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Do American Jews get a vote in Israel?

If you hate politics, I get it.  Please move along.  Just skip this post.

When I started this site, I feel like I made a promise to you and to myself that I wouldn't get political.  If you want to know more of my thoughts on getting political, in a book that weirdly doesn't get very political, I urge you to read my book, Getting Political: Scenes from a Life in Israel.  (Hey, even if you don't want to know my thoughts, pick up the book anyway!  Seriously, it doesn't get very political...)

And yet.

And yet.

There are times when I feel like I have to get political.

Because when you move to Israel, you cease, in some important way, to be a "diaspora Jew" and become an “Israeli Jew.”

You live here, you walk the daled amos basically every single day of your life, you breathe the holy and sometimes stinky air.

You live with the noise, or block it out with a nonstop stream of English podcasts and audiobooks.

You vote in the elections.

And I don't even have a post I can link to about the elections, because I haven't talked about politics.

But just for a minute, I want to.  So please cut me some slack.
Because I came across this article about how the Canadian diaspora, and presumably, the rest of the diaspora, can influence Israel.

And it scared me.

Spoiler alert: the way that diaspora Jews can influence Israel, apparently, is to participate in the World Zionist Congress coming up in October.  In fairness, it's held in Jerusalem, so they

Why is Israel so noisy???

The noise in Israel drives me crazy sometimes.  There, I said it.  And I feel better for saying it.  And yes, it is specifically the noise in Israel.  Because Israel truly is an especially noisy place.

I used to just think we lived in a particularly noisy neighbourhood.  Luck of the draw, I figured.  Then I travelled around and realized that I do indeed live in a particularly noisy neighbourhood – and that neighbourhood is called the State of Israel.

You simply can’t get away from noise here.  So don’t even try.

Take our house, for example.  We live within walking distance of four schools, all of which, instead of school bells, play tunes and chimes (instead of school bells, like we had in Canada) so loud you can hear them blocks away.  GZ’s school routinely plays music for the kids’ enjoyment in the yard as they arrive in the morning, and you can hear that two blocks away as well. 

Then there are the happy routines of parades, celebrations, simchas, and special occasions, each of which

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

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

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

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

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

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