Sunday, December 26, 2010

random this and that

This morning Channah felt the baby move for the first time.  She was so excited it was awesome.


So my (relatively) trusty laptop/tablet computer has been slowly but surely dying of old age.   First the fan went so I put it up on blocks so air could circulate through its lungs more freely.  Then the power cord went so I bought a new one and plugged it in to life support.  The optical  drive started to go- but lots of geriatrics need help with optics right?  Then the video card started to go, so I reset it often and pulled the battery on a regular basis because that seemed to help with  the symptoms.  I knew then that it was too far gone to treat the cause.  This week, the Hard drive started to wheeze.  I had actually planned on putting it onto a respirator- making boot disks and running on an external drive.

But with the dawning of the sun came the realization that it had so many diseased parts it really was more humane to euthenize it. And so, last night in one last puff of glory there was a huge thud as I tripped over the power cord and unplugged it one last time.  It had a long and productive life for its species- rarely has a laptop in captivity been known to thrive for so long under such hostile conditions.  (It was fed and watered regularly).

And thus through the natural cycles of life, a new lappy came into our home.  It is tiny as a newborn babe- actually smaller than most at only 9 inches and 3 lbs.  It has 250 gigs worth of storage space, and 2 gigs of memory.  It even runs good old windows xp in English, and has a warentee and service centres relatively local.  I also got an external dvd lightscribe (LG 20x) and a cooling pad (lets see how long this one makes it) for just under 1400 shekel (about $380 US).  

If anyone local is looking to get a new lappy of their own I *HIGHLY* recommend Ivory Computers (google for them.  They are huge and have branches in about 15 different cities).  I found them through and got personal recommendations from a few different geeks that I know.  


Last night we decided to go with the old standard of Chinese for Christmas.  I made the best, low carby lemon chicken EVER.  Recipe will be on the other blog in in the next little while.

My little girl is growing up

(Picture above from our celebration dinner at cafe cafe tonight)

This week was a huge milestone for us as parents- our first parent-teacher conferences.  I went on my own as Jason figured it would be easier if I did not need to translate every 2nd word and someone needed to stay with Channah anyway.

So, having absolutely no idea what to expect, I went.

The first thing to know is that schools here are a little different to what I am used to.  In a nutshell, you can go through the entire year with almost no feedback from teachers as to how your kid is doing. I was told not to worry, that if there was ever a problem someone would be in touch, but as a North American olah I found the whole thing a little worrisome.  I was also told that I could call the teacher at home if I was concerned about anything but a) that felt really intrusive to me for anything not particularly major and b) while my Hebrew is pretty good face to face, I have a lot of trouble understanding natives over the phone.

I got the chance to meet with 2 of her teachers.  First I saw her Torah teacher (I guess what I would have called her Hebrew teacher before I moved only here Hebrew is covered as part of general studies).  She told me that Channah is a pleasure to have in the class.  She is neat and polite and always works hard to get her work done.  I asked my one real question- "Do you think she understand everything you are saying in class?"  The teacher gave me a bit of strange look and said "She answers questions and can do the work so I certainly think so- why would you think she didn't?"  When I answered that we are fairly recent olim and I was a little concerned about her Hebrew level compared to the rest of the class the teacher started to laugh.  She did not believe me that Channah was not born here.  Clearly from speaking to  me she knew *I* was an olah, but she had just assumed that Channah had been born here and went through all her early schooling here.

Definitely made my heart sing and told me we came just when we should have.  After just over 2 years my kids accent and vocabulary are good enough to fool the natives!

From there I went across the room to meet with her "mechanechet" (I what I still refer to as her "English" teacher  even though she does not actually start learning English at school until next year.  This is going to get confusing somewhere a long the line).

I got handed her "report card" and was incredibly amazing to see perfect scores and amazing comments right through.  Seriously, I am betting this has got to be the best report card ever seen to a Mechanic or Swirsky descendant EVER (I would include Gasner's as well but my mom insists her's were that good).  I know I sure as heck never brough home anything resembling this thing!

In any case her mechanechet also told me how sweet she was and what a pleasure she is to teach.  She told me her reading was coming along wonderfully, as was her writing (which I knew because we read at home and I now find little love notes everywhere on a fairly regular basis).  She is a little math whiz and gets upset if she needs to use her fingers to figure out an answer.  She plays nicely with the other kids and is one ofthe first ones to volunteer to help out for anyone who needs it.

So say my heart was soaring is the understatement of the millennium.

Tonight we took her out to celebrate.  We had planned to go to Aroma for hot chocolate, but when we got there it was  packed.  Since we were all sort of hungry we decided to go for dinner to cafe cafe instead.  Channah was beaming as she ate her ravioli (her favorite food *ever) and enjoyed her milkshake.  Jason and I were just as happy to be watching her and out with her celebrating something so special.

A few more months until we have twice as many special moments in our lives and I know I can't wait.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New pics :)

Pictures taken this afternoon after trying on the new shabbat clothes from Zaidy Nathan and deciding she looked too gorgeous and the day was too nice not to go outside to take some pictures.  As always, click to enlarge.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In the Army Now

Last week I was invited to play paintball. At first I was reluctant, as my previous time playing paintball in Toronto was not a great experience. It was dark so I couldn't see very well, including where I was shooting. My gun kept jamming which lead me to playing one game with my hopper open. Plus the paintballs hurt leaving me with welts on my stomach and neck. When I thought about it, I realized that paintball in Israel (where people have real army training), is a completely different experience. The bonus was it was free because they were filming a commercial.

The location was an abandoned army training base, still owned by the IDF. It was a beautiful sunny day, (not too hot not to cold). There were army fatigues for everyone. Well, almost there were not enough pants to go around. The equipment was semi-automatic M-16 in excellent condition. No problems with jamming and they did shoot straight.

There were 3 staff members. There was the company owner who was the base commander. There were also two other commanders who ran the day. One was tough and serious. He liked to yell and make people do push ups run around and other drills. One guys day was done when they had a heated argument with the commander because he didn't want to do a duck walk for the video. My commander was the exact opposite. He did paratroopers and was really laid back. At one point someone offered to do push up, army style (holding his gun). When he was told that his knees should be off the ground, he complained it would be harder. One of the girls in our group proceeded to do a bunch of proper regular push ups.

The day started with getting uniforms before being briefed by the tough commander. He was trying to set the tone of feeling like we were really in the army for a few hours. Having to concede his authority to the cameraman, did frustrate him just a little bit. After being briefed and assigned to teams, we received our weapons.

The weapons training was neat because they kept referring to how things are done in the army. There are 3 ways to shoot (walking, lying down, crouching) and practiced them all using balloons as practice. It was a great feeling knowing that I was able to hit my targets.

All in all we played 3 different games. The first one was capture the flag. The leader of our team had a plan but had some difficulty, assigning the tasks to be organized. I was in the back of a team of 4 who was trying to cut around the outside and moving really slowly. I cut back to the building holding our flag, when I saw some people closing in on our position. It was quite a feeling trying to fend off a position listening to the paintballs, explode over my head not sure where the shots were fired from. I saw them closing in on our position and warned one of our gaurds. They took the flag and the guard chased them down. The gaurd did not know if they could bring back the flag and in the confusion, someone else I had previously had a shootout with scooped the flag. I started to chase, but someone was yelling that had been hit and I was wide open to be taken out by anyone else. In all the confusion and disorganization we lost.

The 2nd game was rescue the hostage. There were 5 "terrorists" defending a hostage trapped in Gaza. My rescue team was lead by the commander, so I got to experience how a real soldier goes into a building. During a shootout, I had a paintball brush off the top of my head. The base commander said there was no paint and sent me back to battle. By that point all of the terrorists had been taken out and the body was been carried back to the base.

The final game was everyone for themselves, for whoever still had ammo left. The position I started with, was a little bit out of the way. After some silence there were was shooting near the main buildings. Someone had taken up a position behind a stack of tires, where he was completely exposed from my angle. I would get off a bunch of shots before taking cover. It was funny because, I could see the paintballs flying and just missing him. I was position so the cameraman had a great angle of me during the battle. After exchanging a few rounds, he was gone. I don't know if I had hit him, or if he was trying to sneak around behind me. I decided to head for the main buildings. There was silence which left me with the feeling of being the only one left. As a result I was way to aggressive trying to take the next building and was shot in the leg. It didn't hurt at all and I barely felt it.

We then returned all of our equipment and waited for pizza. In the mean time someone managed to get a really huge rock lodged under their car. 10 guys pumped up from the day, running up a hill and chanting. It would have been a great video for the commercial. They easily picked up the car, so the rock could be removed.

The final only in Israel moment came on the ride home. The person who asked to be randomly dropped anywhere in Beit Shemesh, was going to the house next to the driver's. I arrived home exhausted after a really enjoyable day. I have no idea how much paintball costs, but it is a great activity.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Worth his/her weight in gold?

As of today Newbie is roughly 1.5oz.  That is like $2000 in gold!

(Ok, so I personally think s/he is worth a whole lot more than that, but I can't help where my mind goes wheen I see an article about things in oz!)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tuition just doubled!

We just got a note from school that over and above tuition we have to pay fees that equal MORE than the total for tuition. Essentially, tuition just doubled with no notice. Is this normal?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A New Addition

Well, it has been a long time in coming and we have finally made the decision that it was time to move forward. The truth is that for a while now we have been feeling a little out of sorts- like something was missing from our lives. Something so pure and simple that you do not really notice it isn't there until you start getting sick and realizing that you just can't live any longer without it.

Yes, I am talking about pure, fresh water.

I know there are those who, out of principle, will not drink tap water in Israel. They think it is dirty or smelly or just do not like it. The truth is, in our old apartment I never had any trouble with the tap water. It tasted fine, did not have any particular smell, and overall was perfectly drinkable. That has never really been the case where we are now.

From day 1 here there has been weird stuff, little white flakes, floating in our water. If you pour a glass and let it sit you could get, quite literally 2-3mm of crud at the bottom of your glass- and the Brita did nothing to get rid of it. I could replace all the pipes for thousands of shekel in this RENTAL apartment, or I could find another solution. On top of that, for the last few months there has been construction going on outside our building and there has been even more crud, sand and debris floating in our water.

We had taken to buying bottled water anyway and were keeping it in our tiny and seriously overcrowded fridge. So Mei Eden was our happy solution. For what amounted to a difference of less than 10 shekel a month from what we were already spending, we could get it delivered to our door and cooled without needed to take room in the fridge.

To those still reading:  There will also be another new addition around here some time after purim.  :)  We are asking people to wish us a long and boring few months!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ho to speak English like an Israeli

Today I was in the shuk in Tel Aviv with Channah.  Someone started talking to me about something in English at the precise moment that I was haggling on a price with some guy who, truth be told, looked like he would rather just not sell the item.  Now, you and I both know that if just one "potential rich American tourist" word slipped out of my mouth all hope of the reduced price would fly out the window.

So what is a good little native Anglo supposed to do?

Fake it.

1) the biggest difference between the sound of words in English and the sound of words in Hebrew (other than the sound made by clearing your throat of any rocks you might have picked up over the last 5000 years) is where the emphasis is placed in the word.  In English it is almost always at the beginning of the word.  In Hebrew the middle or generally the end is more predominant.

Anglo- GI*raffe.  GUI*tar.  P*yjama.
Heb - gi*RAFFE.  Gui*TARA.  pyja*MA

2) The verb "to be" ceased to exist.

Anglo - I need to go to the store.
Heb - I need go to the store.

3) Any short pause in English  becomes a hold of the previous sound in Hebrew.

Anglo- I m going to (slight pause) the store.
Heb - I am going tooooo the store.

4) A comma becomes an "ehhhh"

Anglo - I need to go to the store to get milk, eggs and cheese.
Heb - I neeeeed go to store for milk ehhh eggs and cheese.

5) Um becomes Em.

Anglo - Um, I have no idea what you are going on about.
Heb - Em, You know you are cra*ZY?

6) Every sentence is a question.

Anglo - I would like to get this cucumber.
Heb - I would like to get thiiiiiis cucumber?

I got my dis*COUNT but EM some*HOW EH I feel a little dirty?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Who comes up with this stuff?

Tomorrow Channah goes to meet her kita aleph teacher.  As a new kita aleph student we got the requisite book and supply lists in the mail.  There was a math book ("cheshbon"- and actually I think there are 4 of them) and a learn to read book, and an intro to chumash book and a bunch of others.  We had to get pencils and erasers and a pencil case.  My mom took her for a brand new school back and she got a trolley thing to cart her million pounds of stuff back and forth every day.

She also had to buy notebooks.

When I was in elementary school learning to write in Hebrew we had special "machbarot" with a picture of a bunch of old men learning and a menorah on the front filled with lines they told us were the lines they used in Israel.  

This stuff.

Everyone had to get a whole bunch of them at the beginning of every year and we used them instead of foolscap paper for all our Hebrew subjects until at least 5th grade- probably longer but as I never did any of my homework anyway I could be remembering that wrong.

So imagine how surprised I was to get to picking out her notebooks, only to discover that she had 3 types of notebooks to get.  Regular lined, graph paper for math, and totally blank.  Not a single red widely spaced line in sight!

I asked Channah's OT today about finding some as I thought it might help her handwriting and she looked at me like I was crazy.  She told me it was only for Americans!  I commented on it on my facebook page and got the surprise of my life.  

Turns out that what I always thought of as Israeli paper is here called a "machberet Anglit" (and English notebook) and is used for teaching kids to write in English!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Other Side of the Rabbi Orlofsky Controversy

I wrote a post yesterday on LJ on this topic. Thanks to the power of Google, it has drawn a lot more attention than I normally get on LJ. After further contemplation, here is a revised version of what I originally wrote.

Earlier this year, due to a technical glitch a customer was having problems redeeming a gift certificate. Before giving me time to work on the problem they reported it to their 1000 member Yahoo group. From there things spiraled out of control, as people bashed me and sent threatening e-mails to our company. I was accused of sending hate mail and one person put the glitch on the same level as bashing gays in the local newspaper. It continued for days, even after the problem was resolved. All I could do was sit on my hands and let our PR person do damage control. By that point the truth wasn't relevant. It was a real life lesson on how much damage can be done on a baseless accusation.

Another similar real life lesson occurred during the battle for control of the mikveh. The battle had already turned ugly, when our Rabbi got involved. His first move was to contact the parties involved to get both sides of the story. There was another Rabbi who I lost all respect for. He accused anyone (including my family) who had experienced events that he claimed never happened of being a liar and was not afraid to do it publicly. On the other hand, at same time I learned a valuable life lesson from our Rabbi about getting the facts before resorting to name calling.

On Sunday night, I saw a blog post and some follow up discussions on how horrible Rabbi Orlofsky is based on some of his comments on an audio clip. He was put on par with the worst criminals the Haredi community has to offer. The basis of the condemnation were two clips. In one clip Rabbi Orlofsky accused Rabbi Hersh Weinreb of stupidity and the 2nd one says that modern orthodox who don't believe in the Gedolim are not bnei Torah.

Rabbi Orlofsky was my Mashgiach in Yeshiva. He had a lunch time seder, where I had to make the Siyum because I was the only one who had been to every class, (including him). While the clips were damning, they lacked context and from I have known seemed out of place. I chose to call Rabbi Orlofsky directly. He has given me permission to share the details of our conversation.

The whole controversy began last Friday when the clips were anonymously sent to the OU office. The clip is from a shiur given 5.5 years ago, the time period during the battle over the banning of Rabbi Slifkin's (who I have a lot of respect for) book. Rabbi Orlofsky had taken the rather lonely position, of standing up for the Gedolim. The lecture was at Ohr LaGolah. While people may consider them to be just ordinary Ohr Sameach students, he pointed out that they are really a seperate program made up of Rabbis who's values include allegiance to the concept of following Gedolei Torah. He felt they had not deserved the name calling and personal insults. He was shocked to be hearing these types of attacks coming from a place like Ohr LaGolah. By his own admission he lost control and went overboard. He was not prepared to hear many of the comments and questions he had been receiving (including name calling of the gedolim), in this setting.

The point of contention was not about which Rav to follow but of the importance of having a Rav in the first place. This has been a long standing Jewish tradition and he was shocked to hear these Rabbis rejecting the concept.

Rabbi Orlofsky has a ton of respect for Rabbi Weinreb and meant that even with all his knowledge Rabbi Weinreb would not consider himself to be a Gadol and goes to the Gedolim for advice. The point was that people who were bashing the authority of the Gedolim (the students) were the same people who follow people who go to the Gedolim when their expertise in halacha are required. The attack was an unjustified way of making the point.

Rabbi Orlofsky has since sought out and received acceptance of his apology from Rabbi Weinreb.

The 2nd clip was Rabbi Orlofsky speaking out against the concept of "Catholic Israel" where it is the people who determine Jewish tradition rather than the Rabbis. The Modern Orthodox was a slip of the tongue after saying Conservative 3 times in a row. Given his lecture style he probably explained the use of the Modern Orthodox term, but the clip cuts out right away. He has said that he would love the opportunity to hear the rest of the tape. An anonymous person has claimed that they have a copy of the tape and threatened to make it public. On behalf of Rabbi Orlofsky, I have requested to arrange to get the recording to him. To date the person has not responded. All I know about the person is their IP address is from Brandeis University.

Rabbi Orlofsky is amazed that with thousands of hours of his recordings around there is only a two minute clip on him. If his shiur was so horrible, what happened to the other 58 minutes?

Not only that, but has no one else ever said anything that was not what they intended or worse yet taken out of context?

Rabbi Orlofsky made a mistake a long time ago. He admits he was wrong and has apologized to the people that he hurt. His life accomplishments are not going to be undone by this incident. As we go into the Yom Neroim, it is important to realize that our actions have consequences. Things are not always as they are appear. If we are quick to condemn others without trying to understand the other side, we are just spreading Sinat Chinam.

I will never know 100% for sure what was going on in Rabbi Orlofsky's head or what he had actually intended to say. My experiences of the past year have taught me that things are not always as black and white as they may appear. Perhaps my friendship with him has allowed me to know him a lot better than the people are attacking him.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Happy Birthday Jason!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JASON!!!! (Yes I am yelling. Everyone needs to know that it is your birthday so they can take a minute to send best wishes to the most patient, even-tempered, , forgiving, friendly, kind, generous, doting, devoted, supportive, sleepy, silly, bed-time story reading, furniture moving in the middle of the night, willing to put up with me guy I know. I love you.)

And now for some cheesy Israeli birthday music.  I am sorry I could not find a recording of your favourite "It's not a party unless there is cake" song.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Toronto Trip -- Sports

The plan is for the next little while to post some of the highlights of our recent trip to Toronto. Fitting in as many sports as possible was an important part of our trip.

It was not practical to bring my hockey equipment with us. I had enough trouble explaining to security at Ben Guerion Airport why I was traveling with my skates and helmet. For the first little while, I borrowed equipment from another goalie when he wasn't using them. When our schedules no longer worked, I borrowed the upper body stuff from a friend who upgraded a few years ago. The lower body equipment, I borrowed from the person who runs the Monday night game. The equipment had been donated a long time ago after someone upgraded their equipment. If the year had been 1983, it would have been state of the art used equipment. One person kept complimenting me on how well I played and that I would be so much better if I had better equipment. Nobody had a stick to spare so my old Monday night game bought one for me to be added to their spare equipment. Thanks Glenn.

I was playing up to 3 games a week. I easily fit back into my regular Monday night game. They have not been able to fill my spot with a regular since I left. I was also able to play a bunch of afternoon games my FIL runs, that I have never been able to play in before. Who has time in the middle of the afternoon to be able to play hockey? I had a great time and made lots of great saves. Goals that I gave up have been easily forgotten. I also spent a lot of time adjusting the borrowed equipment. I stopped a slapshot from a Junior A player which left it's own 'autograph' on my wrist for about 10 days.

I had been looking forward to Halladay's return to Toronto. The game against the Phillies was moved to Philadelphia to make room for the G20 rioting. The Doc ended up pitching on the Friday night so it wasn't that bad. The result was I got to go to two games instead.

I went to Jays/Twins game with my Father and my Uncle. It was a really entertaining game. My Uncle and I paid extra attention to Twins LF Delmon Young who always seemed to be the centre of the action. HR leader Jose Bautista hit an inside the park 2 run homerun when Young was insturmental in taking himself and CF Denard Span out of the play. It was a rare treat to watch. The Jays went on to win 6-5.

The second time, I went with Channah and my Mom to a Sunday afternoon game against the BoSox. The first play was a fly out to LF, which Channah quickly understood that rule. I have never seen anyone cheer so enthusistically for a foul ball. To her it meant the batter had another turn at the plate. She managed to cheer herself out by the 4th inning and my Mom did a great job keeping her entertained the rest of the game. Every once and a while she would turn her attention back to the game. By that point she wasn't sure if a play was good or bad for the team she was cheering for. It was a really fun afternoon. Jays lost 3-2. I don't think Channah has ever been to a sporting event where the home team won. It could be worse, she could be a die hard Cubs fan.

For me one of the highlights was one of the tremendous displays of Achdut that I have ever seen at a baseball game. There were a lot of vocal Red Sox fans in the section next to ours. Every once in a while they would start the cheer "Let's Go Red Sox" At some point it got really embarrasing for a home game and someone would start the response with a " Let's Go Blue Jays" cheer. Around the 6th inning there was a really long back and forth round of cheering that wore down both sides. There was a short pause as fans from both sides stopped to discuss. Then suddenly all at once in perfect unity they started a tremendously loud round of "YANKEES SUCK"

I bought Channah a bright pink Blues Jays Princess hat that has a pink bow that ties in the back. It was perfect for her. I picked up an official batting practise hat for myself. It is a big improvement to what I have been using for tiyuling. I picked up a cute baseball person for Rachel.

Before we made Aliyah I took Channah to the Hockey Hall of Fame. It was really neat because they had just retired my favourite all time player Patrick Roy. Going back was high on her to do list for the trip. We walked in and all she wanted to know was who "the most famous player" was. It was a very different response to last time where her fascination was the giant statue of Ken Dryden, who was "Bubbie's friend" She tried to make my Mom happy by touching "the famous puck" (from the 2010 Olympics). We played two games of bubble hockey which was the one of the main reasons she wanted to go. She thought the Vezina trophy looked like the Beit HaMikdash and no longer recognizes the building featured on the Conn Smyth Trophy. The real lesson of the day was that she will never understand the cultural significance hockey had on myself and Canada as a whole. It is a small price to pay for the better life I am able to offer her here.

It was nice reconnecting with the sports I love. I am going to try to be more proactive in playing hockey this year. It is amazing how little my perception of professional sports has changed since the days where I used to live and breath it. I still follow, just not to the same degree.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Testing posting from my new toy. I seriously love my new phone!

The Move to Nowhere

We have had many people ask us about what happened with the roller coaster scenario of our non-move. So here is the basic story.

We are fortunate to live in an apartment that has a proffessional landlord separate from the owner. She manages a number of buildings, so things have always gone really smoothly. Before leaving she confirmed that there would be no issues renewing our lease for another year. At the beginning of the 9 days, we received a frantic e-mail from her, that the owner has made Aliyah and would like his apartment back. Moving was the last thing we wanted to do. Starting the apartment search out of season, across the ocean created an unpleasant strain to the end of our trip.

On Thursday night we received an e-mail from the landlord. The owner is enjoying life in Kiryat Sefer and would like to renew for another year. However, he is worried he may change his mind and wants the option to terminate the lease on two months notice. Negotiations went back and forth. We went to bed thinking we had an agreement. We would renew for a year. We could each have the option to terminate on 3 months notice, however he could only terminate under a limited set of circumstances. He could not terminate the lease to sell the apartment. As on off hand follow up Rachel sent an e-mail, as it was not discussed confirming there would be no rent increase.

In the morning, we found out the owner agreed to all of the terms but wanted the rent increase. He felt it was reasonable because it matched the going rate in the neighbourhood. We told him he couldn't have it both ways and that no one would move into an apartment with an option to terminate in 3 months. A very short time later he agreed to an unconditional 1 year contract with the nominal rent increase. We are happy with the outcome and will be able to weigh our options from a better position next year.

Friday, July 30, 2010


WE ARE NOT MOVING (at least not this year.  we will likely start looking for next summer).

Guest post from my mom :)

This note is for Channah to have read  to her by one  of her parents... 
Things that we have  done while you were in Toronto...and then some, as I  have probably missed a  bunch of stuff!!!

We went FISHING, and bought a  great KNAPSACK, in your favorite color...PINK!  Zaidy Nathan  took you when you were downtown with  Uncle Meyer to buy you 2 beautiful dresses...  we bought you a life jacket so that you  could go  out in  our sailboat...  we went out for dinners, and Lunches and Pizza, and  had a B.B.Q. of  what we caught at the fishing  at the  Yacht Club...  we had sleep-overs and  baked, and     you were at Camp,  and we went to a  Water Park, and Movie nights and  sleeping in Aunty Deborahs Bed... and got to take baths in  a giant size Tub, with  new bath toys, we took your Ima and Abba to Costco and  bought a coffee-maker...  and sent  Ima to school so that she could learn more about  Jewelery making... and you went to a Baseball game with your Abba, and to the Hockey Hall of Fame...and sos much more that I can't even  think about  now...   Lots of Memories from the  old country...and We will do some of that again ... someday...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where were we, where are we, and where are we going.

Who really knows.

Just a quick note to bring this blog a little more up to date.

From June 14th through to July 26th we were in Toronto.  It was a preplanned trip for a cousin's wedding.  For obvious reasons we did not post anything about  being away until after we got back.

It was our first trip back since making aliya.  While the culture shock was more than a little surprising (We did live there for almost 3 decades and here for only 2 years- who would have thought acclimating would be so difficult?) the trip itself was amazing.  We saw so many people and did so many things- well, that will be a whole bunch of blog posts and picture posts and what not to follow.

While we gone we got notice that our landlord had made aliya and as such we have to move asap.  We have until the end of September- sounds like a while, but the chagim eat up most of that time.  We are now desperately seeking a new apartment in the same neighbourhood.  If anyone who reads this happens to hear of anything please let us know!

Meantime, we are mostly unpacked from our trip, and are going to go on a box hunt to start packing asap.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

It was bound to happen sooner or later

The good- Free wireless in the ER!
The bad- one mistake after another and no central communication

Last week we had our introduction to Israeli hospitals. I know it was bound to happen sooner or later, but we are all generally healthy and so it always sort of seemed like something we would just get away without having to deal with.

Anyhow, Thursday of last week I woke up with a really sore spot on the back of my neck. It felt like a terrible bruise, but I figured I must have banged myself without realizing it. By that night there was a big bump and it was tender, but, as I really hate doctors, I decided to continue ignoring it. Friday was much the same, but by shabbat I was in so much pain I decided I would call after shabbat to see when I could get an appointment.

The first one I could get with my doctor was for the following Thursday. Ok, I would stiff it out.

I woke up Sunday morning and could not turn my neck. MY head hurt all up the left side to my ear, and moving my shoulder would send spasms of pain down my arm and my back. I called the doctor's office and said I needed to see someone, anyone, ASAP.

they put me in with a new doctor for later that day. Within about 2 minutes of seeing me, she said we needed to go to the Emergency room at Hadassah Ein Kerem (HEK). That it was an infected abscess, probably caused by a scratch or something, but it needed to be dealt with immediately. She gave me a piece of paper that I needed to gain admittance to the ER, and off we went.

Great, how does one get to HEK on short notice with no car? Fortunately we have amazing friends and Lorien offered to loan us their car and to watch Channah. We drove off on what is a stunning drive that I could not particularly enjoy. Got there, saw the entrance to the hotel, found parking, walked through the giant mall to get to the emergency room.

At the ER, we checked in and opened a file. They took the letter she sent, detailing everything about why I was there. Scanned it in to the computer, than apparently added a "DO NOT READ" stamp since apparently no one ever looked at it again before sending us to triage.

Triage was fairly standard, except for the fact that my normally VERY low blood pressure was elevated. No worries, said the nurse, it is probably because you in a lot of pain, I am sure it is temporary (incidentally, she was right. The next morning when I went to the local nurses station to have the bandage changed, it was back to well within normal ranges)- however that does not mean that I did not hear about how terrible my high blood pressure was from everyone else all night long!

I was actually really impressed with how efficient the ER was- we were seen really quickly. They said it did need to be dealt with, gave me a painkiller and said see me in 45 minutes once it had time to kick in. They used a local anesthetic, dealt with it, bandaged it up, gave me a dose of IV antibiotics and a script for pills the next morning. I tried to tell them I was pretty sure it was not drained properly as I knew how big it was and saw how little they got out of it, but they insisted I was wrong. They gave me a form to take back to my doctor, and off we went. Start to finish about 4 hours.

Jason went to fill the script the next morning. Apparently, it could be filled, but not at our insured rates because it was not written as a maccabi script. So Jason ran with the script down to the doctors office (he took the form also- she looked at it and then gave it back) to have it transferred. While there he mentioned I could not turn my head still, so they told him I should come back in right away.

So I went to have the bandaged changed at the local nurses station. I was in AGONY. She told me it was bandaged really badly. Much too tight and it was cutting off circulation and not letting me move my arm/neck at all. She re-bandaged it and ordered in some of the good bandage she was using, told us to get it in the morning, and home we went.

Spent all day in worsening pain. Next morning Jason went to get the bandage that had been ordered. The doctor I saw was there and when Jason mentioned I was still in pain she pretty much ordered me back down.

Down I go. she takes one look at it, tells me it is not drained, and sends me back to the ER RIGHT A WAY. Now how do we get there this time. No one we know with cars are available. We ended up taking a taxi. No idea how we would get home. That was for later.

Went through the whole thing again, again with the high blood pressure (although only half of where it was the first night) and the nurse being the only one to recognize that it was because I was in obscene amounts of pain (and now had not slept since Thursday!) only this time, I also got yelled at by every single medical professional for not bringing back the release paper from 2 days earlier! Of course they could not just look up on the computer what antibiotic I was on or who I had seen previously- that was impossible.

I got put in line to see an orthopedic surgeon. Why? I have no idea. I tried to tell them that is not what I needed, but they told me he would be there in 15 minutes. Ok, so I waited. An hour and 45 minutes later he calls me, rips off the bandage, pokes at the thing for minute or two, then tell me it is not his problem and goes to yell at the nurse who put me in that line. Another hour to wair for a regular surgeon.

Finally see the right doctor, he looks at it, yells at me for not bringing the release papers from the earlier visit (I had no idea I am supposed to bring my whole medical file every time I go in!) Drains it, bandages it, puts me on a different antibiotic, and sends us home. Thankfully, Lorien was able to come get us.

So I now have 2 huge nasty incisions on the back of my neck and a bandage that is killing me every time it is changed because the adhesive is destroying my skin- but, other than the ache from the cuts, I am mostly pain free. I do have a list of complaints that is much more detailed that I am sending to the patient advocate at HEK (you know, like trying to give me medication I am allergic to and not listening to me when I say NO!) but on the whole it was better than I expected, but not as good as I would have hoped.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Big News :)

Tonight Channah will get her first visit from the tooth fairy :)

This has, of course, led to numerous interesting conversations over the last few days including

-does anyone know the current tooth to shekel exchange rate?
-Ima- do I need to leave my window open so she can get in?  But what about my screeeeeeeeeeen????
-How does she come to so many places in one night?
      She learned it from Santa.  Who *ahem* of course learned it from Eliyahu 

She will not let us take a picture until she "gets used to how she looks now".

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Splitting a Community

"There are two sides to every argument, but I don't have time to listen to yours."

In the months leading up to our Aliyah, a peeping tom was caught for the second time outside our building. This time he was caught with his pants down (literally). Tom happened to belong to our community and was regularly seen at our shul. We decided to make a minimal amount of information public so people could take steps to protect themselves. The community rallied around Tom as they perceived him to be the injured party. Numerous people claiming to represent the Rabbi put pressure on those involved to keep the story quiet. Tom needed to be helped by the community and avoid facing the Justice System.. We were told that if we didn't like it we could leave.

The people who were hurt by the incident were of no concern to anyone. The victim moved back home with her family, undoing a year's worth of effort by tenants of our building to get out the previous drug dealing family. She was replaced by another drug dealing family. The older single mother who had caught Tom was terrified as she was told by police they considered it to be a gateway crime. Of course Rachel was terrified at night or when she was alone, especially since we lived on the ground floor and I would play hockey late at night. Aliyah happened to be our escape from dealing with the issue head on.

Our community has three mikvahs. There is Dolev at the top of the hill which is the nicest and newest. It is in close proximity to most of the Datei Leumi (DTL) community. Further down the hill is Lachish, which is currently closed for renovations. It is in close proximity to the more Charedi community. The Luz mikvah is supposed to be privately built million plus dollar to serve the Charedi community. At this point it is more of a bargaining chip, than having any realistic prospects of being built.

When the new Charedi Mayor came to power, there were plans to replace the Rabbis in charge of the Mikvahs. Our Rabbi who was heavily involved in protecting the DTL community's interests gave a personal guarantee, nobody would ever be subjected to an unwanted 2o minute "Mehadrin" Bedikah. One day Rachel did go to the Mikvah and was subjected to the "Mehardin" experience. She came home bleeding and in tears. We later learned the Mikvah had been split in half and Rachel had ended up on the Charedi side.

A few weeks ago someone posted that the Charedi Rabbis were once again taking over the Mikvah and action should be taken to stop it. Part of the political horse trading that lead to the original split was that the Charedi would take over Dolev and the DTL would take control over Lachish. The mikvahs would be traded again when the never to be built Luz mikvah was built. The political part of the agreement has been broken. Although it presents legal issues, it is not relevant to the needs of the community.

A local Rabbi (who's shul attracts a similar crowd to when we were in TO) had one of his henchman post to the list that everything the person said was not true. The Rabbi should be contacted for clarification. Rachel challenged the claim and was turned over to e-mailing the Rabbi. He was surprised she didn't report her experience to him. Going to our Rabbi who went to the Rav of the city didn't seem like a logical course of action to him. At his request she went into great detail as to what happened. Without answering any questions, he said that he would not continue by e-mail, he would be available for a meeting in person but not for at least another week.

A number of concerns emerged about the change in control. Numerous women have had similar experiences to Rachel. There had been a sign that it was forbidden for women to toivel at Ben HaShmashot on Friday night. According to Sephardic tradition this is the ideal time to go. Waiting until night fall to accommodate the Ashkenaz tradition forces them to deal with leniencies they cannot rely on. There is a legitimate fear that some women will simply skip out on this important mitzvah if it is made to difficult. Another variable is the DTL half of the mikvah was getting twice as many people as the Charedi side. It is not very often that there is such a clear cut way of measuring preference for one methodology over another.

The Rabbi mentioned before had the Charedi position clarified. As he does not write in his own name, a post written and approved by someone who interview the Rabbi sufficed. In the comments section the writer was forced to conclude that the Rabbi felt any complaints against the Charedi Mikvah were outright lies. The DTL had been pushing for Rav Ovadiah Yoseph to take up the Sephardic cause. As the spiritual head of Shas he could use his political power, especially since the Mayor belongs to Shas. He was told that the sign never existed. With all concerns swept under the rug he easily gave his blessing to the take over.

How often do we break our teeth to make excuses for inappropriate behaviour based on a persons religious or community standing? How often do we simply toss aside the feelings of those who have been injured emotionally or physically because it is easier not to deal with an issue? Why is it okay to threaten someone else for not following one particular Rabbi? How often is somebody tossed outside the camp for having a different perspective on a situation?

The Charedi community has used the State to more or less build the type of community they want. For the most part I am willing to let them live the lives they want as long as I can do the same. The Charedi community has moved beyond looking after themselves to imposing their views on everyone else. The backlash has already begun. If their leadership and trouble makers don't learn to play nicely with everyone else, they will end up reversing the gains they have made. A good start in Beit Shemesh will be to let the communities function as an essential public service. Continuing with the status quo is the best way to serve both communities. Nobody wins from the nationally publicized religious battles.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Channah's new clothes (thanks Bubbie and Aunty Brenda)

This is my favourite of the new dresses.  I am trying to figure out what colour shirt to put under it.  She loves the way it twirls- seriously, huge swing action!

TGhis dress is super cute, but a little wide.  She wore it for shabbat with a bright pink shirt underneath it and a bright pink belt.  Made the dress really pop because of the colour, and gave it a much better line for Channah.

This next one I am not sure about.  Definitely needs a different shirt underneath it, but not at all sure what colour.  I might put this one away for a year or so until it it sits a little higher.

Finally we have teh dress we were thinking she would wear to the wedding.  she would wear it with a shabbat shirt with bell sleeves.  Now she is thinking though she might want to wear the first one as it is twirlier.  I will let her choose.

Yom Haaztzmaute

jason and channah outside the shul erev yom kaatzmaute before tefillah chagigit

channah before food after the "parade"

channah after food

This is what passes for outdoor snacks in this country.  Reading it in Hebrew is way more amusing than the English.

jason with fast food (he and channah split one)

the coolest bbq grill of the day

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yom HaAtzmaute

Israeli independence day, marked by the Hebrew calendar, will be celebrated this Tuesday, April 20, which happens to be one Adolf Hitler's birthday. Guess who won?

Yom HaAtzmaute (Originally written for EtsyCHAI blog)

Israeli Independence Day – Yom Ha'atzmaut
Yom Hazikaron – the Israeli Day of Remembrance To see this post including images please visit

On the 5th of the Hebrew month of Iyar (this year celebrated on April 19th and 20th), 62 Years ago, David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel Declared Israeli Independence as a State (before being attacked from all sides shortly thereafter).

With the re-raising of the flag over the military cemetery at Har Hertzl Yom Hazikaron comes to a close the country breaks into the biggest party of the year.

For weeks people have been getting ready. Flags hang from every street light and bunting is strung up and down streets wherever it will reach. Balconies and windows become makeshift flag poles, and even cars and buses have flags hanging off the side and flying off the roofs. To my mind, never does the city look so pretty as going into Yom Ha'atzmaut.

The night begins with parades by torchlight to large assemblies with music, glow-y things and cotton candy (seems that in order to qualify in this country as a family event there must be at least 3 cotton candy machines being run by 10 year olds). There are giant inflatable climbing things to play on and speeches to ignore. No matter where you are the night ends with fireworks.

Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israeli Independence day, is the only statutory holiday on the calendar- this means that EVERYBODY and their families are out and taking part in the “rituals”. BBQ-ing, hiking, playing in parks and relaxing with friendsclip_image002 are the order of the day. No self- respecting Israeli would be caught even considering not having a BBQ on Yom Ha'atzmaut. The truth is, from Pessach on stores stock “mangal”- disposable grills easy to shove in a back pack and take anywhere. Our first year here one sabra (Israeli born Israeli) made sure to take us under their wing to make sure we knew we HAD to BBQ on a tiyul (trip) on Yom Ha'atzmaut “not just bringing a meat sandwich”.

Yom Ha'atzmaut is the day to celebrate the Jewish State and being able to live here safely, securely and surrounded by friends, family and the wonder of God's creation.

Happy 62nd Birthday, Israel!

Yom Hazikaron (Originally written for EtsyCHAI blog)

Yom Hazikaron – the Israeli Day of Remembrance
To see this post including images please visit

The Israeli Day of Remembrance, Yom Hazikaron (the Remembrance) is observed this year on Sunday, April 18 – Monday, April 19.

Many countries have a day of national remembrance - Veterans Day, Poppy Day, Armistice Day, and others: and all of them are an inherent part of the culture of the country remembering. They remind people of their history - how they got to where they are now - and those who helped them get there. They are days to remember, but as time passes it often becomes more of a day to celebrate the freedom that was so hard won.

Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli day of remembrance for the fallen and for victims of terror is a national day of mourning on a grand scale. From the moment that the flag over the military cemetery at Har Hertzel is lowered, until it is raised again the following evening, the country takes on this feeling of waiting for something.

In a country with a mostly mandatory draft, no one is more than a step or two removed from knowing a soldier. In a country where everyone can be a target, no one is more than a step or two from knowing a victim. In a country fraught with conflict, we are surrounded by places people died to protect.

How we remember is mandated for us - and because it is almost everywhere you go everyone participates. Twice in 24 hours the air raid sirens sound - but no one goes running for cover. The world stops. There is no noise save for the shrill wail from overhead: A sound long associated with pain and fear.

Cars stop where they are. Cabbies stand silently by their doors. Cashiers stop arguing. Vendors stop haggling. Children stop playing.

As a country we are known as augmentative, rude and segmented, but for 2 minutes, one day a year, we are visibly united in our grief. Thinking about those no longer with us to celebrate the imminent Yom Ha'Atzmaute, Israeli Independence Day, a day of celebration and BBQ and spending the day outdoors in the gorgeous countryside, so that we could do so.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What country am I in again?

Yesterday we went to get Israeli passports.  It is the last step in our aliya/klita.  You are not elligible until you have been here for a full year.  We were elligible in August, but really had no need to go until now.  An Israeli passport is good for 10 years from date of issue, so we figured why bother going until we needed to.

We got our pictures taken at the local photo place just before pessach.

We went in yesterday armed with pretty much every piece of ID we own, plus photos.  If someone wanted to steal our identities yesterday on the bus to the office would have been the ideal time.  Teudat Zehut, teudat olah, Canadian passports, pictures, and forms including name, parents names, birthdate, iq, shoe size and kindergarten report card.

We handed the guy the papers.  He spent 30 seconds looking each one, put them in an envelope, took the money for them, said thank you very much and we were on our way. 

I think we accidentally took the bus to another country instead of to "downtown" (I use the word extremely loosly) beit shemesh.

Today we ordered our "home protection kits" (read gas masks) from the post office.  When Jason called in they told him the right person is not there yet and someone would call him back.  Someone did.  I think I have fallen into the twilight zone.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pesach - Only in Israel

Pesach was really nice this year. The seder was nice and we were able to fit in a nice balance of seeing friends and touring. I used my flexible schedule to almost get in a full work week. Jerusalem, Hevron, Kiryat Sefer (Modiin Illit). We had a great time even if it was a schedule that would offend the White House.

Here are a list of things that happened that can only be referred to as only in Israel moments.

KLP Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

Buying hot KLP food from restaurants or local food vendor.

Cotton Candy everywhere you turn. You know the kashrut status because there is only one brand of plain white sugar in this country.

(Not so) Hurva Shul - People were trying to get in to have a look. An old security guard came outside to yell at people to tell them it was closed. In the mean time people were walking in behind him, until they put up a physical gate to block the ramp.

Mincha at the Kotel - Chanasat Sefer Torah with a 2 piece band. The band stopped so we could say kedusha uninterrupted. A short time later they pumped up the Kotel sound system. (They played what I call the Hasilenu Song - no idea who sings it or what it is called)

Walking down to the Kotel in the evening and hearing the Windows start up chimes from the Kotel sound system.

Restaurants on the road between the Arova and Kotel were open. Burgers Bar - selling drinks and Kippot, Pizza Shop - selling soft ice cream and chips (French fries), Bonkers - selling packaged ice cream and scarves.

Hevron - 3 buses- 2 pick up/ drop off locations, 2 drop off times - buses had to be boarded based on expected return time. Planning #fail

Praying at Marat HaMachpela in the Yitzchak and Rifka Room (only open to Jews 10 days a year).

In the make shift market in Hevron, I asked the vendor about the Kashrut of the lemonade. She told me she made it at home from lemons.

RBS B Post Office - sign from the post office and the police saying it was closed all of Pesach for safety reasons.

One Seder - Never that moment of "Oh no, we have to do this again tomorrow night"

Chametz in all the stores is covered. It is illegal to sell Chametz publicly over Pesach, athough there are some interesting definitions of public for this law.

Rice and other Kitniyot products are everywhere and kept with the regular KLP products. In Hevron they were selling pop corn.

Rachel made a comment that it didn't really feel like Pesach this year. I answered that it was because the Chagim are so integrated to the way of life that they don't seem out of place. It is really special celebrating the Chagim as they were always meant to be celebrated. Ok, minus the super huge giant BBQ, but that we will have again one day.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 1 chol Hamoed

So yesterday we decided to spend the day in the old city.  We talked with Channah about being "oleh b'regel" (ancient pilgrimage into Jerusalem for the 3 major festivals) and headed off.  Here is our little pilgrim on the path to the Jewish quarter.
And here she is with the ancient Jewish traiditional cotton candy. Seriously.  It is not a "day out" in this country without cotton candy.
Another traditional element of any day out is an arts and crafts.  A millenium or more ago this might have taken the form of sheep dying or leather crafts.   Nowadays- Temple colouring books and a play about a lost ritual sacrifice.  Nope.  Not kidding about the play.  It was very cute, very loud, and about 2 brother's who lost the sheep they were taking to slaughter.

Dinner.  Out.  On pessach.
As the shul formerly and currently known as the Churva has been reuilt, the whole rova square takes on a new atmosphere.  Being Chol Hamoed, there was live music- but apart from that there were just people milling around.  Sitting, chatting, eating.  It was soooooo nice!
Then we went to the new Aish temple institute museum sort of thing.  First of all, it is GORGEOUS!  This is the chandelier in the main hall.  Real, gorgeous, chihuli hanging from a 2 story high dome.
This is the view from the roof.  
It is also the best view of the top of the temple mount from anywhere that I know of.  
Here is a view of the highest point most people get to, from the point on the Aish roof.  Let me tell you, from someone who is terrified of heights, there is a HUGE difference!

Channah with their (very detailed) model of the Bait Hamikdash.
Us at the end of the night 
Goofing around on the glass toped domed roof.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A few old pictures from Channah's camera that never got posted

because it has been ages since I cleared the card on her camera!  Yes some of these really do go all the way back to Mom and Abba's visit last May.  Sorry.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Biur chametz

Aka- Channah's first burning dumpster- ahhhh the lovely life in RBSA

Thursday, March 25, 2010


This is a really well done video of the pessach story. It is somewhat graphic though and I know I screened parts out when showing it to Channah.

What holiday is this?

Deck the halls with rolls of tin foil (oy yoy yoy yoy yoy oy yoy yoy yoy)

Once a year we celebrate a time to get the whole family together. A time where extended family comes together from all parts of the world to spend one special night together.

Kids get 2+ weeks off school and spend every single minute of that time telling you they are bored then complaining when you give them something to do. Every tourist attraction in the country is trying to get you to come visit- but who has time for any of that?

Money is spent decorating the home with shiny things to make it holiday ready (that will be thrown out a week later). We pull out pots and pans and dishes that are only used for this special time of year. For weeks leading up to the holiday season we clean like maniacs trying to make sure not a single crumb is out of place for that special night before finally, the morning before, throwing up our hands and saying "That's it! I have done all I can do! Anything still here is just not my problem!" Cooking special foods and strange combination we would never even think of any other time of year.

We get ready on the eve of the holiday- Everyone is wearing new, seasonal clothing. We make sure our families are pressed (if not necessarily starched) to within an inch of their lives. Care is taken to make sure children nap so they can be shown off at later points in the evening.

The big night finally comes. Everyone sits around the table with the soft candlelight bringing an warmth to the festivities. There are things to keep the children occupied so the adults can converse (while stopping regularly to find out what the children have learned in school- the children take special pride in doing so and spend an inordinate amount of time singing songs they learned in class). At midnight one finds themselves eating wafers and drinking wine while singing in a foreign language.

Finally, the night omes to a close with an old guy with a big beard going house to house to visit anyone who puts out a drink for him.

Of course I am talking about pessach. What else could it be?
Thank you Meyer for the thought behind this post

Monday, March 22, 2010

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