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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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:

Hebrew:

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!

Nahariyah

clip_image001

Maalot

clip_image003

Karmiel

clip_image004

Climate

Mediterranean (coastal)

Valley/Low mountain

dry, breezy and comfortable

Cost of living

$$

$$

$

Population

52000

21000

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

Anglos

5%

5%

?

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

73%

50%

34%

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.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Making a name for myself…

image Shh… don’t tell anybody.  Especially my mother, because she might cry.  I have a name already picked out.

Here’s the thing – I already have a perfectly good name.  Four of them, in fact.

I have two English names:  Jennifer Mary.

I have two Hebrew names:  יוספה מרים (yosefa miriam)

I hate them all.

Jennifer is NOT “me.”  Someone pointed out to me last weekend that my parents were ahead of the curve with my name and my sister’s – most Jennifers are in their 30s… and I’m not.  And as for my sister, there are many little teeny Abigails running around out there, but very few in their 30s, as she is (her EARLY 30s!!!).

(a few more reflections on my other blog about the name Jennifer)

Yosefa is definitely not me.  It’s not even a name, as far as I’m concerned.  Kind of like Josephine (indeed, my mother has always spelled it with a J), but worse: it’s a made-up name created by adding the letter ה (hey) to the name Yosef (Joseph).  I was named after my mother’s Uncle Joe, my grandfather’s beloved brother; this name was important to him, and he said so to my mother.  Which is very nice and sweet and all, but it’s still… not… ME.

Miriam… nope.  There are many Miriams out there, and I have met lots of them and liked quite a few, but they are not me.  Which I suppose could be used as an argument against any name, but really.  I asked my ex-husband once if I looked Jewish, and he said I didn’t look like a “Tzippi.”  I knew what he meant.

And Mary?  Like Miriam, it comes from my father’s Tante Mirel, who was called Auntie Mary in English.  I never met her, obviously, and he obviously thought highly of her.  But the name has raised eyebrows my whole life… “nice Jewish girl” comments.  As it is, my last name is very not Jewish. 

Most importantly, Jennifer and Mary are not what I envision as the “Israeli me.”  Ted has a beautiful Hebrew name, אקיבע נתן/Akiva Natan.  I don’t want to wind up being the unvoweled, inelegant ג'ניפר with that awful little tick-mark after the gimmel.  Jin-iffer?  Or a hard G, Ginnifer?  Gynee-fer, like some kind of feminine iron supplement? 

Nope.

In Israel, I want a Hebrew name.  I don’t want to lose the names I have; I’m planning to leave them and their meanings exactly as they were given.  But I want to ADD a name… well, um, in front of the others.

My mother didn’t like it one bit when I mentioned this casually, so I have dropped it.  For the time being, I am not mentioning it.

I have the name in my head; I say it almost every day.

I saw a photo of a family gravestone a couple of weeks ago and was shocked to see “my” name on it (just as I am shocked, now that my son has the name זאב/Zev to see “his” name on several family graves). 

But of course, that must be where I first heard the name and came to love it.  I hope it will help my mother, that it is a family name, that it doesn’t come from nowhere. 

That in that tiny besieged land which we must all continually strive to bring back to life, physically and spiritually, I will be bringing this name, this family, back to life.

Perhaps.

Do you listen

During the aliyah process, should I listen in when people are discussing Israel?  Should I throw in my ideas?
I'm such a dummy, politically, that I always feel like I have nothing to say in any event.
And what CAN you say, when people are talking about stuff like Iran's mounting weaponry and the harm they could do as a fully-fledged nation vs a bunch of disorganized local terrorists.  Announce, "you're wrong?" like a baby and plug your ears and hum the Flintstones' theme song???

 In case you feel as helpless as I do when this is going on, here's the Flintstones' theme song to help you get by:

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