By way of introduction

By way of introduction, I am Barbara Kessel. Hi. I retired three years ago from the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York, and Allen and I spent three months of that winter in Jerusalem.The following year we came for four months, and this year we rented an apartment for five.  We host my mother and mother in law every Rosh HaShanah, Sukkot and Pesach in our New Jersey home, so we cannot stay much longer than October to April. We have a daughter in Israel and a son in New Jersey. I am a freelance writer - hence this blog!
I have a friend who made aliyah three years ago.  (That is a lie. I have one friend who made aliyah two years ago, and another who came four years ago but I don't want them to know who I am writing about.)  She has since been like a reformed smoker who cannot stop talking about the evils of tobacco. She is wild for Israel and goes on and on about the birds and the busses and the bliss of it all.  It gets a bit tiresome, to be honest. So here I am, so deliriously happy that I am walking two feet above the ground. I can't get over the fruits and the fragrances and the flowers. I will try hard not to be tiresome but, really, I am having SO MUCH FUN here.
I will make an effort to write something negative about Israel every so often, just to maintain my credibility, but mostly I am in love (or infatuated) with the country.  
I will begin with today as an example.  For starters, I went to the Great Synagogue for the shloshim commemoration of the men who were massacred in Har Nof thirty days ago.  Rachel Frenkel was the first speaker. She was more emotional, she said, than she had anticipated because this was where the shloshim commemoration for her murdered son was held, and it awakened all sorts of thoughts and memories. Next was Mrs. Kupinsky who is heartbreakingly young. She was clearly moved to tears by the attendance of 1,000 women at this event. (I am not good at estimating crowds but the synagogue was almost filled.) She said that she was just kind of feeling her way through each day, figuring out how to care for the children and the home by herself, but she also saw good things that came out of that horrific day, including how the country pulled together for the survivors and the bereaved families.  Mrs. Levine talked about how we move forward as a community after something like this.  She recognized this tragedy (she doesn't even want to call it a tragedy!) as an invitation to introspection and self-improvement. All three were models of courage.
From there I went to the Yeshurun synagogue for a Torah talk by Rabbi Eliyahu Yedid, whom I had heard a quarter century ago when he made quite an impression on me. He spoke with clarity and energy to an audience of at least 100 (I think).  
From the sublime to the quotidian - I then went home to prepare dinner.  I had seen a recipe online for a vegetable stew made with sweet potatoes, chopped tomatoes, peanut butter(!), cinnamon, curry and cumin. Those are items I rarely (never) combine back in the States but I am in the Middle East and determined to break out of my onion and garlic default mode.  Well, kids, I just tasted it.  It tastes a lot like sweet potatoes, chopped tomatoes, onion and garlic. Hmmm. I guess I will have to be more generous with the tavlinim. 
What strikes me almost every day here is that combination of the extreme and the ordinary, whether it is extreme joy or tragedy.  I find that there is a constant interplay of intensity to life in Israel. It makes me feel as though I am living more intensely. I may be romanticizing but so far I am surrounded by Technicolors.
Anyway, nice to meet you. Hope you enjoy these newbie observations. I certainly enjoy observing them!