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Stay Safe? How, exactly???

Have you noticed all the facebook posts this week where someone mentions they’re in Israel and everyone else chirps in to tell them, “Stay safe!”
image image
Now, I’m not INHUMAN.  I understand (okay, I share) the impulse here, which is probably something like, “you are special and beloved and I couldn’t bear to lose you.”  I feel that all the time.

But telling the person to “stay safe?”  How the heck are they supposed to accomplish that???  And are you implying that if they do get hurt, they were simply not trying hard enough to “stay safe”?  Of course not… what an evil suggestion. :-o

And also, what about those other people, the millions who are not as beloved?  Is it okay with you if they stand and stare at the sky like a bemused turkey beneath a falling Qassam rocket?  Didn’t think so.  But the fact is, we care about particular people more than we care about “any old” people.

The last time stuff was dropping on Israel in a major way, I didn’t know anybody there and wasn’t on my way to living there myself.  So, frankly, I didn’t care as much.  I think it’s okay to admit that we’ve become callused here in chutz la’aretz.  It just isn’t real when you’re bazillions of kilometres away in a country so cold and safe that it hasn’t been attacked in 200 years.  (Oh, okay, also because we seem willing to roll over and give away our forests, water, oil and any other natural resources to any mega-country that asks rather than fight to keep them safe…)

Frankly, it’s very hard to care, no matter how many of those maps people post on facebook showing that if Mexico attacked the United States, it would wipe out New Mexico, or something.  It's not right that we don't care much - maybe some people are better at it than I, so I certainly don't want to speak for everybody, but I suspect it's largely true - and I wish it were not true, but it IS true. 

It also happens with news:  local news usually gets your attention more easily than some abstract story about abstract people far away.  It’s hard to care unless you know actual people who are in the thick of it.

This time around, we’re NOT in the thick of it, but I know a lot more people there and involved and yes, it’s a little bit more real and a little bit scarier.

I like the fact that in the original post, above, the person in fact said, “May Gd keep us all safe!”  Few people who replied seem to have caught onto the distinction between “may Gd keep us safe” and “stay safe.”

The second implies that there’s something you can do about it – and therefore, if you FAIL to stay safe, and get hurt, it’s all your fault. 

The first implies that there’s a Creator with a plan, and we may not know what the plan is, but we certainly hope our physical wellbeing and security – in whatever way we interpret “our”; whether it’s us personally or klal Yisrael as a whole – is part of that plan.

Plus, as someone I know posted on facebook a few hours ago… “I can't stand this any more, logging out, resting my arm, dovening mincha, saying T'hillim and then going to a neighbor for more. I don't think G-d wants us watching screens all day.”  There are some excellent ideas in there.  Daven, say Tehillim, get off the computer and live life in the face of terror.

In that spirit, here are some facebook updates from people who are “staying safe” by living a normal life in Israel today:

“tonight's my first acupuncture treatment
last week my first Reiki
oh, my”

“on my way to Israel. I feel a deep sense of pride and joy” [posted by a Torontonian catching a plane today]

Frugal and Kosher: Organic Produce Sale at Eden Teva Online
” [who doesn’t love a sale???!]

H'aGov הגוב. the best place in Jerusalem

שבוע טוב לכולם! מתפללים לשלומם של תושבי הדרום מחזקים את ידי החיילים שלנו
שבוע טוב לכולם! מתפללים לשלומם של תושבי הדרום מחזקים את ידי החיילים

It's REAL people. Unconditional love for each other will CHANGE our situation! [from folks in Yavniel who have opened their Tzimmers [B&Bs] to families from the south]

Villa Rimona – Zimmers

A facebook friend who’s a jeweller:  All ready for tonight's Amit Boutique at Reshit Yeshiva. Every single piece is priced, packed and ready to show!

A friend in Beit Shemesh shared this Ben Stein photo and message.

Another facebook friend, in Shiloh, posts a picture of her fruit bowl, saying Life Goes On

And okay, finally, this actually DOES have to do with the situation, but it’s very, very cute…

The letters spell עד מתי? / Ad ma-tie? = How long?

May Hashem, who promised our ancestors children like the stars of the heavens, protect those who defend our nation, in uniform and in the streets living their ordinary daily lives, so it will still be there for us and our children and grandchildren...

Pilot trip – suggestions???

You’re not supposed to post your travel plans online lest people see what they are and break into your home and steal your precious abandoned children… oh, wait – we’re leaving the children with my mother and sisters, I think.  I hope.  Anyway, it’s coming.  I’ll give you a hint:  the month rhymes with “fed blueberry,” if you place the accent on the middle syllable.  Fed-BLUE-berry.


So between now and Fed-blueberry, we need to pick six places to visit over a 10-day period (not including Shabbos).  I am thinking three in the south (by which I mean “central”) the first week, then three in the north the second week.  There is a Go North group pilot trip the second week which will let us explore Nahariya, Karmiel and I think one other community up there.

In the south, my top picks are Ramat Beit Shemesh (RBS) A as it’s known, and Maaleh Adumim.  But I’d like to include a third just for completeness.

In the north, we may have to visit Tzfat, though I’d rather not – only because I don’t think we’re going to end up living there, NOT because I don’t think it’s lovely!  Somebody suggested it to Ted and so he’s gotten it onto his list of Possible Places.  Oh – I just checked.  The group pilot includes Ma’alot, Karmiel, Nahariya and Tzfat, so I guess that’s all there is to say about that.

We may or may not have flexibility to visit one other place in the north above and beyond the pilot trip, though it’ll have to be easily accessible from our base near Nahariya.

So – what do you think?  Anyone have any must-visit communities, north or south, that we simply MUST consider before we head home???

To make aliyah…

You must look like this:


(From this helpful info page about passport photos.)

Good to know!

I suppose some olim start with the haircut – others begin with the eyebrows (minor) or the ear plastic surgery (major) for the truly Vulcan look.

Look out Israel…

Here comes trouble!

passport 015

Thank goodness, out of six passports I obtained with great difficulty four years ago, only GZ’s has expired, because he had a little-baby passport.  Naomi’s is good ‘till next December, and hopefully she’ll have an Israeli one by then.  Wow.  :-o

Someone’s sense of humour

Still wading through paperwork, a state we’ll probably be in for the next few months.  This is the Proof of Judaism letter,w hich you’re supposed to use as a sample and have your real rabbi fill in with  your real info.


See the sample “signature” under the line for Rabbi?  “Rabbi Jonathan Doeberg.”

Ha ha ha.  Real cute.

Funny that you ask…

The very last question on the health form we need to fill out to accompany our aliyah application:


Perhaps they’ll suggest coming by boat if you can’t.

Everything you wanted to know #3: Sukkahs

… ie, Every Dumb Thing You Might NOT Have Wanted to Know About Aliyah, but I Did and This is My Blog So Here it Comes Anyway.

My question this week:

What's your Sukkah made of???

I asked this during Sukkos, which I understand is called Sukkot in Israel, though it’s going to take time for me to adjust back to saying it that way.  ;-))

Here are the answers (feel free to add your own in the Comments section below!):

  • Ours is wood on a "permanent" pergola (very much like this one).

  • Metal poles + fabric (from

  • Plastic tarp and bamboo with permanent bracing for the schach

  • metal poles with a tarp. and bamboo mat schach. we brought it from america; the fabric ones probably let a lot more air in, and i would recommend that. we cut windows in our tarp to allow some air to flow through...

  • Metal poles and fabric, but you need to make sure that there are enough wooden poles on top to hold the schach in such a way that it doesn't come into contact with metal (which is mekabel tuma). We had wooden boards (walls) in our old place - also very good. The pros and cons: fabric lets in more breeze, but it also lets in more sun, which can really heat up the sukkah. Also, if you have fabric, you need to have more solid items to make up the lowest ten tefachot of the walls. (continued) We have 3.5 walls around our balcony that are each about a meter and a half high. We put the cloth walls up just to make it have the look and feel of the sukkah, but the structure walls make it kosher.

  • we build ours from scratch every year with pallets and other found wood - this year we borrowed someone's old sukkah frame and embellished it with pallets and rugs and fabric

    There…Aren’t you glad I asked???

    Sukkah photo by Yoninah; licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

  • Everything you wanted to know #1: Snakes

    … ie, Every Dumb Thing You Might NOT Have Wanted to Know About Aliyah, but I Did and This is My Blog So Here it Comes Anyway.

    Here’s my question:

    Olim in the north - just curious, have you ever seen a snake? Did you freak out??? Panicking a little here...

    (p.s. This picture, taken from Wikimedia, is the most benign-looking shot I could find of the Israeli viper, aka צפע ארצישראלי, aka Vipera palaestinae… benign mostly because it’s just lying around, with no sense of scale, as opposed to being gigantic or deadly or whatnot.)

    And in case you’re wondering why I’m worried – here in Ontario, we have exactly ONE species of venomous snake.  The red areas are where it lives.  The green area is where I live.  Far, far away.


    So that’s why. 

    Here’s the answer(s):

    Responses from the five Israelis I know on Facebook:

    • Never ever ever ever saw a snake. Saw a turtle, scorpion (the black one) and spiders....
    • I did :) And I have killed numerous scorpions :)
    • Two neigbbours have been bitten by snakes. Both lived to tell the tale. I've only ever seen baby snakes.
    • My friend's dog was bitten by a snake and died from the bite. I have only seen one once. But we know they are out there....
    • I have seen snakes and scorpions and rodents and tortoises and mammals of all shapes and sizes. When you are out in nature you need to learn basic rules such as the correct way to turn over a rock( finding scorpions) and where and when you might come across a snake( they don't like the cold and they hibernate). The only poisonous snake we ever came across was right outside our vacation condo in Virginia. BTW, cats are the only known predator for snakes and scorpions in Israel and there are many that would love to have someone adopt them. [Note to self:  YES!  CATS, HERE WE COME!!!]
    • never saw one... in the whole week I've been here:)
    • They are here your not  [That one’s from my aging father-in-law in Ottawa, who is just discovering facebook]
    • Never seen one, thank G-d, but they do exist even in Beit Shemesh. A neighbor was bitten once outside our shul. She was treated and survived to get married and have a kid (so far).

    There…Aren’t you glad I asked???

    The paperwork begins…


    This is just a minuscule sampling of the dozens of documents and testimonials we  have to get together in the weeks to come…

    Here’s what they’re asking for:

    For each of the 4 of us:
    - Passport                
    - Photograph of family member(s) making Aliyah                

    Adults only:
    - Entry and Exit Form                
    - Proof of Living Overseas (for the past 7 years)                
    - Health Declaration
    - Passport Photos (please mail by post only!)

    From Ted only:
    - Accompanying Letter from the Applicant                
    - Conversion Certificate                
    - Accompanying Letter from one of the Officiating Rabbis                

    From me, because of my complicated past:
    - Court Order (custody)                
    - Declaration of Unaccompanying Parent
    - Declaration of Unaccompanying Ex-Spouse

    (those last two are going to prove tough to get, but I hope the Death Certificate will suffice…)

    - Civil Marriage Certificate
    - Waiver of Confidentiality                
    - Declaration of Family Obligations
    - Financial Affidavit                
    - Letter of Recommendation - from a community leader (not a relative), attesting to your character, contribution to the community, reasons for making Aliyah, etc.

    Sheesh!  That’s a LOT of paperwork…

    Our Aliyah Essay

    Done!!!  After several months of fits and starts, we’re (meaning I’m) finished filling out the online NbN / Sochnut application form – at last!  Paying the $100 application fee felt like the “putting money where mouth is” milestone, but the biggest hurdle tonight was this 4000-character essay outlining why we want to make aliyah, and our detailed “post-aliyah plan.”

    Oh, another milestone of this application form:  they asked for given names as they appear on all our Canadian legal documentation… but they also asked what name we prefer to use.  I filled in Hebrew names – Ted’s current name and my yet-to-be-revealed “aliyah” name.

    Here’s our best attempt – written by me in close consultation with Ted.  Really, truly… I promise, he was sitting behind me and we were talking about it while I typed:


    We may not be a typical “aliyah family,” but in middle age, we are creative, adaptable and flexible – and also, perhaps more than younger couples, better-equipped to deal with unusual situations and take them in stride. This year, we’re moving into a new stage in our lives with the graduation of our older children, and we’re ready to explore new worlds and push the envelope far beyond our day-to-day lives here in Canada.


    My husband says, “when I was in Israel, I felt it was like a haven for the kind of life that I was trying to achieve.” Having just come out of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, I [Jennifer] couldn’t help but notice how many times the machzor refers to “Israel” and “Zion” – not theoretical or metaphorical references, but concrete: it’s referring to an actual place, a place where we can live as Jews today fairly easily.

    When I became religious years ago after growing up with a largely “spectator” type of religious approach, I wanted to make my Judaism real in every way possible. Aliyah was part of that plan, but more than 20 years later, I’m not there yet. God willing, this will be the year we make it happen.


    At this early stage, to be honest, I have no idea where we’ll be staying immediately on arrival in Israel – hopefully somewhere in the North, according to our current plan. We are currently discussing our options, but it’s likely that one of us will go ahead or stay behind with the two younger children while the other takes care of technicalities of the move (packing, cleaning up the house here, etc).

    This period, one of physical transition, will probably take the most creativity on both our parts, along with a willingness to be “up in the air” for a while as we settle details of housing, utilities, medical care, appliances, lift, paperwork, Internet/phone, bank accounts, etc.. This is probably when we’ll need the most support on the ground as well, and advice is always appreciated.

    After our physical needs are taken care of (housing and food), our priority will be finding Ulpan / Hebrew opportunities for every family member. I believe the younger children (they will be 8 and 5) are too young for official Children’s Ulpan, but ideally there will be some type of Hebrew program immediately. If not, we will likely find a summer camp for them and hope they’ll pick up lots of Hebrew in a fun, social setting. We’ll also need to use our time during the summer to finalize arrangements for school and research possible chugim [activities] available nearby.

    Ideally, we will be “settled” in our community, wherever we find ourselves, in time for the Tishrei chagim [fall holidays]. It would be fantastic to have friends or at least close acquaintances within the community and a synagogue where we are excited to be spending the chagim [holidays] themselves.

    We are planning to have our older daughter (not making aliyah) in Israel for the year attending a seminary program, so God willing, she will be able to be at home with us for the chagim. I would like to make this transition as smooth as possible for her. That’s true for our other children, of course, but I believe younger children are probably more flexible, so I plan to work overtime to make sure the older kids feel loved and welcome in our new home.

    We know we’re in for a tough couple of years, but easing the transition for all our children is and will remain our top priority – letting them know we are both having an adventure and fulfilling a dream – not just OUR dream, but God’s dream for the Jewish people.


    It will be difficult to leave beloved family members behind in Canada. It will be difficult to navigate the many hurdles ahead, barriers of language and distance and money and culture, but we’re confident that we are ready to take on this amazing adventure and emerge as better, more fulfilled Jews and as a stronger, happier family.

    Okay, here’s a cliché!

    But I can’t help it, because it’s SO darn awesome:

    As if it’s not enough that the digital sign in the front of the bus uses the very same ancient letters found in the Torah… the bus tootles along wishing the whole world a Shanah Tovah.

    May 5773 be a year of aliyah for every one of my reader(s) (!!!), in every possible good and sweet way.

    Saying goodbye…

    So it hit me the other day – we’re leaving, and our extended family isn’t coming with us.  My sisters, who have been around for every major milestone… well, they won’t be.  This isn’t really news to anyone, and this isn’t the first time it’s come to me in a sudden, shocking moment of panic.  I expect it’ll keep hitting me, over and over and over, until we actually leave.

    Things were different twenty years ago when I first decided to make aliyah.  My sisters were annoying teenagers and I was somewhat estranged from my non-religious extended family in general.  Plus, I had grandparents and great-uncles and great-aunts and I don’t know how that made it easier, but I guess I figured with the kind of momentum you feel in a big extended family, they would all go on without me and I’d move on to fabulous new adventures.

    There’s no big extended family anymore.  I guess it was an illusion, those 20- and 30- person seders and memories of childhood events surrounded by semi-strangers.  The older generation, my grandparents’ generation of great-uncles and great-aunts, is almost gone.  And with the loss of my father and his brother, even my mother’s generation feels shockingly depleted. 

    The family seders are very small nowadays – and my own nuclear family too big to slip away without anyone noticing.  That’s the other thing that’s different:  back then, it was just me.  If you’re single, you can slip away more easily.  Now it is me with Ted and four beloved nephews, nieces, grandchildren, great-nieces and so on.  Our little 6-person family generally constitutes the bulk of any family event we turn up at.

    Despite a couple of cousins who have figured out a way to reproduce, the rest of my generation have been pretty slothful about getting on with the task of producing the next generation.  Will there even be any family left, once we’re gone? 

    If you are considering making aliyah, do it before you have kids the rest of your family becomes attached to.  And before your sisters grow up into amazing, accomplished, kind women of substance.  And before your mother is both widowed and orphaned in the same month, so she’s left coming to you every Shabbos for dinner and hoping every Shabbos and Yom Tov afternoon that you’ll drop by to invite her to the park or out for a walk (at least, I hope she’s hoping for it, as opposed to dreading it!). 

    Do it as soon as you can – before you grow up, because it is a Very Painful Thing.

    Friends of ours made aliyah to Mitzpeh Netofa (where we’re NOT going, but close by!) this week, and the husband spoke at shul before they left.  He mentioned the much commented-upon verse where Hashem first speaks to Avram in parshas Lech Lecha, saying, “לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ”, get up n’ go from

    • your land
    • your birthplace
    • your father’s house

    This friend pointed out that the order seems reversed.  When you’re travelling, what order do you do it in?  You leave your house, your city, and eventually, your country.  This is the logical order, the physical order.

    But emotionally, the order is different.  It’s easy enough to leave your land – file the paperwork, tell Revenue Canada you’re not going to be filing Canadian taxes anymore.  Whatever it is, you just fill out a form; it’s simple to do. 

    Leaving your “birthplace” is a bit more of a hassle – at a time when many of us don’t live in our actual birthplace, this involves selling or subletting a house, transferring utilities, selling the car, cancelling your phone.  You have a lot more local ties, there’s a lot more paperwork.  This is also the level at which you say goodbye to your community, your shul, so it’s a bit more painful.

    But leaving your family, your “father’s house” – well, that’s the really wrenching part, and it’s nowhere near as neat as packing up your household worth of stuff.  There are loose ends you can never tie; old people you’ll never see again; young people it may be years before you meet again; stories you’ll never really know the end of (will they get the Eglinton Crosstown LRT built or not?!?  well, okay, maybe that’s more city-oriented).

    The comfort is that there are things like Skype and cheap long-distance phone service and facebook.  It’s still expensive to fly, but it’s safe, and in so many ways, Israel has never been closer. 

    My great-grandparents never got to Israel; they would have needed to travel for weeks, maybe months, to get there, and the route would have been dangerous.  If they arrived safely, it would take weeks for a letter to get back home letting everyone know they were okay.  Or not okay, starving or malaria-stricken, I don’t know.

    My grandmother told me that after she married my grandfather, they sent wedding pictures back to Nowy Korczyn (Neustadt), his hometown in Poland.  They never got a reply – almost the entire family died in those fuzzy years of no contact, the black box that was WW2 Europe.  But at least we know with a reasonable degree of certainty that that extent of losing-touch can never, will never happen again.

    At least if I have anything to say about it.

    Smart marketing!

    DSC03813Back in – oh, I don’t know… 2011?  2010?  Long ago, when we were embarrassed to not even be able to put up our hands when they were polling audience members about which year they were going (“2011?  2012?”), we went to a Nefesh b’Nefesh “aliyah mega-event.”

    It was a great event, with speakers on various topics as well as tables of information about everything from lifts to mortgages to healthcare.  Not much good swag, basically just a couple of NbN pens… and then I spotted these awesome flashing keychains.  I mean, you couldn’t miss them because they were flashing, so without even looking at what table it was or what brochures they were offering, I snagged one.

    It’s a pretty cool thing; no visible batteries, just a printed message covered up by what I figure is an ultra-low-powered LCD screen. Whenever it’s placed under light, it begins “flashing”, covering up and revealing the message within. 

    The plastic bit that attached the little metal ring to my keychain wore out within the first year, so the keychain was retired to the front of the car, where it has sat, flashing at us, every time we drive anywhere – and even, presumably, when we’re not looking.

    Here it is, with the message visible:


    Like I said, I was oblivious when I picked this thing up; I had no idea what this company was or what it did or anything.  But now… a couple of years later, whenever I search the NbN communities database and glance at the listings for which healthcare providers are available in each community, it jumps out at me every time.  They’re in Ma’alot, as well as Nahariya and Zichron Yaakov; they’re not in Ramat Yishai.

    I have no idea what this means for us and our future in healthcare, but I have been reading a lot about how bribes influence medical professionals – even a small gift creates a relationship of indebtedness, in addition to possibly making your company’s name memorable.

    So if this is the company we ultimately go with, they will be thrilled to know that their 25-cent investment has paid off big-time.

    The funny thing about medical professionals, by the way, that you might think disclosing gifts and corporate ties would make them more honest… but in fact, it makes them more blatant about their favouritism of the sponsoring drug company.  It’s like with full disclosure, all bets are off.  But then, my current reading obsessions are for my main blog and I won’t bore you with them here.  Pop over there to say hi!

    Two amenities

    It would be nice if, wherever we find our happy landing in the holy land, there are the following two not-quite-holy amenities available within relatively close proximity:

    • English-language movies (plus maybe Hebrew movies with subtitles, but somehow, I feel those will be even rarer than they are here)
    • Aerobics/cardio classes – now that I am newly-recommitted to my twice-weekly sweatin’ regimen, I’d love to keep it up.  I suppose any reasonable-sized community centre will have something of this type – any ladies’ workout kind of thing will probably be okay.  Actually, I’m open to almost anything: Pilates, Zumba… as long as, just like with Hebrew, they go slowly at first to accomodate me.

    By the way, I had no idea there was such a thing as “Jewish aerobics” until I googled and got this album-cover image.  But now, I really, REALLY want to own it.

    More Israel Weather…

    Every time it’s what I consider almost-unbearably hot here, I think, “how’s the weather in Israel?”  No harm in being the most soporific aliyah blog, right?

    I promise things will heat up (um, so to speak) later on when we actually start making plans.  Indeed, we are meeting with NbN Go North people tomorrow, so it will actually be helpful to be “up” on the weather situation… right?

    At least I have all the links on speed-dial in my browser now!  So here we go again!

    Hey – good news:  RAIN!  Some parts of the north are expecting rain and thunder overnight Thursday.









    Today’s Temperature

    34° 31° 38° 32°

    Today’s Humidity

    83% 72% 77% – ouch! 68% – and I thought this was HIGH.  :-(((
    Link click me click me click me click me

    And finally… for comparison, in Jerusalem, tomorrow’s forecast is 32°, with a humidity of 56%.  In Eilat, it’s 43°, but again, a low humidity of only 19%.

    Does anyone have a secret mantra they can teach me to calm myself about the weather situation…?

    Checking on the Weather…

    I have no idea if today is a typical July day in any of these places, but since I did this most of last summer and found it moderately entertaining, I thought I'd keep it up (publicly) this year... mostly, my goal is to convince myself that Israeli weather is bearable.  So far, I’m not too sure.









    Today’s Temperature

    30° 28° 35° – high heatwave predicted for the weekend 28°

    Today’s Humidity

    59% 53% 26% – it’s a dry heat 39%
    Link click me click me click me click me

    So there you have it, folks!  For comparison, in Jerusalem, it’s currently 28°, with a humidity of 51%.  In Eilat, it’s 41°, but the humidity is only 24%.

    There’s a section in Happy Hints for a Successful Aliyah dealing with weather.  She says it takes about 2 years to get used to Israel’s weather, and even then, there are times you really don’t.

    The book – one of two, the other is To Dwell in the Palace, which is more essay-length – is quite out of date, with sections on getting a telephone, for instance; it’s also pre-Nefesh b’Nefesh, so there are no references to that organization at all and lots of information about gathering your aliyah paperwork and the various people you have to meet with and take it to that I’m sure no longer applies).  But there are some things that never change, and it’s extremely well-written.  Hard to believe I bought it 20 years ago… it would be a terrible cliché to say “how time flies,” but I won’t.  I’ll just get going on The Rest of My Life, how’s that?

    What books helped you through the aliyah experience???

    And now for some “Anti-Olim”

    (full article here)

    This family has been holed up in a United Church (of course) in Toronto for the past year, claiming refugee status from… Israel.  Why?  As non-Jews, they believe they were “singled out, insulted or assaulted” (that’s quite a range) for not being Jewish despite a Jewish surname. 

    It’s tough to believe.  Assaulted?  There are many non-Jews in Israel – including many Russians with a Jewish background – and while it may not be the same experience as that of a Jewish oleh, and perhaps there is discrimination and even insults, these are not exactly grounds for a refugee claim. 

    According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, refugees are folks “whose removal from Canada would subject them to a danger of torture, a risk to their life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.”

    In any event, the father was only in Israel for 15 years – he left Russia in 1992, presumably because he thought Israel would be a better place to live.  I assume there was some Jewish family background, thus the name and the right to pack up and go live in Israel in the first place.

    They’ve been here in Canada since 2007, and the father is now on a hunger strike for the privilege of remaining here, though Canada Border Services has given them until Wednesday to report for deportation.

    Apparently, “refugee claim” abuse has become increasingly common in Canada, so much so that in 2010, they passed a law creating a list of Designated Countries of Origin, stating which countries are and are not considered to have “solid democratic and human rights.” 

    Israel is a NO on the list (as are all its neighbours), meaning it’s “generally considered safe.”  Interestingly, Russia is a YES… meaning the family would have been better off, refugee-wise, fleeing here from Russia, instead of stopping off in Israel along the way.

    They sure do look unhappy in the picture accompanying all the news articles… but it’s hard to believe that Israel is the cause.  To me, they just look ticked off that they’ve finally been caught at their silly little running-away-to-freedom game. 

    Speaking of nothing…

    …When did Hatikva change???

    When I was a kid, I’m 100% certain we say התקוה שנות אלפים / “hatikva shnot alpayim” (the hope of 2000 years).  By the time my kids got to school, it was התקוה בת שנות אלפים / “hatikva bat shnot alpayim.”

    I am also certain, though slightly less so, that we were taught to sing

    בארצנו בארץ ציון וירושלים / “b’artzeinu, b’eretz tziyon viyrushalayim” but apparently, there’s no second ב/bet, before eretz.  As I said, I am less certain of this.

    But the other, I’m 100% sure.  Can anyone fill me in???

    Bit of a different (techno) version here...

    This is Ted.


    This is Ted at a Nefesh b’Nefesh Employment Planning evening here in Toronto tonight.


    Ted watched every slide, took a whole page of notes – including the email address of Nefesh b’Nefesh’s employment department and the website of an organization that helps French-speaking olim… when he barely speaks thirty words of French.

    The three main strategies of Israeli job-finding, according to Nefesh b’Nefesh, include:

    • Networking (check – I’m all set up on LinkedIn now!)
    • Hebrew (um, no checkmark here for either of us)
    • Be flexible / creative (check, check and check!)


    So why does Ted look so, well, pained in this picture?  Could it be because he sat through the exact same workshop just a couple of months ago on a day when I couldn’t make it???  Despite theoretically knowing we were going to an employment workshop, he didn’t mention this fact or speak up at all until we were approaching our car to go home.

    And this is why I like Ted so very much.  I am a person who complains, sometimes noisily and liberally, at just about any opportunity.  Ted goes along with things.  He will live to 120 because he doesn’t let anything bother him or, in my words too often, make him crazy. 

    My “crazy threshold,” on the other hand, is very low.  So I sort of feel like we complement each other – he’s there for me when I need someone calm and steady, and I’m there for him when he needs someone to fly off the handle about something.

    As they say, it takes all kinds.  Though, secretly, I suspect my kind is less likely to be squashed like a doormat when we are dealing with actual Israeli clerks and bureaucrats and not just friendly smiling NbN reps.  He may prove me wrong,  however.

    Anyway, Here’s more about getting a job in Israel, from friendly smiling NbN rep Kim Ephrat, Associate Director of Employment at Nefesh b’Nefesh, who flew in to speak most enthusiastically at tonight’s event. 

    She mentioned in passing that she’s flying back on a charter flight next week, which made me totally envious that she gets to do this for a living. 

    NbN charter flights, in case you don’t know already, are awesome because the whole plane is making aliyah – like the fulfillment of some amazing prophecy (oh, yeah, which it is!)  Plus, they have reps on the plane who help you fill out your paperwork and they give you your documents the minute you land.  There are also (often? always?) special delegations meeting the flights at Ben-Gurion.

    Last year, there were a few charters from Toronto, but none are scheduled for this summer.  Friends of ours are going (to Mitzpeh Netofa) at the very end of the summer, the week before Rosh Hashanah, on a regular El Al flight… but I’m holding out for a charter.  As long as they have a couple of them next summer, I’ll find a day that works for us.

    In case you’re wondering, this week, I’m leaning towards Karmiel as a landing zone. 

    Of course, that could change in an instant as we get closer to planning our pilot trip, aka Honeymoon #2.  Honeymoon #1 was Shabbos away from the kids in a run-down Niagara Falls motel room.  Classy!  (highlights included tumbling down a snowy hillside in the dark on Friday night and wandering the strip unable to spend money on Shabbos day)

    It will be lovely to travel with Ted alone, I hope.  Given that (almost) literally the first moment we were alone in the house together following our marriage was the moment I told Ted we were expecting Naomi Rivka.  We have had very few moments of peace, silence or privacy since then… ;-)

    So forget about Ted.  What aliyah employment strategy worked for you???

    Who’s your “Spokes-oleh?”

    Right now, in my world, it’s cookbook author (and more!), Jamie Geller, who is making aliyah, iy”h, with Nefesh b’ Nefesh (is there any other way?) this August, and who plans to blog / vlog about it all the way…

    See how nice and normal and sane she looks?

    Me, too.  Well, from above, maybe…DSC00160

    But check out this great rice-based Israel Map project we did two weeks ago for Parshas Shlach!  This would be a fantastic way to introduce kids to where they’re going to be living in Israel, and the geography of the Land in general…

    However, I was reflecting afterwards on a comment Naomi about how small Jordan and Syria were.  Because the map focuses on Israel,  it really does appear to be the superpower of the mideast.  You’ll want to supplement this map with plenty of others that show exactly how tiny Israel is in comparison with her neighbours…


    Scenes from Rosetta Stone Hebrew

    imageA couple of Nefesh b’Nefesh reps have now heavily recommended Rosetta Stone to us, which is great because we’re already using this program, so I thought I’d offer some screenshots, along with my opinions after about a year, off and on, of using the program to learn Hebrew.

    One thing I like about the program is that it’s very customizable and moves totally at your own pace.  Everyone else is still on Level 1, but I have taken a number of Hebrew things, so I started myself on Level 2, and so far, I’m on Lesson 4.  If I’d done it more often, I would be farther ahead, because the lessons move along pretty quickly.

    There are very few programs, I suspect, that one can use for family members ranging from about 6 years old all the way up.

    I don’t have a great screenshot of the very basic way that this program introduces vocabulary, but it’s pretty darn brilliant.  Basically, even if you know NO Hebrew to begin with, without using a word of English, the program will get you comfortable with a basic vocabulary and then work up to some fairly intricate grammatical concepts.

    They do this, initially, by showing you a picture and telling you what it is.  For instance, they might show you an egg and say “baytza” ביצה, then a salad and say “salat” סלט.  At that point, your task might be, when shown a picture of an egg, to click the button that says ביצה.  However, the fun begins when it wants to throw in a new word.  It will show you a salad, an egg, and SOUP.  It hasn’t taught you the word soup (which is “marak” מרק), but because you have learned the other two, it’s pretty easy to rule out the other two options and click on the button that says מרק.

    Then, on the next screen, you might see a man eating an egg, and a woman eating a salad, and it would say “ish ochel baytza” איש אוכל ביצה.  You have to click on the right picture – the man eating the egg.  In that way, you have not only learned your first noun (egg), but also the words for “man” and the masculine singular present-tense form of “eat.”  In a few more lessons, you might work your way up to a sentence like “the men are cooking at work” or “the women are cooking at home,” just one word/concept at a time.

    This is a French-language example of what I think of as the 3-2-1 style of instruction (don’t know what it’s really called).  Even if you know absolutely no French, you can figure out from the top row that chien = dog.  And then, if you’re reasonably bright (Naomi Rivka, at 6 and 7, was and is), you’ll see that chat = cat on the next row.  Finally, there’s the single horse, cheval… and then you have learned 3 brand-words with not very much work!

    (not my screenshot)

    Here’s another French lesson – you can see the international character of the photos they use – for “men” they invariably use a picture of a gang of Zulu-type African warriors, which never ceases to amaze me.

    (not my screenshot)

    My own screenshot at the top of this post is from a Level 2 pronunciation lesson where the concepts of “can” and “can’t” are introduced, along with the concept of verb infinitives.  By this point, you already know the words “baby” and “swim,” so it is fairly easy to figure out that you are supposed to use the new words to say that the baby CANNOT swim.  Ditto, when you see a fish, you know “fish” and “walk,” so you can say the fish CANNOT walk.

    The oral language practice is good, although I often wonder how well the program does at picking up actual mistakes, because I don’t make many.  When I was testing it out just now, I did notice that a simple mistake, like switching an M for an N, goes unnoticed.  And sometimes, there’s a false negative, where I say something right and it beeps that I’ve gotten it wrong.

    In general, the program is infinitely patient, which is a surprising feature because you’d think any program would be patient – it’s a computer, after all; it’s not going anywhere.  But some computer programs for learning stuff make you crazy with timers and lights and flashing and the pace of Rosetta Stone is definitely stress-free.  I am happy about this because it lets me answer the phone and have a life in between questions.

    The program uses recordings of native Hebrew speakers, accompanied by photographs of people in real-life settings.  I have been amused by many of the photographs, which depict multi-ethnic individuals in a range of settings, most of which don’t look like Israel at all.  This is by design:  the images are designed to be universal, and used with any language.

    That means there’s nothing not only Israeli, but also nothing JEWISH about the program.  It’s hard to explain, but learning Hebrew completely outside of the framework of Judaism is a surreal thing at times.  Saturday, of course, is referred to as Yom Shabbat, but people are doing regular things, like walking dogs on beaches, on that day.  There is no religious content whatsoever.  Strange  (okay, I know that’s not a great example… considering that there isn’t much problem walking a dog, except maybe if there’s no eruv on the beach). 

    In any event, you won’t pick up much Jewish or Israeli culture from the program.  And you will learn a LOT about taking subways, although Israel contains only one subway system, in Haifa, which, with 6 stations, is listed by Guinness as the world’s shortest subway line.  (Haifa’s “subway” is technically an underground funicular railway… I wonder how you say that in Hebrew???)

    The program offers a lot of variety:  some sections are straight vocabulary and reading (with or without vowels; it’s a simple one-click to turn them off and on), but others include typing and oral pronunciation exercises that at least give you some practice speaking the vocabulary as it’s taught. 

    Unfortunately, Naomi Rivka hasn’t able to use the oral portion, I think because her voice is a bit squeaky.  If we were using the “official” microphone / headset that comes with the “official” version of this software, the setup might work a bit better, but as it is, we are using a webcam as a microphone and I just couldn’t make it pick up her responses.  It works fine for Ted and I, though.

    Here are a couple more screenshots from the oral practice screens – simply because that’s what exercise I was on when I decided to write it up for this blog. ;-)

    In this first one, you are expected to say each part of a dialogue.  I was on the final box, the one with the dot lit up in green.  As you speak the word, it appears “lighted up” in the box to show you have said it correctly.  If you say the word wrong, it appears in kind of a grayish shade.  However, unlike in the rest of the program, the pronunciation screens, you’re not marked as right or wrong; if you pronounce the word ALMOST correctly, the program goes ahead and doesn’t give you the dreaded Red X for that screen.


    Here’s another screenshot, where I was to ask how much these sunglasses cost.  This irks me because the prices for the items are listed only in Euros, dollars, or Pounds Sterling.  They totally disregard the concept of local currency, which I feel is carrying the program’s universality just a bit too far.


    If you DO get an answer wrong, two little music notes play a “wah-wah” tune  (hard to describe!) that is not scary or offensive and most importantly, is not too discouraging.  And if you get it right, there’s an angelic-sounding harp trill to keep you on the right track.  The one time I let Gavriel sit down with the program (to see what happened), I didn’t explain at all but he figured out very quickly which were the “happy” and “sad” noises (which didn’t stop him from clicking the wrong picture over and over just to hear the “wah-wah” tune… but when he was ready to move on, he knew which was the right one to click, so he really DID learn; he just thinks he got away with something :-)))).

    As for the typing, they have thoughtfully provided an on-screen keyboard in case you don’t have Hebrew-language typing abilities.  I don’t have a screenshot of my own, and this one I’ve stolen is obviously NOT Hebrew, which works a little differently.  They introduce the letters one by one and then the typing practice ramps up to the point where I have actually become quite proficient at touch-typing (no peeking!) in Hebrew – an actual marketable job skill.

    (not my screenshot)

    In any event, I’ve been most impressed with this program.  However, I haven’t touched at all on the biggest drawback:  price.  Our local public library (and perhaps yours!) offers a program called Mango Languages that is totally free to Toronto Public Library cardholders, and I’ve heard good things about it from other homeschoolers who want to teach a language without being out any money.  There are a number of language-learning programs that fall out anywhere between free and Rosetta Stone, which is pretty much top-of-the-line.

    The rock-bottom homeschool Hebrew version begins at $159 (US), and that only includes Level 1.  You can get a set of all 3 levels for $349.  They have also introduced a new, complete online package called TOTALe that I know nothing about yet.  Here’s a more complete review of that package.

    Anyway, this has gone on rather long for something that started as NOT a real review.  Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments, below.


    • Context-free; nothing about Israeli culture and in some cases, useless vocabulary (subways etc)
    • Context-free = Nothing about Judaism
    • Couldn’t make the oral portion work for a young child
    • Price!!!


    • Great for a wide range of ages
    • Universal, no English or Hebrew required to begin
    • Fun pictures engage even kids with minimal reading
    • Difficulty and challenge ramps up at a very appropriate pace

    Have you used Rosetta Stone, or another language-learning program for modern Hebrew?  Let me know what you thought!

    Shallow Reason #27…

    … to make aliyah:

    No footwear dress code, even at weddings!  Check out Batya’s post over at me-ander to see what I mean.

    Yeah, that.

    Allow me to go all “starry-eyed North American” for a minute.  Because that’s how I felt reading this article by Rafi Miller (a YU student), which sums up more articulately than I ever could my own spiritual reasons for making aliyah.

    Here are his main points… read the full article for depth and footnotes, but I am mainly borrowing his words because they are so articulately laid out.

    • The Torah (duh):  The Land of Israel is essential to God’s vision for the People of Israel.
    • The Chiyuv:  Settling the Land is itself still obligatory today, according to the Ramban and others.
    • The Kavannah:  Nearness to God is best achieved in the Land of Israel.
    • The Yearning:  Ever since Moses pleaded with God, our people has longed for the Land of Israel.  We ourselves pray every day to return… I must ask myself: Do I mean the words I say?
    • The Suffering: As of now-ish, 22,993 Jews have given their lives for Israel since 1860.  This is the only one of Miller’s arguments that doesn’t, in itself, resonate as much with me.  That they have suffered is not an argument to go live there.  But his ultimate question on this issue is, “What would I be willing to sacrifice?”  Wherever we live, we must be willing to stick our necks out for Israel or it will quickly and quietly cease to exist.
    • The Eis Ratzon:  This is a unique moment in Jewish history; we can arrive in Israel painlessly and quickly from anywhere in the world.  The yearning and sacrifice he’s already mentioned has brought us to this moment.  Will we be so arrogant as to not snatch up this unique opportunity?
    • The Future:  Lakewood is great, Toronto is great, Baltimore is fabulous… but the Jewish future is in Israel.  Communities here in exile may implode, explode, splinter beyond recognition or even thrive in their own way, but to me, at least – it seems it’s time to go home.

    Again, this is a synopsis.  Read the original, please!

    And meanwhile… (silliness)

    Who says an aliyah blog has to be all serious, all the time?  Enjoy this so-cheesy-it’s-great retro music video, detailing the unfortunate life of a child whose parents love to travel around Israel, leaving her running to catch up.

    However cheesy it may be, I almost tear up at the refrain:

    אבא, אמא קצת יותר לאט
    אבא, אמא תחכו מעט
    אין לאן לרוץ ואין לאן למהר
    ארץ ישראל פה לעולם תשאר.

    Father, mother a little more slowly
    Father, mother wait a little
    There's nowhere to run and nowhere to hurry
    Eretz Israel will remain here forever.

    (thanks to Google translate)

    Another favourite, that almost makes me wish I’d had an Israeli childhood, is this even sillier song, which really has nothing to do with Israel; it’s a Hebrew variation on the “one in the bed and the little one said – move over!”  I love this funky-retro combo of hairy, fully-clad TV-host adults co-sleeping with puppets…

    Here, Google somewhat fails at its translating task:


    במיטה אחת לא כל כך גדולה
    ארבעה שובבים טרללללה.

    My (real) translation:
    In one bed, not so very big, [were] four sillies, tra-la-la-la-la…
    Google Translate:

    One bed is not so great;
    Four playful Trllllh.

    Oh-kay… Enjoy!

    So what are we looking for?

    image I wanted to get this down before I go to sleep, because it was fascinating to see how the process of elimination works.  These are points that just came out while I was free-associating with the Nefesh b’Nefesh Go North person this morning, but they each helped narrow things down considerably, in terms of what we want.

    Basically, it all begins with a description of what we have here:

    • a diverse, kiruv-oriented community with many geirim, baalei teshuvah, neighbours and friends with varying degrees of religious observance – translates to “we don’t need everybody around us to look and act exactly like us.”
    • one so-so Hebrew speaker (me) and one pretty not-great Hebrew speaker (Ted) – translates to “don’t drop us off somewhere we cannot communicate.”
    • a shul that calls out page numbers – hmm… does this translate directly?  maybe just, “I don’t think a one-shul town is the place for us.”
    • the heroine’s plaintive cry in F. Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden:  ‘“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?”’ – translates to “give me a patch of earth on which to garden; a mirpeset (balcony) might not be enough.”
    • I can hop on a subway and get downtown – heck, I can walk out the door and STROLL downtown if I have a couple of hours to spare – translates to “please don’t strand us in the middle of nowhere??”
    • living in a teeny-tiny little ancient house we don’t actually own – translates to “perhaps somewhere with plenty of rental accomodation.”

    I’m sure there were more points, but this is what I remember now, twelve hours and a busy day later.  This is what we’re looking for – our little patch of Toronto in the north (or not-so-north) of Israel.

    The other nice thing is that she sent me home with a nice little map of the north.  So I stuck it up on the wall.  Naomi Rivka asked, “is that where we’re going to live in Israel?”  I said, “maybe.”

    Go where??? Three possibilities, and two NOT.

    Second one-on-one meeting today with Nefesh b’Nefesh… this time for a “Go North” program planning session.

    We are not completely sold on the north, but it’s worth keeping our options open – there are a few extra financial incentives, though, as a friend pointed out, the incentives are somewhat cancelled out by the extra cost of living in the middle of nowhere.

    The NOT communities first…

    After talking to her for a while about who we are and what we’re looking for, she confirmed the previous advice we’d had ruling out Mitzpeh Netofa.  Drat, but I was prepared for this.  She also – interestingly – ruled out Yavniel, although a couple of Toronto families we know (of) have made quite a nice home for themselves there.

    The three places she suggested are interesting because only one of them was on my radar at all:  Nahariyah / נַהֲרִיָּה‎‎, Maalot / מַעֲלוֹת, and Karmiel / כַּרְמִיאֵל‎‎.

    Not much time to process right now – I want to do here is a separate post listing some of the things that came up as our “criteria” for finding a home.  But meanwhile, here is the most superficial possible comparison of these three cities, on the basis of cost of living, climate, and fun facts!








    Mediterranean (coastal)

    Valley/Low mountain

    dry, breezy and comfortable

    Cost of living







    44,100 / 50,000 official
    (depends who you ask!)





    Jewy Types

    Chabad, Chardal, Conservative, Dati Leumi, Haredi, Reform, Secular

    Chardal, Dati Leumi, Haredi, Secular

    Chabad, Chardal, Conservative, Dati Leumi, Haredi, Reform, Secular

    Funtime Wiki facts

    Notable residents include Gilad Shalit. (source)

    In the early 2000s, 52% of the population were Russian immigrants. (source)

    According to the national master plan, by 2020 Karmiel will have a population of approximately 120,000 residents. (source)

    Today’s Temperature

    24°, cloudy (link)

    23°, partly sunny (link)

    27°, sunny (link)

    Today’s Humidity




    For reference, today’s temp and humidity in Toronto: 27°, cloudy, humidity 57%.  So more or less equivalent to Karmiel.

    I will also say – because I’m chicken, and moving with children, and so forth:  both Ma’alot and Nahariya are closer to Lebanon than I am entirely comfortable with.  I know nowhere is completely safe, but both of these towns – indeed, all three – were targeted and sustained damage and casualties six years ago.

    Much to think about.