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Who Israel has instead of rock stars and supermodels (and why I’m glad)


Sure, supermodel Bar Refaeli captures her share of headlines here.  But you know who's a real celebrity in this country?

I'll tell you.

I was sitting down this afternoon in a little cafe in the mall, revving up my voice recorder, buffing up my pen & notepad, or whatever I do before an interview… when I noticed a woman standing outside the cafe, staring intently. 

After a second, she started waving - at the guy I had come to interview.  She waved timidly at first, shyly, and then a little more crazily when she saw that he'd spotted her there.  "Todah," she mouthed at him.  "Todah."  Thanks.

"He's like a rock star here," said the translator.

I nodded, numb, amazed.

Who was this instantly-recognizable mega-star that I had come to interview?

It was this guy:


What’s that you say?

Exactly!  Yeah, this guy.  (The one in the vest.  No idea who the guy in the white kippah could be.)


Yup, him.  Desmond Tutu’s buddy.

Why “Aliyah” is one of the hottest baby names in America


Here’s one fact that maybe you didn’t know about aliyah:  it’s an incredibly popular baby name in the U.S.

Since this blog is dedicated to covering All Things Aliyah, I thought I’d explore this phenomenon.  Maybe I’ll inspire someone to choose the name for their baby!

In the year 2011, “Aliyah” was actually the 133rd most popular name in the U.S.  It beat out far more common and predictable names, like – um – Jennifer.  And also classics like Mckenzie, Haley, Michelle and Stephanie.

Here’s the name Aliyah in Hebrew letters:


When writing it without vowels, people often include two lettter “yuds,” like this:


The Hebrew meaning of the name is absolutely beautiful.  It means “going up,” “ascent” or “rising” (though here in Israel, this could refer to a spiritual ascent or just gas prices!). 

The main meaning of the word, for Jews all over the world is the “going up” involved in moving to the Land of Israel.  Which is, in fact, what this blog is all about.  A secondary meaning is “going up” for an honour in the synagogue, such as when people are called to read from the Torah.

But mainly, those are not the reason that people are giving the name Aliyah and related names to their babies in record numbers.

Most people are still naming their babies in tribute to the dead superstar singer Aaliyah Dana Houghton, better known just as Aaliyah (with two A’s at the beginning). 

But now that it has been a few years since her death, many more people are picking the name simply for its beautiful sound or meaning. 

This is a name with quite a few variants.  Some other common variations are Aliya, without the H on the end, Aleah, and the Hawaiian Alia, who apparently was a princess, and which means “great joy.” 

What’s my kid learning??!? A guide to school subjects in Israel


Prepare to feel like a moron, that’s all I can say.

The first day my daughter came home from school in Israel, I thought I was going to cry.  I had put 2 kids all the way through Jewish schools in Canada, with plenty of Hebrew along the way.  I really believed I had a handle on things. 

Reading the schedule

Turned out I knew nothing and couldn’t even read her schedule.  And that was Grade 2!?  Oy.

I plowed slowly through her timetable trying to make sense of it.  A few words, I did understand (Torah! Chagim!).  A few words, I knew, but they didn’t make sense.


Why was a second-grader learning “Engineering”?

זה"ב/Zahav?  What was the point of studying “Gold”?

Oy, did I have a lot to learn.

So you won’t get stuck like I did, I’ve put together a yet another handy chart of Hebrew/English school subject names.  If your kids are in a religious school, chances are they’ll be learning most of these and possibly some more (if you have additions, let me know in the comments!).

Scroll down to see that full list!

The biggest difference

Even learning the names of subjects won’t help completely, but it is definitely a start on understanding the differences between schools here and schools “out there” in the rest of the world.

However, the biggest surprise so far (this is now our third year, making us veterans!) is the number of “subject” teachers.