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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

To every fruit, there is a season (with helpful seasonal Hebrew vocabulary!)


In Canada, there are seasons. Lots and lots of them. Well, four, but they’re all exciting and distinctly different. You’re probably familiar with them: winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Israel doesn’t have seasons, as such, a fact which has been driven home by this long, warm fall. And been hammered into our skulls with a recent two-week November heatwave חמסין / chamseen (hot wind from the eastern deserts) that’s left us parched and sweating, and left my plants wilting at a time of year when they’re usually starting to soak up the first downpours of the year.

(Interestingly, as this article points out, most Israelis probably call the chamseen by that name because it’s hot, which is חם / cham in Hebrew, in fact it comes from the Arabic word for fifty – meaning fifty days a year of icky sandy hot and dry conditions.)

Spring and fall are often called עונות המעבר / onot hama’avar, the transitional season. Meaning they’re neither here nor there – just seasons that get you from one place to another. (When you sit on the aisle in a movie theatre or airplane, you’re also sitting on the מעבר / ma’avar – exactly the same word.)

The term onot hama’avar usually crops up when we’re talking about health, and other problems, that come up during spring, and especially fall. Colds, allergies, migraines, skin problems – most Israelis are suffering from some combination of all these at the moment, compounded by the current hot, dry wind which has meant I can’t smile or my lips will crack.

Normally, the fall עונת המעבר / onat hama’avar (singular) is also the time to get immunized with this year’s flu vaccine, a fact driven into my head by my ulpan teacher. But this year the vaccines were late (for various international reasons and not due to a conspiracy and/or the fact we have no government!) and we haven’t gotten ours yet.

But however you feel about the weather, that’s actually NOT what a want to talk about. Because there are even more important seasons in Israel: seasons you must be aware of, seasons people argue heatedly about on Facebook, seasons you need to prepare for before you leave the house.

I’m talking about fruit seasons, of course.

I’ve already said many times that we’re huge fans of Israeli fruit. It’s cheap and more delicious than anything I ever

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Amharic class: An immersion in ignorance

Do you ever overhear people talking in another language and wonder what they were saying?

When I was in Amsterdam a few weeks ago I was looking around at all the happy Dutch people, eavesdropping on all their conversations I couldn't understand and I was thinking exactly that. What are they talking about?

But in fact I know exactly what they were talking about. The exact same things we do: “Drat, I forgot to buy milk,” “What are you doing Thursday?” and “This new boss is driving me crazy.” Or whatever.

The point is, it’s probably much more mundane than we think it will be. And it’s not at all exotic or foreign, because nobody is once you get to know them close up. They’re not sitting across from me on the tram thinking, “As a Dutch person, I would love to go home and eat… well, maybe pancakes. Because that’s what we Dutch people enjoy.”

Dutch people, mostly, don’t think or talk about being Dutch because being Dutch is for the most part invisible to them. That doesn’t mean they’re not proud, just that on a daily basis, in ordinary conversations, it factors in very little. They think and talk about mundane things because they’re just people. Just like us.

There are two kinds of people I meet when I say I'm learning Amharic. The first kind

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Shutting Down, Starting Anew (guest post)


Sometimes, someone else says it better than I ever could.  Leonie Lachamish is a 41-year olah from the UK who lives near Jerusalem.

Every Erev Yom Kippur, while we were bringing up young children, I'd make sure the radio was on for the 2pm news so we could all hear the announcement that Israel's National Airport, Ben Gurion Airport (that functions 24/7) was closing down until after Yom Kippur (around 30 hours later) and then that all the radio stations were ceasing their broadcasts until

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Coming to Israel? You NEED these comprehensive travel tips! (guest post)

Summer tourism and aliyah season is almost here, and whether it’s your first trip to Israel or your eightieth, don’t you wish you could have a list of all the little things everybody else wishes they’d thought of? 

This comprehensive travel guide was written by Debra Nussbaum Stepen.  She’s a Licensed Tour Guide in Israel (no mean feat, as it takes years of study and deep historical and geographical knowledge!) and you can find out more about her and her services at debratours.com.

Comprehensive Travel Tips for Tourists

1. Do not throw out the little slip of paper that they give you at the airport. This is your entry visa and entitles you to exemption of the 17% VAT tax on

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The horrifying truth about Lag Baomer bonfires



There's so much I love about the period between Pesach and Shavuos here in Israel.  But there's one thing that absolutely disgusts me.  I'll tell you in a minute and see if you feel the same.

When we lived in Canada, this time of year was pretty dull and featureless.  There's Pesach... Yom HaAtzmaut, if we remembered it... Lag Baomer, if we got our act together to get to a bonfire... and then Shavuos.

It was okay, but nothing special.

Here in Israel, it's a VERY special time of year, especially if you measure by how many days the kids have to wear white shirts to school.  In many religious schools, often kids are supposed to wear white shirts for Rosh Chodesh and any other special occasion... and these seven weeks give us PLENTY of those. 

My son's school also has them wear white shirts on Fridays, bringing the white-shirt days up to an uncountably high number:  two days for Rosh Chodesh Iyar, Yom Hashoah, a couple of Fridays, Yom Hazikaron, and more that I'm probably not remembering.  Some chains actually have sales on white t-shirts with school logos just to help parents stock up.

I love all these special days, especially Yom Haatzmaut, which comes smack-dab in the middle of the solemn sefirah period and means we can celebrate Israel's birth with music, which we don't normally listen to during this period (I'm aware that different people observe this different, halachically -- consult your rav for details if you're not sure).

But here's what I don't love. 

What I hate, if you'll allow me to use a strong word.  What disgusts me.

Lag Baomer

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Nefesh b'Nefesh: How helpful are they AFTER you make aliyah?

One of my children will sometimes say, "You hate Nefesh b'Nefesh."  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Really.

So let's just say it straight out before I start here -- I love Nefesh b'Nefesh.  Adore them.

We have met and been helped by so many great people through Nefesh b'Nefesh (NbN).  I don't know what the aliyah process would have been like without them, but I'm sure it would have been quite a bit harder.

So that's the first thing.

The second thing, though, is that olim sometimes arrive with unrealistic expectations about what NbN is going to do for them.

At this point, I’ve met quite a few of these olim, and some, I’ll admit, actually do hate NbN. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Cranky Complaints-Lady Visits -- a bathroom in Jerusalem!


I'm curious... what do YOU think?  Is this issue as outrageous as it feels to me? Or am I overreacting / overthinking?
(This wouldn't be the first time...)
Backing up for a second:

On my other blog, Adventures in MamaLand, I used to have a recurring "Cranky Complaints-Lady" feature where I wrote complain-y letters to a whole bunch of places which were deserving of my scorn.  

Most are a little weird looking back, and way too wordy.  A good complaint letter should get right to the point.  And it should probably be in a language that the recipient understands and can read.  But this issue at the brand-new train station in Jerusalem has been bugging me for a while... so I decided to write a letter.  

Just venting makes me feel a little better.  But yeah -- like I said, be gentle, but am I off base here in thinking the women's bathrooms should be women's bathrooms, i.e., a private safe space where I can adjust my tichel behind closed doors?

Let me know (gently!) in the comments!

p.s. I apologize for not being around more often -- one huge reason is that as of March, the program I used to post to Blogger (Open Live Writer) is no longer supported by Google/Blogger.  I've been looking around for another home for these blogs... but it's had to take a back seat to parnassah and other concerns.  But I'm still around, and if you ever need to get a hold of me, please email -- Tzivia @ aliyahland.com

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Dear Israel Railways,

I've been through the train station at Jerusalem Navon several times so far and the station is always clean and efficient.  It's a pleasure to arrive by train rather than by bus after the long journey from north of Haifa.

However, I have noticed one particularly troubling problem -- there seem to always be men in the women's bathroom, specifically cleaning staff.  On one occasion a man walked right in to clean one of the women's bathrooms without first knocking and asking women to leave.  On our most recent visit, during Pesach, I noticed that there is a staff "break room" right inside the women's bathroom on the main floor.  Two or three men were in there taking a break while we were using the bathroom.
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