Monday, October 4, 2010

Hebrew word of the day

What's the definition of a "frier"? Let me give you an example:

Two people go out for a lovely lunch. Person B cannot finish her lunch, so she saves half of it to possibly have for lunch the next day. She could have easily nibbled away at the remaining yummy bits, despite being full, but utilizing her willpower, she fights the temptation.

When the waitress comes to clear the table, Person B asks (in Hebrew) for the leftovers to be wrapped to take home. Person B even does "the gesture" indicating that she'd like the food "to go." The waitress responds, in what to Person B sounded like (in Hebrew), "to take with you?" Person B responds in the affirmative. Despite this, Person B has the sneaking suspicion that the waitress is not going to wrap up said leftover food. This suspicion grows when the waitress stacks up the other dirty dishes on top of the leftover salad.

The bill comes. The take-away bag does not. Person B waits for a few minutes, then finally asks the waitress where the salad is, saying that she had requested it to be wrapped. The waitress responds, in English, "I don't know about it."

Person B, due to a lack of the proper vocabulary to say, "That's not my problem. I specifically asked you to wrap up my leftovers. You answered me. I deliberately left food over. I paid for my food and you tossed it. Please either make me a new salad, or give me a discount, or let me see the manager," sighs and quietly says, "B'seder" ("okay").

Person B is a frier. Any questions?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs

The government of Israel has a number of grants for new Olim (immigrants) to help them get started in new careers, or to establish an existing career in their new country. One of these grants is for artists, including singers. I figured, what the heck, I could use the grant towards setting up voice over shop.

Our Absorption Department submitted my information, and eventually, I received an invitation to audition. Actually, I received a faxed and photocopied piece of paper that was in Hebrew. Our always-to-the-translating-rescue cousins translated the paper and told me I had an audition. Since I wasn't initially told that there would be an audition, I had no idea what it was for. Once I spoke to the office, we figured it all out. I had applied for an audition to receive a grant. Ah, all is clear now.

These auditions are held once every 6 months. Here is the rundown of how they have been scheduled:

Audition 1, Oct '09: The day after I was leaving for a trip to the States
Audition 2, Mar '10: Two days before Passover. I guess people complained, because this was cancelled.
Audition 2, rescheduled, May '10: Two days after I was scheduled for surgery
Audition 3, Sep '10: Scheduled for September 13. The notice was dated August 25. I received it today, September 21.

I think I'm not supposed to be auditioning for this grant. What do you say?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


We went to our first Israeli Bar Mitzvah1 today. That's not entirely true, we've been to a number of family B'nei Mitzvot here in Israel, but our family is... well... unique. Considering the family alone makes up the bulk of the guests, there's always someone to talk to. And y'know, it's family.

But surprise, surprise, this was pretty much like every other Orthodox Bar Mitzvah we've been to. Except it was Thursday, not Saturday. And the party followed the davening (prayers), rather than having to be Saturday night (due to various Shabbat restrictions). And despite it being Thursday, there were still Cohanim2. One of whom was a teenager - so cute! (Is it wrong to refer to a Cohen as "cute"?)

Otherwise, there were the requisite speeches, ribbing by the siblings, tears from the mother, musicians, photographers, videographers and dancin' fools. The main difference between this Bar Mitzvah, and those I've attended in North America? The instant the music started, the teenage BOYS were out of the chairs and onto the dance floor. Yes, the boys. Here, boys think nothing of dancing together and holding hands when they do it. It's a beautiful thing to see. They were even line dancing at the end.

Oh, and the other difference? The photographer was a) packing heat3, and b) while walking around the womens' section during the repetition of the Amidah4, was responding "Baruch Hu uVaruch Sh'mo" while snapping away.

Mazal tov to the family, mazal tov to the Bar Mitzvah, mazal tov to Am Yisrael!

1 - Bar Mitzvah/B'nei Mitzvot. Rite of passage for 13 year old boys. Girls have a Bat Mitzvah at age 12. Contrary to common thought, the Bar Mitzvah is the boy, not the event.

2 - Cohen/Cohanim. Members of the priestly tribe of Judaism. Descendants of Moses's brother Aaron, their responsibilities lie mainly in the Temple. Until the Temple is rebuilt, may it be soon, we keep them busy by giving them small parts in the daily services.

3 - Packing heat. Really? You needed a definition for this one? ;) Carrying a gun. Not at all an uncommon sight in Israel. Except, apparently, in Eilat.

4 - Amidah. Silent prayer, which is then repeated out loud by the person leading the services. During the repetition, the congregation responds at various points with "Baruch Hu uVaruch Sh'mo" (Blessed is He and blessed is His name")

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A dance a day

There are lots of cool things about living in a country that has thousands of years of history in evidence everywhere you turn. I have written before I have apparently failed to write about the cool places right around us, where we take all our visitors. Five minutes away we have an archeological wonderland with remains of a Byzantine Inn, Jewish village with ancient mikva'ot (ritual baths), Arab village and a Crusader Fortress all in one place. Five minutes in the other direction, we have Ben Shemen Forest, which contains the graves of the Maccabees.

We take Maimo on hikes to these places, especially since he seems to enjoy peeing on the Crusaders. So yesterday, Maimo and I packed up and went for a hike through the forest, starting off at the ancient tomb of a local Sheik. There are a number of Orthodox Jews who believe the tomb is not that of a Sheik, but rather, it's the tomb of Matityahu HaCohen, father of Simon and Judah and the rest of the Maccabees. Quite frequently, we see families coming to visit the kever (tomb). It's kind of funny, because the State of Israel has placed a plaque identifying the tomb and giving some background on the Sheik. The Jews who believe it's the grave of Matityahu, spray paint over it with the words, "Matityahu HaCohen." The government comes back and replaces the plaque, the group comes back and spray paints. Ad infinitum.

On our way back from our walk, I noticed a Chassidic man strolling the path ahead of us. Not wanting Maimo to run up and say hello and possibly scare the man, I put Maimo back on his leash and continued to the car. Good thing, too, because while I was looking for the keys to open the car, a police officer drove by (dogs are supposed to be on leash pretty much everywhere. No running free for them, sadly). We got into the car, and since I was on the phone, we sat there for a few minutes so I could finish my conversation.

Which gave me the opportunity to see the man come back to his car, another man got out of the driver's side, and in the middle of the forest, next to the tomb of an old Sheik, the two of them proceeded to dance in the middle of the gravel road.

They had regular hats, not "shtreimels" and longer coats, but this is how they were dancing.

So not only did the Chassidic men save me from a possible ticket for having an unleashed dog, they also put a huge smile on my face. How can you not smile at men dancing with joy in the middle of ancient history and modern trees?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Well, who needs a balcony - or sleep - really?

Oh, the pounding in my head. Oh, wait. That's actually the pounding outside my head. When we lived in Vancouver, everywhere you turned, there was construction. Houses were bought, torn down and new monster homes - usually du- or triplexes - were built in their place. It happened to the house across the street from us, the house next door, the house behind us and the house diagonally across from us. Every. single. day we would wake up to the crashing noises of timber being ripped off its foundation, bulldozers razing walls. Then it began next to us. The house next door was so close, we were convinced the bulldozer was knocking into us. Every few minutes, we'd hear a crashing noise and our house would vibrate. Since we had already decided to make aliyah, we couldn't wait to get out of there and get some peace and quiet!

Well, our peace and quiet lasted about a year or so. Over the course of the last year, construction - which has been in the planning stages for years - began in earnest on the apartment complex and park on our street. Right across the street from us. Like, directly across the street.

The hill across the street - before

For months, we've been waking up to the sound of breaker machines tearing apart the boulders that make up the lovely hillside across the street from us. They finally stopped a few weeks ago, and we thought, "At last!" They were ready to pour concrete.

No dice. They stopped long enough to throw down some rebar, and put up some construction walls, then started completely decimating the hill right outside our patio. The machines are now right outside our bedroom window, at the same height as our 3rd floor apartment.

This was a couple of weeks ago. There's even less of the hill now.

Which means not only are we hearing the noise (the volume has necessitated sleeping with earplugs, because the construction starts at 6:30am), but we are now enjoying the vibration of the d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d. Any thoughts of dining on our balcony have been quashed under the layers of dirt and dust tossed about by the construction.

I couldn't transfer the video I took of the actual machines, but this is the exact same melody. Just multiply by two and take less breaks.
To top this off, work has now started in the field behind our apartment. The field is already flat, so the breaker machines aren't necessary. The machines that pour concrete for the foundation aren't quite as loud as the breakers, but that's not saying much.

So now we're left with dust and noise in the front, and noise in the back. We haven't been able to open our windows in over a month, and I'm going through dust rags (even through closed windows!) like crazy. Which, of course, means that the air conditioner has to be on far more than it would otherwise. Which also means, of course, we're going to have one nasty electric bill.

When our landlord first told us he was not renewing our lease (he wants more money for the apartment. Or to sell it. Good luck with either one right now), we were disappointed. We like our neighbourhood, and our neighbours, and really love our apartment. The development companies are conspiring to make us really look forward to a change of environment. We even considered moving to a settlement, if only because there's a construction freeze.

I may be forced to go to the beach tomorrow, just to get some peace and quiet.

Update: our landlord must have come around the neighbourhood, or he called his agent who said, "are you effin kidding?!" because he called us asking if we wanted to stay. So to save expenses and the pain of moving, we're staying. The electric bill will be cheaper than paying for movers.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How to look like an idiot without even trying

The conversation went something like this:
Me: (in Hebrew) I want to make an appointment with Dr. X
Guy on phone: Im Dr. X b'Modi'in? (with Dr. X in Modi'in?)
Me: Ken. (yes)
GOP: Mi holech l'rofe? (who is going to the doctor?)
Me: [Brain fart]

I didn't understand the question. Who is going to the doctor? I don't know - his patients? Is there a party at his office? Do I need to bring a date? It's a contextual thing; I've never been asked this before when making a doctor's appointment. I'm going to the doctor. Who else would it be? (Remember, I do not have children, so I am not used to making appointments for other people. Plus, I've never been asked this before.)

Finally, I get it and I say:
Me: ani. Aliza Ahltmahn (me. Alissa Altman)
GOP: b'ivrit (in Hebrew)
Me: Ma? (What?)

Then the brain really shut down. "In Hebrew"? I answered him in Hebrew. I don't understand. He asked me if I'd prefer English, I said yes, he said something really quickly that I think was he'd get me an English operator, wished me a good day and then hung up.

So.... does that mean someone's going to call me back? Did he accidently disconnect when he meant to put me on hold? Is he banging his head against his desk, sighing, "Anglos"? Did he go on his lunch break thinking, another day, another dumbutt?


Making a doctor's appointment is not difficult Hebrew. I know all the words necessary to make an appointment. Yet, I failed. I know what to say, I just can't understand what people say to me, especially if it's out of context or unexpected. And once I'm thrown, I can't get myself back on track.

This is true for a number of situations. I can get along okay in simple Hebrew, as long as I keep the sentences short and no one ever answers me. Just let me talk, and if you need to tell me something, use hand gestures.

We'll manage just fine. Who needs actual conversations, anyway?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Jerusalem Romance

A poem for Tisha B'Av (the 9 Days)

Jerusalem Romance

Walk with me through ancient alleys
on polished cobblestones
by stations of bygone sallies
Walk with me through ancient alleys

seven hills and graven valleys
filled with long-forgotten bones
Walk with me through ancient alleys
on polished cobblestone

Copyright 2010 Morey Altman

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Happy different anniversary to us

Just a few days ago, on the 10th of July, we celebrated our two-year aliyahversary. Two years of living in Israel, as Israelis (and just one year away from being cleared of our Nefesh b'Nefesh grant!).

Last year, we did something we've never done before; we went on a cruise. We could do it because a) the cruise was kosher(!), and b) the cruise was extremely affordable. All those years of watching the cruise liners come in and out of the port at Vancouver, and now we could be one of those on the ship instead of just watching it.

(Last year, I also wrote a blog post commemorating our first aliyahversary.)

During the cruise, Morey realized that we would be coming back just before our one-year aliyahversary. He noted that it was a nice way to celebrate; making aliyah all over again. Aliyah really means ascending; we use it to refer to people moving to Israel, because they are ascending to the Holy Land. So, really, it's relevant to anyone who is entering the Land, whether permanently or as a tourist. Morey joked about observing our aliyahversary every year, by going away and returning on or around our anniversary date.

It accidently happened again this year. All us kids went to Pennsylvania to celebrate our mother's 65th birthday. Since we didn't want to be travelling during the 9 days, it worked out that the best flight home to Israel would be leaving on the 7th of July, arriving on the 8th. So yes, we landed in Israel - made aliyah - two days before our 2nd aliyah anniversary.

Wonder where we're going to go next year?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mishaberach L'Chayalei Zahal*

*Prayer for Israel's Defense Forces

Well, we can't visit Gilad Shalit, but this morning, we were able to visit I. & D., two of the Navy Seals injured on the Humaniterror Flotilla.

Standing Together, an organization dedicated to letting the soldiers of the IDF know how much they are appreciated by the people they protect, organized a trip this morning to visit the two soldiers. With baskets of goodies in hand, we convoyed to Tel HaShomer hospital to meet up with our Navy Seal escort.

One of these two good-looking, young soldiers was in great spirits, with his family around; the other was more quiet and seemed a bit uncomfortable with the attention, but was surrounded by friends from the Seals (male & female). Interviews weren't allowed, and of course, we couldn't take pictures of the soldiers, but we wished them well (the Hebrew speakers did. I stood around and smiled a lot).

They've received lots of posters and notes, which are up on the wall of their hospital rooms. This is just a small sample.

(And yes, they have seen "We Con The World" and thought it was funny.)

Three weeks after the attack, and these two young men are still in hospital, bandaged, in casts, on crutches, faced with still more recovery and rehab. If anyone wants to question how real this attack was, come talk to us.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rabbit or hare, it's still a bunny

What the hell is wrong with us? I've sort of gotten used to Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, et al terrorists being referred to as "militants." It infuriates me that the rest of the world does not see people who blow up schoolchildren on a bus as terrorists, but I know I can't change that.

Today I read the following headline: "Muslim militants behead 3 Filipino loggers" Fairly benign - "muslim militants" can mean anything in this context. Open the article, however, and the very first line - in fact, the very first words - read "Al-Qaida-linked militants..."

I've moved to the other side of the world, and I'm getting older now so I forget things sometimes, so please do correct me if I'm mistaken, but wasn't Al-Qaida the ladies auxiliary group responsible for dropping four planes on our big, fat US ass, two on the World Trade Center and one on the Pentagon, killing nearly 3000 people?

"Militants"?? The FBI regularly referred to groups such as the Black Panthers and the Weathermen as terrorists, yet the damage they did was negligible compared to what modern terrorist groups have accomplished. And still, we wuss out and call them militants.

Our (and by "our" I mean all targets of Muslim extremist goups) enemies have repeatedly stated that their goal is to destroy us, to Islamicize the world. As long as we continue to consider our enemies "the misunderstood little boy next door," no matter how many times he drowns our kittens and sets our garage on fire, we will lose this battle.

You must know your enemy in order to defeat him. The idiot who throws red paint on your fur coat is a militant. The man who beheads you because you are a Jew or Christian is a terrorist. It's time we spoke the truth.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shavuot, or that holiday that makes you go, "huh?"

Shavuot is on Wednesday. Shavuot is the holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah (old testament to some of you, but basically, the 5 Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy). Or, the Jews' receiving the Torah from G-d, depending on how you want to look at it.

Normally, I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to properly observe Shavuot. There really aren't any rituals associated with this holiday, unlike Passover, with the matzah and bitter herbs and reading of the Haggadah, or Sukkot, where we sit in our little home-made booths and shake our willow branches, or Yom Kippur, where we pray and fast, or even Chanukah, where we light candles for 8 nights. There are traditions, like eating cheesecake, or (trying) to stay up all night learning Torah, but those are just traditions, not mitzvot (commandments) associated with the day.

This year, I have no problem. The Torah was given to us, the soon-to-be Jewish people, at Mt. Sinai, on our way out of Egypt to the land G-d promised us, thousands of years ago. The Torah has been our guide book, our book of laws, our instructions on how to live since then. From the Torah, we learn how to treat guests, we learn to respect our parents, we learn to think about the food we eat, how to treat our animals, even our land. We are told to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

From the story of Abraham's circumsion, when he is visited by G-d during his recuperation (Genesis 18:1), we learn of the importance of visiting the sick. This lesson became the life-raft that kept me afloat during this past month. When I found myself in the Emergency Room a month ago, followed by a two-week hospital stay, followed by surgery, not a day went by in the hospital without someone visiting me. And that's not counting Morey and my sister, who spent so much time by my side. My classmates from Nishmat, the seminary where I learn, came and made me laugh, brought me illicit treats and gave me something to look forward to day after day. My cousin and her husband walked on Shabbat and kept me from feeling sorry for myself for spending Shabbat in the hospital. Friends I barely know, and friends I know well came from around the corner and from a 40-minute bus ride away. Some took time out of their holidays to visit. The hospital rabbi employs people to check in on patients and visit with them, and at least 3 different religious men went into each and every room, to every bed to wish the occupant a "r'fuah shlema" (basically, a healing for your soul, but it's shorthand for a prayer for healing that we say in each of our 3-times-a day prayers). Someone came around with free newspapers, and a lovely, oh-so-shy young woman came around with goodie bags. My phone has never been so busy as it was during those two weeks in hospital, with calls from family, friends, acquintances, neighbours who couldn't make it into Jerusalem, even my teachers and Rabbi from Nishmat.

I have been so blessed by all the love and care that was showered on me - and Morey. We say it in our prayers every day, "bikur cholim" (visit the sick), but how many of us actually take it to heart? I know I really didn't. This year, I'm going to focus on this Torah lesson (opens a pdf), and be truly grateful for all the people who do take this mitzvah seriously, and be thankful to Hashem for giving us this commandment. It's not easy to visit someone who is sick, and hospitals are no one's idea of a fun place to hang out. But for those who accept that performing this mitzvah is bigger than their discomfort, from the bottom of my heart, bless you. Chag Sameach

Sunday, April 18, 2010

One Minute

Last year, when the siren went off for one minute in the evening to mark the beginning of Yom HaZikaron יום הזכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה‎ (Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror), a time when everyone stops what they are doing and stands in silence, Morey and I were home alone. The following day when the siren went off for a full two minutes (again, standing in silence), we were in Ulpan, Hebrew class. For the majority of us, this was our first Yom HaZikaron as Israelis. There was a sense of solidarity of being a people together on this day, but there was also a distinct separateness. We'd only been in the country, most of us, for a few months. We understood the loss this day memorializes, but we couldn't really feel it.

That was really driven home when we went to the ceremony at the school that hosted the Ulpan class. The students and faculty memorialized their former students and classmates, along with the brothers, fathers, uncles, sons and friends they had lost. To see these normally boisterious teenage boys crumbling into the arms of their teachers, tears shamelessly pouring down their young faces, really made us appreciate the difference between the new kids and the "real" Israelis.

This year, thank God, I'm still a new kid. But this year, because I'm in hospital (that's a different post altogether), when the siren went off in the evening, I was standing with a very mixed group of people. I knew no one, and no one knew me. We were all Israelis standing together in a moment of silence for our fallen soldiers, for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countrymates, and for the families who now have a gaping hole where a loved one once stood. An entirely different feeling.

The interesting part of experiencing the siren at the hospital, is that everyone is welcome at this hospital, as in every hospital within Israel. That means, standing outside with us were Arabs. Arab Israelis are exempt from serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, yet some choose to. Most are Druze or Bedouin, but some Arab Israeli do serve. For the most part, there's no way to tell if someone is Arab Muslim, Arab Christian, Druze, modernized Bedouin and there's no way to tell if that person is anti-Israel or supportive of Israel.

So here we are, all of us standing together, when the siren goes off that memorializes Israeli soldiers who have died mainly in wars and situations fighting Arab armies and terrorists. The Arabs around me kept talking and ignored the siren, but I noticed they talked quietly. Were they ignoring something they felt didn't apply to them, but being respectful at the same time? Or was it just the environment of being at a hospital? I'll never know, but as I go back to my room and say hello to my lovely Arab nurse, and think about the Arab doctor who was the one who finally figured out what was wrong with me, and the Arab man in the room next to me whose family is gathered around him, never leaving him alone, I realize it's yet another beautiful, crazy dichotomy of living in Israel.

May Hashem bless the souls of the fallen, the families who live with the loss daily, may their memories be for a blessing upon all of us and may the day come when we no longer add any names to the list of those to remember.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Just another day in The Land

One of the facts of life of living in Israel is that a lot of our neighbours want to get rid of us. Not very hospitable, I know, but there you have it. No need to recap the terrorist history; every knows about pizza places, cafes, buses and hotels being bombed, and the people who have been killed. I learn at a womens' seminary, Nishmat, in Jerusalem in a program named in honor of Alisa Flatow, a victim of one such attack.

As a result, Israelis have to live with lots of security. Everytime you go into a mall, you show your bags for inspection and go through a metal detector. If you park in a public garage, keep your trunk unlocked for security to check. Nearly every restaurant in Jerusalem has a guard you have to get by. When you go into the train or bus station, your bags will go through an x-ray machine and you will go through yet another metal detector. Just to get into the airport complex, never mind the actual building, you have to go through security. Even when you drop your child off at nursery school, you will pass and say good morning to the armed security guard standing outside his or her booth.

We learn to live with it; we learn to accept seeing armed guards protecting us while we shop for milk and eggs.

Still, it gets our attention when, while driving to one our local shopping centres to go to lunch with Morey's visiting mother on her last day here, we get waved away from the main entrance. Idle curiousity makes us wonder why there are more-armed-than-usual police officers in the street, while we sit in the restaurant watching, speculating on what's going on. We guess that it's a חפץ חשוד - suspicious object - and we continue to watch as the police block off the road, and the Moked (I don't know how to translate that - they're city staff) arrive. It's all an interesting distraction, until the police come into the restaurant and evacuate us.

Until that point, everything was kind of casual. "Oh neat, they'll bring in the sappers. I want to see the robot." Once you get evacuated, it kind of occurs to you that there's a chance this one might be more than someone's forgotten backpack.

It's interesting to note that we all were quite lackadaisical about clearing out. We did it, but there was no panic, no rush. The people next to us took the time to pay their bill, rather than come back afterwards. Most of us went to the back of the centre and started browsing in the stores there, or made phone calls. But still, everyone who was close enough, watched. It may be a fact of life, but we still want to know for sure.

After two controlled explosions and some gunfire, we were given the all-clear. We went back to the restaurant, got our food, drank our now-cold coffee, and went on with our day as if nothing happened.

Just another day in the Land. For the reasons why we have to blow up every carelessly left-behind suitcase, backpack, cardboard box or package, and why we have to have guards at malls, grocery stores, restaurants and schools, please read this beautiful tribute by Paul Stern.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Don't Passover the details

The Seventh Plague, John Martin, 1823

There are many aspects of the Biblical record that are disturbing. But, Torah is not a simple collection of sweet children's stories and morality plays; it's a record of a people's relationship with their G-d, and as such, both good and bad are depicted. In other words, the nasty stuff could have been excised to make us look better, but morally, it made more sense to leave in abhorrent behaviour so that later generations could discuss and learn. These discussions make up the Talmud, and other texts.

The depiction of the Exodus includes a number of actions that depict both G-d and the Hebrews in a disturbing light. Why did G-d harden Pharaoh's heart so that more plagues could be unleashed? Why did the Hebrews need to liberate a fortune in silver and gold from the emotionally-broken Egyptians when they fled?

And why celebrate a festival in which multitudes of innocent Egyptians perished so that we could be free?

The answer is, we don't. During the seder, we dip wine in remembrance of the plagues and the Egyptians killed. As well, there's a significant Midrash (interpretive teaching) which is often discussed during the Passover season, in which the angels are chastised by G-d for celebrating the deaths of Egyptians:

"The Egyptians were drowning in the sea. At the same time, the angels wanted to sing before God, and the Lord, God, said to them: 'My creations are drowning and you are singing before me?'" (Sanhedrin 39a)

It would be a mistake to deny ourselves an opportunity to celebrate on the grounds that others suffered. This is generally the outcome of any conflict. We can both celebrate and memorialize at the same time; they're not mutually exclusive conditions. It would also be a mistake to whitewash history - even religious history - when we can learn from the past. Passover is not an exercise in self-congratulations; it's an annual reminder of human suffering, an opportunity for improvement on a spiritual level, and a catalyst for action in a world in which man-made adversity continues.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

people who need people

Our friend Rachel and her brother Ben have created a really cool app called sleeQo. One of these days, Rachel will post how to pronounce that. We've been having fun with it on Facebook, when it occurred to me, I should try it out where it's actually intended to be used - on the blog! I made it applicable to our blog by using the "5 Things New Olim Should Know" meme (which, thanks to Rachel, I just learned is pronounced "meem." I've been totally uncool by calling it a "meemee" all these years).

Try it out! I'm resisting the temptation to go fill them all in right now. The way things are going lately, I'm going to need "filler"!

5 Things New Olim Should Know

Rules: Post 5 things that a new immigrant to Israel needs to know. No politics!
  1. You pay for everything at the post office. Health care, driver's license, bills, you name it.
  2. Whatever time your appointment is, expect it to start half an hour later. But you're still expected to be on time.
  3. Kosher food is everywhere!
  4. No matter how hot you think it is, it will get hotter.
  5. You will never find more people willing to help you do whatever you need to do. Most will offer, but don't be afraid to ask. The answer will always be either "yes" or "I can't, but I know someone who can"
Nobody tagged Click here to fill in this meme

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dig, people, dig!

One of the amazingly cool things about living in Israel is construction. Yes, construction. Or rather, they byproducts of construction. When someone tears down the house right next door to you to build a new one in, say, Vancouver, and you spend day after day listening to the aural equivalent of a landslide and feeling your own house vibrate as if you were in the middle of one, the only thing they're likely to dig up is - well, nothing. Chances are this is the 4th or 5th house built on this location, and if there were anything to find, it's long gone by now. And it's more likely there wasn't anything to find in the first place.

In Israel, when construction starts on apartment buildings, it's almost always on land that hasn't been touched. At least, not touched for hundreds of years. And many times, in the course of construction, they find something. And that something is protected by the government, and must be reported and explored.

Which means, if you live in a construction zone, you can wind up with an archeological dig right across the street. Cool! Wonder if they'll take volunteers?

View from our balcony

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Being sick in Israel stinks. Not for lack of quality healthcare, and certainly not for lack of affordable drugs.

As we've mentioned here before, there's a wordplay on new immigrants and the fact that new immigrants get sick. A lot. The word for "immigrants" is olim and "new," plural, is chadashim (that's "ch" as in throat-clearing, not "ch" as in Charlie). So, "new olim" are olim chadashim (in Hebrew the adjective goes after the noun).

The word for "sick people" is cholim (again, that throat-clearing "ch").

So, olim chadashim - new immigrants - becomes cholim chadashim - new sick people. Ha ha.

However, the longer I'm here, the more I realize everybody gets sick a lot here, whether you've been here 6 months, 6 years or 6 decades. Everytime I turn around, somebody's sick. And not that "I don't feel like going to school/work/meeting with my boss" sick. Or the, "I'm not feeling well today so I won't go in, but I'll work tomorrow" sick, either. No, here, people get mamash (really really) sick. Head-throbbing, can't breathe, sinuses clogged up like a camel in a sandstorm (see how I did that? How Israeli am I?) sick. A lot.

I blame children.

Israel is blessed with a lot of children. Children who play together in maon and gan (daycare and nursery school). Children who wipe their noses and then share their toys with their mates. Children who so adorably hold hands when playing. Then go home and kiss their Emas (moms)or their little siblings. Then the Emas hand the toys to the Abas (dads), who, while out for a walk, shake hands with their neighbour. Who then grabs his child's hand... and so it goes.

I know this happens everywhere. But people are a little more paranoid conscious of antibiotic soaps and liquid sanitizers and washing hands every 5 minutes in the US and Canada. We also have a load more kids per square inch in Israel. We're also a very huggy, touchy-feely group over here.

Frankly, I love it. I love the kids, I love the contact and I wouldn't trade the hugs and kisses for anything. But I suspect this is the cause of our constant illnesses. That and our collective sinus conditions.

But I digress. This is not why I gripe. No, my gripe is that when I do get sick, I get sick bad. I don't necessarily mind being sick, what is getting to me is I don't know the drugs here! I want DayQuil! I want NyQuil! When my sister got married last year and was fighting a bad cold that would not quit, her most urgent request to my soon-to-be arriving mother (along with sneakers, q-tips and ziplock bags) was NyQuil.

I've tried different drugs, but I never cared about the ingredients; I just wanted to feel better and Day/NyQuil worked. So far, nothing here works. And don't even get me started on the cough syrup here. Every single one on the market (and my doctor checked!) contains Sorbitol, which I cannot take. I know this because I took some before I knew I couldn't. Trust me on this one. So I'm stuck taking cough drops which contain loads of sugar, which means my choice is either stay up coughing all night, or don't cough, but stay up because I'm wired on a sugar high. Tough call.

I just want my DayQuil and my NyQuil. Or something exactly like them. I want the security of knowing I'm taking something that will make me feel better. Or, in the case of NyQuil, not care if I'm not feeling better.

Oh, and my over-the-counter cough syrup with codeine. Sometimes I really miss Canada.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Blogger's event

Hey, there's actually one of these events right here in Modi'in. How cool is that?

A bunch of bloggers are getting together this Sunday evening for an event entitled, "What do I write about next?" Obviously, this is a good event for us me to attend, since we pretty much let the blog go dark all of January. We were busy. Yeah, that's it.

Anyhoo, sorry for the late notice (I said we were busy) but if you live in Israel, and you blog, come along. Hosted by Baila, the speaker will be Hannah Katsman, from A Mother in Israel.

There's more information, and the registration page, here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Breakfast at Persephone's

or, when blog worlds collide.

I have another blog, that I keep anonymous, that was very active for a while there. I haven't done much with it in a long while, but while I was actively blogging on that site, I made friends with a few fellow bloggers. We would communicate with each other off-blog, and if any of us found ourselves in another's hometown, we would "out" ourselves and get together.

One such blogger is Persephone. Over the years, she has given me lots of great advice, directed me to knowledgeable people, and helped me keep my sanity. It just never worked out that when I was in her hometown, I was able to see her. We outed ourselves to each other a while back, and stay in touch.

She connected me to a friend of hers who moved to Modi'in, and we all have another blogger friend in common, who is also part of the communication circle.

The point of all this, is once I moved to Israel, I despaired of ever meeting Persephone in person. I no longer have any reason to be in her hometown when I visit the States, and anyway, the chances of my visiting the States now have been greatly reduced. Ahhhh...but, sooner or later, everyone comes to Israel.

And so it was, that along with our Modi'in friend, Persephone and I had breakfast together, in person, in Israel. And B"H, 'Seph is just as lovely in real life as she is in the internets.

Lovely to meet you, Persephone. Or whatever your name is ;)