Friday, March 30, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you...Pini and Dudu!

Shabbat Shalom, chaverim! It's been an amazing week here in Nahariya, and things just got even better yesterday. But to go back a few days, Sunday was a very special day in that our Ulpan made a field trip to Yad Vashem and the Kotel (the Western, or "Wailing" Wall) in Jerusalem. I duly brought my camera with me, only to find out that as soon as I turned it on, the batteries died. I was unable to find any lithium batteries, and the AA batteries Elul bought at a rest stop along the way didn't do the trick. Naturally, I was kicking myself for not having backup batteries. On the other hand, when we bought the batteries LAST MONTH, we were assured by the salesman that these batteries would last for six months. As Israelis say, "oy va voy!"

However, not being able to take pictures actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to experience Yad Vashem completely as a first-time visitor, without having to divide my attention by looking for suitable photo opportunities at the same time. Yad Vashem is everything you've ever heard said about it. It's elegant, it's profound, it's extraordinary, it's deeply moving, and it's very powerful. We only had two hours, which wasn't long enough to see it all. At the same time, a two-hour visit was just about right, since the depths of emotion experienced can be exhausting. I felt sadness, anger, confusion, pride, resignation, and hope--one emotion rolling on to another emotion and then another, moving at a dizzying rate. We plan to go back again, just Elul and me, after Ulpan finishes.

After Yad Vashem, we went to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. We had some time to eat our sandwiches in a lovely square, and fortunately the weather was beautiful. Since we plan to be holding a religious service in our home in a couple of weeks, we also needed to buy a kiddush set that was more suitable for groups. After some looking around, we found a lovely one. We had a choice between choosing a set with scenes of Jerusalem on it, or one with just simple bunches of grapes, i.e. the "fruit of the vine." Since we love Jerusalem but make our home in Nahariya, we chose the grapes as a matter of civic pride. Judging by our gloating over Nahariya's basketball team's recent thrashing of Haifa, it appears we've already been thoroughly "municipalized."

We're very "grapeful" to be living in Nahariya.

Speaking of ingestibles (kiddush wine, not basketballs), I want to mention how happy I am that readers of this blog are so much better informed than I am. I got two email responses last week regarding my bafflement over the absence of food that, to my uneducated eye, had nothing to do with yeast, or leaven, or wheat, or anything like that. One reader, who by (her?) own choice shall remain anonymous, commented directly on this blog. (You can read her comment by going to last week's post and scrolling to the bottom of the page, where the comments start.) Another reader, who actually is a fellow congregant of our (former) temple in Las Vegas, gave me a full rundown on the machinations of stores trying to be "Kosher for Pesach." Here's a (very slightly edited) excerpt:

"I think I know the answer to your oatmeal question. "Kitniot," (which comes from the word "katan") or "little things," can be not-kashrut-for-Pesach too. Anything little and sold in bulk...beans, rice, oatmeal, etc. is often removed from shops because of possible cross -contamination. Say somebody was scooping out flour next to your oatmeal. Specks of wheat could theoretically fly up in the air and land in your oatmeal bin, technically making your oatmeal chametz too. So in order not to take that chance, the "kitniot," or "little things" in bulk are removed, too. Which means, kiss your bulk oatmeal goodbye until April 15.

"Snickers in the U.S. have corn syrup in them, so they're not kashrut-for-Pesach here. If Mars Incorporated made an all-sugar version for Passover, they'd be allowed, but if they don't change the recipe for Israel (and stick to the worldwide same-old same-old), then Snickers will get the boot until April 15, too.

"Like Coke here during Pesach at the kosher Smith's [a chain of grocery stores] in Summerlin [a Vegas neighborhood]. Year-round, it's sweetened with corn syrup. When Pesach rolls around, it gets a kosher for Passover cap, and they change the recipe slightly and sweeten it only with sugar, so Jews can continue to drink it. Corn syrup is a no-no, which sucks, because it's in everything here...salad dressings, sodas, syrups, jellies, candy bars. Ugh. You never realize how many things contain corn syrup until you start cleaning the house for Passover. It's everywhere."

So now I know, and you do, too. Thank you, reader! Getting back to our trip, after lunch we visited the Kotel. It is always a very moving experience, and this time was no exception. The first time I visited the Wall, I was so excited that I forgot to bring pen and paper to write out a prayer and leave it in one of the chinks in the wall. This time, I didn't forget. I put two requests of G-d on my piece of paper. The first request is a secret, but I'm happy to share what my second request was, which was "Two kittens, please!" And darned if we didn't get Pini and Dudu within 72 hours of me saying that prayer!

It turned out that one of the Ulpan chaperones for our trip was a lovely lady named Aviva, who actually manages four different Ulpans in the region. Our teacher Yael couldn't make it, so Aviva stepped in for her. Sitting outside Yad Vashem, while we were waiting for other students to return, I started talking about cats and how long we'd been looking for two kittens. Aviva replied, "oh, that's not a problem at all. My next-door neighbor runs a cat rescue organization and she has many, many kittens she needs to find homes for." We exchanged phone numbers, and the next day ran out and bought kitty supplies. On Wednesday afternoon we took a sherut (a kind of collective taxi that runs along fixed routes) to Kiryat Biyalik, where Aviva lived.

Kitting out the nursery. Babies on board!

Since we were so excited, we arrived early--about an hour before the lady with the cats was to return home from work. We spent a pleasant time with Aviva and her husband, who runs a thriving eBay business importing electronics. Aviva had just finished cleaning her house for Pesach, so she apologized for not having any cakes or cookies in the house. That wasn't a problem at all--on the way to her house I'd stopped into a little convenience store and picked up a couple of coveted Snickers bars. But eventually, it was time to go and get the cats. The exterior of the building was modest, but the apartment inside was full of love--and animals. There must have been a dozen cats, three dogs, a tankful of fish, and a parrot!

Lots of animals mean lots of cleanup--and laundry to go with it.

We were shown to the room that had the kittens...caged for their own protection, given the number of dogs, older cats, and the pitbull puppy in the apartment. And that's where we found Pini and Dudu.

Hey, warden! Where's my library book?

Pini (a boy, who is black and white) and Dudu (a girl, who is black with flecks of orange) are both weaned, but just barely. They can eat dry food if it's moistened, but prefer wet food. Dudu seems to be the runt of the her litter, as her legs are very spindly and her neck is pretty scrawny. We suspect she was probably competing for food--and not winning--most of the time.

Very good things can come in very small packages, like this little Dudu, tucked into Elul's arm.
We completed the very few formalities, and, using a cat carrier borrowed from Aviva, took the sherut back to Nahariya. The kittens were mostly quiet. However, they were also quite smelly to begin with, and one of them made the carrier (and thus the sherut) even smellier along the way. I'd deliberately brought one of my white t-shirts that I'd exercised in that morning, and put it in the carrier so they could get used to my smell on the way home. Let's just say I won't be wearing that t-shirt anymore!

After a long day, everyone was tired from over-excitement. We all got a good night's sleep, and the next morning, Elul shot Pini and Dudu's first screen test, complete with footage of them eating their first (vet-approved formula) breakfast. So here it is. And as usual, if you can't see the pictures I'm referring to, or the YouTube video clip below, please go directly to the website at

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you...Pini and Dudu!

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