Thursday, July 17, 2008

From sorrow to joy in record time

Last week, most of the country was glued to the news as we watched or heard about the return of the Israeli soldiers Regev and Goldvasser by Hizbulla, in exchange for their terrorist prisoners.

Although the facts all pointed to the fact that they were probably not alive, we all still wanted to belive that maybe there was hope, maybe they'd come home alive. When the 2 black coffins were shown on the tv screen, it was clear that there was really no reason for celebration. The whole country lapsed into a state of mourning, and all day I was glued to internet news or tv or radio to hear updates.

Fast forward...later that same day.

That evening, we went to a wedding. One that had obviously been planned and set months and months in advance, with no idea what news that morning would bring. I thought to myself how terrible for the couple that this very sad news happened today, that this will be what they remember of their wedding date, and how can people rejoice after something like that happens.

But the amazing thing about Israelis is how resilient they are. Just as the people of this country know when to unite in their strength and sorrow, they also know that joyous occasions must be celebrated with a whole heart.

It was a Yemenite wedding, with beautiful vocal song before the ceremony, the bride and groom yemenite stepping right up to the huppa, and non stop dancing, yemenite and other. And people were so happy -- happy to have a reason to be happy.

It's the circle of life, I suppose, the events we mark and measure our lives against and hope that joy will come sooner and more often than sorrow.

This cycle is apparent in so many Jewish/Israeli customs. Breaking the glass at weddings, to remember the destruction of the Temple before the real celebration begins. Israeli Memorial Day and Independence Day - a kind of bipolar holiday - when the lowest of lows are followed by the highest of highs. Although the manic-depressive nature of these customs is emotionally draining, the logic is there. Remember your losses in order to appreciate your wins.

I suppose the harsh reality is that people here are used to it, if that's ever possible. Let's just hope that reasons to celebrate outnumber anything else...

Monday, July 14, 2008

That's my family in your peanut butter...

Growing up, peanut butter was always a staple in our house.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were the default brown bag solution, and more than a few times I caught my dad spooning it straight out of the jar. I even got a Mr. Peanut home peanut butter maker for my 7th birthday (you remember him, right? the peanut dude with the top hat and white gloves - peanuts go in one ear, crank his arm and the peanut butter comes out the other ear - who could want anything more?)

When my own children were younger, I worked hard to get them used to eating peanut butter, even though it wasn't always easy to come by here in Israel, but to little avail. Their tastes changed, rendering PB&J to them as just one of those "American foods" that Mommy liked to eat sometimes.

And then, from a very random Twitter link to a company called P.B. Loco, a light of hope the size of a peanut started to flicker and glow. This company impressed me with their excitement and desire to get people involved in their product through the social media world - from asking for suggestions for new flavors and product names, to holding trivia contests - to get the word out, offering free flavored jars of PB to the winners. So I replied to a few of their contests through Twitter, signed up as a fan on Facebook , and even kind of resorted to begging when I realized that, living outside of the US, I might not really even be eligible to win.

But the fine people of PB Loco came through, and did indeed send me a sample jar of chocolate banana peanut butter. Here's the description on the label (I dare you not to drool as you read it):
"This one was almost too easy. Deep, rich chocolate and untamed bananas from the heart of the jungle fused with our premium peanut butter. Caution: After you taste this, you may need a few minutes to finish the entire jar."

The day we picked up the package from the post office, we were on our way home after a week-long vacation in the South of Israel - hot, tired, and hungry. I actually believed that I'd be able to save the jar of gourmet flavored PB until we got home, maybe even til the next day, to make proper sandwiches. (I hear you laughing out there, but I really thought we'd savour it slowly...HA!)

It started with little fingers in the back seat, scooping bit by bit, delighting in the chocolate swirls. Joy of joys! My boys actually liked peanut butter again! Then the jar was passed on to big Daddy's fingers (still in the car, mind you - about five minutes from home), who, although never a big fan of peanut butter, actually held on for more. The jar stopped in my hands. Fingerfulls led to spoonfulls, then once we were home, led to breadfulls. And within the span of less than one hour we were scraping the very last creamy smudges off the inside of the emptied jar. It was amazing.

And all this, I thought later, started with a few lines in Twitter. What potential the world of social media has to influence us, to invite us in and win us over. It's a relationship that starts with a friendly note, a question, or a bit of advice, and continues with a satisfied and returning customer.

Now that I've got the peanut butter momentum going again in my family, I'm trying to decide which of their new flavors to order by mail, and which flavors to send to my dad for his next birthday. PB with Rasberry White Chocolate, PB with European Cafe Mocha, PB with Raisins and Cinammon - oh, the choices!

Really, it's driving me nuts.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

On the way to eilat

Sand in all directions, an occasional camel, and a car full of snacks - on the 4 hour drive to the southern tip of israel.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Switch into Summer

Ready...28, 29, 30. SWITCH!

Hallelujah. We made it to July 1st, the day after the last day of school. The first official day of summer vacation (for kids). And it is unbelievable how just one day can make such a difference in the atmoshphere of a community (dare I say, whole country?)

It started when I didn't have to nudge the big boys out of bed this morning to get ready for school. It continued as, on my way out of our town to work, I saw the younger kids lining up for day camp at the local community center, shiny camp hats on their heads and water bottles slung over their shoulders. Groups of teenagers cheering them on, proudly wearing their "counselor" t-shirts (scary thought, let's not go there).

It continued as I got to work in record time, less the usual traffic on the freeway, since apparently other parents either got out on the road earlier, or are taking time off themselves. And now, people at work are talking about who's going on what summer trips, and when. It really all of a sudden feels like summertime.

But if you think about it, nothing has really changed - the kids have switched from school to camp (or, for the first time, are just staying home all day, in our case). Work carries on as usual. It's still really, unbearably hot outside. But there is something in the air that is different. Summer vacation. There's something even liberating about those two words.

I suppose the best thing would be not to analyze why it feels different, but just to enjoy. Summer vacation. Aaaaahhhh.