Like the MamaLand Empire!

Have you Liked the AliyahLand adventure?
      ...and sign up for weekly aliyah tips by email (it's free).

Beyond required reading: REVIEW of Catch the Jew, by Tuvia Tenenbom

cover of Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom

Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbaum (Gefen Publishing House:  2015) is not only required reading, it's enlightening reading.

Catch the Jew! by Tuvia TenenbomDid you ever wish there was somebody who could talk to ANYBODY who would run around making sense of the Middle East so you don't have to?

I know I have.

And then, did you wish they'd make it fun to read so reading all about it didn't feel swallowing taking some kind of dull, boring medicine?

I’ll tell you the truth:  I wasn’t looking forward to reading this book.  I picked it up in a bookstore because it was only 70nis.  For an English book of this size, that’s a great price.  “That’s a lot of book!” I thought, excitedly.  But then I realized that it was about Israel, and politics, and it had a goofy cartoon on the cover, and I groaned inside.

review, Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom

(The cover for the Hebrew version is a little less goofy, but also strange…)

Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom

But once I started reading it, reluctantly, once I’d read everything else I had on hand, I was immediately sucked into Tenenbom’s world.

You might not like what Tuvia Tenenbom has to say, or who he rubs shoulders with in his new book Catch the Jew!, but if you're interested in Israel and Judaism today, you'll want to read it anyway.

Tenbenbom, born and raised Hareidi in Israel, but who has lived as a non-religious Jew in the U.S. and Germany most of his adult life, is a modern-day chameleon. 

Sanctity vs Cynicism: Highlights of GZ’s siddur party in Jerusalem


My older kids had siddur parties.  Maybe yours did, too?

It’s very cute. 

Once first graders are reading well enough, they have a big ceremony and make a huge deal about handing over their Very First Siddur.  For my big kids, that took about an hour, with refreshments following.


Here in Kiryat Shmuel, in the boys’ school, at least, things get a little more involved.  Like, “involved” as in a 12-hour shlep to Yerushalayim. 

And while you’re shlepping, you’d better not just hand over the siddur.  At least not without a ceremony.  And pizza.  And a Chief Rabbi.  And a visit to the Kotel (Western Wall).

Yup, 12 hours.  Fun, fun, fun.

We just got home, and I decided to write down the highlights of the day while they’re still fresh in my memory.

The main celebration (see blurry photo above) was in the Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue in Har Nof, where last November, two Arabs walked in and started stabbing Jews. 

Why was that a good highlight?  Because we shook the floorboards with laughter, singing and pizza.  Because Jews support Jews and Israelis support Israelis.  Kiryat Shmuel is the same as Har Nof as far as the bad guys are concerned.  And yet our vibrant Jewish lives here go on and children grow up and receive siddurs.

Two other stops on the action-packed agenda were the Machon HaMikdash (the Temple Institute), where we learned all about the Bais (Beit!) HaMikdash, including grinding our own incense, and then on to the Kotel (Western Wall).


So… what were some of the outstanding moments from today’s long, long journey?

  • Discovery.  Like the kid behind me on the bus shouting out "Abba, abba, hinei!" (look!) whenever he saw anything.  It doesn't matter what.  Police, hills, trees; this kid has clearly lived in a box his whole life.

If this is Sunday, it must be Monday: getting to know the days of the week in Israel.


I dreamed I was back in Toronto. 

My mother was driving me to her house and I was trying to tell her she was allowed to turn right, which you're only allowed to do in her area when traffic isn't busy.  But I couldn't find the word - in English.  Finally, I blurted out, "It's not... a weekday!"

The word I was trying to remember?  "Weekend," of course.

I said a while ago that this is just something you have to get used to here.  And that we actually DO have something like a weekend, except on Fridays.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to start the week on Sunday.  There’s something abrupt, almost rude, about “putting away” Shabbos the minute it goes out. 

In Canada, we could maybe leave the dishes, not sweep up, whatever it was, until the next day.  The next day was Sunday, and we knew we’d have time to do stuff.

Sunday = Day One

Here, Sunday is not only a regular weekday… it’s the first day of the week.

That may seem obvious.  If you went to Hebrew school, you’ll know already that instead of fun Norse god-based names like Friday and Tuesday, the Hebrew days of the week are droningly simple:  Day One, Day Two, Day Three and… you get the picture.  The only exception is Day Seven, which is called “Shabbat.”

Trouble is that in Canada, in the back of my mind, the days of the week ALSO had numbers.  Very powerful number associations that I really never thought much about. 

Making aliyah with kids? 6 things you MUST know about the school system here.


Last week, I wrote an article for the Canadian Jewish News about what’s different for olim about the education system here in Israel. 

That’ll be coming out in a couple of weeks (I’ll link to it here once it’s up), but due to word length limits, there were a whole bunch of ideas I just couldn’t cram in.

I interviewed 4 parents, who agreed to be quoted by name for my article.  Because I didn’t mention using their quotes in a blog post, I’m going to use their quotes without attribution.

These 6 things came up, to greater or lesser degrees, in all of the parents’ comments.  I hope you’ll read through them and if you’re here already, jump in at the end to share your own (and your kids’!) experiences in the comments section.

1. Shorter days, longer weeks

The first thing you may notice when you’re sending kids to school in Israel is the most obvious – the school week is 6 days, not 5 (from Sunday to Friday). 

Things that are cool in Israel #6: Jews of Diversity (where not every Jew looks just like you)


Did you grow up Ashkenaz in North America?  I did.

To be raised Ashkenazi in North America is to believe that every single Jew in the world looks pretty much… like you.


(this is NOT my Bat Mitzvah picture, but it might as well be.  The colour scheme was similar, but we didn’t make my father wear a tux.)

Coming to Israel has been the most wonderful kind of shock.

It turns out that shiny-white isn’t the only colour Jews come in after all.

It turns out that THESE are Jewish faces…


(even the white guy in the background)

And THESE are Jewish faces…


And THESE are Jewish faces, too…


(even the white guy in the background)

Of course, so are these…

Hebrew: the shame of olim (and 6 easy ways to conquer it).

image from The Monster at the End of This Book, by Jon Stone

Are you ashamed of your Hebrew?

If you live in Israel, you know exactly how good your Hebrew is.  If you’re not sure, Israelis will be quick to set you straight… but they won’t do it directly.

The slippery-slope compliment

Here’s what happens to me these days:

Israeli:  “How long have you been in Israel?” / “When did you make aliyah?”

Me:  “A year and a half.”

Israeli:  “Oh, your Hebrew is good.”

Sound like a compliment???

It isn’t.  At least, not exactly.  In fact, I’ve been demoted. 

Haveil Havalim, the Yikes-it’s-Yitro (Yisro) Edition


Parshas Yisro (Parashat Yitro) already???  Know what that means? 

Yes, the firecrackers going off every 15 minutes in our neighbourhood tell us that even though Tu b’Shvat is just over, the Purim train is on its way… with the inevitable “caboose” that is Pesach. 

(Love the Israel quote up above?  Find it 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 (huh?  really??).  Stop by and visit some of the blogs listed here.  Leave a comment to let them know you came from HH!

This week’s roundup is kind of rabbi-heavy and a little on the eclectic side… but all Jewish.  Just the way I like it!

Jewish Food & Books

Yes, there’s a Kosher Cooking Carnival (KCC) coming up in Adar (and I’m hosting it over at my Adventures in Breadland site), but just in case you’re hankering in the meantime…

Things that are weird in Israel #15: Tens (and tens of tens)


Know why I was so excited last week?

My sister sent me tens of packets of Starbucks Instant Coffee

It’s true!  Tens of them!

Which of course, is also totally bizarre.


I said something about “tens” of something to Akiva the other day and he said “Tens… of what?”

Because in English, we only say “tens” when we’re about to say “of millions.”  And follow it, usually, with “of dollars.”

Despite ostensibly switching to the metric system tens of years ago, Canada has not officially gone over to a metric mentality. 

A truly metric mindset would have no trouble acknowledging the fact that… dozens do NOT make our life easier.  Dozens make things harder and more complicated.

If you think about it, a “dozen” is just about the most counterintuitive number.   Very few of us have a dozen fingers… though I tried harder than most of my parents, one of my kids having been born with eleven.

Dozens just don’t fit inside our brain neatly, the way tens do.

Twelves don’t make any more sense than any of the numbers that follow.  And they make a good deal LESS sense than tens.

Which is why, here in Israel, when multiples of things happen, they happen not in dozens (unless you’re buying eggs), but in TENS – עשרות (asarot).