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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 @


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.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

What every parent must know about youth groups in Israel (with handy vocabulary list!)

If you grew up outside of Israel, you may think you know what a youth group is--but you probably don't, at least not until you've experienced the Israeli variety.

And if you’re too old to experience it yourself, maybe it’s something you can look forward to for your kids.

(For those of us too old to be part of a youth group ourselves, I’ve put together a list of vocabulary below that you might find helpful – if anything’s missing there, let me know and I’ll add it in!)

I personally was a Brownie and then a Girl  Guide, which is the Canadian version of Girl Scouts, with all the same ideas, mainly that it’s kind of military group of kids who are corralled and brought places and taught principles of healthy living and woodsmanship by adults.  Hmm… now that I put it like that, it really doesn’t sound much fun at all.

This is literally what we had to wear to do these activities:

(except I didn’t have nearly so many badges!)

Our weekly meetings were held at a set day and time, following an agenda set by our adult leaders, who in Guides were known as Tawny Owl and Snowy Owl, for whatever reason – again, the woodsy theme, even though we were all actually sitting in my junior high school cafeteria.

During the summer, I went to Girl Guide camp, which was basically like one long Girl Guide meeting, with an emphasis on woodsmanship and a little more singing.  Oh, and we got to wear the “camp uniform,” which was slightly more casual.

So what do kids do in Israel?  And how is it different from what I grew up with?

Here, there have what are called תנועות נוער / tenuot noar, which literally means meaning youth

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Seriously, Dude?

This is another great topic for a winter blog post, as it turns out, because for about ten months of the year, we don't have to think about the dude.

Who is the dude?  Well, actually, the dude is a WHAT, as I’m sure you already know if you've spent any serious time in Israel.

First of all, the technical definition:
Dude = דוּד / dude = boiler, pot, kettle, tank, vat…
In other words, what many people in North America at least refer to redundantly as a “hot-water heater.”

Except that, while in North America our house had a big huge water heater in the basement, powered by natural gas, that kept the water at a nice cozy high temperature 24/7/365 (unless we went on vacation and left just the pilot light on), Israelis (and some others) have figured out that that doesn’t make much sense, because for 20-some-odd hours of the day we simply don’t need hot water.

Therefore, most homes in Israel have a switch for the dude, somewhere near the bathroom, so you plan ahead and turn on the dude, which is electric, about 15-20 minutes before you need hot water.  It heats up, you take your shower, end of story.  It can be a hassle to remember this ahead of time, but lots of things in life are the exact same kind of hassle.  Most of us don’t keep a kettle full of boiling water on the counter in case we want tea or coffee, we fill up the kettle and plug it in and cool our heels while we wait patiently for our drink.

Now, I mentioned that the dude is electric, but I also said that for about ten months of the year, we don’t have to think about turning

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Feeling under the WEATHER...? Two things making me happy in the rain!


Feeling under the weather…?

And I do mean that literally, by the way.  I wouldn't blame you if you were.  We've had a LOT of weather to be under this winter so far.  The great news is that water levels in the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) are on their way back up to where they're supposed to be, which is one measure of how relatively water-secure this country is.


The Kinneret was once Israel’s main source of fresh water.  Today, thanks to desalination, it is apparently only responsible for 10%.  Still a considerable chunk.  Water level in the Kinneret is measured against 3 lines: 

  • UPPER RED = Full.  The level hasn’t reached this point since about 2002.
  • LOWER RED = Lowest “normal” level.  Below this point will have environmental consequences.
  • BLACK = Serious drought / environmental crisis.  The line dipped down below this round about October following 5 years of drought and insufficient winter rain.


(check a live version of this graph)

Oh, yeah, and because the whole lake is below sea level, the numbers run down – a “bigger,” i.e., more negative, number is WORSE, not better.

As you can see from this graph, we’re back above the black line thanks to this winter’s prodigious rain, but not all the way back up to that slightly more comfy lower red line. 


But while we're feeling flush (ahem) when it comes to water, we're also being deluged in a desert country that's ill-prepared to deal with an excess of water.  When it’s raining, the streets flood, programs and trips get cancelled, and it can be very dangerous to be out on the roads.

All of which means, it’s a lot better to stay home if you possibly can.  (Even though, without central heating, surrounded by dank concrete walls, it can get pretty miserable inside the house as well…)

So I wanted to share two things that I really

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What’s the best age to make aliyah? (Spoiler: There isn’t one.)


What's the best age to make aliyah?  What's the worst age?  The truth is, there is no perfect age.  It’s always hard.

You read that right: making aliyah can be tough at any age, but I also believe it can be great at any age.  So much depends on you, and where you are in your life, and how flexible you are and ready for change and challenge (and growth, and we all know growth is painful!).

Yes, aliyah is tough.  HOWEVER.  Since there are no clouds without a silver lining, there’s always a flipside... so I thought it would be fun to put together three reasons it's tougher to make aliyah when you're older, along with three reasons it’s easier... and then the flipside: three reasons it’s tougher when you're younger and three reasons it’s easier. 

Whew!  It sounds complicated to explain, but I think it’ll be clear

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Israel: It’s for the birds (and for you)


When I met my first husband, I told him about our family's annual camping trips to provincial parks where we'd drive in, park on the site, pitch the tent, and head to the beach or river or forest or whatever to enjoy nature.  Sometimes, those campsites would have running water, other times, you had to walk somewhere else to get water.  My father's strategy was sending the kids to wash dishes in the bathroom -- strictly forbidden according to all provincial campground rules, but you know.  Someone has to be an exception to the rules.

So that was camping.

But my first husband quickly declared, "It doesn't count if you can get to it with a car."

He would have had a hard time with Israel.

Here, camping sometimes means that your tent is just a few feet away from the next person's…


(© Tiberias municipality via Wikimedia)

… and hiking usually means taking one of quite a few well-used routes, like the Israel Trail, a 1025 km. (look it up!) route – nothing to sneeze at, really, given that National Geographic has called one of the world's 20 most "epic trails."  But there certainly isn’t the variety, and from what I’ve heard, you’re very likely, in most stretches and hiking-friendly seasons, to bump into a number of fellow travellers.


(It’s also perhaps the only one that apparently features a lending library so you can pick up reading material along the way -- People of the Book, indeed.)


(photo credit © royisoko via Wikimedia)

Finding a nature getaway definitely isn't hard in Israel.  But as with so many things when you make aliyah, you may have to (slightly) redefine what you mean by the term. 

Since almost every spot is within half an hour's drive of a big city, and there are factories and processing plants of all kinds everywhere from north to south, you're probably not going to get total solitude and silence to commune with nature unless you take to the deep south.

But that has its upside, too, like the fact that you can hop in a bus in Nahariya and within not very long, be standing in the middle of one of the world's most extraordinary bird sanctuaries -- the Hula Valley.  A crucial migration spot between Europe and Africa (and back), the Hula Valley hosts about 500 million migrating birds every single year, and an incredible range of birds as well.

And it happens to be crane season RIGHT NOW.  Well, okay, as our guide explained, these days, it's crane season all winter long, at least until March.

That's because of the Strange History of the Hula Valley, which I'll sum up here very briefly.
Maybe in Hebrew school you learned how

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Guest Post: Ordering online in Israel vs ordering online in America


Image result for eytan buchmanAre online stores here in Israel up to snuff?  Most people will tell you things are getting better… which may be true, but today’s guest post, courtesy of hummus-loving marketing guru Eytan Buchman, begs to differ – slightly.  Things may be better than they were, but as he explains, sometimes you still feel like you’re crossing over into the Twilight Zone...

Ordering online in America:

Go to Amazon.
Click Buy
Get it to your door that day.

Ordering online in Israel:

imageFind a website

They don’t sell things online. Weird.

You find a comparison website. It feels like a scam.

It sends you to