Thursday, September 3, 2009

Getting On The Bus!

Since it is officially my girls second day of school, what excuse do I still have to not finish my posts about a trip I took in July.


Well, it's Friday in Israel and this means another Sabbath is around the corner. This weekend my entire family, approximately 65 people that included;

my immediate family
36 Grandchildren
two of my mom's siblings and their spouses
my husband's Israel residing brother, his wife and four kids
My mother - in - law, who happened to be in Israel,

all chartered a bus and went to a Kibbutz (a collective farm or land revolved around some work which is run communally by its members, in Israel), Kibbutz Chafetz Chayim.

It is set up as an "outdoor" hotel. We had a quaint little family cabin.

Is it just me, or is this the van from Scooby Doo? What is with the 70's daisies on the front bumper? Either way, this bus was mighty perty.

The Bus pulled up right in front of my parent's Israel apartment building, how convenient.

That would be my Dad - in his iconic fishing cap, getting on the bus. We had no plans to fish, but I love my Dad in his fishing cap.

Just a bunch of family milling around the entrance of the apartment building as all the luggage was being loaded onto the bus...

Hun's brother's wife and kiddies.

This is actually just SOME of the weekend attendees on the Bus. Some family members live elsewhere and found their own way up to the hotel.

I must explain this picture, because it has an incredible amount of meaning to our family that one would not see, immediately.

That is one of my nephews and he is strapped into his seat with a Torah scroll on his lap. (Torah - Old Testament Scroll). The Torah is covered in a Taalis (prayer shawl). Underneath the Taalis the Torah has a beautiful velvet covering with Hebrew lettering engraved in gold that refers to the remembrance of many family members on both my father's side and my mother's side of the family.

Exactly 10 years ago, for my father's 70th birthday, my mother had a Torah Scroll written on his behalf and we all got together in Israel making him a surprise party, with his surprise gift. A Torah Scroll has to be written according to very specific rules. It is written by a professional called a "Sofer" (scribe) and is written with a quill pen dipped in special ink. It is written on parchment made from animal skin. The entire Torah takes, roughly one year to write. So this entire event was planned a year prior.

We got him to his surprise party by telling him it was my nieces Bat Mitzvah (she was turning 12 at the time, but they don't make parties like this for Bat Mitzvah's). When he got there, he was a bit surprised by all his friends who my brother "invited" to the fake Bat Mitzvah. But it was not until he saw the Torah on the table, still with letters being filled in by the Sofer that he realized something odd was going on.

He inquired about the Torah, and that is when my Mother and all of us surrounding him told him that this was his Torah and this party was for him. At that point, he collapsed into a chair and began to weep.

For one to truly realize the significance of this event for him, you must understand a few things about the Jewish religion and faith..., as well as a previous event in my Dad's life.

1. A Torah is practically the most sacred item any Jew could own. It is our history written by Moses as dictated by G-d. It is so sacred, that is why my nephew was strapped in with it and it was covered - a Torah may not fall to the floor or be exposed to immodesty... The words of the Torah NEVER EVER CHANGE, AND ARE NEVER EVER REVISED!

2. Every Jew who can, should write a Torah in his or her lifetime. (Since we are not all trained Sofers, this means you either pay for a Torah to be written, or fill in some ink on a letter the Sofer has outlined. It is extremely costly and not everyone has this fortune in life...)

3. When my father was just Bar Mitzvah'd himself - 13 years old, the SS came to his town in Czechoslovakia and placed everyone in it into a Brick factory, until it was the day they were to be shipped off to Auscwhitz. When that day came, everyone was asked to line up in the courtyard of the Brick Factory. My father, his two sisters and his Father were all huddled together when my Grandfather realized his wife was not there. He asked my father to go find her. My father did find her. She was in the Synagogue standing in front of the open Aron (cabinet that holds all the Torah scrolls) praying intently. As soon as she noticed my Dad standing next to her, she turned to him and said,
"I prayed that G-d should have mercy on my children, and G-d answered me and said, the children will be saved."

My Dad and his two sisters survived the atrocities, my Grandparents were not as fortunate.

Ever since then, my Father could never relinquish the image of my Grandmother standing before the Torah Scrolls, and he always wanted to write a Torah in her memory, as well as others.

This Torah that was written on his behalf, is currently being used by a Synagogue in Israel. It is read from every Sabbath as well as other days of the week. It has been used by a few of my nephews to be read from for their Bar Mitzvah, and this particular Sabbath, it would be read by another nephew who was celebrating his Bar Mitzvah. In addition to the Bar Mitzvah we are celebrating, it is now ten years later and we are also celebrating (with tremendous gratitude to G-d) my Father's 80th birthday (he should be healthy through 120...).

But I digress...

We arrived in Chafetz Chayim before 1 pm. Chafetz Chayim has a decrepit amusement park that probably has been inactive for decades and looks like a ghost town. It also has a well known water park which is terribly decrepit and should be inactive, but it is not.

I had to take my girls to the water park, on a day there was a whole school or camp of girls there. I have no pictures of this most annoying and offending to my olfactory senses wonderful event because it would be inappropriate. In Israel, many pools and water parks run with strict modesty rules in place. This park only operates with separate men's and women's hours. Hun was lucky that Ate had no idea there was a water park, and was spared his extremely "fun" experience at this decrepit water park. I could not pull the wool over my daughter's eyes, however.

I had to wait in lines in enclosed stair cases that smelled like urine, and had to walk on cracked surfaces where muddy water lay, eeeewwwwww, I still want to vomit just thinking about it.

After our wonderful water park experience, it was time to bathe and nap (oh yeah, we had more picture taking to be ready for before the Sabbath began). I just love having to be dressed and ready at a very specific time with four unpredictable children.

But, it was actually worth it. The pictures came out pretty nicely, and might I add - we did not hire a professional. All the Aunts and Uncles worked on getting 36 Grandchildren to cooperate and the pictures were taken, utilizing 3 separate cameras by people (such as my mother - in - law) who were not required to be IN the photos.

Notice the progression of the photos...

Just waiting around for some organization...

Just immediate Grandchildren (no spouses)

Grandparents and two spouses added to the mix...

All the parents and aunts and uncles of said, Grandchildren...

Just us...

The grounds at this hotel were beautiful. There was a lovely playground in the center of it all. My family had a private dining room for the weekend. There was a zoo that Hun took the kids to on Saturday afternoon while I napped kept Bam out of the scorching 1000 degree temperatures in our air conditioned cabin.

(For intense effect - raise your volume as high as possible)
Ever wonder what it sounds like when bombs are falling on parts of Israel (which has been way too often), this will give you some idea. Fortunately though, this air raid siren was not sounded due to falling artillery, this is a sound that one hears every Friday 15 minutes before the Sabbath begins, to remind us to finish our preparations...

And so, the kids run off back to our cabin to finish up any last minute Sabbath preparations.

Sabbath with the whole family in one place was so lovely. All the cousins played so well together. I hung with one or two of my all of my siblings. The Bar Mitzvah boy made his Grandfather proud, reading from his personal Torah Scroll. And it was HOTTER than hell.

And that leaves, pretty much one more day in Israel - and then I can move on with my life and actually blog about 40 other things I had planned to blog about all summer.

Saturday night was a very meaningful night complete with a very special event, so stay tuned.

6 have shown Orah a little love: said...

I immediately noticed the Torah and how well it was strapped in on the bus.

I am still full of emotion from hearing about the gift of the Torah for your father.

Then to read his story. I can just picture him standing next to his mother (tears now).

With due respect, It is clear that G-d answered you grandmother's prayer in an amazing way. He is merciful.

It's so neat how your Father's Torah is being used in a synagogue.

Love the family pictures. What a HUGE family!

I have enjoyed (or am enjoying) hearing about your trip.

Have a great weekend.


Shosh said...

wow. that must be so meaningful for your father. really amazing

Anonymous said...

Amazing story behind your father's torah, I was getting all pharklempt.
Thanks for undigressing about the lovely urine smelling waterpark.
Nice that your family was ALL together. May you only share more simchas together!
- Miss S.

Heidi @ Tayterjaq's Rebels said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heidi @ Tayterjaq's Rebels said...

Thanks for not giving up on me!! I am going to try to get back into the blogging habit and post regularly but it might take a bit of getting used to again. I'm sure it will be easier when Rebecca starts school on Tuesday. Then I get 2 1/2 hours each day all. to. my. self!!! Bliss.
(sorry about the deleted comment. I spelled something wrong and had to fix it)

Carey-Life in the Carpool Lane said...

Wow! What an outing! I loved the story of your father and moving. And story of your father's 70th birthday...
Those family photos turned out incredible! Such well-behaved kids!

Okay, you asked about body paints and I hate to write it in the comments of such an amazing post but I don't know how else to get a hold of, you can buy body paint at dance/theater stores or just add a bit of lotion to kids (toxic-free, washable) paints and you are good to go!