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Things that are cool in Israel #5: School Uniforms


I used to not believe in uniforms.

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

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

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

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

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

Jewish girls in Scottish kilts

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

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

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

Israel has a slightly different take on school uniforms.

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


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


What the heck is Defa Lucy?

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

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

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

DSC_0009  DSC_0011

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

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


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

The word happy comes up a lot.

Are your shekels real, or have you been hoodwinked?



Apparently, there’s some holy counterfeiting going on here in the Holy Land. 

I quite literally had no idea until I handed the bakery lady a ten-shekel coin today, and she quickly shook her head and said “מזויף” / mezuyaf… “it’s fake.”

“How do you know?” I asked her. 

She shrugged and pulled out a real ₪10 coin.  “Just look at it.”

I did… and couldn’t tell the difference, at all.

Apparently, I’m rather late to the game (what else is new?) and this has been going on for years.  I found some tips on detecting fakes on this Hebrew site, as well as a bunch of English sites.  Here are a few guidelines.

Two things that are definitely not “us.” Thing #2.


Thing #1 is a hard decision we made last night, late at night, in Tzfat, over yummy Asian food:  we’re putting the children back in school. 

(As a family who loves homeschooling, that’s a tough decision.  I’ve decided to keep posts about homeschooling over at my other blog, and if you’re interested, you can read about why we won’t be homeschooling in Israel this year.)

Thing #2 is Tzfat.

So why is Tzfat not “us”?

I wanted to say it’s not “me,” but my husband has graciously gone along with me on this.

Tzfat is a wonderful city, and we both adore it.  We met it first on our pilot trip, but I’d heard tons about it before that from all the travellers who’d been there and raved.  This included my mother and just about every woman from our shul. 

Women love this place, I must warn you.

(Men do, too, but for some reason, women love to come back to North America and talk about it non-stop.)

What’s so special about Tzfat?


But “special” can be both a good and a bad thing.

My unofficial motto for the city is:

Tzfat:  No Rules Apply.

Giving Birth in Shaarei Zedek Hospital of Jerusalem, Israel (a guest post)


Thinking of having kids in Israel?

It’s okay if you’re not.  Lots of people make aliyah before they even get married; others come long after their kids have grown up and left home.  (See When is the Right Time to make Aliyah?  Any time is the right time.)

But if you are thinking you may have kids here, read on.

I had all four of my children in Canada, two with conventional hospital births and two with home births assisted by a midwife.   So no sabras for me.

But I’ve always been fascinated by childbirth alternatives, especially those committed to empowering women and helping them make sane choices.  And I’ve always loved and supported the (hard, and often thankless) work of doulas and midwives. 

I’m thrilled to find out that there are some good ones learning and working in all parts of Israel.

This guest post was written by Chana Katzman, a doula currently working in Jerusalem, who offers her perspective on just one of the many possibilities for childbirth in Israel:

More pregnant women choose to give birth in Shaarei Zedek hospital, Jerusalem, than any other hospital in Israel. They must be doing something mothers like.

In 2012, there were more than 15,000 births in Shaarei Zedek. This figure does not include any births related to their taking over the management of Bikur Cholim hospital in late December 2012.

“…the more caesareans a woman has had, the greater the risk of complications in subsequent pregnancies and deliveries…”

In 2013, the combined total of the two locations under their management was over 20,000 births! On average, there were 41 births a day in Shaarei Zedek alone, not including Bikur Cholim.

Shaarei Zedek's magazine reports that the cesarean rate in 2013 was 11%.

Still alien? Passing the one year mark.

small alien

I did an experiment this morning.

I woke up, stretched etc as usual.  And then thought to myself, “I’m waking up… in Israel.”


“Here we are… in our apartment… in Israel.”

Nope.  No response.

I guess I was trying to shock myself back into feeling the newness of it… except it really isn’t new anymore.

Last Wednesday was our “aliyahversary.”

If aliyah was a baby, we’d have been blowing out candles, feeding it cake.

It might be taking its first steps by now.

Free-BEE! Free Kindle book on


My favourite price in the world:  free.  And my favourite thing in the world:  a kids’ book.  (Yes, one of mine.)

I don’t usually cross-post, but in this case, I’m making an exception so I can get the word out across all my sites:

Please Like, Share and pass along this deal.  FREE UNTIL AUGUST 14 ONLY!

Learn a little about Israel's modern history and its most beloved songwriter in this short kids' chapter book! This week (Aug 10-14), my book "Naomi Shemer: Teaching Israel to Sing" is FREE for Kindle.


I started writing this book when my daughter, named after Naomi Shemer, was a baby… but only finished it last year, when she was 8.  A long time in the making, but I think it’s worth every second.  (And I loved reading it to her and telling her about the amazing lady for whom she’s named.

Acclaimed in her lifetime as the "First Lady of Israeli Song" and the author of unforgettable classics like Jerusalem of Gold (Yerushalayim shel Zahav), Naomi Shemer is almost unknown in the English-speaking world. With its engaging, straighforward narrative, this book opens the world of Naomi Shemer for the first time to English-speaking children and their parents. Come find out what made her special.

(I'd also love to get some reviews up, so if you and your kids read/enjoy it, please leave an honest review to help others.)

Here are some shots from the paperback version of the book:

image image image



Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

My sometimes-wonderful personal translator: Google Translate.


I couldn’t have made aliyah without Google Translate.

If your Hebrew (like mine), isn’t perfect, then you’ll probably come to love it, too.

But you can’t count on Google Translate at all.  If you rely on it 100%, you’ll come out sounding like a moron.

The best way I’ve found to test Google Translate’s abilities is to feed a sentence into it in English, translate it to Hebrew, and then feed the Hebrew back into it, translating it into English again.

Like with the first sentence of this post:

I couldn’t have made aliyah without Google Translate.

And here’s how it comes out when you feed it through this way:

I could not do without immigration Google Translate.

It not only sounds nonsensical, but the meaning is almost the opposite of what I intended.

Partly, that happens because I used a double negative.  Double negatives work a little differently in Hebrew.  Not only are they not a problem – sometimes, they’re the only way to get your point across.

“Nobody” is technically af echad / אף אחד.  But if you want to say “I didn’t see anybody,” you’d say lo ra’iti af echad / לא ראיתי אף אחד, which technically means “I didn’t see nobody.”

So the number-one trick of using Google Translate to get your meaning across is to eliminate double negatives and simplify your language as much as possible.

Haveil Havalim, a way-late but not waylaid blog carnival for Parshat Devarim


I signed up to do this… and then things got busy.

Good-busy.  But busy. 

So I’m going to slap this thing together and hope nobody notices it’s slapped together.

What is HH, anyway?

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

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

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


Literally awesome ancient historical places

Some say that Shiloh is the second-holiest place in Judaism, based on the fact that the mishkan (tabernacle) rested there longer than in any other place in our history.  Tons of participants got together there for the 3rd annual Kenes Shiloh, and Batya of Shiloh Musings was there reporting on it.