Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy aliyahniversary to me!

1 year, to me and my flightmates. Kol hakavod to us!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.

There's a song from "RENT"-- actually, just a couple of the lines-- "Halloween":
"How did we get here? How the hell-pan left, close on the steeple of the church.
How did I get here, how the hell?
Christmas! Christmas eve, last year."

Last year I built a gingerbread castle with Sara and Heather and Yael, and then Vera, Moses, Talia, Matt, Laura, Esther, Yosef and Dylan came over and we built, decorated, and ate the gingerbread at my going-away party, because I wasn't going to be around for the New Year's party.

This year I built and ate a gingerbread house with other people-- CB, Rebecca, Ephraim, Orli, and Orly. The gingerbread also got eaten in school by Sara and Akiva. It was kind of sad. I felt kind of sad, because it was so small and I wanted to share it with other people-- friends I made here. But it also was my 1-year aliyahniversary (and everyone else on my flight), which was...also weird.

I repeat..."How did I get here..."

On the upside, a lot of people didn't really get it until they saw pictures and said they wished they would have known what this was and come also. Next year!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Being in Hebrew

I touched on this briefly here, but it's gotten easier for me to be in Hebrew. To converse, to think, to formulate sentences. It's still easier in English (despite my, "לא משנה" answer when people ask which language I prefer. In most of those cases I've found it's easier to speak in Hebrew, because the person I'm talking to might understand English but does not speak it that well) overall, but I can switch between the languages easily, and I find my Hebrew sprinkled with English and my English sprinkled with Hebrew. This came up last week when I went to a family for Shabbos. They made aliyah about 17 years ago (give or take), her two youngest kids were born here (the older ones were about 5 and down when they moved), but all the kids are very Israeli. They all speak English with pretty good American accents, but they read much more comfortably in Hebrew. I was talking about how it is working in Hebrew and being surrounded by so much Hebrew, and the mom said that when she talks she has a hard time staying in one language-- if she's in a business meeting or on a business call in English, she has to work vary hard to not let a Hebrew word slip into her sentences, whereas she says her kids stay in one language when they speak. But at home her kids speak mostly Hebrew between themselves.

I've broken this down into a couple of categories: Working in Hebrew, doing official things (kupat cholim, banking, phone, etc.) in Hebrew, shopping in Hebrew, and dating in Hebrew.

Working in Hebrew:
Definitely harder in terms of the professional terminology, but it's gotten easier. I'm learning the words I need, and, like someone once told me-- most of it is conversational anyway. He was right. And especially working with kids, there are a lot of words that I'm picking up. When I talk with my-- not my supervisor, but the OT who gives my supervision, we speak in English. But when we are around the kids or with other therapists, we speak in Hebrew. When I talk with the other therapists and the teachers, we usually speak in Hebrew (with the exception of a couple of therapists and teachers). My reports are in Hebrew, but my session notes are in English. Meetings with the staff and parents are in Hebrew. I'm getting there; I need to be more patient with myself in that respect-- yes, I've been here a year; yes, this is my third year in a school system, BUT (but BUT here)-- I've only been in a professional environment in Hebrew for 3 months. And almost one of those was holidays, so it's barely that. And, yes, it's my third year as a school-based OT, but it took me about year to get used to the system in NYC, and then halfway through the second year I moved here. So...I need to be more patient with myself about this and give myself more of a chance to get acclimated to the system here and learn it.
MDA- Easily half in English and half in Hebrew. On the ambulances- depends on the staff, but equipment is usually in Hebrew. When I'm working with people who aren't so fluent in Hebrew, then we go to English. But when I teach I ALWAYS use the Hebrew words for equipment because that's what they need to know.

Doing official things (kupat cholim, banking, phone, etc.) in Hebrew:
These are most easily done, I find, in Hebrew. Kupat cholim- when dealing with the kupah itself I find that Hebrew is easier. When dealing with the doctors and nurses and techs- I usually speak in Hebrew. If the doctor speaks or understands English and I can't express myself well enough in Hebrew I speak in English (I prefer to go to English-speaking doctors for this reason, even though I'm usually fine in Hebrew). Banking- I found someone who speaks English. Much easier to do my banking in English, because also the systems are different and I found someone who is familiar with both the American and Israeli systems. Phone- I find that arguing in my accented Hebrew sometimes gets me further, but also-- my phone company doesn't seem to provide great service in English. So I use Hebrew.
Shopping in Hebrew:
It's all about the conversions. And learning the names of foods. Sizes- eh. But negotiation is a skill that must be done in Hebrew, preferably with a more Israeli accent than less, because many Israelis assume that if you speak English with an American accent you are a rich American. So...yeah. Hebrew accent it is for that.

Dating in Hebrew.
Hehe. Right. I find it easier to date someone who is bilingual, because sometimes I can express myself better in Hebrew-- the words fit better-- but I also need English. I couldn't date someone who only spoke Hebrew (aside from how he would communicate with my family, I need someone who speaks English). I went on a date with an Israeli and after the date he called me and said he didn't think it would work because of the different mentalities. I'm not quite sure what he meant, but I also know that I needed someone who spoke- not just read and wrote- English. I've been on a couple of dates in Hebrew, which were ok, but I prefer to date someone who also speaks English. Definitely more comfortable.

Maybe I'll revisit this in a few months and see if my comfort level in Hebrew has changed at all.

Chanukah in Israel

My first Chanukah as an Israeli. I didn't bring latkes and applesauce to work...because I didn't have work because I work in misrad hachinuch and have off for Chanukah. But...people here know what levivot are. The applesauce with them is less common, apparently.

I had sufganiyot-- I think the ones here were better than the ones in NY. There were so MANY flavors to choose from; the most common ones seemed to be jelly (strawberry) and ribat chalav (dulce de leche), but there were also chocolate and pistachio and vanilla cream-filled. There were others topped with sprinkles, chocolate flakes, chopped nuts, icing drizzles-- so many different kinds! And there were also mini ones, with fewer calories and less bad stuff for you. But...there were a lot of kinds. Yes.

In terms of chanukiyot (menorahs, for the Americans)-- most people use oil, but there were still many candle ones for sale. I had a hard time finding the pretty candles that Mom always got, but then I found two boxes in a random store near Ben Yehuda. And then the last night I saw them in the tachana merkazit in Jerusalem (note to self for next year).

It kind of felt like the holiday season...except it felt too early for Christmas-- it is too early, but the holiday season in the fall/winter to me means Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's. I definitely miss the holiday season in NY (ok, more the vacation time), but I also had traditions with my friends for erev Christmas and New Year's. Erev Christmas was Gingerbread-- SaraShatz and I started building gingerbread creations on erev Christmas (because who cared how late we were up-- it was vacation the next day :)) and we would let it dry until New Year's Eve and eat it at the New Year's party/get-together thing. Because, again, who cared how late we were up-- it was vacation the next day.

I am continuing the tradition here, but slightly differently. I am making the gingerbread on the Thursday night before Christmas and having the eating party on the Thursday night before New Year's. Yeah...I miss Christmas and New Year's vacations. Yes, I got Chanukah, but I miss the one-day-vacations so much...Election Day, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving (ok, 2 days), etc. And then after winter break, there was President's Week-- I don't think I went 2 months without a break. Here I go straight until Purim, which is only 2 days anyway, and it's in the middle-end of March. So that's 14 straight weeks. Yipee...(don't I sound excited...). But anyway-- gingerbread making will be happening here, despite the lack of molasses; I will be using silan (date honey)- I found a company that is an ok substitute for molasses-- not great, but ok. It shall be interesting to see the spin on gingerbread here, because it's not so traditional at all here. Gingerbread doesn't exist so much here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reflections on making aliyah and looking into the future

A year and a half ago I posted this post about the future and what it holds. Part of it was about my childrens' future if I moved to Israel. What would their future be like, being drafted into the army here. I also mentioned another blog, A Soldier's Mother, written by a woman who made aliyah with her family about 17ish (?) years ago.

Today I saw this in her post:
"It bothers me that to live in this land, my children must know the uniform and the gun. My daughters may not serve in the army, but their husband or brother or nephew will at some point in the future. My sons will serve, as will their sons. To serve, if life remains as it has been for more than 60 years, means war."

So well phrased, so much of what I feel even though I'm not yet married and don't have children. My children will grow up seeing soldiers in uniform and men and women carrying guns as part of their daily life. And my children will, as she put it, "know the uniform and the gun" when their draft notices come and they, too, join the ranks of the IDF. I will encourage my daughters to serve in the army as well as I will my sons. I don't want there to be a need for my children to serve, and I know that my parents wouldn't want me to be in danger, just like I wouldn't want my children to be in danger...but they would be proud of me if I was in the army and did serve my country. When I was considering joining the American army, my parents weren't happy because they didn't want me to be in danger...but they would have been proud all the same. But I made the choice to move from somewhere that my children would not be drafted, and would not be asked to serve in the army to a place where...once they turn 18, when they're not even out of their teens and still...well, children...they're going to be asked to put on a uniform and learn how to use a gun. And not for pretend, for real. To be ready to fight in a war, if need be, and even to guard and defend the country in some capacity, even not in a declared war or operation. Was it fair what I did? I don't remember where I heard this, but someone said she made aliyah so her children don't have to (if you said it and read this blog, please let me know so I can credit you). I did...but was it-- will it-- be fair to them?

Something I've thought about but never said out loud, and I wonder if this place, this blog, being that I don't know who reads it, makes it almost easier to say it here-- I don't want to marry someone who didn't serve in the army for idealist reasons, didn't want to serve. If someone moved here when he was too old to serve-- fine. If he was exempted for medical reasons-- fine. But not to serve because you don't want to or idealist reasons...that bothers me. It's your country, too. I went on a date with someone who I've known for a few years and his brothers are in the army or about to go in, and I always assumed that he also served. And then he told me that he didn't. I'm not discussing his reasons here because they're not mine to discuss, but the army gave him an exemption and he did not serve. And that bothered want to live here, be here, raise a family here...and yet you're not willing to serve? I don't want my husband to go off every year for a few weeks, but...that's going to be life here, and I don't think I'd want it any other way really, because it's part of living here and you have to take the good with the not-so-fun. When he has to go for miluim, I will help him pack, get up that morning, kiss him goodbye, and wait and count down until he gets back. And that will be the life I've chosen. Unless he doesn't do miluim for some reason.

Friday, November 26, 2010


This year it was a bit different.

It's now 12:44 am, technically Friday. This year my Thanksgiving was a day of work (regular) followed by coming back to my apt. and cooking. Normally Thanksgiving-- well, Thanksgiving used to involve getting up late (because I was off), followed by wandering around/cleanng in my PJs while Mom was cooking. The parade would be on the kitchen TV and maybe in the living room, but highly doubtful because no one was in there consistently enough to be paying attention. The house smells really good, because of all the cooking Mom is doing, and at about 4 pm people start coming over and eventually everyone is over and we start eating. Mom made rolls (probably white, garlic, and rye), and Grandma's soup. Oh, and maybe an appetizer and salad. That's followed by turkey (made in the roaster with garlic and paprika sprinkled on top and baby carrots, celery, and onion surrounding it), stuffing kugel, cranberry sauce (jelled and whole berry), and maybe cranberry kugel. A bunch of other side dishes, because...well, food = love. And then dessert, which is cookies and cake and tea.

This year I made my Grandma's vegetable soup. I had to split it into two pots, because it was too much for one; one came out good and the other needs to cook more, so it's in the fridge overnight and tomorrow I will attempt to cook it some more. But the one that was done came out well. I'm excited for the other one :) It was my first time making soup in a long time (I made soup once and burned it. In college. This was my first time making soup since then), and the first time I tried to make my Grandma's vegetable soup. It''s a tradition. It's a hard one to follow, because of the associations with Thanksgiving, and missing everyone, but it's came out good.

The last Thanksgiving that my Grandma was alive for was a little different than the previous ones. Everyone but my mom was at my Grandma and Grandpa's apartment (my mom was in the hospital with the port infection-turned-sepsis). We had Thanksgiving dinner as usual-ish, including the soup, and that Shabbos my Grandma had a very severe stroke that caused her death a week later. I remember eating the last portion of soup from the batch she made. We froze it, and when I had it...I remember thinking, "This is the last soup Grandma made." It was always "Grandma's soup." Kind of like Grandma coffee (but that was a little coffee and a lot of milk; pretty much how I drink coffee today still), but not. My Grandpa wrote out the recipe for me after Grandma died, and my mom eventually typed it up and put it in the recipe book she made for me. It has vegetables and meat and soup mix...and the last ingredient is "1 brocha that it comes out good." I think that's what made it so good.

May we all recognize and be grateful for the brachot that we have in our lives, and always remember to add the "1 brocha that it comes out good." In everything that we do.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2 separate topics

1. The special education public school system (in comparison to NYC, as I see it)
2. Bone marrow compatibility

Let's start with number 2., because that's less involved (from a writing perspective. And if you're only going to read a little bit of this, I'd rather you get that; if you're really interested, you will continue reading anyway). Number 2- Bone marrow compatibility. The idea for posting this was from Beneath the Wings, which is a blog by a mother who has a daughter with Down's Syndrome and the blog is very much centered around that. Her post is here:
My addition is, you don't need to be a soldier (or going into the army at all, in any capacity) to be tested for bone marrow compatibility. I was tested through Gift of Life via a cheek swab (if you are a preliminary match, they will then do bloodwork. But initially-- all you need to do is open your mouth and get a cheek swab).

Number 1. The special education public school system, as I see it. First of all, the public school system here in Israel overall is MUCH more complicated. There are various types of schools, all considered public- different religions, different sectors within the religion, non-religious-- very complicated. Most of the schools are Jewish, but there are also non-Jewish schools (with different schedules). The way the special education system seems to work here is parallel to the general education system. That is, there are also Jewish, non-Jewish, religious, different sectors within the religious, and non-religious schools. There are also different type of preschools. And to make it even more complicated (or specialized, depending on how you look at it), each school is for a specific type of special education, be it severe/profoundly mentally retarded, mild/moderately mentally retarded, physically handicapped, mild/moderately retarded, deaf, blind, learning disabilities, behavioral problems-- you name it. I think that there is a good side to this, because the kids really get a specialized focus in the school, but there is also a downside because the children are not even integrated into a regular school building. There are some kids who are in self-contained classrooms within regular schools, and there are mainstreamed kids as well. BUT I have yet to hear of kids in general ed who get OT.
It's very frustrating to me as an occupational therapist that there are so many kids who don't get OT, or don't get individual, because there aren't enough therapists to go around or there isn't the budget or whatever. There's also this thing of a "class session." I'm sorry, all the kids need it? How much are the kids really going to get out of 1 45-minute session per week, when there's an overall need, but each kid is at such a different level?

I'm not a fan of the system here, as a therapist. I liked NYC better-- wasn't ideal, and, no, there weren't enough therapists to go around either. But at least the kids had the option to get seen outside if they couldn't get seen in school. And there were OT-specific goals. A full eval was done on a kid who needed it, and his/her mandate was prescribed. It's much more-- "Ok, who needs OT the most here?" And the teachers have a big say, which I feel is correct, but I also think there should be an OT eval done on the child when he/she has been seen previously, and if there is a suspicion of delays/problems. And then a mandate should be created, if applicable, and the child gets seen in school or gets referred out of school.

I'm sure there will be more on this at a later point.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A missing piece

The summer before I made aliyah I got involved with someone who I waited quite a while to date. And then we broke up because I was making aliyah and he wasn't. Ever. It just wasn't happening.

He fell of the face of the earth for a while, and he's now back. And I realize just how much I miss him. Yes, I just broke up with someone, which naturally makes me think. But...this is something that no matter how much we both want it to happen won't, because of the physical distance. And that's the part that hurts so much. It's not even like there was a chance, because we live 6,000 miles away from each other and neither of us can live where the other can.

So, if you're reading this-- and you know who you are-- I miss you. It's not your fault, but your videos make me miss you more.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


This post also kind of ties in to the previous two posts about being Israeli and writing. Writing-- well, it's kind of obvious-- writing, journaling...I write in my journal- what happened, what's going through my mind. And poems are a reflection of those two. Being Israeli I'll get to at the end.

In addition to this blog I have a handwritten journal.

I have been writing since at least...second grade, I think? I didn't really keep a consistent journal until college-- I had journals and diaries, but I would write for a few weeks (maybe a month) and then forget about it, finding it a few years later when I was cleaning out some drawer. I actually have a diary-- with a lock on it, locked naturally-- from probably 5th or 6th grade. I don't know where the key is, hence it's still locked and I don't know when it is from (yes, I can pick or smash the lock. But that feels wrong. So it will stay locked until I decide to pick it, or have someone else do it for me).

Once I started college I saw a show called Subway Train and what struck me was that the show had been mostly written in journals, on the way to and from places. It never occurred to me until that point to write while I was traveling. But I had so much time traveling! I took three subways (or a bus and two subways) to school every morning. And I traveled other places by bus and train and there was the waiting in doctor's offices and in the Verizon store and-- all those places that I never thought to just...write. Even sitting in a Starbucks or in the park-- I had always associated writing in a diary with sitting in my room, cross-legged on my bed or propped up against pillows...and all of a sudden I changed the label-- Journal-- and it became a verb to me. An action. I was journaling. And so I simply opened the small notebook that I carried around to jot down to-do lists, or shopping lists, or other things I needed to remember, to the back and started writing. Just writing-- I'm on the train at 42 st. Where is the train?/Waiting for the bus crosstown...there is someone staring at me/Wow. I had a day. And on and on, just writing. And the writing turned into questions and sometimes answers and a lot of the time musing and more questions. Overthinking, re-thinking, dissecting what someone said and what it meant. Journaling became a way of coping and analyzing and sorting out my brain.

I had a blog, too, from high school. But I realized that journaling felt very different than blogging. Yes, my blog was for me but others could see it too. My journal was for me, and it was in my handwriting and it could be touched and flipped through and gone back to any time I wanted. It can.

Looking back and counting, I have 5 of those mixed notebooks and one journal that is filled with journaling and not lists. I actually really like those mixed notebooks because they reflect everything that was going on-- what I had to do, and recipes, and what I had to bring the next day, or assignments...but my journal is my journal.

I've just finished my first journal-only notebook. I have a journal that I started when I came to Israel almost 3 years ago in January 2008. I stopped writing in it because I couldn't find it, and then when I couldn't find the journal I just finished I used that. But now I'm picking up that one to continue in it and write.

Being Israeli. I've noticed that my writing takes whatever language I'm surrounded by about what I'm writing. Confusing? Ok. Most of my journal is in English, with Hebrew words sprinkled in here and there. But if I'm writing about something that's going on then, and the something is in Hebrew, whatever I'm writing will be in Hebrew. For example, someone I went out on a date with- he and I speak in Hebrew and English, but more Hebrew. When I was writing about the date, it was in Hebrew-- my thoughts and feelings were in Hebrew, if that makes sense. When I saw a documentary as part of my work (we had a beginning of the school year meeting and part of it was a documentary about a street kid) and I wrote about it, I wrote in Hebrew. Again, my thoughts and my feelings were in Hebrew. I'm still more comfortable in English, especially when it comes to occupational therapy, and sometimes EMS (ambulance stuff-- my first EMS experiences were in Hebrew (yes, the course was in English but the terminology was in Hebrew and I worked on the Hebrew-speaking ambulances). But I'm a lot more comfortable expressing myself and I've been thinking and feeling in Hebrew more. I'm not sure if that makes me Israeli. But I do know that it's easier now in Hebrew.


Since I got here, made aliyah, I have written a few poems. I have to find the other ones, but this was one that I wrote after I was having a sort of writing slump and hadn't really written for a while. It's in Hebrew, followed by an English translation. Unfortunately, I don't think the English translation really feels the same as the Hebrew. But that's just me. I translate literally.

This was actually something I started when I was at the tekes for Yom Hazikaron (Israel's Memorial Day). I'm not sure I like it as is, it is.

Background for those who are unfamiliar with Yom Hazikaron: It is the Israeli Memorial Day. There is a nation-wide siren at 8 pm that night, then another siren at 11 am. Cars stop driving and people get out and stand, students stand up-- the country pretty much stops for these few minutes. There are ceremonies, the broadcasts are Memorial-day appropriate. The names of those killed for the sake of Israel are read. It's unlike Memorial Day in the States; here there are no sales, but the cemeteries are full of people coming to visit graves of loved ones and friends. It's a day to remember not only the soldiers, but those who were killed in terrorist attacks as well. It's something that must be experienced to fully appreciate and understand it.

תפילה של עולה חדשה ביום הזיכרון

עוצרים, יוצאים, עומדים.
חוזרים לרכב, מצטרפים לטקס.

אני עומדת פה, בקהל, אחת ממאות.
שומעת שירים, ואנשים מדברים על אלו שנרצחו...
אני רק עומדת.
אין לי מישהו שאני מכירה שנהרג, שנרצח.
תודה לאלוקים.
תפילה קטנה יוצאת משפתי—
אנא ה', עשה שילדותי לא יהרגו.
אין לי ילדים עכשיו, אבל תן לי...ותן לי שיחיו.
בנים, בנות—כולם היו.
כולם שייכו לאמא ולאבא ולמשפחה.
ה' ישמור את נפשותם בגן עדן,
ויתן לי שלא אדע מזה.

Prayer of a New Immigrant on Memorial Day

A siren.
Stopping, getting out, standing.
Go back into the car, joining a ceremony.

I stand here, in the crowd, one of hundreds.
I hear poems, and people talking about those who were murdered...
I just stand.
And listen.
I don't have anyone that I know who was killed or murdered.
Thank G-d.
A small prayer leaves my lips--
Please, G-d, don't let my children be killed.
I don't have children now, but give me...and give me that they will live.
Sons, daughters-- they all were.
They all belonged to a mother and a father and a family.
G-d should guard their souls in the Garden of Eden,
And grant me that I should not know from this.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Learning to live in Israel

One of the things I will not get to do is be a soldier in the Israeli Defense Force-- Tzahal. It is something that I want to do, considered doing, and then realized that I can contribute more as an occupational therapist and MDA volunteer.

I was 24 when I made aliyah. The army wasn't drafting me, because I was over 20 (21?). I could have volunteered to join, but I made aliyah in December. The next draft date was March and I most likely would not have made it for that one. March is followed by August and November. The earliest I could have gone in would have been August, at which point I would be 25. 25, going in to something that most people start at 18. I also would likely be in for 6 months; I could request more, which would enable me to get a better job within the army, but I would want to do Paramedics...not...just not matim for me.

Being in the army is kind of like...a crucible, if you will. The people get heated up, melted, and then have the chance to be re-formed into something new. EVERYONE is in the army-- excepting many people. So not really everyone. But it's something that I always knew about and thought about.

I knew about the "post-Army trip" where so many go backpacking around the world for 6 months or a year. What I didn't know was really how much the army puts life into limbo. I was dating someone in the army and the first weekend I got back from America we were supposed to see each other; he was supposed to be out, I would be home. Nice plan. We were really excited. I land...and because of the shooting in Chevron, he was going to have to be on base for Shabbos. Then he was getting out. Then he wasn't. Then he was-- he was getting ready to go to the bus to come into Jerusalem...and they called everyone back. He got out on Sunday- fine, nice. But...this is what it means to be Israeli.

To not plan because something is going to happen to change the plans.
To learn that even though someone "official" told you something, it means nothing unless you have it in writing with the name and signature and stamp of the person who said it, and even then it might not be acceptable.
The bureaucracy is more then in your mother country and it's in another language. Even when you ask for someone who speaks the language you want (say, English), you will get, "Ken [yes]?" when they answer the phone.
People here dispense with polite behavior. There is nothing wrong with someone cursing out the bus driver's (and his mother) because he did something the person didn't approve of. And when the other passengers get tired of the yelling at each other, they will tell the passenger and the bus driver to shut up. The lack of polite behavior is not meant as an insult-- it might even be a compliment. Which leads me to my next point:
Everyone here is family. You can yell at your family members-- and that includes the bus driver. Oh, the garbage man who put the bin back slightly to the left of where it was before. This means that, as family, everyone has rights to comment on everyone else, no matter the situation. This also means that people look out for each other and will often try to help (or what they see as helping).
Israelis like olim-- immigrants. They think we are crazy, but they love us anyway.

More on this later.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shabbat Chaye Sara in Kiryat Arba/Chevron

Where do I start? I really wanted to take pictures, but it was just...crowded and not worth trying to get out my camera, and then it was Shabbat and...I have pictures in my memory.
I went to sort-of cousins (we decided that the correct term for the family and how to explain how we are related is "chamula," which is the term for an Arab clan. We just happen to be a large family who used to live within about 4 blocks of each other (2 2-family houses and 1 2-family house a few blocks away). So-- I went to sort of cousins with my first cousin, and we met another sort-of cousin there who is an actual cousin of my sort-of cousin. Confused? It's ok. Moving on.

The whole experience was just overwhelming.

Break it down:
Took a bus from Binyanei Hauma. We left early, because we counted on lots of people (and therefore lines and waits) and traffic. Thanks to Murphy (and leaving earlier than we planned), we had neither. So we got there early.
There was a stand- basically a mobile ticket booth- with three or four windows and a sign- "הלוך ושב 18.30"- "There and Back- 18.30." There weren't long lines and there was bus after bus lined up. We took one bus to Tzomet Haminharot and then switched to a bulletproof bus for the rest of the trip. The bus was FULL of post-high school seminary/yeshiva students. Loud-comma-very.
Got to Kiryat Arba and went to my sort-of cousins. Was there a bit, and then went to where I was staying (a few minutes' walk away) to get ready for Shabbos.

We davened on Friday night at Givat Gal, which is a caravan community. The shul used to be in a bus, but now there is a real building (think 1-room schoolhouse, plus electricity and minus the wood-burning stove). The sunset on the way there was beautiful; at one point I stopped, turned around and just said, "Wow." The davening was nice- singing and there was a young boy who did part of it and the older men were encouraging him when he was having trouble. I was the only woman there, but lo nora (not a big deal)- they made a women's section for me :)
After davening we went back to the house and had dinner. After dinner there was an oneg at the Me'ara (the Cave-- Me'arat Hamachpela) in Ulam Yitzchak. BZ and I went (actually, everyone went, but BZ and I went together). We walked down this path that normally is locked (I think- there is a fence with a door and a lock; it was open, but if it wasn't Shabbat Chaye Sara with all the soldiers and police around, it would no be wise to go the way we did). There were tons of people and, of course, soldiers and police and patrols and security.
When I got to Me'arat Hamachpela, the first thing that struck me was the number of tents that there were. Lots and lots and lots of tents. Aka, lots and lots and lots of people.

We went to the Me'ara and made up to meet outside at a certain time, and then we went in. It was my first time there and it felt...even as I was going down the hill into Chevron, I felt a feeling of specialness and other-worldliness but familiarity, safety. It was my first time there, but it felt familiar. Also in Ulam Yitzchak (which is only open Chol Hamoed and Shabbat Chaye Sara, by the way) I went to where is supposed to be פתח גן עדן-- the entrance to the Garden of Eden-- and that, too, felt very familiar. The smell there, too. I said some Tehillim, but I was so tired that I wasn't focused.

In the morning I went back to Ulam Yitzchak for Shacharit (morning prayers). There was a chatan there, which was nice-- people threw candies, of course. It was very packed and stuffy, but people were nice about giving up seats for the elderly and pregnant or people who needed to sit. There was kiddush (food) outside after (grape juice/wine and cake and Yerushalmi kugel (Jerusalem noodle pudding), and then we went back for lunch.
After lunch I had the choice of napping or going back to Chevron. What do you think I did? Went back to Chevron, of course! Joined a tour in the early-middle-ish part, and then went back to the Me'ara (what, did you think I was going to miss an opportunity like this? Me'arat Hamachpela is so rarely open like this-- I am NOT missing the chance to daven there again!
When I left, I felt like I didn't want to leave, like it was pulling at my heart. Kind of the way I felt when I was leaving Israel in March 2008-- it hurt my heart; that's the best way I can describe it. It was kind of like...pulling me to stay, like I didn't want to leave. But we had to, because Shabbat was ending.

Buses were packed. But they went straight from Chevron and Kiryat Arba to the Tachana Merkazit in Jerusalem (with a stop at Tzomet Gush, on my bus), no switching.

Overall I enjoyed. I want to go back when it's not Parshat Chaye Sara and there are fewer people there and it's not so packed and I can think a little more. Granted, I won't be able to go the same way and there will be less of the Me'ara open, but I think it will be a much more personal, meaningful experience and I'll be able to take things in more and actually concentrate better and more.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"ויהיו חיי שרה..."

Shabbos. Parshat Chaye Sara. Kiryat Arba. Chevron. Me'arat Hamachpela. Lots of people. Lots of soldiers. Safe. Intense.

More tomorrow (or when I'm not falling asleep-- I decided it was a better idea to go on a tour of part of Chevron than to take a Shabbos nap. Hence, going to sleep early).

"ויהיו חיי שרה..."

Shabbos. Parshat Chaye Sara

Saturday, October 16, 2010


This past week-- well, more since the Chagim actually-- I've been missing my family; my parents, sisters, grandparents. And my friends from NY.

This past week was really tough. It was just everything was coming down at once and it was just one of those weeks where you want to crawl into your bed at home and have someone take care of you. Someone hold you, hug you, tell you it's going to be ok, and just take care of you and you not have to think about planning what to eat, or worry about paying bills or anything.

Fortunately I have an amazing adopted family here who are really like my parents and siblings here. Problem is, I don't live at home. It was kind of like that when I was in my dorm and things were not so's not far to go back home. I just had to take the train (3 trains) or a bus and the train/the train, the train, and a bus. Now I have to take 2 (or 3) buses instead. It's just the getting back that's annoying.

So last week was a tough week in the Life of Lauren. Hope this one is better.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It seems that the busier I am the less I have time to write in my blog and the more my actual handwritten journal gets written in.

Since I got back I've started working full-time in Misrad Hachinuch. I am working in 2 schools, and may be switching to work in 3 schools-- 1 one day/week, 2 two days/week each. Nothing wrong with any of the schools, but I'm finding myself as an OT in this country and learning how the system here works. One school that I'm at has students who are functionally pretty low-level and I've done some work with that population, but it's too much too new too soon. So I might be switching into a school that has higher-level kids-- learning disabilities, mostly. I have to get approval from my supervisor at Misrad Hachinuch to be in 3 schools. I don't know what's going to happen with that.

One nice thing about Misrad Hachinuch is that I get off for the chagim. The chagim here are so different. For starters, the buses say different things. Before Rosh Hashana they said "Shana tova." Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur they said "K'tiva v'chatima tova" (or at least as much of that could fit on the screen), and now they say "Moadim l'simcha." I love being in a place that the buses say that even.

Rosh Hashana was different. There were more simanim than we had in NY, and davening was different too. I mean, it was Sefard, so that's different anyway. But-- it was also quicker.

Yom Kippur felt very different. For starters, there was a feeling of konanut-- readiness, and anticipation when I went to shul at night for Kol Nidre. I don't know how to explain it, but it felt like the world was waiting for...something. It was-- I can't explain how it felt, but it wasn't like anything I'd felt before.

Sukkot was one-day chag. It still feels like half a chag.

More on non-holiday stuff in a later post, when I have more to write about it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

More packing!

This time the movers will be doing it!

I got an estimate for my lift, and now I just have to wait for the movers to come and pack it and then send it off! Here's hoping that my stuff gets there safe and sound, and there are no strikes!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring...

It's thunderstorming here. It doesn't rain in Israel in the summer, and even in the winter it's usually not thunderstorms. So it's pretty amazing to me to see them again, because I love them.

In other news, I'm waiting to get confirmation about an estimate for my lift. Hope that can happen this week and then have it sent asap. We shall see...things are coming together, it's really exciting and scary. But good scary, like a next logical step scary...just I haven't done it yet, so I don't really know what I'm doing.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"You're an Israeli wife"

No, I'm not married, don't worry. I didn't, you know, date, get engaged and married in the past 5 days and manage to keep it all a secret.
I am dating someone, though, whose identity shall remain anonymous right now because I don't know if he is comfortable with blogging. We will call him B, since he is the second guy that I've dated since I made aliyah (and there is a "B" in his name). He is also an oleh, but he's been here for a while, and most of his immediate family made aliyah as well. We met a few months ago, but we only started dating about a month ago-- and, yes, I have been in the States for 3 of those weeks. We saw each other...well, when we started dating, and haven't seen each other since. Why? Because B is in the army, and the army didn't let him out the Shabbat before I left.
I told my adopted sister (for those of you who are just coming in now, my adopted family is awesome. My dad grew up with the mom, and our families have always been close-- they have always been like an aunt and uncle and the kids were like cousins) that I was dating someone and he's in the army. And she responded with the subject line.
Not quite a wife-- we're dating, not married, but this is a big part of Israeli culture. Army and the army life. I'm learning a lot about the army and the stupidity and the good that happens there. The 7-hour time difference is actually working because he's up at random hours coming off of shmira, or when I'm going to sleep he's just getting up, and when I get up he's sometimes waiting around for something or to go somewhere. So we make it work. But I'm learning that the army has a time schedule of its own. Just because you're supposed to go on shmira at 9 pm doesn't mean it's always going to happen; you might get switched, something might come up, they might call you to do something else. But the army is also respectful of religion (he is not in a Hesder unit (type of service that combines studying in a Yeshiva with army service))-- after one of the fast days there was a masa (yes, stupid and not so respectful there...). Normally all the soldiers would go, but the soldiers who fasted were excused-- they did shmira, I think. Or something else. And after the fast, the army served a huge meal with meat and chicken and...lots of stuff. And on the other fast day, he was excused from his patrols.
It's so strange and wonderful to me that even though he is in the army and we don't get to see each other much and won't get to see each other as often as we would like even when I'm back, right now he gets out every other weekend for 3 days-- Thursday, Friday, and Shabbat, aka "chamshu"sh (chamishi-shishi-shabbat)," and I know that those are times I can count on to see him (unless something comes up). If I was dating someone in the American army, I could easily not see him in-person for months at a time. I'm learning. Slowly, but I'm learning.

The non-army long-distance stuff-- it's annoying because we don't get to see each other much-- and when we do it's using Oovoo (like Skype, only better because you can have more people video conferencing in and you can send video messages). But it's something. Three years ago it wouldn't have been this easy. I also just got this service called Spikko, which gave me an Israeli number than B can call me on. Our phone bills are going to be huge, but this should make it a bit less, at least from his end. It's also different than a "regular" relationship because you're not physically with each other and you aren't going out on dates or spending time doing things together. We talk. A lot. And we play games over the phone-- Jotto, Battleship, Ghost (any other suggestions, please let me know! But not chess, because we already know about that). It's definitely harder than a normal relationship, and his army schedule in some ways makes it easier to talk, and in some ways makes it harder. But it's good.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tisha B'Av

Tisha B'Av is a Jewish day of mourning, the culmination of The Three Weeks and The Nine Days-- the day that the both the First and Second Temples were destroyed (the First by Vevuchadnezzar in 423 BCE, and the Second in 70 CE by the Romans). But it's more than that-- Tisha B'Av is a VERY BAD DAY for the Jewish people. This is also the day that the Jews in the desert accepted the negative report about Eretz Yisrael from the meraglim (the spies); The Bar Kochva revolt was crushed by Hadrian (Roman Emperor), and Betar (city of the Jews "last stand") was captured and liquidated in 135 CE; the Beit Hamikdash and the area around it were razed by Turnus Rufus, and Jerusam was rebuilt as a pagan city and Jews were not allowed in; The Jews were expelled from Spain during the Inquisition on 1492; WWI broke out in 1941 on Erev Tisha B'Av (the eve of Tisha B'Av); The mass deportation from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka began on Tisha B'Av in 1942.

There are a lot of differences between Tisha B'Av and every other day. For starters, the two "big" fasts in the Jewish calendar are Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av-- there are a lot of superficial prohibitions, but they are very, very different days. Tisha B'Av is a day of mourning, so in addition to fasting, we refrain from doing things similar to one who is in mourning. We sit on low chairs, we do not anointing for pleasure (for example, putting on perfume to smell good); washing (other than for hygiene purposes), having marital relations, wearing leather shoes, learning Torah (other than Tisha B'Av and mourning-related topics). There are more, but this is not, not is it meant to be, a halacha blog or entry. Go to here or to here to learn more about the halachot (laws) and customs and practices of Tisha B'Av.

I'm trying to figure out how to actually mourn for the Beit Hamikdash. I don't know if I'm doing it right, I don't really know how I feel and...what...everything about it. I've never experienced the Beit Hamikdash, but I've been to the Kotel. I wish I was there now. I also wish I could cry about it. I feel like I want to, but I'm not, I don't feel...comfortable crying here. I think I need to be at the Kotel and in Israel for this one. My first Tisha B'av in Israel and I'm in New York.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Coming to America...

I'm back. I've been back since Monday morning, and since then I've been struck by a lot of things. The most recent is today-- how different it feels than in Israel. Today is Friday, erev Shabbat. It doesn't feel like erev Shabbat, except for the fact that we are doing preparations at home. People are at work past 12 or 2 pm, the buses and subways will be running tomorrow-- note the changes on the MTA website.

Sunday is a day off. I am excited for that.

When I got off the plane, the first thing that hit me was the signs in Spanish. Welcome to America. Then when I walked outside, the ground was different-- the pavement itself, the way the sidewalks looked. The different types of people, so many...and most of the black people that I saw weren't Ethiopian and the women didn't have tattoos on their faces and necks.

I was walking on 7th Avenue-- and couldn't eat in any of the places I passed. Granted, it's like that in many places outside of Jerusalem especially, but it's not that bad in general. We're not talking about nice places-- even just a falafel or bagel place.

I'm ready to come home. I love that my family is here, and I can actually make a decent salary...but I don't feel comfortable. It's just enough out of alignment that I feel it. It's not that I don't speak the language or don't remember the culture. But it feels like I have a wall surrounding me that I'm not really a New Yorker so much as a Jerusalemite. And yet in Israel, I'm still from NY and always will be.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I'm going back to NY in a few hours-- leaving in about 45 minutes to an hour, to be specific.

When I go this time, I'm going back on my teufat ma'avar-- my temporary Israeli passport-- and coming in on my American passport. And when I leave I'm going to leave on my American passport and come in on my teudat ma'avar. Confusing.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm mostly annoyed that I can't find this little red jewelry case-- it's about 1" x 1.5", so you can imagine that it's quite easy to lose. The frustrating thing is that I had it with some cards...and I have the cards. And the case is nowhere to be found. I looked in (read: emptied) the suitcases, shook out the clothes that were there, looked under the table near where I packed, emptied the backpacks...and nothing. Which is very frustrating and annoying. It had my name necklaces in it and some earrings... :(

I'm excited to see everyone. Tomorrow I'm either going to be going out to Queens, or Queens people are coming to me.

Friday, July 2, 2010

4th of July

I forgot-- last night I went to a 4th of July party at the American Ambassador's house. More on it later, but b'kitzur-- it was a lot of fun.

There was a point in the ceremony when both The Star Spangled Banner (the American national anthem) and Hatikva (the Israeli national anthem) were sung. During The Star Spangled Banner only the singer (and maybe a few other people, but not many) sang. During Hatikva, there was an undercurrent of people singing. Not loud, but you definitely heard it. I was so proud of being Israeli at that moment-- our anthem is played --> we sing.

Last Shabbos (Shabbat) in Israel for 2 months

I was on the 13 bus today, passing Machane Yehuda when it hit me-- this is my last Shabbat here for 2 months. As the bus was going past I turned my head, to try to get in the sight of Machane Yehuda on erev Shabbos one more time, one last little bit. I know I'm coming back on August 31, and I really want to see everyone. But Israel is home, and I know that as long as I'm not here I'm going to miss it.

I'm not going into this trip with the idea that I'm not going to enjoy New York. I just know that I will miss Israel. I'm excited to see my family and friends and I really miss all of them. But every time I leave it's like I'm being ripped from my home and there's a part of me that feels incomplete when I'm not here. NY and Israel are both home. But Israel, being in the country itself, feels more right than being in NY.

Oh, it was was my half-year aliyahaniversary on June 30. Happy half-year to me and the other olim on the December 30, 2009 NBN flight! I'm still trying to figure out where these past 6 months went.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Not happy with the army right now.

Why? Because I'm leaving on Sunday and I wanted to see someone before I left...and this Shabbat is a closed one, which means on base. Murgh.

I guess that's life in this country.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Political Post #1

This blog is generally not a political blog at all. I don't even have a label for politics. But...I live in Israel, and a large part of Israel and being Israeli is politics. The first part is a notice about the True Freedom Flotilla, set to sail to the UN tomorrow. The second part is a letter that was posted by Tamar Yonah, an English-speaking radio talk show host and blogger. I do not know if the letter is real or not, but it's a thought either way. I will put my comments and thoughts about these in a later post.

Part I:



WHEN: Thursday, June 24, 11:30 a.m.

WHERE: The Queen of Hearts boat

Pier 40 (Houston Street and West Side Highway)

New York City


Marking the fourth anniversary of Gilad Shalit’s kidnapping byHamas, the “True Freedom” Flotilla will sail from Pier 40 around the tip of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty to theUnited Nations to remind the international body and the world of the real siege in Gaza and call for the release of Gilad Shalit. The Flotilla is organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The Flotilla will sail regardless of the weather forecast, as the boats are covered.

The media is invited to remain aboard the Queen of Hearts following the press conference. The Flotilla will depart from Pier 40 at 12:00 noon and will return around 2:00 p.m.

Gilad Shalit was kidnapped from within Israeli territory on June 25, 2006, as part of an unprovoked and well-planned attack byHamas terrorists. He remains held in total isolation with no access to the International Red Cross or other humanitarian bodies. Since his capture, Hamas has provided only two indications that Gilad is still alive – a recorded message of his voice released on June 25, 2007, and a video of him released on October 2, 2009.

PLEASE NOTE: Security requires advance notice of all attendees to this meeting. To RSVP for the meeting, please contact the Conference of Presidents at or 212-318-6111.

Part II:
*Hello Uncle Erwin,***

This is Amir writing you after reading what you sent to my father, Eitan.

As you know, it was my unit and my friends who were on the ship. My commander was injured badly as a result of the "pacifists" violence. I want to tell you how he was injured so you could tell the story. It shows just how horrible and inhuman were the activists. My commander was the first soldier that rappelled down from the helicopter to the ship.
When he touched ground, he got hit in the head with a pole and stabbed in the stomach with a knife.
When he drew out his secondary weapon-a handgun (his primary weapon was a regular paintball gun: "Tippman 98 custom") he was shot in the leg. He managed to fire a single shot before he was tossed from the balcony by 4
Arab activists, to the lower deck (a 12 feet fall). He was then dragged by other activists to a room in the lower deck were he was stripped down by 2 activists. They took off his vest, helmet and shirt, leaving him
with only his pants and shoes on. When they finished they took a knife and expanded the wound he already had in his stomach. They cut his ab muscles horizontally and by hand spilled his guts out. When they finished they raised him up and walked him on the deck outside. He was conscious the whole time.

If you are asking yourself why they did all that, here comes the reason.
They wanted to show the soldiers their commander's body so they will be demoralized and scared. Luckily, when they walked him on the deck a soldier saw him and managed to shoot the activist that was walking him
down the outside corridor. He shot him with a special non-lethal bullet that didn't kill him. My commander managed to jump from the deck to the water and swim to an army rescue boat (his guts still out of his
body, and now in salty sea water). That was how he was saved. The activists that did this to him are alive, now in Turkey, and treated as heroes.

I'm sorry if I described this with too many details, but I thought it was necessary for the credibility. Please tell this story to anyone who will listen. I think that these days you are one of Israel's best spokesman.

*Thanks uncle Erwin, *

* *

*Shabbat Shalom!***

* *


Monday, June 21, 2010

NY, here I come! (soon)

I'm going back to NY for the summer.
It's weird-- I was so excited to come to Israel, every time I came before, and now when I'm going to NY, I'm just excited to see my family, I'm not excited to be back in NY (except that there are a lot of cheaper things there).

I'm confused.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Yay progress!

It's been about a month since I last updated. Tons has happened since then...
-Deposited my first check, which was very exciting
-Miriam found an apartment and that she, Eden, and I are renting
-Ordered checks
-Got my teudat ma'avar
-Was in the MDA EMS Championship up North
-Finishing Ulpan
-Finding a job
-Summer in NY!

So, let's start:
Check: I deposited my first check in my bank account! It doesn't seem like that big a deal, but I did it in Hebrew. I walked into one of the bank branches and said to someone, "Hi. I know this sounds sort of silly, but can you help me deposit this check? I've never deposited a check before and don't know what to do." So she did. And she was very nice and helpful, and said, "There's a first time for everything." And so it was. I successfully deposited my first check. Go me.

Miriam found an apartment and that she, Eden, and I are renting: Miriam found an apartment for us. It's mostly unfurnished-- it has a fridge and stove, closets, and a couple of pieces of furniture, but mostly not. No beds or anything. So we are working on getting furniture. It's 3 bedrooms and a HUGE living room. The kitchen is also big, and there's another side room with the stove and a second sink and a place for the washing machine. There's also a mirpeset-- two of the rooms open to the mirpeset and the third does not. Two toilets and one bathtub/shower. A little more than I wanted to pay, but it's really not unreasonable for what we are renting. The Arnona and va'ad bayit are also more expensive, but that seems to be normal for that area. The landlords are also supposedly good landlords and good people. Our lease starts July 1.

Ordered checks: I ordered (and picked up) my checks. I have to go back to the bank, though, because it showed that it took 9 shekels out of my account when it wasn't supposed to because as an olah chadasha I get 3 checkbooks free. There's someone in the branch who speaks English and she's been wonderful; I'll go talk to her.

Got my teudat ma'avar: Went to Misrad Hapnim to fill out the form, gave in the pictures, and paid. Miriam went to pick it up from the post office (because it was sent registered mail) and they wouldn't let her because she didn't have my ID with her. Murgh. I SIGNED the form so she could pick it up...and they still wouldn't let her. So I went to the post office and got there at 5:57-- it closes at 6. Someone was there at 6:03 and they wouldn't let him in. I'm very glad I got there on time. So I now have a teudat ma'avar, which is like a temporary passport. You can't get an Israeli passport until you've been a citizen for a year, but you need to travel on an Israeli document when leaving Israel so you get a teudat ma'avar until you can get your real passport. So I have one now.

Was in the MDA EMS Championship up North: SO MUCH FUN! It was 3 days of challenges and working with new people and The theme was "From Gilboa to Carmel," which were the two regions that won the last Championship (it's every 2 years); Carmel won again this year from MDA (BLS and ALS), and Spain (BLS) and Canada (ALS) won this year from the international teams. I was on the Irish team with a driver from Netanya.

Finishing Ulpan: Tomorrow is my last day of classes. We have to be out by the 15, but I'm teaching a course starting Monday, so I'm moving out Monday morning. I have almost everything moved out; Basi came on Thursday night and picked up some suitcases and stuff, I brought one home on Friday, and I have some other random things to pack up that I'm just going to have to bring to the course, and we still have quite a bit from the kitchen. And the stand dryer. Miriam is going to be taking stuff. I don't know how, but we will have to make it work-- we have to have things out and in some order. Alan came on Friday and took a bunch of stuff-- a suitcase of kitchen stuff, and the oven-- to his machsan.

Finding a job: Work in progress. There was somewhere that wanted me to come work, but it was mornings, and before I finished Ulpan and I wanted to finish Ulpan. I'm now looking for jobs, preferably in schools or gan or ma'on. Afternoons work too; I definitely wouldn't mind working in the afternoon. The system is very different here in that there are more part-time positions and very few full-time positions available. I don't really know how benefits work here-- full-time/part-time. Are they different? How? What am I entitled to as an employee, etc. Tips anybody?

Summer in NY!: I'm going back July 4-August 31. It's going to be interesting, because I'm still a citizen-- I'm not giving up my American citizenship, I don't want to-- but in a way I'll be a tourist. I don't live in NY anymore, and...I think that's going to be a shock when I first get there. Of course I remember how things look and all that, but it' parents' house feels like home. It feels funny to say that NY, though, is home. I'm not sure that it is anymore, at least it's not completely home.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

How do you know what's right?

How do you know what's right? I just...I'm questioning...

Did I do the right thing by making aliyah? I was so sure that this was right for me, that I wanted to be in Israel. And I am. I'm so sure that this is the right place for me and that I should be here.

But I’m also questioning if I shouldn’t have stayed in NY and shouldn’t have left some people.

Would staying there have just been safe? Coming to Israel was definitely a leap of faith on many levels and in a way there’s not a day that I don’t have some regret, or twinge of missing NY…home…something.

It’s so hard to be here. I love it and it's in a way easier to be here, I don't have to explain things. But it's so hard emotionally. You're missing things and people and you can't be there for your family and friends the way you were before and you want to and it just hurts.

You know there are other people who are going through this, and went through this, but somehow it's not your situation and it's just not the same.

I understand what Mom was saying about me being lonely. Mom, if you're reading this (not that I think you know it exists or know how to find it, but all the same)-- don't worry, I'm fine. I promise. I just miss the usual birthday routine.

How do you know what's right?, part II

How do you know what's right? I just...I'm questioning...

Did I do the right thing by making aliyah? I was so sure that this was right for me, that I wanted to be in Israel. And I am. I'm so sure that this is the right place for me and that I should be here.

How do you know what’s right? I mean…now…I just…I’m questioning…
Did I do the right thing by making aliyah? I was so sure that this was right for me, that I wanted to be in Israel. And I am. I’m so sure that this is the right place for me and that I should be here.
But I’m also questioning if I shouldn’t have stayed in NY and shouldn’t have left some people.
Would staying there have just been safe? Coming to Israel was definitely a leap of faith on many levels and in a way there’s not a day that I don’t have some regret, or twinge of missing NY…home…something.
It’s so hard to be here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Birthday thoughts

I haven't forgotten about Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron, and Yom Haatzmaut. I will also have Yom Yehushalyim to add to that list very shortly. But put those on the side for now.

My last birthday in Israel was at a very different point in my life. I was still living at home with my parents and I was in Israel on vacation. Not, you know, for life. The night before I was staying at Hannah's apartment with Eden and we broke out the cookies at midnight-- Stella D'oro Swiss Fudge cookies. Yummy. I opened one card and left the rest for the morning. The next morning we went to out 88-hour/natan course and I had a surprise birthday party with the um...yeah, the most interesting birthday cake I had ever had.

This year is completely different. I'm in Israel, but I'm living in, not on vacation. I'm living here. My family sent cards and I supposed I could put them (or at least the card from my parents) on the table for the morning, but that definitely loses something. Even though I knew that every year there was going to be a card waiting for me when I got downstairs, it was always nice and exciting.

I also don't really know what to do for my birthday party this year. I don't have an apartment that I can really have friends over in because I live in a merkaz klita [absorption center] that happens to be sof ha'olam s'molah [end of the world, take a left]. Bars are not my thing. I decided to either do light dinner (bagels, salads, etc.) in the park, or dinner at a restaurant. The thing with a restaurant is that you have to make reservations and really know how many people, etc. In the park (or in an apartment) you can get a couple of dozen bagels, spreads, drinks, and snacks and people can come in and out. I don't really care, it's about the people.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I sort of forgot about this. I've started journaling again, in an actual handwritten journal, and this kind of fell by the wayside. Sorry. Let's try this again.

First of all-- pictures. My internet here kind of sucks, so once I get back to NY (more on that at a later point in time) I'll upload from my first 6 months as an olah.

So-- Pesach. This is what I wrote in my iGoogledisrael column:
This was my first Passover (Pesach) in Israel, and my first Pesach as an Israeli. One thing that separates Israel from the rest of the world is the number of days in the holiday. Outside of Israel there are 8 days to Passover, and in Israel there are 7—so there is one less holiday-day (called “chag”) than outside. As a new Israeli, the concept of having only one day of chag is a little weird, because it kind of feels like half of the holiday is missing. In a way it is, but it’s still odd to have only one day.

Another difference is that you have to check EVERYTHING for not only being kosher for Passover (Kasher l’Pesach, or abbreviated as “kashl“ap”), but also checking to see if it’s kosher for Passover for everyone, or only for those who eat Kitniyot (legumes and such, including rice, beans, and corn; Jews of Sefardi descent eat them, Jews of Ashkenai descent don’t). There is a lot in Israel that is kosher for Pesach that may contain kitniyot, including drinks, snacks, even yogurt. Outside of Israel, especially in North America where I am from, things will generally not be on the kosher for Passover shelves if they have kitniyot in them, or they will be in a separate area. Here they’re very mixed in and you have to check things very, very carefully.

As far as the products—in Israel there is a law that chametz (leaven) products cannot be displayed for public sale. In North American, if you’re not in a kosher grocery store, then there is usually a part of the store sectioned for Passover products. In Israel, they drape plastic tablecloths over the non-kosher l’pesach areas and put a sign on them that says “chametz.” And anything else is kosher for Passover, however you have to check it for kitniyot.

And since it’s a national holiday, many people are off or take off from work and participate in the Israeli pastime of hiking and camping. The North is just starting to bloom, and many people go camping on the Kinneret and in other areas of the Galil and Golan. Another popular spot is the Dead Sea. One other thing—the buses, at least the Jerusalem buses, alternate the route number and direction with “Chag kasher v’sameach”—“A kosher and happy holiday.”

Passover in Israel…nothing like it.

My Pesach went like this:
-Seder. One day of chag. BBQ for lunch...mmmm!
-Feel like I'm missing half of the chag, so I listen to my aunt and uncle having a seder in the background, sit with them to be social, and then watch Numbers on the computer.
-Plan on relaxing at home
-Nix that plan and go to the Kineret
-Go to Karmiel overnight to see a friend
-Go to Tzefat and spend a day-and-a-half there. Intense.
-Go back home for Shabbat
-Spend Sunday getting ready for more chag
-More chag. One day again. Again, feel like half the chag is missing.
-Undo Pesach
-Isru chag. Have off from Ulpan, go back to Jerusalem

And that was Pesach. It was weird having to check things so much for things being kosher l'pesach NOT l'ochlei kitniyot. Even the Nestle cocoa, which I got in NY and was kosher l'Pesach...not here! It's l'ochlei kitniyot! Tricky things!

Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron, and Yom Ha'atzmaut to follow. As well as Lag Baomer, which is this upcoming Motza"sh.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Missing home?

I miss my family and friends. Just one of those moments.

I would like my room and my bed that I've was sleeping in since we moved into the house. My pillows, my quilt, and my Booba. Or the bear one of my friends gave me that I slept with when I was in the dorm and my Booba was at home.
I want to sleep against the blue corduroy backrest pillow that Elissa swiped repeatedly.
I would like to go to sleep with my sister in the other bed in my room and talk as we both fall asleep and then remember to tell her that I love her and give her a kiss before we both pass out. Or go to sleep in her bed because mine is covered with stuff (read: clothes).
Not be able to fall asleep or want to read before I sleep so I pick up one of the books along the wall or next to my bed and know that I will always have something to read because the wall is lined with books.
To walk in to my room and see the collages on my walls, the pictures, the posters, the lyrics.
Looking into my mirror and seeing the photos stuck in the edges where the mirror and the wood framing meet and looking down at my dresser, full of photo frames and tchachkes that mean something.
My stereo. With a record player. It took me 3 years to find it.
Being able to call my parents and sisters and many friends without even thinking about it. And walking home phone calls with Sara...I miss those...

I'm home here, but I miss my home in NY.

I can't really figure out this "home" business...Israel is home in that it feels right here. I guess that's what home is, where it feels right. And it's ok for both Israel and NY to be home. But it feels weird to call NY home because it feels not right there, but it feels right to be in the house I grew up in, with everything familiar.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reflections on One Seder doesn't quite feel like Yom Tov with only one day of chag. I suppose that's normal-- feels...missing something- wait, let's rephrase that so it's proper English and makes sense: it feels like something is missing. As much as the two-day yom tov was long, it feels like something is missing now. Like it's only half of a chag.
My aunt and uncle are doing a second seder; that's also weird, to have a second seder going on in the background while I'm sitting here tapping away on the computer.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pesach in the Holy Land

Subtitle: My first chag as an Israeli

Pesach is one of those holidays that is so darn family-centered. Growing up my parents, sisters, and I always went upstate with my father's parents, my aunt, uncle, and cousin (my dad's sister and her family), and my mom's parents (my mom is an only child). And there were 12 of us in the house, plus the dog-- Bubby and Zaidy (my dad's parents)'s room, my aunt and uncle's room, my family's room, and my Grandma and Grandpa (my mom's parents)'s room. The kids all slept in in their parent's rooms/in the couch when passed out from exhaustion at the seder.
We had our traditions-- the kids rotated setting the table/serving/cleaning up; 2 kids per seder and the rest of the meals were 1 child each. My mom brought the European kiddush cups for the seder, four of them in four different sizes. There were originally 3 in the set from my great-grandparents, and then a fourth one was added from a family friend. Only the largest two were big enough to actually have enough wine from, but we used them anyway. My Zaidy, my Grandpa, my dad, and my uncle each had a seder plate, and everyone had their own kiddush cup. My Zaidy's was red/maroon glass, my Grandpa's kiddush cup was green with a glass insert, my dad's was silver with his name, and my uncle's was silver also. My cousin had his own, too, also silver. My Bubby, Grandma, and aunt used glass ones, and my mom and sisters and I used the European cups and sometimes supplemented with other cups.
The way Pesach went in my house was a couple of weeks before Pesach, my parents would go upstate and bring stuff up, and then a few days before my Bubby and Zaidy would go up and supervise the cleaning lady. In our house in the city we would clean and get the house Pesachdik because my dad came back over chol hamoed to work. My Grandpa made the charoset in our house, with my little sister and I as taste testers; mostly wine, but he always made one container with grape juice.
We would all get upstate, and my Bubby and Zaidy would already be there, usually my aunt, uncle, and cousin as well, and my Bubby would be making chremzel (matzah meal pancakes) for us to eat. We would unload in between eating, saying hi, and petting the dog.
Once everything was in and we were ready to get ready for the seder, my Grandma would do the eggs, whoever was on duty for the seder would set the table with my Bubby, my Bubby would make the salad, my mom would be heating the food up, and my aunt would be doing the seder plates and whatnot. Everyone was doing something.
Then the guys came home from shul. Treasure would let us know. Eventually the guys would pick their matzahs, everyone would end up with a Haggadah (usually the same ones, although it always took 20 minutes to pick...), and we would start. Zaidy made kiddush, the Grandpa, then my dad, then my uncle, then BZ. For Karpas, my Bubby would make the salt water (with pepper too) and put it in two white bowls with the same cups every year. Once Yachatz happened, we (the kids) would tell our fathers/grandfathers that we would "keep" the afikomen safe and make sure it was in a safe place until the end of the seder. My BZ took his dad's, and us girls (my sisters and I) would split up between my dad, Zaidy, and Grandpa. Usually my dad gave it to my mom to hold and Lis got it; Andrea got Grandpa's because she sat next to him, and I got my Zaidy's. Once Andrea got married and went to Seder with Yoni's family, I took Grandpa's. And we would go through the seder, reading and talking. Ma Nishtana, Lis and BZ did. We used to do the multi-lingual thing, but then it got tiring. Of course there were the classic moments of, "And the rasha says, 'What kind of crap is this?'" and divrei Torah and comments interspersed in Maggid and in-between. Motzei everyone did on their own-- but until that happened... We got to shulchan orech-- no matter who was on duty, I served soup. My thing was soup. Is soup (as in, I know what everybody in my family wants and can tell you-- clear soup, veggies, no veggies, only certain veggies, noodles, kneidel, how's kinda freaky/cool). Then came tzafun, aka negotiations. We used to negotiate individually, but eventually we all (all 4 of us cousins) negotiated together as a group, on one night for both sedarim. It was a game: we would hide the afikoman, we would say we won't give it back, my dad would threaten to eat another piece of matzah instead and not wait for the afikoman and we would talk to my Zaidy. Grandpa always agreed right away, or before my Grandma died he would "consult" with her. But it was just so much fun. As the seder went on, though, there would be different people "taking breaks" by falling asleep on the couch or going to their beds. At Hallel and Nirtzah, we would go around during Echad Mi Yodeah and Adir Hu, etc., taking turns reading. If I close my eyes-- actually, I don't have to, I can just picture it-- I can still hear almost hear my Grandma's voice, and I can still see and hear my Grandpa reading from the large print Haggadah in his English-Hungarian accent. I miss it. I miss them.
After Grandma died it wasn't the same-- close, but still felt her missing. And then Andrea got married and they were by us once, but after that went to the hotel. And last year Grandpa died so that was one less person at the table. And this year...well, this year, I wouldn't be there, my aunt and uncle came to Israel because BZ is here for the year, and so my Bubby and Zaidy and parent and Lis would have been the only ones. And that's depressing. So Bubby, Zaidy, my parents, and Lis went to the hotel and they're going to get to spend the Seder with Andrea and Yoni and Squishy-- one, at least. The other seder they're doing with Yoni's family.

I'm having a hard-ish time. Remember how my mom didn't want me to be lonely? I'm not lonely, but I do miss my family and friends back in NY. I think I feel it a little more acutely because of the break-up and not having that person like before, but it's also the first time I'm away from my family and missing the real traditions that we do every year and the...just the home and family. Sukkot isn't as much, because I went away for the last days anyway so it was kind of whatever. But Pesach-- we were all together. And there was always too much food and too many drinks and everyone getting on each other's nerves and being in and out and...this Pesach is going to be hard. Good, nice, different, but hard.

I also realized that I can't not live in Israel, but I definitely left someone I very well could have married. I'm having a bit of a down moment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two posts in one

First Post:
Yesterday I had to go from Beit Yehuda in Givat Massua to Rechaviya; I needed the 13. I could have taken the 12 the other way to meet the 13, but the person at the front desk said I could also catch the 13 at Malcha. I didn't remember that, but I figured, "Well, that's the direction I need." So I asked the bus driver where I catch the 13. He asked me, "Where are you going?" I told him, and he goes, "You should have taken the bus the other way." Well, I hadn' he told me what buses to switch to and someone else chimes in, and then the front part of the bus was debating which was the best way for me to get where I needed to go. Only in Israel.

Second Post:
Two years ago at this time I was back in NYC. March 25, 2008, was my return flight to NYC after spending about 9 weeks in Israel.
I did not want to be back, I did not want to be back. It was more like a vacation or short trip in between being in Israel.

And here I am now, March 25, 2010, getting ready for my first Pesach as an olah, as an Israeli, and planning my trip back to NY from Israel. This time when I book a round-trip ticket it will be from TLV to JFK/EWR and back to TLV.

It just keeps hitting me...I live here. I live here. I. LIVE. HERE. ISRAEL. This is freakin' awesome!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The weekend

In Israel, the workweek is a little different than in America.

In America, the workweek is Monday-Friday; typical business hours are 9-5. In Israel, the workweek is Sunday-Friday; typical business hours are anything from 8-6:30, with 2-3 hour breaks in the middle, and many places will open Sunday or Friday, be closed any day from Monday-Thursday, and often end their day at 12:30.

My week goes from Sunday-Thursday. I have classes from 8:30-12:45 Sunday-Thursday, and then Thursday-Saturday (Shabbat, here) I am free. Why is this nice? Why is this not nice?

I love having Friday free (not everybody has this, but many people do). I can get ready for Shabbat and not have to be pressured to do things in the 2 hours that I have once I get home from work. Or have to worry about having enough time to get to my destination before Shabbat.

Why is this not nice? Because when I want to do something on Motzei Shabbat, or when I take my Shabbat afternoon nap, I have to take into account that I have class at 8:30 am on Sunday morning. I miss my Sundays. But Fridays here are sort of like Sundays. Except that you have to be ready for Shabbat by the time sunset hits. Rather, 18 minutes before to light.

Another thing about Shabbat here- since pretty much everybody is Jewish, everybody wishes each other Shabbat shalom-- from the bus driver to the cashier in the supermarket to the garbage man to the taxi driver! Not everybody is Jewish, but most of the people that I am in contact with are, anyway. It's so nice.

שבת שלום לכולם! Or, Shabbat shalom everybody!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My head is clear now / I know I'm right / I will not fear now / I will not fight -"Reach," Caren Tackett

I am no longer dating the person I was for the past 2 months. So why is this going in my aliyah blog- what does this have to do with my aliyah process?

Well, for starters, we have a lot of mutual friends-- many of whom form a strong social network and support for me. We started dating about a week and a half after I got here. Which is interesting timing because I had just gotten here, and it's not like there was anything going on before I got to Israel.

He is also an oleh, although he's been here longer than I have. We were looking for different things in the relationship. So it ended.

And so went my first relationship in Israel. And now I am single again. But not to worry-- it's Israel! Everyone wants to set anyone single up!