January 22, 1997
Dear family and good friends,
We didn't want to have to resort to a "form letter." However, the thought of writing so much information to so many people seemed overwhelming. I was afraid it would be another several months before anyone would hear from us!
Well, we followed our dreams, and landed in Israel just before Passover last year, and it feels so good to be home! Chayim was able to sell all of his rental properties in Alaska; this enabled us to purchase a modest home with a small mortgage here in Tzfat. We found our home at just the right time. For our first three months here, we lived in four different places for varying amounts of time. Our lease for the last house we rented ended in June, and there were no suitable apartments to be found. And then we found this house...
Our house is located in the Artists' Quarter of Tzfat. A part of the city where there are narrow stone alleys lined with many art galleries and exhibitions, fruit trees of pomegranates, lemons, apricots, figs, olives, and many grape vines hosting several varieties of grapes. This is one of the quietest places of the city-the most serene.
You enter our house through a gate which leads into our small but lovely courtyard. The first thing you see is a grapefruit tree. (Actually, you'll have to duck so as not to bump your head on the fruit!) The citrus aroma is so pleasant, as the grapefruits are just ripening up now. There is an area for planting. Growing now are some blossoming bushes. (Someone thought one of them is Jasmine.) There also is a small pomegranate tree. And I almost forgot, because it is no longer grape season. We have a large grape vine, which, over the summer, draped large bunches of sweet, juicy, green grapes over our courtyard.
David, who just turned two, likes to ride his bike and play in the yard. In the summer time, we set up a wading pool for him.
Inside our house, we have a good sized kitchen/dining/living room space. The house is an old Arab home, designed in Turkish architecture, with high domed ceilings. It is made of stone and mortar (mud and straw!), with a thin layer of plaster, and some newer concrete. The house is in need of tremendous repair, but is certainly livable now. Slowly, slowly, we will get the job done, G-d willing. The master bedroom is off the living room area, and has its own bathroom. The two other bedrooms both have entrances from the courtyard, and they connect to one another through the second bathroom.
The large end bedroom is our guest room. We were able to fix up that room so it looks quite nice. That room is also used as a "Bed & Breakfast." During the summer months, we were very busy, hosting tourists in our home. Things have slowed down quite a bit this winter, and we decided to have a regular tenant rent out the room for the next couple of months.
For our first five months here in Israel, we were involved with Ulpan, an intensive Hebrew course. As a result, neither one of us is fluent in Hebrew. Chayim is more advanced than I, but I can generally get by in the shops-or wherever I need to speak Hebrew. The problem with learning the language is that there are so many English speakers here. (Three other families on our street.) Also, so many of the Israelis know English.
These days, Chayim is busy, mostly with his computer. He's done some consulting for people in the community. He is awaiting news regarding potential employment. He also plans to learn in Yeshiva.
There are classes for women which I attend nearly every day. Hannah goes with me and is the star pupil.
David goes to day care five mornings a week. He really loves it there. He enjoys all the activities and is learning so much. His new day care just began recently and is primarily English-speaking. The woman who runs the day care, Chayah, is also formerly from Fairbanks, Alaska.
Our first three months were tough on David, as he got hit with every virus going around, but now, thank G-d, he really shines. He loves his baby sister and just gleams when she smiles at him. He loves books, music, physical activity, and getting into all kinds of mischief all over the house. He's beginning to use simple English sentences-now that he's not hearing so much Hebrew these days.
Hannah is a little sweetie. It was a relatively quick and easy birth for me, thank G-d. When I woke up in the morning, around 6 a.m., I realized that I was in labor. A Dutch midwife arrived from Tiberias around 10 a.m., and Hannah was born just after noon, in our home. David came home from day care to find me sitting in the rocking chair holding the baby, and was thrown for a loop. But now, I am proud to say, that he as adjusted quite nicely to being a brother.
In general, Hannah is an easy baby to care for-a pleasure to care for. She sleeps well during the night, only awakens to nurse. She smiles easily and frequently. Unfortunately, her legs were a bit smooshed in the womb. When she was born, her legs were slightly bowed and both feet turned inward to a degree. A husband and wife team who are specialists in treating babies with imperfections such as this, perform physical therapy on Hannah nearly every day, to correct this problem while she is still a baby. They've made phenomenal progress already in just a short amount of time. Hannah really enjoys these "workouts." Not only are her legs greatly improved, but her general strength, for a baby her age, is astonishing.
I could go on and on about our beloved children. We are so blessed to have a precious baby boy, and now a delightful baby girl to brighten our days.
Chayim wanted me to mention an interesting difference in our lifestyle here. That is that we don't have a car. We surely get enough exercise here! Only on occasion do we need to take a city bus. I've gotten used to taking both children out by myself. Depending on the situation, I have 4 ways of doing it: 1) pushing Hannah in her stroller and holding David's hand, 2) pushing David in his stroller, with Hannah in her front carrier, 3) holding David's hand with Hannah in the front carrier, and 4) stuffing them both in Hannah's stroller. It's a bit of a challenge at times, especially due to all the many hills, stone steps, and rugged stone pathways.
We hardly leave Tzfat. It's very uncomfortable for me-descending and ascending the winding, mountainous roads leading to and from Tzfat. But I like being "stuck" here. The mountain air is so fresh and pure. The view is so picturesque, with the layers of mountains and valleys off in the distance, beyond this ancient city. The sunsets are so strikingly beautiful-it's no wonder we chose Tzfat as our home.
We have many good friends here, and the community continues to grow. Frequently, there are celebrations, get-togethers, lectures from out-of-town (and local) rabbis and rebbitzins, day trips, events for children, and events exclusively for women (i.e. parties, plays, and even a talent show last week).
An obvious drawback of being here is that we do miss our family and friends. Even in Alaska, long distance phone calls were not so outrageously expensive as here. It also doesn't look as if we will be able to make it back to the states any time soon.
But now, we have a guest room-so please come.
Simcha Layah, Chayim, David and Hannah
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