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Gift ideas for friends and family in Israel? Look no further!


How dumb is this post topic?  Who writes about gift-giving in January?

Right.  Yay!  Can you see my hand up, waving proudly, from all the way over here?

If I was a better, smarter blogger, more interested in dollar signs (and shekel symbols), I would have posted this in December.  Hmm… guess not.

And I could save it for December 2015, but really…?  The way my brain works, it’ll never happen if I put it off.

Anyway, I’m reminded of gifts today because our winter-holiday-seasonal gift arrived from Akiva’s sister in Canada. 

She mailed it on November 24th, and today it is January 27, so that’s a little over 2 months.  And I’m not saying what it cost to mail.  We’ll open it when the kids are home from school, and I can’t wait to see what’s inside.

So that’s one kind of gift.  Don’t get me wrong.  One of the highlights of living here is GETTING STUFF.  I love receiving packages.  Our local post office knows us well and I’m sure they have our number on speed-dial.

But there are other ways to send something special that feel just as “gifty” without breaking the bank on postage charges.

Giving or getting gifts to and from Israel can be a huge challenge, which calls for a little creativity.

Try an “intangible” gift that won’t take up space

If you’re in Israel and want to send gifts back to North America… (if you’re sending the other way, read on anyway)

Instead of buying something bulky and overpriced in Israel and paying more than you spent on the gift to ship it to North America or Europe, think about "intangibles" you can buy and ship for nearly free.

Some good ideas:

The mighty “drowning in English books” book sale – buy these books for ₪10 each!


Most of our reading is in ebook form these days, but on Shabbos, we still have to have REAL books to read.  Somehow, over the last 18 months or so, this has added up to a LOT of books. 

IMG_00005842I’m asking ₪10 per book, but if you want more than one, feel free to make an offer.  ANY offer, seriously.

This is a whole hodge-podge, not just Jewish books.  I hope you’ll find something you’re looking for on the list.

Within Israel, I will send you the book(s) of your choice PLUS the cost of mailing (I have a scale here; email me and I’ll weigh the ones you want and calculate postage).

Local meetup is 5nis in the Haifa/Krayot region, at central meeting spots including the Kiryon and Lev Hamifratz.  (If you can get to Kiryat Yam/Kiryat Shmuel, I’ll hand you your books for free.)

Here’s the entire list, sorted by title.  All titles are paperback unless otherwise noted.  Most are in good used condition.  If you see a book here and it’s not crossed out, it’s still available.  Feel free to ask about any individual book.

Two great new reviews for “Welcome Home” – my husband’s aliyah book.


I was shocked to see my husband’s aliyah book, Welcome Home:  My first six months living in Israel was getting lukewarm, and okay, a couple of frankly BAD reviews on Amazon.

There are some great ones, but some people sounded really disappointed.  Here’s why:  people expect books on Israel and aliyah to be Very, Very Serious books.

This is NOT a Very, Very Serious book.

If you want an Israel or aliyah book that’s going to reinforce your choices without laying some kind of heavy philosophical or spiritual trip on you, then you’ll probably enjoy his book, too. 

Have you told your kids about shemittah?

image from the children's book Sharing Shmittah, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

You might know already that here in Israel, this is a shemittah year.

Shemittah is the 7th year of a 7-year cycle found in the Torah, and all year long, Torah-observant farmers aren't working their crops in the usual way.  Yet thanks to a few modern loopholes, many of us, even here, are just buying fruits and vegetables the normal way.

I've been studying shemittah for the last couple of months with a wonderful group of KShmu ladies, using a book called (surprisingly enough!) Shemitah, by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon.  (There are lots of ways to spell Shemittah!)

If you live in Israel, your kids may find out about shemittah in school if they’re old enough.  But for younger kids, there’s not really any way to find out what it’s all about (at least, not that I could find). 

When I lived outside of Israel, I knew nothing about it… let alone knowing enough to share some of the main ideas with my kids.  We read about it when we read the weekly parsha, and that was that.

The laws of modern shemittah observance can be complicated and daunting for adults, but it really does boil down to a few simple principles.  And my favourite thing to do once I’ve learned something, is to turn around and find a way to transform it into a kids’ book.

So I’ve taken some of what I’ve learned, from Rabbi Rimon’s book and other sources, and turned it into a short, sweet rhyming song. 

(think, "This is the way we wash our hands..." but with a few fun poetic twists and turns)

Here’s the result… a little book called Sharing Shmittah, a “learn-along” song for the whole family.
Cover from the children's book Sharing Shmittah, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

Ready to work: finding your first job in Israel.


What’s stopping you from making aliyah?

Maybe it’s the thought of having to find a job here in Israel.  If so, I don’t blame you.  It’s very, very scary having to start over again in another country.

Close your eyes and think about work.  What do you picture yourself doing?  Maybe it’s more of the same – exactly what you’re doing now – or maybe it’s something completely different.

I haven’t written much about looking for work here so far.  Why?  I’ll be honest:  I feel unqualified.  Maybe because I don’t have a job myself, but also because so much depends on what kind of work you do.  (If you’re a writer, specializing in articles and blog posts in English, or in children’s books, then let’s talk.)

Your experience will depend on whether you’re a doctor, English teacher, hairdresser, yoga teacher, graphic artist, or… well, you get the picture.

But I’ve certainly talked to enough olim and potential olim to have a sense of what things are like.  So I’ve put together five questions you can ask yourself that will definitely make finding a job easier once you’ve landed in Israel.

What about finding a job first?

This has got to be the biggest question for many olim – their dream of hitting the ground running. 

How can you have a job lined up the minute you arrive? 

Things that are weird in Israel # 14: Worms (vs Snails, and which you’d rather step on after rain).


Further to my coverage of the brink-of-disaster weather reports last week… this being winter, we did indeed have some weather.  Blue skies now, and the sun’s shining, but I admit, it’s been a rainy few days.

It occurred to me a couple of weeks ago what’s missing here in this rainy season.  I took a whole bunch of pictures before I came to my senses and realized that you were never in a million years going to guess based on a random picture of a puddle.

Still.  Try to forget you saw the headline up above and tell me what’s missing from this random little Kiryat Shmuel puddle:


Weird Wild Whimsical (Hebrew) Words: Sneef / סְנִיף


What’s the strangest word in the Hebrew language?  I’m totally open to your vote(leave it in the Comments!), but to my North American ears, it’s got to be the word “sneef.”

It means “branch,” as in a branch of a store, of the post office, or of anything else that has different locations. 

You can go to the sneef ha-doar, your local post office branch, a sneef of one of the many active youth movements like Bnei Akiva, or a sneef of your favourite (kosher) McDonald’s.  (Their website will even help you locate a kosher sneef.)

To Israelis, it makes perfect sense.  But to me, it sounds like something Dr. Seuss made up.  Or maybe that’s Sneetches?

Apparently, the word has an illustrious history, and actually comes from the gemara (Talmud). 

In the description of the shulchan,

Israel’s best-kept secret (shhh): Fridays.


One thing we knew for sure before we came to Israel – there’s no weekend here.  When Shabbos ends, you roll over and start the week all over again, fresh and raring to go on Sunday morning.

“Nope, no weekend here,” everybody here told us, and we felt sorry for them.  We gritted our teeth in preparation for this dismal, weekend-less state. 

“Enjoy it now,” we told ourselves every Sunday we were still in Canada… well, except every other week, when Akiva had to work those late Saturday nights and long, long Sundays (because only half the staff was on, there was often more than twice the workload). 

But never mind.  Enjoy it now, we thought, because in Israel, there would be no more weekends!

So here’s the thing no-one tells you (shhh!). 

Things that are weird in Israel #13: Winter


Welcome to winter in Israel!  I have to start by saying that some places here are warmer than others.  Where we live, we don’t really get “winter” at all.  Other parts, like Yerushalayim, are significantly colder, and may actually get snow. 

I don’t think it’s ever snowed here (but it probably has, in some freakish event before the modern State of Israel).

That said, winter stops Israelis in their tracks like nothing else.  Literally nothing else.  In the face of war and terrorism, Israel is undaunted.  In the face of two inches of snow, nothing gets through.

“Getting ready for snow!!!!” shouted the headline in last Friday’s paper.  Okay, I’ve added the exclamation points.   “This picture, from the blizzard of last winter, may repeat itself around the middle of next week.  Forecasters:  “Expect a meaningful winter system.”  Weekend:  cold and rainy.”

“Is snow on its way to Jerusalem?” the article begins, tantalizingly. 

Review: SANDEMAN’S New Jerusalem Free Old City Walking Tour


I can’t get over how wonderful it is living in Israel and NOT being a tourist here.    I still rant about it sometimes, in my head, how utterly amazing it is that we get to wake up here Every Single Day.

But… sometimes, a tourist is exactly what you want to be.

When you live somewhere, usually nobody tells you what’s what.  You’re on your own to figure stuff out.

Of course, that was true back in Toronto as well.  I would have been annoyed if someone had pointed out famous landmarks like Casa Loma or the CN Tower every time we went past them.  Plus, back there, there are plenty of “personal landmarks,” places that mean a lot to me but not necessarily other people – like the hospital where my brother & sisters were born, which I wave to every time I drive past.

Here, the opposite is sometimes true.  We have almost no history here, and people assume I know stuff because I’m Israeli (now) when, in some cases, I totally do not. 

The truth is that when you live here, you sometimes have no time to do the fun tourist stuff that can help you get oriented for the long term.

So last Wednesday, I grabbed Naomi Rivka (age 9) for a day of being girl tourists in the nation’s capital.  We did the twice-daily free* walking tour of the Old City of Jerusalem with a company called Sandeman’s New Europe

You can see us here in the mandatory group shot before the tour – we’re the only ones shading our eyes from the really bright afternoon sun.

Haveil Havalim – the Vayechi Vantage

Quote on Israel from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Welcome!  If you’ve never enjoyed Haveil Havalim before, it’s a fantastic Jewish way to end/start your week.  This quote is a terrific way to start of the month of January, which brings (on the 19th, in the U.S.) Martin Luther King day.  Find this and 8 other mind-blowing quotes about Israel here.

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.

Don’t forget – the point of social media is… SOCIAL.  Stop by and visit some of the other blogs listed here.  Leave a comment to let them know you came from HH!

This week’s selections are completely awesome.  Sharing what’s great about Israel and Jewish life in a way I’m sure you’ll love.


What’s bugging you? Israeli bug infestations so far (so good).


One of the things everybody warned us about before we came was bugs.

“Israel’s full of bugs,” they said.  “Watch out.  You will have bugs.”

What kind of bugs?

Everything ranging from ants to lice to cockroaches to scorpions to weevils in the flour to I-don’t-know-what.

Cockroaches are semi-affectionately known as “Jukim” (pronounced “Jew” (as in Jewish) and “keem”) here.  And yes, we have seen them in our apartment.  One or two.  I have been as grateful as anything that there haven’t been more. 

Yes, they’re hideous.  And yes, the kids scream “Juke!” every time they spot one.  Which is rarely… so I figure we’re doing okay.

Someone else told us, “After Pesach is when the ants come.”  It’s like a Biblical curse.