it batter-y, I could have given a pancake to each Jewish man, woman, and child passing through the Red Sea. And even had enough for most of the Egyptians. Not that I would have given them any of course. Although it might have made an appropriate 11th plague....But I digress. Anyway, I spent all morning and most of the afternoon frying, frying, frying. There should definitely a biur after Pesach for all the Pesach food no one will touch come sundown on Wednesday.
Shabbat with the Kleins
For Shabbat, Leezy, Elie, and Netanal "Tani" Klein graced us with their presence and their strawberry mousse. Tani has figured out the meaning of life: "Because it's Pesach and we eat matzah." He was able to explain nearly everything with this simple answer. "I am putting this toy on my head because it's Pesach and we eat matzah." "I am going to sleep now because it's Pesach and we eat matzah." He was also able to fix many things in our apartment with his toy stuffed monkey. Let me explain how this works:
1. Step onto the stepstool, facing the wall.
2. Holding monkey by the tail, announce, "Gila, I am going to fix this!"
3. Whip monkey over your head, sending him flying backwards through the air.
4. Squeal with delight.
So thanks to Tani, everything in our apartment is now working again!
Tiyulim with the Israelis
Today, we went to Beit Guvrin and went spelunking with the kids. They had a wonderful time. Caves are great for two main reasons:
1. They are cool. Literally. Since Pesach announces the beginning of kayitz zman, it was quite warm outside. So it was nice to hang out in the cool depths of the caves.
2. You can play a wicked game of hide and seek in them.
So we spelunked, we ate our kosherforpesachl'lochashashkitniot potato chips, we hiked, we picked many, many, many flowers, and Yaakov collected enough pottery shards (or, as I've been saying all day, "shottery pards." Time to lay off the wine.) to recreate a jug, bowl, spoon, model of the Temple, whatever you want. And we spent some time observing
Israeli Tiyul Protocol
1. Pack many things - children, cooler, grill, matzah - into a car big enough for a shottery pard.
2. Drive for some undetermined amount of time.
3. Park on the side of the road, next to a random hill, mountain, field, backyard, etc..
4. Exit car.
5. Begin hiking, aimlessly wandering around.
Also, Israelis descend upon the first thing they see. We American-bred day-trippers know that you never park at the first spot - you drive around because it'll be less crowded further down. Israelis heartily disagree with that notion. As we exited Beit Guvrin, we noticed about 100 cars all smushed together at the entrance, people milling about aimlessly, bumping into each other. Some had actually settled themselves on a picnic bench behind the drive-through ticket booth and were setting out their spread. The problem, of course, compounds itself. As other Israelis enter, they see ALL THESE people. They think, "Hey, this must be the place to be! Everyone is here! Let's get out of the car and mill!" We noticed a similar phenomenon at the parks we went to on Friday and the on the way home from spelunking. (I LOVE the word "spelunking.") There were dozens and dozens of families practically on top of each other, grilling, milling, you name it, and a few hundred feet away, it was empty. The mob mentality prevails strongly in this country.
I will keep you updated as we continue our Excellent Pesach Adventures!