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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Things I will miss… Streets

that start in one place, go in a straight line, and when they’re done doing that, meet all the other streets at nice, tidy right angles!

Here’s our little neighbourhood in Toronto…

image

And here’s the centre of Karmiel…

image

Every city looks pretty much like this, all swirly-whirly, as if someone were trying to flush it into some massive subterranean vortex.  Or something.

Of course, this is because streets in Israel are generally built into the landscape, of which there is a great deal.  Whereas here, in this wide-open country, the first European settlers picked places where there wasn’t much landscape to speak of, and then levelled it off just to be sure you’d never have to go up or down more than a few meters.

The nice thing is you’ll never get fat (or stay fat) walking up and down, up and down, and all around the vortex.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

And… a new name

image I hinted last year that I was planning on choosing a Hebrew name when we made aliyah.  I picked it out a few years ago, and I believe, among other things, that it was my great-grandmother’s name.

I have now used this name on our (successful) aliyah application, and it is the name that will appear on my visa, Teudat Zehut (citizenship card) and other legal documentation.

Here’s the name:

צִיבְיָה / Tzivia

This is a pretty old-fashioned name… in fact, there is a more hip/trendy variation, pronounced “Tzvia,” which is now far more common. 

Which means that I am going to have to fight tooth and nail over that first little yud.  (It’s often spelled without the yud, but then if you leave off the vowels, it will inevitably be pronounced Tzvia, which is a nice enough name… but not “my” name.)

Strangely, I like the idea of being the Hebrew equivalent of “Anne-with-an-e,” just a little particular about something I care deeply about, even if it is a little off the beaten path.

Also weirdly, we haven’t really given any thought to changing our unwieldy last name.  While we were in Israel on the pilot trip, we actually met an Irish-named former Torontonian living in Ma’alot – who also didn’t seem perturbed at having a really ODD last name.  So he’ll be Mc___ and we’ll be Mac___ and together we will populate the North with our hardy Celtic-Canadian stock.

And the winner is…

Some of you may have noticed that we’re back from Israel, just in time for Purim and Naomi Rivka’s birthday… and a whole bunch of snow that I was really, REALLY hoping would be finished by now.

And the question hanging in the air everywhere we go is – “nu???”  (at least, that was the implication from about a dozen people at kiddush yesterday)

The goal of our pilot trip was to whittle down a long list of prospective home towns into at least a somewhat shorter list.

What we learned on this trip:

  • Despite the title of this post, there ARE no losers.
  • Everywhere is amazing.
  • There are no bad cities, only choices that would be harder or easier for us, given our own limitations.
  • Every city we visited had some huge advantages and some huge downsides.
  • Just about everybody we met loved the city where they lived and couldn’t imagine living elsewhere.
  • Just about everybody we met was amazing and giving and open and welcoming.  We expected this, to some extent, but still – it blew me away.
  • But, therefore… it came to feel (for me, at least) a bit personal.  Like if we choose City B, then we are going to offend Shmuli from City A and Rivka from City C… and so on.
  • But we cannot please Shmuli and Rivka, nor should we really try…

But we also learned that we cannot live everywhere, let alone on the fence.  We need to start making actual plans, so instead of coming home with a short list, we jumped ahead and picked our landing spot:  Karmiel. 

Here’s a virtual tour of Karmiel that is actually pretty cool!

You can also read the Nefesh b’Nefesh page about it.  They always start on a high note.  Then, there’s the wikipedia page, which usually includes the more controversial details sometimes left out of the NbN pages.  Or there’s the English version of the “official” Karmiel website, on which you can read a quote from the mayor, who says, “The age of on-line information invites the surfers to expected and unexpected” – the rest of the quote, scintillating though it may be, has been lost, perhaps in translation.

Here are some of the criteria that make me hopeful that Karmiel will work for us – keeping in mind that this is a VERY complicated equation:

  • Merkaz klitah for a short stay on arrival
  • Ulpan in town, along with other government offices
  • Good buses in town and to other cities – it’s possible, though difficult, to go carless
  • Urban feel with many walkable areas
  • The city feels clean and green – clean is probably year-round, though green, we understand, will probably fade with the heat.
  • The climate is cooler and drier than many other areas
  • More diverse, religiously, than some other areas – I’m aware that this could be (or become) a minus, but at least, coming from chutz la’aretz it will feel familiar.
  • Cost of renting is lower than in the central parts of Israel
  • Direct buses from Jerusalem – with train service planned within the next ___ (however-many) years
  • A “Young Israel” type shul that is mainly Anglo and at least claims to serve a diverse crowd
  • And finally… the annual Nefesh b’Nefesh Go North picnic is held right in Karmiel!  So no matter how clueless and lost we are by the time it rolls around, we ought to have no problem getting there.  :-)

That’s long enough for now.  I thought about putting together a list of why we’d rejected the many other possibilities, but decided that wouldn’t be fair.  Ultimately, we liked everywhere we saw, for different reasons.  I tried hard to keep an open mind and visualize myself living in each and every place we visited, and they were all a good fit in one way or another, so the choice was ultimately kind of painful.

Also, if I’m listing reasons for “rejection,” I could honestly write you a list of minuses of Karmiel as long as my arm, or longer… and yet that seems to be where we’re going.  Go figure.

When we left for Israel, I kept saying, “I’ll know it when I see it.”  I kind of thought that was a figure of speech – but in the end, that’s pretty much what it’s come down to.  We saw it, we knew, and I think we’re both pretty pleased with the decision.

Now, if we thought choosing a hometown was hard… the next step is – gulp – actually getting there.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fwd: Israel pilot trip Day #11? - The Second-Last Day

Hello, my loves!
This was  our second and last day of bus shlepping - and we are both pretty glad.  It is not enough time to really see each place, so it's a little bit of a tease ... Maybe because they want us to come back to live and then see some more in our free time.

Today, we drove up into the crazy forests and hills of the Galil, the area just west of the Yam Kinneret (it's sometimes called the Sea of Galilee on maps, but nobody actually calls it that).  After we drove for a while, we came around the corner and there, in a valley, looking very tiny compared to Lake Ontario, was the Kinneret.  Everybody here is very excited because it's almost FULL - Israel doesn't get much water in the summer, so the rain that falls in the winter has to last all year.

Our first stop was a city called Karmiel, which means Hashem's vineyard.  There are lots of grapes growing all around, and olive trees and many other green, growing things.  We got a tour of the city and stopped at City Hall to meet the mayor.  He invited us all onto his office's porch to look out over a big park in the centre of town.  Karmiel has many Russian-speaking people, who came here straight from Russia when they were finally allowed to leave after many years.  It is an organized, clean city, though we couldn't find a nice coffee shop during our lunch break there.  They have plenty of stores and malls, though, and we did buy some iced coffee in a grocery store near City Hall.

Then, after "lunch," we were back in the bus for our trip to Tzefat.  It's a very holy city where lots of famous rabbis lived.  Abba got to daven mincha in the shul of the Ari - well ,outside the shul, because there were tourists inside and it wasn't exactly mincha time, so they just grabbed 10 people and davened.  The Old City of Tzefat is a strange place with narrow stone roads and art galleries.  I climbed to a deck on top of one of the galleries and took this picture looking out over the mountains and hills nearby.

There is also a big coffee factory in Tzefat and everybody on the bus was sitting around sniffing the air and saying how good it smelled (you cannot smell it through the whole city, just the area around the factory!).  Anyway, I would have liked to smell the coffee... But could not.  My nose was totally plugged and since coming back, up and down a million more hills, I cannot hear out of one of my ears either.  I hope it clears by tomorrow, because it can be painful to go up in a plane with a blocked ear. :-(

The best thing in Tzefat - well, best for me, because Abba loved the whole city - was meeting up with Mrs. Z (a friend from shul in Toronto).  The organizers invited some new olim to come talk at a youth centre ("youth" is defined as aged 18 to 45, but we were told they never turn away any "youth" even if they're a bit older), and they asked her to stand up and talk about their lives here.  She explained about how Hashem helped them find jobs and good schools for their kids.   They're apparently having a very good time, but we didn't see the kids, and Mr. Z was away at a wedding in Yerushalayim, so we couldn't meet up with him.

Tzefat took a long time, so after that we took a new shortcut road back to Nahariya, and it only took about 45 minutes.  Things look far on maps, but this is a tiny country, and nobody is too far away.

This is going to be my last email.  We have lots of work tomorrow, like classes about schools and work and also meetings with the organizers so they can see if any of the cities we like would be a good home for our family, and talk more about the good things and bad things about living up here at the top of the country (some things are a bit more expensive and in some areas you need a car, but on the other hand, it is cooler and greener in the north than anywhere else in Israel).

We are finishing our meetings by 4pm tomorrow, then packing into a taxi to take the train south to the airport.   There's no more kosher McDonald's at the airport, but they have a few kosher restaurants there, I think, so hopefully we'll get there early enough to get some food while we wait for the plane... to come home.

We will be home very soon now, and I am so excited to see you all!!!  I wish you could see how excited every single person is that Purim is coming.  It is a very busy, happy holiday here.  Practically every bakery has hamentaschen (oznay haman) year-round, but more now than ever.  Last night, we bought ones that were chocolate hamentaschen with halva filling.  Yummy!

Tonight, it is late and we are very, very tired.

See you very soon!!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fwd: Day #9: Maalot, Kfar Vradim, Nahariya

Hello, my loves!

Lots of bus-riding today!
Our whole group hopped on a bus at 8:30, after breakfast at the hotel (while you guys were still fast asleep in the middle of the night).  We drove to a small city 20 minutes away called Ma'alot, where we drove around, saw a slideshow about the city (in City Hall), and then dropped in to visit somebody's house so they could tell us about moving there. 

Then, we did the same thing in a small town nearby called Kfar Vradim, where we are not considering moving, but it is a very lovely place.  We had lunch there with our group, including a special salad called "Salat Chalumi" which has chunks of fried cheese on it.  Amazing (though it's very salty, so you only need to eat a bit)! 

Finally, we shlepped back to the city where we're staying, Nahariya, for a proper tour, because we didn't have a chance to look around when we came yesterday.  This city is less green than Ma'alot and it feels a little strange right now because it's a resort city, which means that in the summertime, people come from all over Israel for vacations.  There are hotels and ice cream shops and restaurants and coffee shops in the main area, which is pretty quiet right now.  It must look very different when it's busy with people at all hours! 

Still, they have a good drugstore - SuperFarm, which is the same as Shopper's Drug Mart, with Life Brand medicines and everything - where we walked when we finished our workshops tonight to buy cold medicine.  I didn't know how to say "cold" or "medicine."  (put up your hand if you guessed that after a week of being sneezed on, I caught a cold!). 

Anyway, I said "mashehu l' nazelet," which means "something for a sniffle" (they keep everything stronger than vitamins locked up with a pharmacist, who interrogates you about your symptoms, in my case by pointing to various body parts) and he gave me Life Brand "paramol af" which means "nose paramol," and has "night" and "day" varieties in the same package.  Now I took a "night" one and will soon drift off to the lovely sound of the crashing waves in the Yam HaTichon.

Compared to Toronto, which has more than 2 million people, everything feels like a small city.  Ma'alot has 21,000 people; Kfar Vradim has only 6,000; in Nahariya, there are 52,000.  No matter where we go, it'll probably take some getting used to until it feels normal being in a smaller place.  Even Rechovot, the biggest place we've seen, has only 120,000!  The nice thing is that the rest of Israel - many, many people, including any friends we have here - is only a couple of hours away, no matter where we end up.

The north is cooler and greener than the rest of the country, especially once you're a bit away from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  At this time of year, when everywhere is cool and green, it's hard to tell, but everybody says in July it makes a real difference. 

Away from the Mediterranean (Yam HaTichon or Yam HaGadol) the terrain gets hillier and hillier until you are finally up in the mountainy place at the top called the Golan.  Israel's highest mountain, Har Ha-Chermon, is up north, but closer to where the Z_____s live, Tzfat, than to us here.  We'll be driving to Tzfat tomorrow, but probably won't get a chance to see them after all, because they have to keep our whole group together.

Okay, again, too long, but it is all because we are seeing so much and I am so excited to tell you all about it.

All of my love and Abba's too, of course,

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fwd: Day #7, Raanana & Nahariya

Hello, my loves!

Israelis do not like the letter "H" or "hey" (in Hebrew).  So the name of this place is pronounced Nariya unless you are a total newcomer... which is why I have been pronouncing it NaHAriya all week.

We took a detour on our way here to a town called Raanana (say it ra-NA-na and leave out any extra A's).  It is a pretty town sort of halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa.  

The one thing we learned there is what we already knew - we will not be living there!  It is pretty but very expensive.  But they do have a Merkaz Klitah there, which is an apartment building where people can live for a few months when they first get to Israel.  The apartments are okay, and clean, but rather small.   The fun part of living in a merkaz klitah is that you meet people from everywhere - not just English-speaking people, but people from Russia, Argentina, England -- from all over the world -- who have decided to make aliyah.  So you get to learn lots of languages, not just Hebrew, and make friends who are also new in the country.

A nice thing there is that everything is nearby, including schools for kids and ulpan for adults, so you don't have to wander around finding everything.  The young lady giving us the tour of the merkaz klita said she grew up going to the mamlachti dati elementary school around the corner.  There are several different kinds of schools here - religious, not religious, and different kinds of religious private schools.   Everybody learns about Jewish things, but in slightly different ways.  Mamlachti dati is a religious public school. 

After we saw the merkaz klitah and met the ulpan teacher (and a lady who's a new olah from Toronto, who was in the ulpan class!), we got some pizza and coffee (not the best of either one) then caught a long, winding bus ride to the train station in Herzliyah, a city nearby.  It's named after Theodore Herzl, who I hope you remember because we read about him.  

The train came right on time and was beautiful and clean... But then we had to get off and switch to a dingy older kind of train for the rest of the journey up north where we are now.  It is VERY hard to crochet standing up on a moving train!!!  (but not impossible)

At this hotel now in NaREEya, we are in the middle of a group of about 35 people from all over North America (we are the only Canadians in the group, but 2 of the organizers, who live here now, are from Toronto).  They are putting us in buses and driving us around to see 2 different cities a day and meet a few people in each place.  

Today, they just fed us supper and talked to us for a while.  When we were done, Abba and I walked down to the seaside and stared out at the Yam HaTichon (Mediterranean Sea).  All I could think about was Odysseus and his 20-year journey (I hope you remember!) to get across a small part of the Mediterranean so he could go home to his wife and son in Ithaca.  It sounds like a ridiculously long time when you read about it on paper, but at night, those waves do look pretty scary and not entirely implausible.

Anyway.  They have some cafes and ice cream shops... But it's really not Yerushalayim here, in many ways.

Tomorrow, they are taking us to Maalot, which is high on my list of Wonderful Places to See and is as far north as we're going to get (10km further than that is Lebanon!), and a place I know nothing about called kfar Vradim (vradim are roses).

That's quite a lot for now.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fwd: Day 4:. Rechovot

Hello, my loves!
We are on our way back to yerushalayim on a bus and it is very  VERY dark already. 
We stayed in yerushalayim this morning because we were invited to people in Rechovot for supper. 
We had never met them before,  but we figure making new friends is going to be a big part of this adventure...
They moved here from Toronto seven years ago with two young daughters. 

Supper was lasagna... It felt a lot like home. 

When we first got to Rechovot,  we were amazed at the big beautiful mall.   There are tons of stores, including many north American stores, like toys r us.   

We visited a school (empty, because school was finished for the day ) and also a shul.  It isn't a giant shul, but the people are very friendly and almost all the kids speak English. 

There is a big famous university there called the chaim weizmann Institute - a bit boring, but they have a fun science area that kids visit with their classes. 

Nobody here - this whole country - knows about covering their mouth to cough or sneeze. Some people are "thoughtful " and use their hand to cover up... And then they don't wash their hands.  Yuck. 

The orange trees in the picture here are covered in oranges that nobody wants... Apparently they are too bitter to eat.  But everywhere we look, citrus trees are full of delicious fruit.   Our new friends told us that every fruit has its own season here, and mostly that's when they eat them.  Right now, it's citrus season, but soon there will be peaches, apricots, mangoes... Abba was thrilled to hear that they even grow some kinds of apples here, in the north of Israel.   We tried a new kind of grapefruit called a "sweetie " - it basically tastes like a super sweet grapefruit. 

Rechovot is about 45 minutes from Yerushalayim,  so we are now on the bus back for our last night in this wonderful downtown hotel.   My ears are popping from going up and down all these hills! 
So I will hit send now, though I miss you all very much. 

Love,

Mama

Fwd: Report from Israel, day 3 - pls read to kiddies!

Hello, my loves!

Today we visited a city called Maaleh Adumim.  It means "red heights" and the dirt there really is red - and boy, is there a lot of dirt!  It is a very dusty place on the edge of a big desert, about 15 minutes from the Yam HaMelach (Dead Sea). 
Maaleh Adumim (MA) is about 15 minutes from Yerushalayim, which is amazing, but the bus took forever to come this morning, so it felt much longer.  Once we were driving it was nice and fast - there is a quick tunnel outside of Yerushalayim, then a short highway, and then you're there.
We visited 3 schools and all the kids are going crazy getting ready for Purim.  They were running around being silly and dressing up.   Of course, there is also an Ulpan where grown-ups go to figure out Hebrew while their children learn it at school.  The schools in MA have many English-speaking kids and teachers who help them understand what's going on.
We saw the swimming pool and community centre and lots and LOTS of streets with houses and apartments.  Like everywhere in Israel, there are lots of cats roaming the streets by themselves.  Here, though, we also saw sheep - bedouin people graze them in the valley right in the middle of the city.
MA also has a nice mall where we sat and drank coffee - and rested our feet before catching another bus back to Yerushalayim.
On the way back, we stopped and met Mrs. Medad, a lady I know from her blog about living in Israel.  She made aliyah 40 years ago and lives in a city called Shilo.  If you read in the Tanach, you'll see that the mishkan spent hundreds of years in Shilo, making it one of the holiest and most important places in Israel - a place where almost every city is important for some reason or another. 
(here’s a link to her blog)
(Naomi Rivka, I took a picture of the bus stop with a sign saying Elon Moreh because we read about Avram going there in parshas Lech Lecha - if he were going today, he could just take the 477 bus!).
We also went to the Jerusalem International Book Fair, which mostly just reminded us that we are waaaay happier reading books in English than in Hebrew.  They had books in many languages there, though, and many fascinating haggadahs that would probably not be fascinating to you.
Then we had supper - fish and chips in the midrachov, the open streets of shops and restaurants, almost all kosher.  Wow!
Tomorrow, we are visiting a city called Rechovot that is much farther away from Yerushalayim. I don't know exactly where it is, so I'm glad I don't have to drive the bus.
It is also aunt Sara's birthday, so please be extra-nice if you see her and phone her if you don't.  We will be thinking about her all day...

Lots of pictures today - i couldn't decide!  One is of a purim store, and abba is holding up 2 costumes - barbie and rachel imenu!  Unfortunately, we cannot buy costumes here for you guys - Naomi Rivka, have you decided what you're wearing???

<3 so much love from,
Mama

Fwd: Day 1 - Ramat Beit Shemesh

IMG_00000092

Hello my loves!

Here is the city we are visiting today, Ramat Beit Shemesh. 

We are sitting in a bakery waiting for supper... A VERY long wait indeed.  There are lots of kids and schools here and tons of parks and playgrounds.  The person who showed us around said they have good ballet classes all the way up to adult age.   There is lots of time for activities (chugim) because school (for girls) finishes at 1:30 pm.  BUT we will still have to do English, grammar etc at home because the English in schools is lousy!

We had some amazingly good strawberry yogurt (yo-goort eem too-teem) for breakfast.  Some things that come from North America are expensive in Israel, like breakfast cereal, so most people have cheese, yogurt, fruit, bread etc for breakfast instead.  Cheese strings are very cheap!  They have lots of Nutella and other spready sweet things: chocolate spread, and there is even halva spread for toatst!
This city is only about 1/2 an hour away from Elisheva's next-year school by bus, so I hope she could come home a lot to see us!
Many, MANY children and adults speak English here (40%), but even the ones who arrive knowing no Hebrew are very good at it after not too long...
Abba says to tell you he found a really great candy store near the hotel - they have kosher kinder eggs and everything.  The whole country is excited to be getting ready for Purim - everyone is singing mishenichnas adar and there are costumes in all the stores - what a great place!
We are working hard to find us all a happy new home.

<3 Mommy
 
This is a picture of the kosel that we took our first night:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Getting to know... Coinage ?!...#$%

Apparently, there are about 3900 denominations of coinage in this country.  Some of it is worth quite a lot; well, 10 shekels.  But some of it, just to throw you off, is worth almost nothing, like the ones that say "agorot" on them.  Worthless.  Here i am on the bus, trying to sort out how much i've paid and how much is left... Oy!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Scenes from a pilot trip


I'll think of text for these later, once we're home... Just have to say, again, what a neis it is to be here.





Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Purim Postcard / Aliyah Songs

If you’re a Toronto friend, don’t read on – SPOILERS!!!

I printed 50 of these cards to mail before our pilot trip, because things will be too hectic upon our return to do anything besides show up at shul for the megillah reading:

(click for full-sized version)

image

Here are the poems:

(ttto:  We’re off to see the Wizard)

We’re off to make aliyah,
In the year fifty-seven seventy-three;
We know it is the busiest biz
That ever a biz there was.
If ever, oh ever, a busy year was,
Then moving to Israel is sure one because
Because, because, because,
because, because…
That’s what every new oleh does!

(ttto:  Somewhere Over the Rainbow)

Somewhere, over the ocean, way off far,
There’s a Land that we’ve dreamed of,
its symbol a waving star.

Someday, we’ll hop on board a plane,
And wake up where the sound of rain…
delights us.

Where Jewish souls in Jewish homes,
Are writing happy Hebrew poems,
That’s where you’ll find us…

Somewhere, over the ocean,
there are Jews,
Living dreams that we dare to dream…
That’s the dream we choose.

Okay, a little mushy.  But hopefully just the right spirit for Purim cards!

It only occurs to me now that this would have been a great opportunity for some sort of pun on “Hashem ‘Oz’ l’amo yitein” (Hashem will grant strength to His people – the word for “strength” is “Oz”).  But they’re already printed and I think handwriting it on 50 cards would be goofy.

Drat!!!

Yay, yay, yay!!!

image

Naturally, we will not be getting the visas before our pilot trip, because once the aliyah visa is in there, it’s our last trip as “chutz la’artziyim.”

Which is good, because there is altogether too much stuff to organize before the trip anyway.

Ooooh… what a great feeling!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Meet our Pilot: the Long List

Here’s where we’re going! 

At the risk of waaaay over-generalizing, I have forced myself to include only 2 or 3 descriptive words under each column.

Remember, this chart is as much for my own reference and Ted’s as it is for yours. 

Okay, maybe more so.

Also, our time is VERY limited and our needs are pretty specific.  If we have omitted your favourite town, please don’t take it personally – though please feel free to suggest it anyway!

***  Clarification:  I have never been to ANY of these places.  “Good” and “bad” are distilled from others’ comments.  Please don’t assume that ch”v these are my views.  I have no views yet; hence, the pilot trip!

City

Population

Anglo

Good

Bad

Ramat Beit Shemesh

4300, but 70,000 in Beit Shemesh

40%

easy, lots of services

boring, inauthentic

Maaleh Adumim

40,000

7%

beautiful, close to Jerusalem

expensive, political

Raanana

80,000

20%

beautiful, merkaz klitah

expensive, “snooty”

Rechovot

120,000

10%

friendly people, affordable?

climate

Nahariya

52,000

5%

beautiful, north, train

Lebanon, boring

Maalot

21,000

5%

beautiful, north, climate

Lebanon, remote

The last two are part of a Go North group pilot trip run by Nefesh b’Nefesh.  I am grateful, because it’s exhausting enough organizing four destinations, let alone six.  And even though we are viewing more southern destinations as well, I haven’t ruled out north… it’s still definitely in the running.

Addendum:  Places I’d love to go see, but we’re not – mostly because we’re all out of time…:

  • Zichron Yaakov
  • Pardes Chana
  • Yavne’el

Addendum:  Places we’re going to see, but probably not going to live:

  • Yerushalayim
  • Beit Shemesh
  • Har Nof
  • Tzfat
  • Karmiel

I’d love feedback on any or all of these spots… !

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Israeli Leopard War Zone

Among his many stuffed-animal friends, GZ (5-year-old cutie pie, in case you haven’t been paying attention!) has two little leopards – Lucy and Donna.  And in the origin myth he has created for these two, they are still both young children: Lucy’s around 6 or 7 and I believe Donna is around 3.  And they’re from Israel.

Which I thought was very cool, until he told me their parents died before they came to Canada.

Today, walking on Shabbos, he told me more about them (I try not to pry or ask leading questions)… apparently, they were out grocery shopping when the parents accidentally went onto a battle field.  And were killed, perhaps instantly.  So now these two leopard sisters (who are stuffed animals, and do not look at all alike except for both being leopards) live alone together in Canada.  Lucy takes great care of Donna, dropping her off at daycare every day so she can do her other little-kid things.  They are both silly critters, playing together, having adventures with his other friends; so carefree, orphaned so young.

He tells me the whole story so, SO cheerfully.  He doesn’t seem to associate Israel with war, and seems to feel entirely happy about the prospect of moving there.  Not that he has any clue what “moving there” actually means. 

And yet.

And yet my heart breaks for the lost innocence of these poor leopard children and my young son who may discover he is not entirely far from the truth.

Everything you wanted to know #4: Handy Phrases!

As our pilot trip approaches rapidly, I asked my ever-helpful facebook social circle what the ONE phrase is that we should know when we get off the plane…

Oh, yeah – BESIDES “ayfo hasherutim?” (where is the bathroom?)

Here’s what they said:

  • Haya moad naim l'hakir otach/otcha.
    היה מאוד נעים להכיר אותך!
    It was very nice meeting you!
  • Ani lo midaber(et for fem) ivrit. I do not speak Hebrew.
  • איפה המקלט / Efo HaMiklat – where is the shelter?
  • תודה רבה! Thank you much, said with a smile of course
  • Kama Oleh - how much does it cost
  • kama zeh oleh? How much does this cost?
  • Slicha – sorry
  • ani lo medaberet ivrit – another vote for this one!
  • ani lo mevinah – I don’t understand
  • "ani na nach nachma nachman m'euman" – breslov slogan, posted by a joker
  • Todah rabbah!
  • Meter bevakasha (for taxi so you don't get overcharged)
  • "todah rabba" during the week and Shabbat Shalom on Friday and Shabbat....
  • Oy Va Voy!!
  • "hatzilu" – help
  • Mah Nishma? – how are you?

And a couple of late additions…

  • from my good friend, Shira, who just got back:  “preface everything with, 'slicha, ani olah chadasha' plus v'ivrit sheli lo tov' or 'od pam bevakasha?' or "lo havanti...yoter le'at?"
  • לאט לאט – slowly…
  • Rega! - just a second
  • tafrit anglit bevakasha / English menu please!
  • “Countless times you will hear "Savlanut"!”
  • Anachnu (ch pronounced like ch in Loch Ness monster) mi-Toronto (We're from Toronto).
  • Beseder. Nu? Mah Kara lecha/ lach. Mi acharon b tor? Lama? Di. (uh-oh.  too much information!  brain overload!)
  • And some very good advice:  “Although many people do speak English, my personal show of respect is to not assume the person you are addressing does or wants to speak English. It's nice to ask & not just assume.”

A few people actually suggested “kama zeh oleh?” and variations.  But I have to admit that numbers are my WORST thing, so I really, really hesitate to task how much something is because in my nightmares, I actually get an answer. 

I am planning to be one of these tourists – and then immigrants – who goes to the stores and hands over an undifferentiated wad of bills, trusting the cashiers to get the change at least in the right ballpark.  Just nod when they tell me the number, and everything yihyeh b’seder (will be okay), right?

(my friend Shira says, “it’s okay to hand them a big bill and trust the change if there is a rush.”)

http://www.haolam.co.il/images/ENG_Books/BZ/9812684824.jpgI should mention that in addition to facebook advice, I am also planning to bring along this handy-dandy Berlitz Hebrew Phrase Book & Dictionary.

A few last words of wisdom from my friend Shira:  “A lot of what I understood came by context and body language, even when I only knew half the words.  I also tended to think up what words i might need as I approached something, so they’d be at the top of my mind.  or I’d practice my opening phrase in my mind.  I also wrote down key words sometimes.  Ten years ago I kept a notebook in my pocket, and wrote down any new word I acquired.”

Excellent advice, from a huge range of folks who have btdt.

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