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Thursday, September 18, 2014

The dark side of... the sun (like how it can fade your laundry or kill you).


You may have heard that Israel is a poor country.
It's true.

But one thing we have plenty of here in Israel is sun.

Almost every day, almost all year 'round (except when my sister decided to come for 2 weeks last December).

This is cool for many reasons:
- Hanging laundry outside, where it can dry in hours
- Saving tons of energy with solar water heaters
- Planning outdoor events 10 months of the year without worrying about rain

As my son said when he was here, the boundaries between indoors and outdoors are just more pourous here.  Our "porch" window opens up and suddenly we are outside.  When air conditioning isn't running, people leave their doors open and come and go as they like.

But there is a dark side to all this sun.

The sun is powerful.

You don’t want to mess with the power of the sun.

The same sun that guarantees that all your whites will come off the line whiter than white also guarantees that your reds, oranges and pinks will fade to pink, in less than 24 hours in some cases.

Oh, and it will kill you, like it kills up to 480 Israelis every year.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Converting to Judaism! So when’s Gwyneth Paltrow coming to Israel?

Gwyneth Paltrow - celebrity convert and zionist?

According to the latest internet fooferah, Gwyneth Paltrow is totally getting into her Jewish roots.

The headlines border on sickening.  “Welcome home to the Jewish people, Gwyneth Paltrow!” chimes the Jerusalem Post. 

Why didn’t they give such a hearty welcome to the hundreds of non-celebrity baalei teshuvah and geirim over the last few years?  Or the thousands of new olim to Israel?  Oh, right.  We're not famous. 

(Okay, there are skeptics as well, like one headline that pleads, “Haven’t the Jewish people suffered enough?” and a Reform rabbi who insists that her conversion will confuse people who rely on that movement’s teachings on patrilineal descent.)

In interviews, Gwyneth has said that she wants to raise her children, Apple, 10, and Moses, 8, in a "Jewish environment." She’s also said that she considers herself a "Jewish princess" because of her rabbinical ancestry.

Think all this speculation is trivial? 

I did, when I first saw it. 

I really couldn’t care less about what actors do in their own private spiritual lives… unless it affects me. 

It turns out this does.


Because just a few years ago, Gwyneth and her husband Chris Martin (of the band Coldplay) were

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cultural disconnect: the Bissli light and an unveiling.


Did I mention we don’t have a home phone?

Part of the deal with keeping our Toronto phone number is that we don’t have a landline here.  Between our cellphones and the Toronto phone, I just figured it was enough.  (In a pinch, there’s also Skype, where I have credit to place outgoing phone calls.)

However… there are some good reasons to have a home phone, it turns out.  Like if there’s an Internet outage.

The other night, just as our daughter was getting ready to get on a plane in Toronto, just as I was talking to her on our very stable voice-over-IP phone line – her voice cut out.  There was no click, just silence.  At first, I thought she was miffed; she must have hung up.

But no, there was no phone.  So I checked the plug, made sure everything was working… and sure enough, there was no Internet, either.

We’d broken the Internet.  I unplugged and replugged everything electronic.  No luck.  Rebooted the router.  No luck.

So finally, darn, darn, darn – I called our Internet provider.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The small, sweet mercy of blueberries (and a medical clinic)

Empty medical clinic in Haifa.
It's not always about me.
Sometimes, the hardest things about aliyah are more about the kids.

But then, sometimes life sends small mercies, and I am grateful, even as my heart breaks at what I used to take for granted.

Like English.

My family is sick of hearing me say it by now.  Every time one of them complains about life's mundane annoyances, like bad service from a phone company, or having to deal with some kind of bureaucratic situation, I just keep telling them, "at least it's in English."

(I sure can be annoying sometimes!)

Maybe someone has told you that "all doctors in Israel speak English"?

Lots of people said it to me, both before and after we came.  Reassuring me that at least in the most dire circumstances, you'd be able to get help in a language you understand.  Turns out that in predominantly Russian areas like ours, that's not quite true.

Doctors may have mastered some key medical terminology in English, but their speaking ability is often very limited.

Last year, when GZ hurt his chin, my heart broke for how overwhelming things must have been for him.  In pain, surrounded by doctors and nurses yelling in a language he didn't understand at all.

"Explain to him!" one nurse kept yelling.  "Tell him if he doesn't co-operate, he'll have to go to the hospital."  Yeah, that didn't help, at all.

Whether you're small or big, medical situations can be overwhelming.  But at least if you're an adult, you have some prior experience.  For kids, it's all new and bewildering, in any language.

Even GZ's routine eye appointment back in June was a trial, albeit a less painful one than the chin.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Haveil Havalim, post-Ki Teitzei steamroller edition.


Ever been hit by a steamroller?

No, I haven’t either, don’t worry.

But as a parent sending kids back to school, with all of the shopping and meetings and shlepping that that entails, I have given myself permission to take a couple of weeks off from blogging.

Happily, these other bloggers haven’t quit, so I hope they can bring you up to speed on what’s happening in the world.

I will be back.  Even back-to-school can’t defeat me.


What is HH, anyway?

imageThis is a weekly roundup of what’s new and great in the Jewish / Israel blogging world.  If you haven’t checked out these great blogs yet, you really should. 

As usual, I have split the links up into arbitrary categories, different from the arbitrary category names I made up last time, just to keep things interesting.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  If your post(s) of yours are included here, be friendly and visit 2-3 other blogs listed here.  I’ve done my best to make them all sound tempting and fun.  Leave a comment to let them know you were there.



During Tzuk Eitan (Operation Protective Edge), we heard a lot about Israel’s courageous lone soldiers, but not so much from them (because they were probably a bit busy!).  What’s it like being a lone soldier?  Aryeh tells us over at Aryeh Comes Home, in On With the Show.

Speaking of Tzuk Eitan, you’ve probably seen Joan Rivers’ viral and spirited defense of Israel.  If you haven’t yet, you should.  It’s become even more poignant in light of her death last week at 81.  Read all about attorney, columnist and political commentator Debbie Schlussel’s behind-the-scenes meeting with Rivers in Joan Rivers, Proud American, Proud Pro-Israel Jew, Z”L; My Great Meeting w/ Her.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Things that are cool in Israel #5: School Uniforms


I used to not believe in uniforms.

I mean, come on, a pure-white horse with a horn sticking out of its forehead?  How the heck could that be conducive to a peaceful, productive learning environment?

Over and over, my children explained, very patiently, that I had misheard.  That what they had to wear to school every single day was a uniform.  Not a unicorn.

(I say “patiently,” but they said it in the exasperated way that they always used to explain that the boat to the Toronto Islands really does exist, even though I told them I don’t believe in ferries.)

So for years, we pulled together various uniforms.  A tunic thing in elementary school.  Various colours of collared shirts and blouses, tops, bottoms.  Kilts, kilt pins.  Tights, socks, shoes.

(I have never understood – as a Jew who is just a wee bit Scottish by marriage – why Jewish girls’ schools are so drawn to kilts.)

Jewish girls in Scottish kilts

The last year we bought uniforms in Canada (last year), we paid something like $60 each for 3/4 sleeve blouses.  More or less.  Skirts were probably around the same.  Perhaps a bit more.  My daughter literally never had enough uniforms; who can afford that kind of hit right before Rosh Hashanah, every single year.

And we only had one girl in uniforms at any given time – imagine if you had two, or three, or seven.

(Her school had a used-uniforms gemach, to give them out free, but we only managed to get anything worthwhile from it once.)

Israel has a slightly different take on school uniforms.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Things that are weird in Israel #11: Defa Lucy (and her partisan friends)


Ah, the sweet chirp of little girls everywhere… “Want to come over and play Defa Lucies?”


What the heck is Defa Lucy?

Oh ho.  If you have not met Defa Lucy yet, you are in for a treat. 

Defa Lucy, and Barbara, and all her other oddly-named frilly pink compatriots, are Israel’s cheap shekel-store answer to Barbie (tm).

Caution.  One of the dolls following is having a wardrobe malfunction.  #nsfw

DSC_0009  DSC_0011

I’m sure they have dolls like these in Canada, where I probably just walked right past them.  But they probably aren’t labelled in the World’s Most Hilarious English.

Like this box, which proclaims, “Defa Lucy has a pure face, and a couple of attractiv eyes!”


“A couple.”  Like she just grabs them and pops in however many she wants on her way out the door.

The word happy comes up a lot.