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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Shutting Down, Starting Anew (guest post)

Sometimes, someone else says it better than I ever could.  Leonie Lachamish is a 41-year olah from the UK who lives near Jerusalem.

Every Erev Yom Kippur, while we were bringing up young children, I'd make sure the radio was on for the 2pm news so we could all hear the announcement that Israel's National Airport, Ben Gurion Airport (that functions 24/7) was closing down until after Yom Kippur (around 30 hours later) and then that all the radio stations were ceasing their broadcasts until

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Coming to Israel? You NEED these comprehensive travel tips! (guest post)

Summer tourism and aliyah season is almost here, and whether it’s your first trip to Israel or your eightieth, don’t you wish you could have a list of all the little things everybody else wishes they’d thought of? 

This comprehensive travel guide was written by Debra Nussbaum Stepen.  She’s a Licensed Tour Guide in Israel (no mean feat, as it takes years of study and deep historical and geographical knowledge!) and you can find out more about her and her services at

Comprehensive Travel Tips for Tourists

1. Do not throw out the little slip of paper that they give you at the airport. This is your entry visa and entitles you to exemption of the 17% VAT tax on

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The horrifying truth about Lag Baomer bonfires

There's so much I love about the period between Pesach and Shavuos here in Israel.  But there's one thing that absolutely disgusts me.  I'll tell you in a minute and see if you feel the same.

When we lived in Canada, this time of year was pretty dull and featureless.  There's Pesach... Yom HaAtzmaut, if we remembered it... Lag Baomer, if we got our act together to get to a bonfire... and then Shavuos.

It was okay, but nothing special.

Here in Israel, it's a VERY special time of year, especially if you measure by how many days the kids have to wear white shirts to school.  In many religious schools, often kids are supposed to wear white shirts for Rosh Chodesh and any other special occasion... and these seven weeks give us PLENTY of those. 

My son's school also has them wear white shirts on Fridays, bringing the white-shirt days up to an uncountably high number:  two days for Rosh Chodesh Iyar, Yom Hashoah, a couple of Fridays, Yom Hazikaron, and more that I'm probably not remembering.  Some chains actually have sales on white t-shirts with school logos just to help parents stock up.

I love all these special days, especially Yom Haatzmaut, which comes smack-dab in the middle of the solemn sefirah period and means we can celebrate Israel's birth with music, which we don't normally listen to during this period (I'm aware that different people observe this different, halachically -- consult your rav for details if you're not sure).

But here's what I don't love. 

What I hate, if you'll allow me to use a strong word.  What disgusts me.

Lag Baomer

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Nefesh b'Nefesh: How helpful are they AFTER you make aliyah?

One of my children will sometimes say, "You hate Nefesh b'Nefesh."  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Really.

So let's just say it straight out before I start here -- I love Nefesh b'Nefesh.  Adore them.

We have met and been helped by so many great people through Nefesh b'Nefesh (NbN).  I don't know what the aliyah process would have been like without them, but I'm sure it would have been quite a bit harder.

So that's the first thing.

The second thing, though, is that olim sometimes arrive with unrealistic expectations about what NbN is going to do for them.

At this point, I’ve met quite a few of these olim, and some, I’ll admit, actually do hate NbN. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Cranky Complaints-Lady Visits -- a bathroom in Jerusalem!

I'm curious... what do YOU think?  Is this issue as outrageous as it feels to me? Or am I overreacting / overthinking?
(This wouldn't be the first time...)
Backing up for a second:

On my other blog, Adventures in MamaLand, I used to have a recurring "Cranky Complaints-Lady" feature where I wrote complain-y letters to a whole bunch of places which were deserving of my scorn.  

Most are a little weird looking back, and way too wordy.  A good complaint letter should get right to the point.  And it should probably be in a language that the recipient understands and can read.  But this issue at the brand-new train station in Jerusalem has been bugging me for a while... so I decided to write a letter.  

Just venting makes me feel a little better.  But yeah -- like I said, be gentle, but am I off base here in thinking the women's bathrooms should be women's bathrooms, i.e., a private safe space where I can adjust my tichel behind closed doors?

Let me know (gently!) in the comments!

p.s. I apologize for not being around more often -- one huge reason is that as of March, the program I used to post to Blogger (Open Live Writer) is no longer supported by Google/Blogger.  I've been looking around for another home for these blogs... but it's had to take a back seat to parnassah and other concerns.  But I'm still around, and if you ever need to get a hold of me, please email -- Tzivia @


Dear Israel Railways,

I've been through the train station at Jerusalem Navon several times so far and the station is always clean and efficient.  It's a pleasure to arrive by train rather than by bus after the long journey from north of Haifa.

However, I have noticed one particularly troubling problem -- there seem to always be men in the women's bathroom, specifically cleaning staff.  On one occasion a man walked right in to clean one of the women's bathrooms without first knocking and asking women to leave.  On our most recent visit, during Pesach, I noticed that there is a staff "break room" right inside the women's bathroom on the main floor.  Two or three men were in there taking a break while we were using the bathroom.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

What every parent must know about youth groups in Israel (with handy vocabulary list!)

If you grew up outside of Israel, you may think you know what a youth group is--but you probably don't, at least not until you've experienced the Israeli variety.

And if you’re too old to experience it yourself, maybe it’s something you can look forward to for your kids.

(For those of us too old to be part of a youth group ourselves, I’ve put together a list of vocabulary below that you might find helpful – if anything’s missing there, let me know and I’ll add it in!)

I personally was a Brownie and then a Girl  Guide, which is the Canadian version of Girl Scouts, with all the same ideas, mainly that it’s kind of military group of kids who are corralled and brought places and taught principles of healthy living and woodsmanship by adults.  Hmm… now that I put it like that, it really doesn’t sound much fun at all.

This is literally what we had to wear to do these activities:

(except I didn’t have nearly so many badges!)

Our weekly meetings were held at a set day and time, following an agenda set by our adult leaders, who in Guides were known as Tawny Owl and Snowy Owl, for whatever reason – again, the woodsy theme, even though we were all actually sitting in my junior high school cafeteria.

During the summer, I went to Girl Guide camp, which was basically like one long Girl Guide meeting, with an emphasis on woodsmanship and a little more singing.  Oh, and we got to wear the “camp uniform,” which was slightly more casual.

So what do kids do in Israel?  And how is it different from what I grew up with?

Here, there have what are called תנועות נוער / tenuot noar, which literally means meaning youth

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Seriously, Dude?

This is another great topic for a winter blog post, as it turns out, because for about ten months of the year, we don't have to think about the dude.

Who is the dude?  Well, actually, the dude is a WHAT, as I’m sure you already know if you've spent any serious time in Israel.

First of all, the technical definition:
Dude = דוּד / dude = boiler, pot, kettle, tank, vat…
In other words, what many people in North America at least refer to redundantly as a “hot-water heater.”

Except that, while in North America our house had a big huge water heater in the basement, powered by natural gas, that kept the water at a nice cozy high temperature 24/7/365 (unless we went on vacation and left just the pilot light on), Israelis (and some others) have figured out that that doesn’t make much sense, because for 20-some-odd hours of the day we simply don’t need hot water.

Therefore, most homes in Israel have a switch for the dude, somewhere near the bathroom, so you plan ahead and turn on the dude, which is electric, about 15-20 minutes before you need hot water.  It heats up, you take your shower, end of story.  It can be a hassle to remember this ahead of time, but lots of things in life are the exact same kind of hassle.  Most of us don’t keep a kettle full of boiling water on the counter in case we want tea or coffee, we fill up the kettle and plug it in and cool our heels while we wait patiently for our drink.

Now, I mentioned that the dude is electric, but I also said that for about ten months of the year, we don’t have to think about turning

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Feeling under the WEATHER...? Two things making me happy in the rain!


Feeling under the weather…?

And I do mean that literally, by the way.  I wouldn't blame you if you were.  We've had a LOT of weather to be under this winter so far.  The great news is that water levels in the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) are on their way back up to where they're supposed to be, which is one measure of how relatively water-secure this country is.


The Kinneret was once Israel’s main source of fresh water.  Today, thanks to desalination, it is apparently only responsible for 10%.  Still a considerable chunk.  Water level in the Kinneret is measured against 3 lines: 

  • UPPER RED = Full.  The level hasn’t reached this point since about 2002.
  • LOWER RED = Lowest “normal” level.  Below this point will have environmental consequences.
  • BLACK = Serious drought / environmental crisis.  The line dipped down below this round about October following 5 years of drought and insufficient winter rain.


(check a live version of this graph)

Oh, yeah, and because the whole lake is below sea level, the numbers run down – a “bigger,” i.e., more negative, number is WORSE, not better.

As you can see from this graph, we’re back above the black line thanks to this winter’s prodigious rain, but not all the way back up to that slightly more comfy lower red line. 


But while we're feeling flush (ahem) when it comes to water, we're also being deluged in a desert country that's ill-prepared to deal with an excess of water.  When it’s raining, the streets flood, programs and trips get cancelled, and it can be very dangerous to be out on the roads.

All of which means, it’s a lot better to stay home if you possibly can.  (Even though, without central heating, surrounded by dank concrete walls, it can get pretty miserable inside the house as well…)

So I wanted to share two things that I really

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What’s the best age to make aliyah? (Spoiler: There isn’t one.)


What's the best age to make aliyah?  What's the worst age?  The truth is, there is no perfect age.  It’s always hard.

You read that right: making aliyah can be tough at any age, but I also believe it can be great at any age.  So much depends on you, and where you are in your life, and how flexible you are and ready for change and challenge (and growth, and we all know growth is painful!).

Yes, aliyah is tough.  HOWEVER.  Since there are no clouds without a silver lining, there’s always a flipside... so I thought it would be fun to put together three reasons it's tougher to make aliyah when you're older, along with three reasons it’s easier... and then the flipside: three reasons it’s tougher when you're younger and three reasons it’s easier. 

Whew!  It sounds complicated to explain, but I think it’ll be clear