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Trivial pursuit? Humiliating Hebrew fail.


For most people, Shabbos is a time to relax after a crazy week. 

But not for my husband Akiva!  Not since I started challenging myself to read and translate the Hebrew trivia questions at the back of the weekend paper. 

I’m terribly bad at trivia, and Akiva isn’t much better, though he knows almost anything to do with movies.  So naturally, we go at it now every single week. 

I read the questions in Hebrew, translate them the best I can, and he attempts to answer.  Often, the questions are some obscure Israeli thing like “who is Moshav Kipnitzky named after?”  To which he’ll answer “Shmuli Kipnitzky,” which is never the right answer. 

Children’s books by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod – Israeli delivery order page


All prices include shipping within Israel.  If you’re outside of Israel, please buy directly through Amazon.

See below for the full list of books.  However, there are 4 special deals you may be interested in:

  • Jewish Monsters 2-pack ($16)
  • Holiday Animals 2-pack ($15)
  • Hashem’s Amazing World 3-pack ($24)
  • Pick your own 4-pack ($35)

Use this handy gadget to buy, or scroll down for more details.

Select one:
Book / Package Name

Jewish Monsters two-pack:

Chanukah Monsters plus Shabbat Monsters – $16

Holiday Animals two-pack:

Penguin Rosh Hashanah plus Panda Purim – $15

Hashem’s Amazing World three-pack:

Zoom! A Trip to the Moon, Baby! Life Before Birth and Buzz! A Teeny Tiny World - $24

Pick your own 4-pack:

Any four books listed below – $35

Individual Books:

Most illustrated, 8.5”x8.5” square full-colour paperbacks are $10 each.  Smaller books are priced individually.

61O09qGXuLL._AA160_  Captain Steve:  A story of coming home - $10
61Laci0ry L._UY250_ Elijah and the Priests of Baal - $10
519K-KF5SYL._AA160_ Ezra’s Aliyah - $8

Hashem’s Amazing World:  Baby!  Life before birth - $10


Hashem’s Amazing World:  Buzz!  A teeny tiny world - $10


Hashem’s Amazing World:  Zoom! A trip to the moon - $10


Hashem Never Forgets - $8

61Oxah rt9L._AA160_

Holiday Animals:  Panda Purim - $8


Holiday Animals:  Penguin Rosh Hashanah - $8


Jewish Monsters:  Chanukah Monsters - $10


Jewish Monsters:  Shabbat Monsters - $10


The Marror Man (b&w interior, fully illustrated) - $8

41gJkDxw PL._AA160_

Naomi Shemer: Teaching Israel to Sing (b&w interior, short chapter book) - $6


No Santa! (b&w interior, chapter book) – $8


One Chanukah Night - $10


The Seven Day Manuscript Machine:  Edit your children’s book to perfection in under a week - $10

514E KQUJzL._AA160_

Seven Special Gifts - $8


We Didn’t Have an Etrog! - $10


What Maya Wants to Be - $8

Weird, Wacky, Wonderful (Hebrew) Words: Kedai / כְּדָאִי vs Kedei / כְּדֵי


Meet the word kedai.  It’s one of my favourites.

Here it is:  כְּדָאִי

(say it – ke-DIE, like as in when a person dies)

This has got to be one of the most subtle, flexible words in the Hebrew language.

Part of its beauty is that it doesn’t have an exact translation.  Morfix says it means, “it is worthwhile, feasible.”  It’s probably true, but believe me, kedai gets a lot more use than those English words ever have.

Every time someone says that Israelis are all aggressive and in your face, lacking any semblance of subtlety, a kedai loses its wings and falls to the floor in a coma.  To Israelis, kedai is the essence of subtlety and tact.

If you want to suggest that it’s better to do something – it’s kedai.

If you prefer one option over another – it’s kedai.

Haveil Havalim, the Vayishlach Venture


Welcome!  If you’ve never been to the Haveil Havalim party before, you’re in for a treat.

What is HH?

imageIt’s a weekly roundup of what’s new and great in the Jewish / Israel blogging world.  I host once a month to give you a taste of what other great blogs are out there that you might enjoy.  Hopefully, you’ll find some new favourites.

It’s been a quiet week for Haveil Havalim, but there’s still lots going on.  I’ll let all these terrific posts speak for themselves.

Oh – and what about this picture of otters? 

Just a friendly reminder that if post(s) of yours are included here, you “otter” be sociable and visit some of the other blogs listed here.  Leave a comment to let them know you came from HH!

Inside Israel…

Following a stabbing last week at the Rami Levy supermarket in Mishor Adumim, Jacob Richman says it’s important to keep shopping there.  He says, “if you really want to see what peaceful co-existence is all about, go do your shopping at Rami Levy in Mishor Adumim,” in Shopping at Rami Levi in Mishor Adumim.

Varda Meyers Epstein agrees, and shares the lousy turnout in her local Gush Etzion Rami Levy store at Israelly Cool in Thursday night and the shopping is easy, where she praises owner Rami Levy himself, saying he’s “committed to hiring workers irrespective of race, creed, or nationality.”

Varda also wonders if the current Knesset bill defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people really does threaten Israeli democracy like its opponents say it does, in Israel As The Nation State Of The Jewish People Or Things That Make Me Cross.  She says, “There is a long list of national flags that depict crosses but only one with a Jewish star.”

Seasons (don’t) change: 10 ways you’ll know it’s winter here in Israel.


Israelis love to make a big deal of the seasons changing.  Heck, you can even drive up to the northern Galil and Golan to see colourful leaves on trees.

But I’m not buying it.  It’s all just an act.

As far as I’m concerned, there are exactly two seasons here:  good weather and hot weather.

We’re in good weather right now.  I feel like a human being, as opposed to a wrung-out sponja mop.

Nevertheless, Israelis insist on referring to the bit from November to February as winter.  They walk around shivering and kvetching about the cold.  This is disorienting, because if I close my eyes, it could be any season. 

I hope this Top Ten list will help you orient yourself when it comes to figuring out if it’s winter.

Top ten ways you’ll know it’s winter here in Israel:

Things that are weird in Israel #12: Xmas (that means Christmas)


If there’s anywhere the Grinch LOVES at this time of year, it’s got to be the Jewish state… right?


More than 2% of Israelis are Christian, about 161,000 people.  That’s about the same as the proportion of Jews in the United States, although it depends on how you’re counting. 

But it’s not just Israelis.  Beyond that 2%, there are about 300,000 “foreign workers” in Israel, which includes many, many Catholics from the Philippines.  (I also believe that many olim from the former Soviet Union are “secretly” Christian, which would bump the numbers way up beyond the official government tally.)

Anyway, considering this country is the birthplace of Christmas, it’s usually given pretty short shrift.  (A Christian word, by the way, meaning “confession.”)

Would I be a bad Israeli, a bad Jew, if I admit that it feels like there’s something missing here in December?  Don’t worry, I’m not pining for the malls and Santas of years past.  But it’s definitely different.

Which was why I was unexpectedly thrilled when I stumbled upon this colourful display outside a supermarket in the heart of Haifa. 


No snow in sight, but at least Frosty is putting in an appearance.

Learn more Hebrew… with Morfix’s “English Sentence of the Day?”


Want to improve your Hebrew?

Morfix (my favourite Hebrew dictionary) has this cool feature I noticed not long ago:  English Sentence of the Day.

It’s meant for Israelis learning English, and it teaches one new English sentence every single day.

But!  Since you and I already know English, the site can help us, instead, figure out how to say some of our favourite English things in genuine Hebrew words.

Today’s expression, for example, is “without further ado.”  A very handy thing in either language.

In Hebrew, the site says, this means “ללא דיחוי, מִיָּדִית” (lelo dichui; miyadeet).  The first means “without delay” and the second means “immediately.”  This also tells me, then, that there’s no exact translation.

A few days ago, the expression was “to get under one’s skin.”

Israel’s cheap coffee obsession: 5 shekels, fixed price!


Do you know how much 5 shekels is worth these days?

Not much.  About $1.46 Canadian; $1.29 US.

Which probably explains why this is Israel’s favourite new price tag for coffee and other edibles.

Five-shekel obsession started in the centre of the country, but it’s spreading out, propelled by chains like cofix – the original five-shekel fixed-price coffee joint.


Before cofix, Israel’s reigning coffee-bar champ was probably Aroma.  I like the idea of Aroma more than I like the place itself, and I don’t love their icekaffe, the basic coffee slushie that every coffee chain carries.

The one thing you must know about Aroma is that it’s expensive.  You’ll pay maybe 15-20nis for an icekaffe, and any of their other chilly or warm delicacies (served with their signature mini chocolate bar on the side).

Then, along came cofix.

Wanna see something cool? (hint: it's a book, but it's not by me)

Welcome Home:  My First Six Months Living in Israel, by Akiva Teddy MacLeod

Know what this is?

It’s a book.  But more importantly, it’s OUR book.  Well… I will actually bow out here and admit that it’s my husband’s book.  All I did was edit the thing and write an intro. 

It’s like the difference between being a midwife and actually giving birth yourself.  The lines get blurred a little; you’re both exhausted and covered in goop by the end of the process, but ultimately, I must hand the credit back to him.

Here’s the book description:

How do you write a book about something as momentous as moving to Israel? One Facebook post, one bus ride, one limonana at a time.
In this remarkable journal of one family's transition to a new land, you'll see the daily side of the holy land revealed for all its laughter and tears.

9 mind-blowing quotes you’ve never heard about Israel and aliyah.


What is the world saying about Israel??  Those who are brave enough to admit the truth are saying exactly what they’ve said all along. 

Here are 9  quotes, arranged from oldest to newest.

  1. “The Jew - is the symbol of eternity. ... He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear.” – Leo Tolstoy, 1908 (read the full quote here)
  2. "The road to national rebirth is a hard one, but there is no other.” – Aaron David (A.D.) Gordon, 1920 (read more quotes here)
  3. “I had faith in Israel before it was established; I have faith in it now.” – Harry Truman, 1948

What You Must Know: Purchasing And Selling Real Estate In Israel


I get asked about real estate surprisingly often given that I know nothing.  So I’m sharing this guest post by a lawyer who knows all the ins and outs of Israeli real estate market.

Since laws change quickly, please don’t take this as legal advice.  Check everything you’re not sure about with your own lawyer before you make any major decisions.  Except the decision to read this article, of course.  You have my permission to do that without consulting a lawyer.  :-)


This article is the first of two that will cover the various aspects of buying real estate in Israel. The first article will provide a general overview of the Israeli real estate system, the major differences between transactions in Israel and the United States, and the most important considerations in such a transaction. The second article will cover special issues when the property is new and being bought from the contractor, and also taxation associated with purchasing and selling property in Israel.


What type of property are you buying?

“each type of land involves a slightly different purchase process”

There are two types of property in Israel: privately-owned (private land) and state-owned property administered by the Israel Lands Administration ("Minhal"). Private real property, like in the U.S., is owned by the buyer with title vesting in him. Land is registered in the land registry (Tabu) under the name of the buyer. On the other hand, title to Minhal property does not pass to the purchaser. Instead, the buyer gets a long-term lease to the property which is usually for 49 years with an option for an additional 49 years. Over 80% of the land in Israel is Minhal land, so the buyer should not be deterred from buying it. However, private land is often viewed as preferable. As each type of land involves a slightly different purchase process, one of the first things to check is whether the property is private or Minhal.


Choosing an agent

Uncommon beauty: Haifa’s Technion campus.


Sometimes, asking “where’s the most beautiful place in Israel?” feels a bit like asking, “what’s the most beautiful callus on your feet?”  The answer’s obvious:  there isn’t one.

Call me a snob, but I’m Canadian.  I can’t help it:  Canada is breathtaking.  Just driving down the highway from Toronto to Ottawa, nowhere special, you pass through forests so primordially green that they can make you weep.  Not to mention British Columbia and the Rocky mountains (oops, I just mentioned them).

Israel, by contrast, has some nice bits.  I don’t mean to suggest that it doesn’t.  But it also has a heck of a lot of stretches that look pretty much like this:


The bleakness is not awe-inspiring.  For the most part, it’s just kind of scruffy and, well… dull.

So when I find beauty, even a scrap of it – by which I mean the slightest expanse of green – I fall in love.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote in his book Cat’s Cradle, “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”  (Click here to view/share this graphic via Facebook.)


Today’s travel suggestion came in the form of a meeting at the Technion, Israel’s premier university of technology.  It’s also the country’s oldest university (founded in 1912, though they didn’t start actually having classes until over a decade later, so I’m not sure it counts).

And my “dancing lesson” came in the form of discovering a jewel in the middle of Haifa’s occasionally “meh” landscape.  (Okay, yes, Haifa is built on a very steep mountain range and that in itself is cool and kind of awesome to look at.  But many parts of the city are scruffy at best, even if it is starting to grow on me, a little.)

Picking an Israel-friendly name for your Jewish baby.


Quick!  Think of the first three Hebrew names that come to mind.

Maybe Sara?  Rivka?  Or, for a boy, Aharon or Daniel?  Uri or Riva?

Lots of Jews outside of Israel are looking for either an edgier or more contemporary Israeli name, like Eitan or Ma’ayan, Alon or Ariel (for a girl or boy), Gil or Carmi.

Having had a lot of Jewish kids (okay, four) of my own, I thought I knew a lot about Hebrew and Jewish names.  And I was pleased that we had picked names that would “fit in,” Naomi (NR) and Gavriel (GZ), both slightly traditional but modern enough (I thought).

Turns out I know nothing.

Nothing in North America could have prepared me for the deluge of real, modern Israeli names.

The most popular name in GZ’s class is “Nehorai” (נְהוֹרַאי) a name I had never, ever heard before. 

Am I bilingual yet? Kind of. Sort of. A little.


How’s your Hebrew?

Are you  hoping to become bilingual once you get to Israel?  You might… but it might not be what you expect, once you get there.

Being bilingual has, frankly, been a bit of a letdown.

Before we came, I wondered how long it would take to become “fully bilingual” in Hebrew.  People even say “fully bilingual,” like there’s some kind of test for bilinguality.  Like only 100% will do.

Having been here for a year, having done well in ulpan, I have to confess:  I don’t believe in “being” bilingual anymore. 

Haveil Havalim, the Vayeira Version


Welcome!  It’s well and truly Cheshvan now, “bitter” with the mixed blessing of wind and rain and all kinds of deliciously wild weather whooshing around me.  I’m going to reuse the banner I made last week for this post because I love it so much, and I made it, so I can do that.

If you’ve never been to the Haveil Havalim party before, you’re in for a treat.

What is HH?

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

As the host, I get to break the posts up into categories.  So much fun!

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


If I forget thee (Jerusalem)

therealjerusalemstreets, in her usual poetic style, on Highs and Lows Felt in Jerusalem:  “Real Jerusalem Streets is not just about the good stuff, / but what is really happening. / On days like this it is hard to know where to start / and what to post, there is so much to say.”

Reading your bills, paying your bills: three simple steps for staying afloat in Israel.


Want to have a fun Monday evening? 

Curl up with a great big pile of bills.  Well, not curl up exactly, but when Nefesh b'Nefesh offered a workshop called “How to Read Your Bills,” I figured I should probably head into town for it.

This workshop should be standard issue for all new olim.  But if you pay attention in Ulpan and learn as much Hebrew as you can, you’ll be arming yourself with the most important tool for staying ahead of your bills.

Three simple steps

According to the speaker (a lawyer and longtime olah), the top three priorities for olim when receiving a bill are figuring out:

How to help Israel: share its stories – with kids.


Does your Judaism include Israel?

Are you sharing it with your kids?  If not, you should.

I’ve been Jewish for a while, but I’ll honestly admit: for most my life, being Jewish didn’t include Israel, at least, not all that much.  Israel was more of a presence in the background than a daily thing for me.

If you don’t live here, you probably have a million reasons not to spend much time thinking about Israel:

  • it’s so far away
  • its history is too complex to think about
  • its politics are too convoluted to have an opinion about
  • it’s a difficult and dangerous place to live
  • it’s boring
  • Hebrew is a hard language to learn
  • it’s full of religious people
  • it’s full of non-religious / anti-religious people
  • it has nothing to do with me

All of the above – I’ve learned, now that I live here – are both true and untrue, by the way, which is part of what makes this place most fascinating.

If you have kids, your attitudes about Israel will rub off.  But even if you’re still wrestling with it yourself, they can still receive a good, solid Israel education.  I sent my kids to a religious Zionist day school, which helped take care of some of the issues in  my own list.

Choosing books that share the realities of Israel and its history in an honest way is also essential. 

Coming true


Quick, fill in the blanks!

A bird ___.

A ____ surfs.

The travellers ___.

We eat ____.

The players play the ____.

In English, nouns and verbs have their own separate lives.  Sometimes they intersect (“a surfer surfs” “a traveller travels” “the players play” “a guard guards”), and sometimes, they don’t (“a bird flies” “we eat food” “the players play the game”).

In Hebrew, the two are closer together and far more flexible than in English.   Where in English, they’re always conjugated slightly differently, in Hebrew, nouns and verbs are often completely interchangeable.  For example:

  • השומר שומר / hashomer shomer = the guard guards
  • הגולש גולש על הגולש / hagolesh golesh al ha golesh = the surfer surfs (on the surfboard)
  • הנוסעים נוסעים / hanosim nosim = the travellers travel
  • הוא אוכל אוכל / hoo o-CHEL O-chel (same spelling, slightly different emphasis) = he eats food
  • המשחקים משחקים במשחקים / hamesachakim mesachakim ba-mischakim (same spelling, slightly different pronunciation) = the players play the games

But today I realized there’s one example where English is more flexible.  There is no verb in Hebrew (that I know of, which isn’t saying much!) for “to rain.”

Buying a computer in Israel? Don’t shop without this guide! (with Hebrew/English glossary)


Do you use a computer?  (If not, how are you reading this???) 

If you do, then sooner or later, you’re going to need a new one. 

I hope I don’t sound unpatriotic when I say that it is better by far to buy a computer in North America.   You’ll get name-brand systems for a lower price with more options and software included in the basic price.  Plus, you’ll be able to read all about those options in a language you understand – a huge plus.

But never fear!  With the information in this guide, you will have at least some of the tools you need to buy a new one here.

My husband’s laptop finally quit the other day.  It’s been showing signs of dying, which is actually great, because he’d gotten nervous and backed everything up.

(It was for exactly this reason, we’re told, that Yitzchak davened for illness before his death.  A midrash says that before this, people – like many computers today – simply dropped dead when their allotted time was up.)

So we had some advance notice of the tragic event.  And we decided to replace it with a desktop which will give him room to spread out while he works and more of the semblance of an office at his little corner desk (me, I’m hooked on writing on my laptop – on trains, buses and anywhere I find myself!).

Decision made:  now, all we had to do was pick one.

Now, I am not a computer newbie.  I used to run a computer centre for seniors.  I sourced and ordered all the computers, a server, outfitted and basically ran the network for an entire office.  I have done server maintenance, network and firewall setup, hardware repairs and more.  I wouldn’t set myself up as a computer professional, but I basically know what I’m doing. 

Did I mention that I have taught workshops on how to buy a computer?  I’ve done this buying-a-computer thing before – hundreds of times.


(I bought every single piece of hardware in this picture… and yes, that’s me at the front telling everyone how to use it all.)

So I figured it would be easy.  Maybe even fun.

As always, however, things are different in Israel.  It has not been easy, or fun, so far.  And I thought it would be helpful to share some of what I’ve learned along the way. 

I hope it will help anyone else who’s diving into this kinda-major purchase, along with a few of the pitfalls ion each category.  Since we were buying a desktop computer, that’s what I’ve written about here.  If you’re buying a laptop, some of these points may not always apply.

Basic terminology.

In each section below, I’ll include relevant Hebrew terms.

Basic words that are useful to know: 

  • מַחְשֵׁב / machshev = computer
  • מחשב נייח / machshev nayach = desktop computer
  • מחשב נייד  / machshev nayad = portable computer (people also say לפטופ / laptop)
  • חָמְרָה / chamra = hardware
  • תָּכְנָה / tachna = software
  • כולל / kolel = includes, as in “does this computer include a mouse?”
  • לא כלול / lo kalul = not included
  • ללא / l’lo = not included
  • גִּ'יגָה/ jigga = Giga; in Hebrew, the “G” is bafflingly soft
  • מַאֲרָז/ ma’araz = case, if you’re buying a desktop.  Matters not at all.
  • משלוח / mishloach or משלוחים / mishlochim = delivery
  • שִׁדְרוּג  / shidrug = upgrade.  Many will be on offer.
  • אַחְרָיוּת / achrayut = warranty.  Very, very important!


Computer systems never include a monitor. 

This is true outside of Israel as well.  But there, we were always well-connected enough to score a free monitor of some kind.  For a few years, it seemed we were drowning in them… but here, we had to buy one. 

When Hebrew isn’t Hebrew.


How’s your Hebrew?


Well, mine isn’t.  Mine’s still at the kindergarten-baby level.

Every Shabbos, I challenge myself to plow through the free Hebrew newspaper (my husband sticks with the Jerusalem Post in English). 

Before you ask, I don’t know or care what the ideological slant of the paper is.  Being politically dumb, I can barely figure this out with newspapers in English, let alone in a foreign language. 

I also – in case you care - allow myself to skip the Sports section, just as I would in English.  To make up for it, I double up on the “Trivia,” torturing my husband with such translated doozies as, “who captains Manchester United?” “who discovered Australia?” “which actor was in… something something Cats?” (Samuel L. Jackson, in case you’re wondering) and “who… somethinged the… something?”

But it turns out Hebrew is not entirely foreign.  The article above is a pretty typical example (if only I had taken a better picture and you could actually see it).  In the first paragraph alone, the writer has used the following “Hebrew” words:

  • ריסטארט / restart
  • אנרגיה / energia (energy)
  • טריגר / trigger
  • דיאטה / dieta (diet)

These English / Latinate intrusions probably make it harder to learn Hebrew if your first language is something like Amharic, but for me, if I can make the word out, it’s a nice familiar “twinkle” in the middle of a tough paragraph.

That said, it’s all well and good when the English words you’re bringing into the language are nouns,

Haveil Havalim, Yom Kippur / Sukkot Edition


It’s been a quiet week… go figure; we’ve all been quite busy doing other stuff.  But bloggers that we are, we are still blogging, and here’s a roundup of what’s new and great this week in the Jewish blog world.

What is HH?

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

  • Last week’s was hosted by Ya’aqov at Esser Agoroth.
  • The next two weeks’ carnivals may or may not happen due to Sukkot.
  • For more details, a complete schedule of future issues or to host an upcoming issue, please join the HH facebook group.

Usually, I split up the links into arbitrary categories, but since there were so few entries this week, each blogger gets his/her own heading – for want of something more creative.  Enjoy!

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


Look at the Flowers Lizzie:

Over at her new-to-me blog, Sharon shares a glimpse of Rosh HaShanah through the eyes of a social phobic, saying, “it’s all baby steps” in Rosh HaShanah: Pride.

Black crocheted kippah, on judgment.

Black crocheted kippah.

The guy across from me on the train, here in the reserved car, is davening.  He holds a big siddur, mouths the words under his breath, with passion.  Expertly, the way Israelis do.

He doesn’t have to daven, of course.  There are dozens of people on the train, all around him, who aren’t davening.  Turning on their laptops, listening to music.  Even with the kippah, they might just assume he davened earlier, at home or at shul. 

Still, no big deal.  He has a ring in his nose, a little silver loop.  A heavy silver-and-onyx ring on the middle finger of his left hand, and an ostentatiously chunky men’s watch on his left hand.  Another fine silvery ring pierces the cartilage of his left ear.