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Take me with you: How to make aliyah with pets


Would you make aliyah and leave your family behind?  If you've got a precious fuzzy (or scaly, or slimy) friend at home, you probably wouldn't consider a big move without them. 

Your dog, cat or reptile may not be exactly Jewish, at least according to the Law of Return, but that doesn't mean they aren't family.

Before we go on, I’ll admit something.  Two things, actually.

One, I have owned almost every kind of pet there is except dogs and birds.  Lizards, guinea pigs, ferrets, cats, frogs, hamsters, turtles, fish.

Two, when I found out I was expecting my son, twenty years ago, I got rid of every single living thing in the house.  I love animals.  But I knew I could either raise animals and plants... or I could raise a kid.  I wasn't responsible enough to do both. 

We've had a couple of near-brushes with cats since then, but so far, nothing has stuck.

So when we made aliyah two years ago, we were petless.  To get some advice on what it's like doing it with a fuzzy (or otherwise) buddy, I turned to some reliable sources on Facebook, as well as personal friends who brought their sweet (ginormous) doggie to Israel from Canada.

Clearing all the hurdles

Most important:  don't assume that just because you've mentioned your pet to your Jewish Agency rep that it's all taken care of.  The Jewish Agency is in charge of HUMAN aliyah. 

Pet aliyah is governed jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Nature Reserves Authority, along with the Director of Veterinary Services.  All of which will require a whole slew of paperwork of their own (some no doubt redundant and - seemingly - unnecessary).

Brother, can you spare an agora?


Know what's nice about being in Canada?

Stepping out of a nationwide cash-coinage crisis, that's what.  In Israel, for whatever reason, you'd swear there was a shortage of coins.  Maybe there is, for all I know.

You know you're not in Israel anymore when you shuffle through your wallet to find the 15¢ (for the overpriced $4.15 iced coffee), and the cashier is mystified, and not particularly grateful that you're giving her your pocket change.


(pocket change in Canada)

For whatever reason, that same pocket change in Israel is precious.

Maybe the mentality started back in 1948, when the government recalled all British Mandate small bills and refused to issue new ones.  At the time, stores in the new nation had to resort to issuing "chits" (like a raincheck?) instead of giving change.

Whatever the reason, you must hold onto every single agora (though you won't find anything less than ten agorot in circulation these days; the single-agora coin shown here, my mother’s, is more of a metaphor now). 

3 not-entirely-unpleasant mikveh surprises you’ll discover in Israel


If you're a religious woman, you know all about going to the mikveh.  Once a month or so, for much of your married life, it's just that - a fact of life.

Women who move to Israel sometimes expect the mikveh to be pretty much the same as what they’re used to.

And (pretty much), it is.  But in a few important ways, it's different.  Not necessarily worse, just different.  Since I’m still in Canada, a friend back in Kiryat Shmuel helped put together this list of three things that may surprise you when you go to the mikveh in Israel.

1.  Bring your own supplies.

Depending on where you are, mikvaot in North America can seem almost like a luxury spa

Cooking Toronto soup–notes from a vacation in chu”l


Here in Toronto, the celery is normal.  The carrots are normal - all year round.  The onions are clean; how awesome is it to peel open an onion without the nasty surprise of mould or flaking dirt tumbling every which way?

I'm cooking in my mother's kitchen, and this isn't the first time this visit.  It's odd, because, growing up, I used her kitchen very rarely. It was HER kitchen, and trespassers - even kids - need not apply.

These days, I'm more bold, I suspect she's more tired, and there is my hungry family to feed.

And even though we've never lived in my mother’s house before this month of vacation, I feel myself slipping into old, familiar patterns. 

For one thing, we are only 2 blocks from where we used to live.  Our old house has been torn down to build a monstrosity, but the view doesn't look too different from my mother's front porch.  Neighbours walk past with their dogs, their kids on bikes.  Police swoop past on bikes or in patrol cars.  No horses sighted yet, but it feels like they could be on their way any time.

We're also back to recycling, the Toronto way.  Recycling, the Israel way, involves rounding up any bottles that don't have deposits and dumping them in the big communal recycle bin across the street. 

Why do Israelis hate you so much? Dealing with the cold shoulder.


Aliyah is hard work.  As far as I’m concerned, you deserve a medal just for considering it.  And hey, so do I.

But as far as the average Israeli is concerned… well, nope.  Nothing.  Silence.

Most Israelis are just going to give you the cold shoulder.  They won’t care that you’re an oleh.  They won’t be handing out hero cookies at the airport.

Many olim have been griping about this lately, and in a way, they’re right to complain.

Once you’ve been in Israel for a while, a refrain like this, from a fellow oleh, will start to sound very familiar.  I spotted one person’s sad message on Facebook this morning:

All our lives, we kept hearing “Come make aliyah”, “It’s your place, you belong here”... And than, once you arrive... “You made aliyah. Mazal tov, I’m busy.”

“Israelis you meet are nice and curious of your life and life decisions,” he wrote, “but that is it. Before each holiday. .. silence. We end being among other olim hadashim, because Israelis are busy. 

I’ve been here a year and 4 months. Every day, someone asks me why I made aliyah.  More and more, when I’m asked, I don’t remember the answer... I wish the same people would ask, “Do you want to join my friends and come to a movie, the theater, the beach, on a trip...?”

One man agreed, “It’s not easy to break into Israeli society.”  He’s been here for nearly 40 years, and most of his friends are still other Anglos.  (The blanket term for English speakers, no matter where they come from.)

5 ways Facebook will save your sanity during the aliyah process


If you're not using Facebook, I don't blame you.  I know a lot of people who have quit using it in the last couple of years - with great reason.

But I believe that Facebook, for all its evils, is a Very Good Thing to have in your life while you're making aliyah.

What are the evils?  Maybe you know about them already.

Facebook offers a weird combination of intimacy and distance.  I read a quote recently:  "I hate learning about major life events buried in a timeline between photos of fresh pedicures and pictures of lunch. When someone close to me has a baby or goes through emergency surgery, or suffers a loss, they deserve more than a Like."  (It's from the otherwise-blah memoir I Regret Nothing, by Jen Lancaster.)

Sound familiar?

The bad side of Facebook is that it gives you just enough superficial glimpses of a person's life to make you believe you know them... but not enough actual interaction to actually understand what they're all about.

"Facebook friend," you probably realize now, is something far, far less than a real friend.  It could even be shorthand for “someone I don’t know at all.”  So why keep it around at all?  Good question.

Israel’s Children: A Christian Perspective from 1897


I’m not blogging this week, as we are away, flying to chu”l (what the heck is chu”l???).

But I was fascinated a while back to stumble across this old public-domain article from 1897, first published in a Christian periodical called The Biblical World. The article is called Children in Palestine, written by Anna H. Jessup.   (It’s available in the public domain here.)

Interestingly, this was the same year as the First Zionist Congress.  The author doesn’t seem to know yet that big changes are in the wind for Israel, then known as Palestine.

Certainly, the author doesn’t seem to like any of “Palestine’s” children – except perhaps the Christian ones.

I sort of love how this article reflects all the weird racisms and prejudices of that time period.  Of course, I’m also horrified by it as well.  (Don’t read it if you’re easily offended, maybe?)

But I think it’s helpful to think about how the situation has changed and evolved over the last 120 or so years, so far beyond what any of the players, either at that Zionist Congress, or reading that Christian magazine, could have envisioned.

I’ll be back to blogging in no time.  In the meantime… I’d love to hear what you think about this crazy, racist report on the State of Affairs in Israel (aka Palestine, back when the Jews were Palestinian) circa 1897.

  Children in Palestine

In writing of the children in Palestine at the present day, it must first of all be clearly understood that the people who live in Palestine are not all of the same race; that the inhabitants of different sections, or sometimes even of two villages near together, are of different religions, with sharply drawn lines of separation in customs and beliefs.

Thus we find Druses on Mount Carmel ; Metawileh in northern Galilee ; Bedouin in Jericho to the south and throughout Moab ; Circassians in their colonies east of the Jordan ; both Catholic and Greek Christians in Haifa, Nazareth, Bethlehem, and nearly all the cities; Jews in Safed, Tiberias, Jerusalem,

Welcome to Chu”l, and have a nice stay!


If you ask an Israeli, there are two places in the world:  Israel… and chu”l.

Chu”l, like every Hebrew word with a “choopchik” (double-quote) in it, is an abbreviation.  In this case, it stands for חוץ לארץ / chutz la’aretz, or “outside of Israel.”  (Sounds like “chooool.”  Rhymes with “rule,” like the Golden Rule.)

And yup… that means, “every place in the world besides Israel.”

Because, you know, Israel is just so very, very big.  Kind of dwarfs the rest of the world by comparison, don’t you think?

Well, okay.  We know Israel is not very big.  But Israel is a tiny country with a HUGE ego.  A big sense of itself and its footprint in the world.  Not utterly unjustified, given its continuing prominence on the world stage, but still… sometimes, Israelis do push it a little.

This happened in ulpan once.  My teacher handed out a list of celebrities and we had to decide if they were “famous” or “famous only in Israel.”  Some were obvious, like Madonna and okay, Benjamin Netanyahu.  That was about it for famous Israelis.

I was trying to be honest, but I didn’t want to break her heart by telling her that for the most part, all the “famous” Israelis she’d listed  would be persona non grata if they showed up in Canada or the U.S.

Review: Dialogue in the Dark / דיאלוג בחשיכה, Children’s Museum, Holon–Attractions in Israel


Picture yourself in a world of darkness, groping around, not knowing where - or what - anything is. 

You're lost in a hopeless, unsolvable maze.  Are you near a wall, a door?  Are you about to bump into something?  Your only hope is to trust in the skills of your guide, an all-seeing miracle worker who can somehow navigate her way through total darkness.

Last month, I finally got to visit the blind museum in Holon.  Okay, it's not really called the blind museum.  Part of the Israeli Children's Museum there, it's an exhibit called Dialogue in the Dark.  And it’s been on my “Israel Bucket List” for about ten years, since I first read about it in a magazine.

Your own personal Virgil

When you go in, you enter a world of total darkness.  You leave everything behind in a locker – glasses, keys, phones (except a small amount of pre-counted money for the snack bar). 

Luckily, you're given your own Virgil, a blind guide who knows her way around like the back of her hand.