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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Weird, wacky, wonderful (Hebrew) words: שַׁלֶּכֶת/ shalechet

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It’s way too early to be thinking about fall, but there you go – that’s what I’m thinking about.  I accidentally put on my “Elul Hebrew Songs” playlist before Shabbos and ended up listening to a whole bunch of pre-Rosh Hashanah songs and getting into THAT kind of mood.

And with all these songs comes a word that comes up all the time in the fall in Israel that I had never really even thought about before… שַׁלֶּכֶת/ shalechet.

Morfix translates the word as “fall (of autumn leaves) ; (botany) exfoliation.”  Google, as “autumn, fall, or effoliation.”  But you’ll have to take my word for it – nobody says this in English the way Israelis do here, with its many heaped-on layers of meaning.

This is a lovely word that is a haiku unto itself.  It means, vaguely, “fallen leaves on sidewalks.”  But it also refers to the crunchiness of the leaves and the mood of the leaves and the ending-and-transitioning that is fall and even, kind of, winter in Israel, which isn’t really a season but more a dampness that descends for a while and then lifts.

It’s certainly not just “falling leaves” – because when people want to talk about falling leaves, they say עלי שלכת/alei shalechet, which would be redundant if shalechet was all about leaves.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Things that are cool in Israel #8: Barbie’s Book of Tehillim

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You know what's cool about about Israel that I don't write about often enough?  Prayer.
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, kindly overlook the fact that I haven't blogged here in over a year.)
Bevakasha.

Because I really want to talk about prayer for a second.
Prayer so cheap you take it for granted.
Specifically, books of Tehillim (Psalms).  Here in our local "stock" shop (Max Stock Kiryat Chaim), they sell bulk packages of keychain sifrei Tehillim, 7 for ₪10.  If you're in the U.S., that's less than $3. 

How awesome is this?

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Should you hang with other English speakers? Yes, and here’s why.

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Having spent two evenings last week socializing exclusively with English speakers, I’m feeling guilty.  And lazy.

Why?  Well, Thursday night was my monthly English speakers meeting of children’s-book writers and illustrators (SCBWI*), and Friday was our community’s English Speakers Oneg Shabbat. 

At the book meeting, I mentioned the oneg, and one of the Israelis there asked, “Why only English speakers?” 

So then I felt ashamed.  And lazy, like I wasn’t making an effort.  And I almost felt racist (linguist?) for eliminating Hebrew speakers from my social circle so deliberately.  Why move to Israel and then spend so much time hanging out in English??? 

I didn’t even mention that we’re going to the annual Nefesh b’Nefesh Go North English-speaking Shabbaton next week.  Even more English !  Are we just obstinately refusing to integrate into Israeli society?

On the way home from my SCBWI meeting, and for the 2 days since, I’ve put more thought into it.  Because this is something all olim will have to balance in their lives somehow: how much time will you spend “out and about” mingling with the natives and how much time will you spend all huddled and insular with your Anglo “peeps”?

I’ve concluded that it’s not just about laziness.  Though your mileage may vary, here are 5 really good reasons from my own life that I deliberately spend time hanging out with English speakers…

1.  Israelis are busy

Israelis have lives here that are busy and well-established.  Sort of the way we did back in North America.  Many Israelis are too busy to stop and realize that we are here and we need a little extra TLC. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Chanukah in Israel: why it’s simply better here

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"Do they really celebrate Chanukah in chu"l???" (Outside of Israel - see this post!)

This Sunday, I brought English Chanukah songs for the girls I tutor.  One of them was amazed and asked me this outright.  She couldn’t believe that even in Canada, we celebrated Chanukah.

She knew that Jews everywhere celebrate most holidays, but Chanukah is so tied up in the Israeli psyche, our most nationalistic holiday besides Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day), that it must have seemed impossible to celebrate anywhere else.

And I have to admit: she’s right. 

Sure, you can celebrate Chanukah in chu”l, but you can’t feel it the way you do here.

I've always been humbug about Chanukah.  It's not that I hated it, but when we lived in Canada,

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A not simple time: the stolen Yemenite children

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In Hebrew, instead of saying something in the past was "difficult" or "complicated," the phrase is softened a little.  They say, "it's not simple."

One such not-simple period is the stolen children of Yemen. 

Here's the nutshell:

When Yemenite Jews came to Israel in the 1940s and early 1950s, some children were often taken and given away to Ashkenazi families, some of whom were survivors of the Shoah.  Not all, and perhaps not even many; but some.  The actual number doesn’t matter.  There’s no number that would have been acceptable.

Sometimes, Yemenite parents were told that their children were sick and needed to be in the hospital.  I read the story of one man whose adoptive mother simply showed up at the hospital and was told, "Pick a baby."  His birth mother, like most of the Yemenite parents, was told that her child had died.

Having seen so many Ethiopian families trying to adjust to life in modern Israel in the years we’ve been here, I find it

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ordinary bad things

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You never think about the ordinary bad things when it comes to living in Israel.

Years before we came here, I read about a family who made aliyah, and then one of their sons was killed riding a bike.

It really made me stop and think.  These kinds of things happen in Israel?  Ordinary, bad stuff, like bike accidents, car accidents, slipping, falling, all the normal terrifying things that can happen to anybody, anywhere in the world?

Yes, sadly, it’s true.

It’s the extraordinary tragedies that people expect here, and then the everyday, ordinary bad things kind of sneak up instead.

When we first made aliyah, I slept with a tichel (head scarf) handy every night, in case I had to get up and make a run for the shelter in the middle of the night.  True, things were “hotter” then in the north, with Syria making all kinds of threats, and Israel getting in the way as it does. 

But also, I just expected it.  This was Israel, after all.

Gradually, I let down my defenses.  The extraordinary bad things that one expects from watching too much news simply weren’t happening.

Now, our gas masks are

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Who Israel has instead of rock stars and supermodels (and why I’m glad)

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Sure, supermodel Bar Refaeli captures her share of headlines here.  But you know who's a real celebrity in this country?

I'll tell you.

I was sitting down this afternoon in a little cafe in the mall, revving up my voice recorder, buffing up my pen & notepad, or whatever I do before an interview… when I noticed a woman standing outside the cafe, staring intently. 

After a second, she started waving - at the guy I had come to interview.  She waved timidly at first, shyly, and then a little more crazily when she saw that he'd spotted her there.  "Todah," she mouthed at him.  "Todah."  Thanks.

"He's like a rock star here," said the translator.

I nodded, numb, amazed.

Who was this instantly-recognizable mega-star that I had come to interview?

It was this guy:

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What’s that you say?

Exactly!  Yeah, this guy.  (The one in the vest.  No idea who the guy in the white kippah could be.)

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Yup, him.  Desmond Tutu’s buddy.

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