Joyful temporary dwelling

Here I am, past midnight, looking up on the palm-branches, decorations and lights that make up the roof of our Sukkah. We have been living out here for the past week. Really, – we have slept out here, eaten our meals out here and hosted several parties of guests out here.

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Such good times. A whole week of it! Before actually entering this time, you live in the illusion of it being a long time, but once it actually starts, it sort of flies by! Now it is the last night already. And I find myself sitting here trying to stop the time, or at least really hold on to the moment.

sleeping in the sukkah

The children have a friend over for a sleepover party in the Sukkah, and are still talking in the sleeping-bags next to me here. They LOVE Sukkot. All of us together all the time! What could possibly be better?? It’s like camping, just that you have all your comforts right there.

sukkah

One of the main commandments concerning Sukkot, is to be joyful! And to tell you the truth, it comes naturally. We have prepared for it. We have just come through the period of Rosh Hashanah, the ten solemn days, and Yom Kippur. Hearing the Shofar-blows marking the end of Yom Kippur is always such a relief. And after having something to eat, the first thing we do that very evening, is to start building our Sukkot. And the joy just becomes part of it. The relief, the thankfulness, the happiness, the playfulness of the whole idea of a Sukkah, hearing the neighbors building their sukkot next to us, the light atmosphere surrounding it all.

sukkah

Looking back at this past week, there are many wonderful moments coming to mind. Sitting around the holiday tables together with dear friends and family (in our sukkah or in theirs), eating tasty food, seeing the candles flickering, enjoying good conversation. Being at the synagogue and seeing all the lulavim (palm-branches) being shaken while hearing and joining in the hallel (worship). Very special experiences indeed.

Samaria

We have also made some short trips during chol hamoed. Today we went out to Shomron, which really can be called the heartland of Israel. Such views! Such a place! It is the like stones start talking and telling the stories of all they have seen over thousands of years!

Jerusalem

And just being downtown Jerusalem is a great experience at such a time as this. There are so many people out and about! So much fun stuff going on, so much to see! Look at this old map with Jerusalem at its center:

map of Jerusalem

And here we are at the Sukkah outside of City Hall:

sukkah

Tomorrow afternoon we are moving inside again, and tomorrow night we will sleep in our beds again. My princess just begged me for another night outside, – just one more, since we are enjoying it so much! But I am of the opinion that there is a time for everything, and tomorrow will probably be the time to go in the direction of normal again, and at least start sleeping in our beds. We still have one more holiday, – Simchat Torah, but that means Sukkot will already be over.

sukkah

It is kind of strange how both Sukkot and Pesach remove something very basic from our lives, – Pesach takes our bread, and Sukkot takes our homes. So then, once the holiday is over, and you get back what was removed, – you have gained a new appreciation for it! All of a sudden we don’t take our regular homes and beds for granted any more! We start noticing them and being thankful for them. Pretty genious, don’t you think?

Rosh hashana preparations, and napkin ring challot

Here we are at this time of the year again, – Rosh Hashana is right around the corner! I am sitting here in my holiday-decorated home, feet up, candles lit, wine in my glas, – yes, life is good!

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For the last few days, we have done a bit of preparations every day. The majority of the shopping we did already last week, – sooo happy with that decision as the supermarkets get pretty crazy in the days leading up to a major holiday like Rosh Hashana. (It is like we think we will never be able to shop for food again!) Yesterday I drove by a couple of supermarkets on my way to a wedding, and just driving by the parking-lots was stressful!!

Anyway, this year’s rosh-hashana-shopping was a breeze for me! I just wrote a detailed list, sent it with my husband who went to a supermarket late at night after work, and brought everything home on his motorbike! (He is amazing, I know!)

bringing home shopping on bike

And then on Sunday I started the cooking. I made a huge pot of chicken soup that day, and a lot of challot, because all of that does fine with a few days in the freezer. I tried something new with the challah this year. Always for Rosh Hashana I make round challot, as it symbolizes the circle of a year, we end one and start a new one. (By the way, – here is the recipe!)

round challot

So, in addition to two large challot on our holiday-table this year, we will each have a mini round challah as a napkin-ring! It was so easy too!

braiding challah

I just made these looong thin braided challahs (with nice help from the princess), and then connected them in rings to foil-covered empty papertowel-rolls.

challah napkin rings

I brushed them with an eggyolk, and baked them for about 12 minutes, let them cool slightly before disconnecting them from the rolls, and they came off really easily. Fun stuff!

challah napkin rings

And while I am showing you my productions, – here are some of my Rosh hashanah gifts:

raspberry jam

Raspberry-jam made from the raspberries we picked in Norway this summer, and then froze and brought back home with us to Jerusalem. Yummy, and fun to share! :-) And I must say, – just the smell of the jam as it is being made…. I can just close my eyes, and I am back in Norway for a moment…

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As I have been busy preparing for this after work for the last few days, it is helpful that the kids have started to help with lunch-preparations. This was the princess´ turn at it:

cooking lunch

No worries, she was only in charge of the pot in the front, – cooking pasta. I was making chicken soup and jam in the back pots.

While it is nice to have big kids who can help out and stuff, I am glad my kids are still young enough to enjoy crafts in preparations for the holidays. We have had our craft-station set up at the diningroom-table, creating a really fun atmosphere.

kids craftHere we are, at the day before the holiday, and I woke up this morning with a feeling of that today will be an efficient day. So the first thing I did was write a long list of everything I was going to get done after work. And let me tell you, some things on that list were so much more tempting than other things. I like baking, cooking and decorating soooo much more than cleaning and ironing… So the kids and I made a plan in the afternoon, that we were going to finish cleaning the house before opening our Rosh-Hashana-decoration-box. They both worked well on their rooms and put away laundry, while I vacuumed the house, cleaned the bathrooms and changed the beds, – and then came the prize of decorating! Fun fun fun!!!

Of course we put on the right music to put us in the mood, and then it is always fun to find the crafts that they have made the previous years, and all the other decorations that we keep from year to year. It is all simple stuff, but it is still the things that we use year after year, so it has a certain value to us.

Tomorrow I will cook the meats and some side-dishes. Desserts were made today. And then there is the special prize for tomorrow, – the setting and decorating of the table! My sweet mother in law kindly offered to come set the table for me to help me out. But I explained to her, – that is why I invite people, so that I get to decorate a nice table!!! ;-)

We are going to have long tables for both nights of the holiday, and then plan on a more relaxing shabbat afterwards. I am really looking forward to all of it! Planning to enjoy it all!

Our family photo from the kotel this year

Our family photo from the kotel this year

I am hoping to stop by the blog again tomorrow, and maybe show you how the napkin-rings look at the actual table and stuff, but in case time does not allow, – I wish you all a shanah tovah u’metukah – a good and sweet new year!

Loving life, – challenges and all.

Often I find myself wanting to post a photo to instagram with hashtags like lovingfridays, lovingsundays, lovingeverydaylife etc. And, yes, this is how I feel; – I love my life! I love all the little parts of it; the beauty of a sunrise over Jerusalem, the satisfaction of flowers growing in the garden, the joy of laughing with my children. I have SO much to be thankful for!

sunrise over Jerusalem

However, – this does not mean that my life is free of challenges. And I wanted to share a thought I had on this challenge-part as I sat here in the quietness of the evening. The challenges come along to help us grow in our dependency on our Heavenly Father. For me they are a reminder that I cannot make it on my own, I need Him.

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When I look at challenges in this perspective, they receive added meaning, and they don’t seem quite as draining as they easily would have seemed otherwise. Now, when there is something that is just too big for me to handle, instead of being overwhelmed, I can be thankful for the reminder that I don’t have to handle it all by myself. I am just little me in the Hand of my Maker, and may I hear His guiding voice and walk in the ways He has for me, always.

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The real life

We have been home in Israel for a week now. It feels like way longer, and it feels soooo good! Not that we did not have a good time in Norway; -it was as always a very blessed time with family there, and there is no arguing about it, – it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. (Oh, and just to update you: After three weeks in Gaza, my husband was able to come and join us for the end of our time in Norway. #verythankful!)

My beloved ones on a fiord in Norway.

My beloved ones on a fiord in Norway.

But this, Jerusalem, Israel, this is HOME. This is where real life is happening for us. And this time we settled in in no time. Literally, as the plane landed on Ben-Gurion, and I turned my phone on, messages came in from the children’s friends who wanted to get together with them as soon as we would just get home. So there were playdates immediately, and sleepovers and water fights and lunch parties. Good times.

Wet fun.

Wet fun.

And it is not only the children who hit the ground running as far as meeting up with their friends. The day after we made it home, we hosted a large gathering for our weekly Torah-study. Good times indeed. And I am so glad that I was able to make it home before good friends moved into our neighborhood, so I could welcome them with fresh cookies! And today I was able to bring a meal over to another dear friend who just gave birth to an absolutely adorable little girl! So much happening in our community! So much building and growing and good stuff! There is surely very much to be thankful for!

And this is the life. This is the real life. Vacation is good. But this is the real thing. Life. Working. Building. Together. I actually feel that nowhere is life more real than in Israel. In more ways than one.

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We also had a chance to help a brand new family of immigrants here in Jerusalem buy a refrigerator. Again, – this is the life! Witnessing ancient prophecies happening in front of our eyes! God is bringing His people home and planting them in the land of their inheritance! And we get to take our little part in it! What a privilege!

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The children started school again this week, and the first three days have been really good. What a relief and a blessing for a mother’s heart to come and pick them up and hear about yet another really good day! May it stay that way!! I am majorly working on routines and building good habits now as we sort of get a fresh start on our everyday life again. And so far we are all motivated and it is all working really well. Again, – may it continue like that.

My dear husband started interning at the end of his law school-studies, and works VERY long days. He works on very interesting, very exciting and very big cases, which he can tell me NOTHING about, other than the fact that they ARE very fascinating etc. ;-)

See, – now I have caught you up on my life. Now I can either drop out for another month or so, or I can write posts about tiny little things, as you are already up to speed. I don’t know which one will happen. We’ll see.

 

The summer when I didn’t read any books

As usual I spend the majority of July and August in Norway with my family here. The children are off of school, it is too hot in Israel and very comfortable in Norway, so it has seemed like a good idea to spend a relatively long period here.

The difference this summer, is that the evening before we left, we sat in our bomb shelter  in Jerusalem. The airport we left from had signs at every corner of where to run to the nearest bomb shelter.

Now the children and I have been in Norway for two weeks already. My dear husband was supposed to come and join us in a couple of days from now, but that is not going to happen, as he is out there wearing an IDF uniform defending our country.

Being here in the beautiful land of the midnight sun, while such an ugly war is being fought in the beloved land where we have our home and live our lives, is strange beyond words.

I am really distant geographically, but in my mind, my heart and my prayers, I am SO there! Believe you me!

This is where we are in our spirits these days, - at home, in Jerusalem.

This is where we are in our spirits these days, – at home, in Jerusalem.

Day and night I get updates from Israeli news-sites, and never have I been more active on Facebook, spreading the truth as I see it. And I pray. I pray the Psalms. I pray for protection over my soldier out there, and for all the IDF soldiers out there defending us!

So, – normally during my time in Norway I read a good number of books, enjoying all the free time that comes with summer and being away from home, the nice long days, reading long into the night. This summer I have tried a couple of times, but really, I can’t. Nothing interests me enough to keep me away from the action that keeps on happening constantly, hour by hour, in my home, in Israel!

So here I am again, way past midnight, watching youtube videos of the action in Gaza, the war we fight not against palestinians, but against a terror-organization which still manages to surprise me with how low it is willing to fall. There is no moral what so ever! They are literally fighting with a baby in one hand, a gun in the other! Once the children are older, they give them hand grenades to throw at our soldiers! All the while the bigger terrorists travel around in ambulances to protect themselves!

Oh, God! Free the people in Gaza from Hamas!!! Let Israel finish the job  this time! And keep your protecting Hand over us all!

 

 

The End

Today was the last day of school for Israeli school children. It was supposed to be a joyful day, and it was up until a certain point. It was a day filled with hugs and blessings, excitement and celebrations. My children and I were in a shop where my son had just picked out a soccer outfit, still excited over Holland’s victory in the game last night, – when we first heard the rumors. And just like that, the day turned from light and joyful to horribly sad. They found them. All dead. – Really? I could almost not believe it. – No, we are not sure, I was told. - It is only a rumor. There is a press blackout until the 8 o’clock news. We paid and walked out of there. I felt sick to my stomach. Oh, God! Really?? I felt like a balloon that just lost all its air. Somehow I knew deep within that the rumors we just heard were true.

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We heard the 8 o’clock news in the car on the way home. And it was confirmed. They were in fact all dead. Murdered. Well at home we stay glued to the TV-screen, going through this storm of emotions together as a people. Deep sadness. Heartfelt grief. Sickening hopelessness.

Representatives from the three different bereaved families came out and spoke with the media, and again their faith and walk amazingly helps strengthen us all. In the midst of this horrible sadness, they talk of how they are thankful for the unity of our people at this time, and ask us all to stay that way.

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Almighty father! Please comfort their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends, cousins, uncles, aunts, – all of those who were close to them! 

I must say that I am also thankful for the way this has been handled in Israel. The togetherness. All the focus on prayer. Where else do they tell you on the news to keep praying??

Netanyahu ended his statement with the words: - Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay. 

I was so paralyzed with sadness, that the anger did not really hit me until I started hearing the fireworks from the “celebrations” our enemies were having. AAaahhhhhh! It makes me furious! How can they?!? How can we possibly relate to each other as fellow humans?!

Oh, God!!! Bring justice! We so need You!!

 

Nice life and hard realities

June is such a lovely month. Friends from other continents come on vacation to Israel, and we get to enjoy hanging out with them and feeling like we are on vacation as well, – in the midst of our everyday life. Not all bad.

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Long days full of light. Morning walks with a dear friend. Afternoons with the kids at the pool. A glas of good, Israeli wine in good company. Fruit smoothies, ice coffees, watermelon. Oh, yeah, life is good.

But then again, always, constantly, do we think of and pray for Gilad, Eyal and Naftali, – the teenage boys who have become close family members of all of Am Yisrael. We have their picture on our kitchen counter. We have gotten to know them, their faces, their families, their hobbies and what they liked to do.

On our drive to school in the mornings, the children include a prayer for the boys’ return in their prayers for the day ahead. And my heart aches for their mothers! What a nightmare to have to live through! All the unknown that they have been thrown into! They did not choose this reality! They did not decide to become famous like this! And now they have to deal with it! They have to remain strong for the younger children they still have at home with them, and for those who they work on returning home as soon as possible! Our Creator and Giver of all life, – Give them strength for the day and hope for tomorrow! 

flowers

This morning I treated myself to an hour of digging through dirt in our garden. Moved plants, got my fingers dirty, removed weeds and rocks, really enjoyed the wanted result at the end. But at the same time, – I am thinking of those who are busying themselves with things on a whole other level, – and who would have much preferred working in their gardens!

Of course it would not help anyone if we all gave up and stopped going for morning walks or enjoying good times with friends. We all have to keep going. Keep living. Keep building. Keep hoping.

Hearing the international criticism of Israel’s efforts to return our boys, is disappointing, but not surprising. We are “messing up the stability in the region”, you know!! Excuse me, – what stability? The one where Fatah and Hamas can cooperate to kidnap our children??!? I won’t go further into this, as I don’t want my blog to get too deep into politics, but I had to touch on it, as it certainly is a central part of life!

I read an interesting piece in the newspaper this morning, that said it well: - If we had done to them, what they would do to us, had they had the power we have, – we would not have been here anymore. But of course, we don’t do it. We have higher values than that. We are not like them. But this is the type of reality we have to live with.

nice life

And here I sit in our garden, having taken my home office out to a shady spot out here, answering calls from people in Beer Sheva and Ashdod, who we will help through the organisation I work for, helping immigrants settle in the Land of their inheritance. This afternoon we have a fun outing with a group of children. Tomorrow there is the end of the year party for my daughter’s class. It’s that time of the year. Life goes on. In spite of everything.