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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. 

Two songs you will hear in Israel before Rosh Hashanah.


It’s beginning to sound a lot like…


If you’re the sort of person who feels bombarded by Xmas carols round about December 5th in North America, you have some sense of what goes on here before the Tishrei festivals (ie, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah).

Some songs are holier than others.  The “secular” ones deal with the passing of seasons and years, while the holy ones are drawn from the Torah, Tanach, Siddur, Machzor, etc.  Both are heard almost everywhere, regardless of whether it’s a religious or secular setting.

And if you are ever out in public when either of these is sung or performed,

The dark side of... the sun (like how it can fade your laundry or kill you).


You may have heard that Israel is a poor country.
It's true.

But one thing we have plenty of here in Israel is sun.

Almost every day, almost all year 'round (except when my sister decided to come for 2 weeks last December).

This is cool for many reasons:
- Hanging laundry outside, where it can dry in hours
- Saving tons of energy with solar water heaters
- Planning outdoor events 10 months of the year without worrying about rain

As my son said when he was here, the boundaries between indoors and outdoors are just more pourous here.  Our "porch" window opens up and suddenly we are outside.  When air conditioning isn't running, people leave their doors open and come and go as they like.

But there is a dark side to all this sun.

The sun is powerful.

You don’t want to mess with the power of the sun.

The same sun that guarantees that all your whites will come off the line whiter than white also guarantees that your reds, oranges and pinks will fade to pink, in less than 24 hours in some cases.

Oh, and it will kill you, like it kills up to 480 Israelis every year.

Converting to Judaism! So when’s Gwyneth Paltrow coming to Israel?

Gwyneth Paltrow - celebrity convert and zionist?

According to the latest internet fooferah, Gwyneth Paltrow is totally getting into her Jewish roots.

The headlines border on sickening.  “Welcome home to the Jewish people, Gwyneth Paltrow!” chimes the Jerusalem Post. 

Why didn’t they give such a hearty welcome to the hundreds of non-celebrity baalei teshuvah and geirim over the last few years?  Or the thousands of new olim to Israel?  Oh, right.  We're not famous. 

(Okay, there are skeptics as well, like one headline that pleads, “Haven’t the Jewish people suffered enough?” and a Reform rabbi who insists that her conversion will confuse people who rely on that movement’s teachings on patrilineal descent.)

In interviews, Gwyneth has said that she wants to raise her children, Apple, 10, and Moses, 8, in a "Jewish environment." She’s also said that she considers herself a "Jewish princess" because of her rabbinical ancestry.

Think all this speculation is trivial? 

I did, when I first saw it. 

I really couldn’t care less about what actors do in their own private spiritual lives… unless it affects me. 

It turns out this does.


Because just a few years ago, Gwyneth and her husband Chris Martin (of the band Coldplay) were

Cultural disconnect: the Bissli light and an unveiling.


Did I mention we don’t have a home phone?

Part of the deal with keeping our Toronto phone number is that we don’t have a landline here.  Between our cellphones and the Toronto phone, I just figured it was enough.  (In a pinch, there’s also Skype, where I have credit to place outgoing phone calls.)

However… there are some good reasons to have a home phone, it turns out.  Like if there’s an Internet outage.

The other night, just as our daughter was getting ready to get on a plane in Toronto, just as I was talking to her on our very stable voice-over-IP phone line – her voice cut out.  There was no click, just silence.  At first, I thought she was miffed; she must have hung up.

But no, there was no phone.  So I checked the plug, made sure everything was working… and sure enough, there was no Internet, either.

We’d broken the Internet.  I unplugged and replugged everything electronic.  No luck.  Rebooted the router.  No luck.

So finally, darn, darn, darn – I called our Internet provider.

The small, sweet mercy of blueberries (and a medical clinic)

Empty medical clinic in Haifa.
It's not always about me.
Sometimes, the hardest things about aliyah are more about the kids.

But then, sometimes life sends small mercies, and I am grateful, even as my heart breaks at what I used to take for granted.

Like English.

My family is sick of hearing me say it by now.  Every time one of them complains about life's mundane annoyances, like bad service from a phone company, or having to deal with some kind of bureaucratic situation, I just keep telling them, "at least it's in English."

(I sure can be annoying sometimes!)

Maybe someone has told you that "all doctors in Israel speak English"?

Lots of people said it to me, both before and after we came.  Reassuring me that at least in the most dire circumstances, you'd be able to get help in a language you understand.  Turns out that in predominantly Russian areas like ours, that's not quite true.

Doctors may have mastered some key medical terminology in English, but their speaking ability is often very limited.

Last year, when GZ hurt his chin, my heart broke for how overwhelming things must have been for him.  In pain, surrounded by doctors and nurses yelling in a language he didn't understand at all.

"Explain to him!" one nurse kept yelling.  "Tell him if he doesn't co-operate, he'll have to go to the hospital."  Yeah, that didn't help, at all.

Whether you're small or big, medical situations can be overwhelming.  But at least if you're an adult, you have some prior experience.  For kids, it's all new and bewildering, in any language.

Even GZ's routine eye appointment back in June was a trial, albeit a less painful one than the chin.

Haveil Havalim, post-Ki Teitzei steamroller edition.


Ever been hit by a steamroller?

No, I haven’t either, don’t worry.

But as a parent sending kids back to school, with all of the shopping and meetings and shlepping that that entails, I have given myself permission to take a couple of weeks off from blogging.

Happily, these other bloggers haven’t quit, so I hope they can bring you up to speed on what’s happening in the world.

I will be back.  Even back-to-school can’t defeat me.


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, just to keep things interesting.  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.



During Tzuk Eitan (Operation Protective Edge), we heard a lot about Israel’s courageous lone soldiers, but not so much from them (because they were probably a bit busy!).  What’s it like being a lone soldier?  Aryeh tells us over at Aryeh Comes Home, in On With the Show.

Speaking of Tzuk Eitan, you’ve probably seen Joan Rivers’ viral and spirited defense of Israel.  If you haven’t yet, you should.  It’s become even more poignant in light of her death last week at 81.  Read all about attorney, columnist and political commentator Debbie Schlussel’s behind-the-scenes meeting with Rivers in Joan Rivers, Proud American, Proud Pro-Israel Jew, Z”L; My Great Meeting w/ Her.