Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

Murphy and his law are alive and well here in Israel.

Yesterday (literally!) I said to Gila, “The good news about blogging for so long is that you’ve already covered all the feelings.”

And I thought I had a good grasp on Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day). My post from 2011 is still applicable. I am desperately grateful to be here. I am more aware of the sacrifices with each passing year.

But this year Miss M’s class, the 5th grade girls (the kids’ school divides by gender for 5th and 6th), presented the tekes (ceremony) for Yom Hazikaron. 10952862_10153137452351708_161916310873038842_n (2)

Because there is no school tomorrow, Yom Haatzmaut, the tekes touched on both the grief and joy that encompasses this time of year.

There were slow songs and solemn readings; the flag lowered to half-staff; the lighting of memorial candles for fallen soldiers from our city.

And then the music turned upbeat. The girls lined up in rows and took flags. Big, proud Israeli flags. A young woman, who is doing her National Service in the school, led 33 girls through complex formations. My girl, who breezes through academics but struggles with many other things, couldn’t stop tapping her feet and had a gigantic smile on her face.


She was so happy that I cried.

Finally the formation broke apart into rows. Each girl, gripping her flag, stood and sang “HaTikva” with the entire school and guests. Gets you right in the gut, 400 kids in white shirts pledging their allegiance to their land.

Highly recommended. Not to missed.


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One of the nicest things about Israel is its size. It’s pretty tiny. Which means that Taxman and I were able to slip away for two days last week while leaving the kids in Savta’s charge. (She came to us so the kids could go to school; we are mean like that).

It was a bit of a working holiday, as we did answer our phones and spent a little time on the computer, but being untethered from the regular grind was really lovely.

angels tel aviv

We had temperate winter weather with light breezes and high clouds, perfect for being outdoors. Our first day, we took a self-guided tour of Neve Tzedek, a neighborhood in Tel Aviv. Although we did it non-competitively, we approximated the route of Israel ScaVentures‘ Neve Tzedek tour. (I had previously done the Jerusalem – Old City Scavenger Hunt, with many other bloggers, and the Gush Etzion ScaVenture with my kids and Lisa – and kids – from Handmade in Israel.) It was, predictably, fun and informative – they do experiential education right!

History footnote: Neve Tzedek was the first neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Previously it was some sand and a few orange trees that bordered both the Mediterranean and the overcrowded, dank, and expensive port city of Jaffa (Yafo). Some pioneers were tempted out of Jaffa with the promise of privies and better infrastructure. They came. Years later, the neighborhood fell into disrepair. Now it’s heavily gentrified and pricey as hell. A story repeated the world over.

What I got the biggest kick out of in Neve Tzedek was the graffiti. Hebrew, English, deep, nonsensical, funny. It was all covered.

artik zizi top

We also hit up the Rokach Museum, which is a ton of Tel Aviv history packed into a few rooms and very charming.

Our second day we hit the highway and headed south, where we got to catch the western Negev in full bloom. The kalanit (crown anemone) was in peak season. It was awesome. Lots of gawkers, even though it was midday on a weekday. Maybe other lucky vacationers like us?

kalanit 1kalanit 2

We also meandered over a hilltop in G’vaot Gad (the Gad hills), east of the city of Kiryat Gat, where we were treated to more flowers, a herd of cattle (who didn’t seem to like being disturbed), and a sighting of three mountain gazelles.

iris baby orchids purple flowers

So, a mini-tour of Israel in just 30 hours – big city, pastoral, history, nature. Topped off by a rainbow.


When can we go again?



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Faux fall

Welcome to fall!

Except not really, because this is Israel.

We have faux fall. (Remember? No foliage, no weather changes, just birds.)

Nachlieli (White Wagtail). Photo by SuperJew.

Nachlieli (White Wagtail). Photo by SuperJew.

The desire to wear long sleeves and eat hot soup overtakes us, but we immediately regret it because it is still hot. Very hot, actually.

But: It’s getting dark a little earlier. There is a breeze in the evening. So we are lulled fooled.

I admit to falling prey to this myself. The Stockholm Syndrome of it all. On Friday evening, I realized I hadn’t been overly sweaty the entire day. Not once! So, sure, I had been to both the pool (in the morning) and the beach (in the afternoon) and had probably lowered my core body temperature, but still!

Next week, we’ll be eating apples & honey, popping pomegranate seeds like they’re going out of style, and toasting the new year. Maybe the kids will don long sleeves (at night) for the occasion, to feel like something is new, like leaves are being turned over physically as well as psychologically.

If not — there’s always November.

Shana tova!

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We are coming up on our 5th anniversary of aliyah. August 5th.

There have been a few downs, but many more ups. We love our house, our community, our children’s school, our friends.

And we love our country. Israel is a place with history, both ancient and modern. It is a country of great natural beauty; nothing too flashy, usually modestly stunning with occasional great panache.

A peek at the sea from deep inside Tel Aviv.

A peek at the sea from deep inside Tel Aviv.

But as much as I have come to love Israel, living here and feeling at home, it was not until this month that I came to view it as an absolute necessity. For many years, people have told me that Israel is vital as a safe haven for Jews. I thought this was post-Holocaust “PTSD” or paranoia talking.

I was wrong.

First of all, my impulse ignored the fate of mizrachi Jews in Israel, whose original communities no longer exist: Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and others. Or the Jews who came from the USSR, who faced danger at “home” for their religion.

My attitude was very Western-centric. It was a mistake.

Secondly, the rise of anti-Semitic incidents since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge are very scary to me personally. I have family in Europe and America. I have vacationed in Europe; it is the “civilized” continent next door. America, for all its craziness, is the culture and country that raised me.

The Israel-Gaza protests are couched as “pro-Palestinian,” or “against Israeli violence,” but let’s face it: barricading Jews in synagogues (France), barring them from entrance to a cafe (Belgium), leaving anti-Semitic flyers on cars (Chicago), shouting “Death to the Jews” (Germany), or engaging in horrific hate-speech on social media is not the same as holding a sign outside the Israeli embassy. Flag-burning isn’t flag-waving. There have been riots and violence in London, Paris, Calgary. This isn’t about politics; it seems to be a massive tide of anti-Jewish sentiment, roiling and boiling and threatening the free world.

Perhaps I am exaggerating.

But I feel secure.

I live in Israel. The army and security forces are doing their very best to protect me. There are safe rooms in my house, in the shops, at the pool. The Iron Dome is plucking rockets out of the sky with good success rates. It feels normal, almost, except:

  • every siren, countrywide, is noted in real time
  • fun summer events and camp field trips are cancelled, even where it is “safe”
  • advertising for attractions is rejiggered to publicize bomb shelter proximity
  • every casualty is a blow

Let’s not forget that the enemy isn’t hypothetical – it is Hamas, and they want my head. They stole hundreds of millions of dollars and invested it in terror tunnels, currently IN USE, INFILTRATING INTO ISRAEL INTENDING TO KILL CIVILIANS. Lest you think this was just in the “planning” stages. (Even if it were….but it is NOT.)

My children, my friends, and my friends’ children are also targets. And the Jews outside of Israel. This isn’t alarmist. It is the truth. It’s in the Hamas charter. Israel is the immediate focus, but what then? Just like Hitler, who had grander plans then just to conquer Europe, Hamas would like to see us all dead. They are not fooling around, clearly, because they have threatened international journalists and sacrificed their own constituents.

More than ever, Jews need Israel.

Israel is facing an existential threat.

And Israelis know it; the public support for the IDF is through the roof. A grateful nation is buying clean socks (soldiers have not been back to base or back home for several weeks) and baking cookies; making sandwiches and sending toiletries; drawing thank you cards — which are, in turn, papering tanks and barracks along the Gaza border. Reading the list of injured soldiers out loud at synagogue on Shabbat, dozens and dozens of names, took several minutes – and there was not a whisper of protest.

We are searching for more ways to help. It’s becoming a civic responsibility to take care of people who live in the south of Israel, whose lives are under constant barrage from the rockets – buying whatever we can to support their businesses.

A friend arranged for flowers to be delivered from a small community near the Gaza border. The flower growing business has suffered as events in the south of Israel have been cancelled, but last week over 250 bouquets were sold in Modiin.

A friend arranged for flowers to be delivered from a small community near the Gaza border. The flower growing business has suffered as events in the south of Israel have been cancelled, but last week over 250 bouquets were sold in Modiin.

So all this, the groundswell of emotion and action from inside and outside of Israel, have turned me into a protective Zionist. Israel must be here, as flawed and raw and nation-young as it is, for safety’s sake.

I hope that Protective Edge is resolved soon, before more lives are lost. I hope that Hamas is dismantled. I hope that aid to the Palestinians of Gaza is used to house and feed them, not stolen from them to create terror tunnels. I hope that we can all find a way to live together. Hope, not hate.

But not like this. Not at the expense of Israel’s existence.

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Confession: I was not an intuitive pregnant woman. You know, the kind of woman who knows the “second” she conceives. These women have an instant connection, a lovely internal secret that is then confirmed by pee sticks, blood tests and ultrasounds. I had none of that. “Surprise! You’re growing a person; your due date is [many days before my children were actually born].”

It doesn’t matter. However you find out you are pregnant, or how you will become a mother, through adoption, fostering, anything – you eventually figure out the connection. You build and are built by it. Sometimes there is some tearing down, some forging and reforging through fiery flames. Good times. Great times. Hard times. Shared times.

Today, in my city’s cemetery, three mothers and three fathers, more than a dozen siblings, and an entire nation will bury three children. Three boys — students; kind, helpful, giving people. Their deaths have put an end to a massive national effort to find them. It is not the conclusion we wanted. The politics will long outlive them. There is so much anger. So much sadness. So much frustration. So much helplessness.

I question the decision to send these mothers into the lion’s den, also known as the United Nations in Geneva, to beg the international community for help. In retrospect, the boys were already dead. They were dead by the time their parents knew they were missing. Is this better or worse? This is the kind of question that has no acceptable answer. There should be a parallel universe where they have finished their exams and taking their younger siblings on summer adventures.

The waves of sadness keep coming.

This morning, as Miss M wept in our bed, AM burrowed under the covers; he emerged 10 minutes later to say: “I want to go back to America.” He doesn’t know it’s not safer there.

At the grocery store, a teenager pushed a cart with his younger brother in tow, the two of them taking care of the family shopping. This is how it is. Kids are treasured, but internalize that part of this state of being is responsibility to the source of love.

Almost weepy at the grocery store leads to a lot of ice cream on the tab. FYI.

I am frustrated by the short reach of the news. I feel like all of us, Israelis and Jews, are simply talking among ourselves. We cannot engage the wider world. Does nobody else care? I am sure that can’t be it. Is Israel too far away, too war-torn, too political, too foreign?  I don’t know.

I feel like I, personally, cannot catch the attention of my friends who are parents, smart and savvy and politically engaged — in America. What can I say to them, to you, to make you understand the raw grief and crushing moral equivalency that we are subjected to?

I’ll just be here. And when the passionate speeches die away, Eyal, Gil-ad, and Naftali will remain as my close neighbors and in my thoughts.

May their families and those who stand with Israel be comforted. Can this impossible task be achieved? I just don’t know.

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Hear that? It’s the sound of millions of parents worrying.

In case your news sources have been less than attentive, here’s what I can tell you:

Three teenage boys, ages 16, 16, and 19, were on their way home from boarding schools last Thursday night. They were kidnapped from a spot where they were hitchhiking. They haven’t been heard from since.

The Israeli government is fairly sure (or was?) that this kidnapping was carried out by an agent or agents of Hamas, a known terror organization and now-partner in a “unity” government ruling the Palestinian Authority. It’s unclear what the motives were here: prisoner exchange, as the Israeli government capitulated to in order to free Gilad Shalit, or simply terror.

I can’t even explain how horrific this is on so many levels.

First of all, these boys are civilians. Soldiers are known targets and are well aware of this. They are subject to rules, but also carry guns and are taught how to handle BEING a target. These kids are teenagers, learning in high school or yeshiva. I guarantee you that they were going to BE soldiers, some day. The religious Zionist community is extremely committed to serving in the army. But they are kids, still; they were trying to get home for the weekend.

Here are some more things you need to know, just in case you have been reading the news and have some questions:

  • High school in Israel starts in 7th grade.
  • Partial (sleeping over two nights a week) or full (Sunday-Thursday) boarding schools are common, especially for religious boys.
  • You can apply to any high school in the country; it’s not districted. If there is a curriculum or a teacher or rabbi that particularly speaks to you, you apply to that school.
  • While public transportation in major population centers like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa — and between them — is excellent, much of the rest of the country is extremely underserved.
  • The legal driving age is 18; you can begin lessons at 17.
  • Cars are extremely expensive; import tax is approximately 100%. Gas is extremely expensive; figure $7-8 per gallon.
  • Hitchhiking is legal and simply how people, especially young people without their own cars, get around “between” infrequent or insufficient bus service.

These boys were among the oldest in their families of many siblings. They shouldered a lot of responsibilities besides being high school students, and were, as is expected of most Israeli teens, fairly independent. They were taken from a hitchhiking post that is near many Jewish communities of various sizes, but also near the biggest supermarket in the area, where Arabs and Jews work and shop together.

It is not viewed as a “dangerous” area, though I guess how people feel about it depends on your perspective. We’ve passed this junction dozens and dozens of times.


(Miss M and me at the Pinat Chama, within sight of the kidnapping location. The Pinat Chama offers refreshments, hugs, and words of encouragement to soldiers passing through this area. It is staffed by volunteers.)

Anyway, now Israelis have united in worry. For the welfare of these children. Who, regardless of your political leanings, are not combatants and do not deserve this.

There have been country-wide prayers. Soldiers who have been called to the area to look for them; and an unending shower of support for them in the form of cakes and treats, if my Facebook feed is to be believed.

But I feel so discouraged – the people who took these boys are either terrible people or regular people under terrible influences. The disconnect, for me, between prayer and their safe return is huge. I can’t figure it out. I feel like the machinations of power in this situation are beyond divine influence. Which is blasphemous, I’m sure, but there it is.

(Which is not to discourage anyone else. If it’s good for you, makes you feel like you’re doing something, anything!, that’s great – that is what we all want to feel.)

From the second they were taken, they were changed people. With every minute, every day that passes they recede from us. As a parent, as a human being, this makes my heart break.

More things I would like to call your attention to:

There are people besides the soldiers who are risking their lives because of this event. Israeli Arab teenagers, two of them, who have been threatened from within their own communities because of speaking out, publicly, to return the boys, and casting Israel’s democracy in a positive light. This makes my heart break.

Palestinian children celebrating the kidnapping with sweets and a three-fingered salute, representing the three captives. This makes my heart break. Because to quote Denis Leary: “Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old. Do you know what he hates? Naps! End of list.” Is this the next generation of peace partners?

These are just adding to the pile of sad. No matter your religion or your religiosity, any parent can surely understand what it would mean to have a child go missing. To have an empty place at the table. To have a huge hole in your heart. It is a small country; the connections run faster and deeper. Even though we have been here for less than five years, someone I know lives in the same small community as one of the boys. Lather, rinse, repeat until the whole country is drawn in.

Thank you for reading this. I know I have glossed over all the political issues, and there are many, because that is not the heart of the matter. Three boys, who we now know and love like our own children, are missing. They should be returned to their families and their nation.

Note: there are literally dozens of news, blog, and opinion pieces from the past week of coverage on the Times of Israel. I couldn’t decide which to link, so I haven’t included any. But if you have a spare few minutes, there are many thoughts there from different viewpoints.

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These lovely yellow buds on stalks are currently on almost every patch of undisturbed ground.


Black mustard, Modiin

When there are no buildings to disturb them, they’ve taken over. A bit. But they’re so cheerful it’s hard to object.


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