Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Is promoting American Aliya "an exercise in futility?"

I've been mulling this over all day, trying to get here to the blog to organize my jumble of thoughts. Michael Hirsch wrote an article for the Jerusalem Post, saying that Nefesh B'Nefesh "NBN" and the Jewish Agency (agencies which promote and assist with American Aliya [immigration to Israel]) are "pre-doomed to failure". Sure there were about 3,000 American olim (immigrants) to Israel this year, but really, that is the proverbial drop in the bucket of the millions of Jews living in the states.

Mr. Hirsch states, "I have often said to religious friends living in the States that prehistoric man would have greater luck extracting mastodons from the La Brea tar pits, than NBN or the [Jewish] agency would have extracting a religious Jew from the Diaspora."

Before I made Aliya, when I would read an article like this, I'd feel guilty. I'd show the article to Isaac, saying the guy is right. Isaac would say something about he thought we belonged in Israel as well, but really how the hell would we make a living there and that would be that.

Today I read the article sitting on this side of the ocean and felt a different emotion. Reading this article made me angry. Mr. Hirsch called NBN and the Agency "well-meaning" and advised them in his last sentence, to "save your time, money and effort".

I guess what he's trying to say is that those coming to Israel are those who would have come anyway, irregardless of whether some agency helps them out or not. But I'm not so sure that's true. Isaac and I have always been pre-disposed to Aliya, but when I read about NBN's first flight in 2002, well that triggered a process that lead to our move 5 years later. Would we have come without NBN? Impossible to know.

The overall negativity of the article is depressing. I'd rather look at NBN differently. Americans are coming. One-by-one. I find joy and encouragement in that. One person makes Aliya, and suddenly people in a community are talking. It put a germ in people's brains--hey if they could do it, maybe I can. Then others come--their friends, sisters, parents.

To say NBN is wasting their time and money is not fair to an organization that has made it easier for those who want to come and has put the idea of Aliya on the radar of many who would not have thought of it otherwise. In addition, the rate of Americans who stay in Israel has increased dramatically, I believe thanks to the support of NBN.

Could there be more olim? Of course. There is work to be done. Imagine how different the Israeli landscape--geographical, political, social--would look if 100,000 American Jews made Aliya every year? But that is not the current reality, for reasons I don't need to go into here. People come when they are ready. In the meantime, the several thousand a year that have come spread out throughout Israel, impacting the communities they live in, I daresay in a positive way.

Sometimes, it's better to look at the glass as half full.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Haveil Havalim #249--the Israeli Blogger's/Welcome 2010 edition

Welcome, everyone to Haveil Havalim #249. Just a quick mention about last night's Israeli blogger gathering. Organized by Mimi (Israeli Kitchen) and Hannah (Mother-in-Israel and Cooking Manager) and taking place at Sara's (FoodBridge) beautiful home, about 25 bloggers living in Israel gathered together to share ideas. Jacob Share of JobMob was a very entertaining and informative speaker (he had lots to say about increasing traffic and monetizing) and of course, there was food and socializing and networking and just plain fun. If you weren't there, you should try it out next time. I hear the next event is already being planned.

And so it was that I began to work on this edition of HH after I returned home from the blogger's event. Even working diligently until 2 a.m., I didn't get it done. But here it is, posted on Sunday, as it should be. Sometimes the US-Israel time difference works for me.

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means “Vanity of Vanities,” is from Kohelet, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English, ‘vanity.’”

Without Further Ado:


I am so impressed with Batya and her dad as she continues to tell the tale of his Aliyah at age 89. She presents I DID It! The latest episode in the saga of my father's aliyah at 89 posted at me-ander.

Batya also presents "Orange," as a Label posted at Shiloh Musings.

Lady-Light presents Archeological Find Proves Ancient Jewish Ties to the Land of Israel at Tikkun Olam.

This book has been getting quite a bit of buzz. Jacob Richman presents I highly recommend the book: Start-up Nation posted at Good News from Israel.

Mrs. S. presents You Just Might be a Religious Zionist at Our Shiputzim.

Harry tells us about a recent trip to the shuk in Hanukah in Mahane Yehuda and India and gives us the Picture of the Week: The shots that won’t make it to the catalog posted at ISRAELITY.

Joel Katz (a fellow Modi'iner, I'm proud to say) presents Religion and State in Israel - December 21, 2009 (Section 2) and Religion and State in Israel - December 21, 2009 (Section 1) posted at Religion and State in Israel.

Leah Aharoni presents The Gilad Shalit Deal as a Mirror of the Israeli Society posted at Ingathered.

Jessica gives us some information on the cosmetics business in Israeli beauty posted at ISRAELITY.

Yisrael Medad presents | BlogCentral | Green-Lined | Yes, there is a difference posted at Green-Lined.

Shmuel Sokol presents illegal arab buildings legitimized posted at Torat Yisrael.

Shiloh's fire skies turned Yisrael Medad to his camera, then his blog in My Right Word: Shiloh's Skies On Fire posted at My Right Word.


Mottel asks Is Universal Healthcare a Jewish Imperative? posted at Letters of Thought.

Batya presents Dear Obama Claus, posted at Shiloh Musings.

Ilana-Davita presents a fascinating piece in National Identity posted at Ilana-Davita. Be sure to take a look at the comments.

Sammy Benoit asks two questions: Is Joe Lieberman a Good Jew? Does the Media Have the Right to Ask That Question? posted at YID With LID.


Is Garrison Keillor being tongue-in-cheek, or just plain anti-semitic? You decide, after checking out Sammy Benoit's Garrison Keillor: The Jews Have Screwed Up Our Christmas posted at YID With LID. Sammy Benoit also presents Jimmy Carter Did NOT Apologize to the Jewish People.

Lion of Zion wonders about the church's new efforts to beatify Pope Pius in The Pope and (le-Havdil) the Bishop: A Lesson in Moral Courage.


Shira Salamone presents Xmas eve dilemmas past and Bugged, or Score Another One for the Rabbis at On the Fringe.

Here' a blog that's new to me that I enjoyed. Shorty presents Last year, at this time... posted at Shorty's Adventure.

Berel Dorfman discusses the robbery of the notorious "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign at Auschwitz in Chabad Representatives Near Auschwitz Say Interest in Polish Jewish Life Strong posted at Chabad-Lubavitch news site.

Friar Yid presents A History of Lawlessness posted at Friar Yid.

David Morris presents Tropper-Gate and Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Blog? posted at Tzedek-Tzedek.

I cried the day we moved from Flatbush out to 'burbs. Apparently not everyone feels that way about my old hometown (which I daresay has changed since we moved from there). Check out why Lion of Zion says I Hate Flatbush.

Hadassah Sabo Milner compiles a list of terms that the layman/laywoman can use to understand the torah talk on the web in Beit Twidrash Dictionary posted at In the Pink.

Jacob Richman presents his useful New Website: My Hebrew Programs posted at Good News from Israel.


Joshua Waxman presents How many are the days of your life, as question or exclamation? and The Gra's famous peshat on Vayigash posted at parshablog.

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver presents Torah illuminates and enables discernment posted at A Chassidishe farbrengen.

Read Yisrael Medad's dvar Torah in My Right Word: My Shabbat Dvar Torah posted at My Right Word.


Batya tells us why she doesn't celebrate the [secular] New Year in New Year, What Year? posted at Shiloh Musings.


Batya finally gets to make this yummy dish in Finally, Fruit Salad posted at me-ander.

Ilana-Davita tells us about her Favorite Books of 2009 posted at Ilana-Davita. Now there's an idea for a blogpost.

Hadassah Sabo Milner notes it's the comments more than the article that are worth a read (and after perusing them, I can tell you she's right!) She presents Kids are too smart these days! posted at In the Pink.

Robert J. Avrech tells us of when he worked with Brittany Murphy in Brittany Murphy: To Remember posted at Seraphic Secret.

Leora gives us JPIX: Fall Holidays Edition posted at Here in HP.


Lady-Light gives a comedic clip here at Tikkun Olam.

Heshy Fried presents Woman sues missionary organization that gave her faulty�menorah posted at Frum Satire.

See how The Rebbetzin's Husband deals with his new hi-tech device in Blackberry Blackout.

And thus concludes this week’s edition of Haveil Havalim.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Haveil Havalim using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Wishing a Happy and Healthy 2010 to all!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Just another day

This year I haven't spotted any Santas like I did in '07 and '08. I guess I haven't been out and about that much.

Lots of friends and former colleagues are starting their big vacation today. I always say the best part of the vacation is December 24, that first morning of not having to get up and get ready for work. Hmmm, to savor and relish that moment....after that the vacation just speeds by and before you know it you're back to the old grind again. I must admit I miss this vacation.

Over here December 25 is just another day for most of us. Sure, there are a number of Christians living here. A couple of weeks ago Isaac spotted an item in the Jerusalem Post stating that free trees were being given out. (To bad I didn't go, wouldn't that make for interesting blog fodder?) Still, being a Jewish country, Christmas in not officially celebrated. It's that dominant culture thing.

Wishing all of you who celebrate, a very Merry Christmas, for those of you don't but are still on vacation--savor today, it's almost time to go back....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Catching up

Haveil Havalim is up at Frume Sarah's.

I for one am glad I checked it out, because I had completely forgotten that I am hosting HH next week! Oh, eventually I would have checked my calendar and seen it, but that would have totally stressed me out, doing it at the last minute. Except that I always do it at the last minute.

All the blog carnival submissions are going to spam, not sure why. I'll have to ask my IT guy (that would be Isaac) to fix that. I haven't gotten very many submissions, so hop to it, people. It makes it so much easier than having to go fishing around the 'net for posts.

In other news, my SAD has kicked in. Winter is here and I feel blah. I guess that's why I've been neglecting the blog, which I hate doing. Plus I'm still traumatized by Nablopomgoshodowo.

And finally, it seems that Arthur has finally gotten the best of the IBA; they have removed him from their harassment list, hopefully forever. I'm sure if he were here he would thank those of you that helped him out. Of course, I still don't know what to do about my bill, but that's another story.

More soon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

You can fight city hall (another guest post!)

My friend Arthur has been having trouble with the IBA--he'll explain what it is--and feels that 'the people' can affect change in the way it handles its customers. Here is his story. I have some thoughts, or rather questions, on the other end.

First of all, thank you Baila for allowing me this platform.

When Baila gave me permission for the guest posting I was actually going to write something very “angry” about my interactions with the IBA Collections Department. Since then there have been some new developments, so here goes.

One more thing before we get to the meat of the matter, Baila thinks that the New York Yankees are the best team ever. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, that is part of what blogging is all about.

The IBA, Israel Broadcast Authority, Collection Division has a particularly thankless task. They are the ones who must collect the Television Tax or "agra". Some background on this: years ago, and I don’t remember exactly when this changed, one had to pay the same type of agra or tax on the radio in one's car. “Am Yisrael Mamtzie Patenttim”—we Israelis are quite creative, especially in getting around things like this. Before going with the car to its annual safety inspection many would remove the radio from their car in order to NOT pay this tax. Today, however, thanks to collective punishment, we pay this tax in the license renewal even if we don’t have a radio in the car.

With televisions it is the same. If, when the letter comes from the IBA people one does not answer it, then quite miraculously one stays off this tax role. If, however you do answer, you pay. We used to live on kibbutz so the kibbutz paid, but once we left, the kibbutz transferred the agra to us. The tax is for owning a TV. Even if you do not get reception, you still must pay the tax if you own a television.

Rewind to 2006,when we left Israel for 2-3 years with my company. Before we left we thought that we had settled up with the IBA. We paid the pro-rated agra for 2006, told them we were leaving; alas the bills kept coming in 2007, 2008 and even in 2009. We recently got the latest collection notice that says they were going to come and repossess furniture, cars etc, G-d Forbid!

Since we have returned we have been writing letters to the IBA and their agents, a law firm in Tel Aviv that just does collections for the IBA. No one wants to pay the tax because it is silly. (Just as an aside, if you have Yes or cable you are paying this tax twice, once directly and once through the content provider).

While we have been writing to the IBA and their agents, we have received no response except more bills, some with higher values and some with lower. Before Shabbat we received the most recent bill and since I have a new all-in-one printer HP J6480, I began to fax the IBA repeatedly in order to get their attention. I also looked on line and found a bunch of e-mail addresses, the ‘Ombudsman’ among them. He replied that this was a collections issue. I replied back to him that it is not a collections issue it is one of harassment.

Enter the web. I posted my story on my facebook page and lo and behold there was someone else with same predicament. I e-mailed the ombudsman on her behalf and I guess there were some that e-mailed the ombudsman for us because this morning I received an e-mail that said that my case and the whole collection scheme of the IBA was going to be re-evaluated!!!!! YAY TEAM!!!!!

I also have in writing an admission that the agra for the first half of 2009 has been cancelled since we were not in the country. I don’t know why they did not cancel the debt for 2008. I also have in writing that they are going to investigate our claim that we do not have a television in order to never have to pay the agra again.

This is only half of the story. More people are needed to e-mail the Ombudsman at OMBUDSMAN @ to explain that the way that the IBA conducts itself is brutal and harassing and should be changed. The ombudsman’s name is Elisha Spiegelman. Letters should be polite and can be written in Hebrew or English. The argument of whether the TV tax is right or wrong is not the issue here; Mr. Spiegelman’s job is to oversee those who collect it. AviK at is the person in charge of the collection division. Please write to him as well.

Together we can recreate the IBA and help them to become transparent, and perhaps lead the way for the rest of Israel’s bureaucracy.

Suggestions for the IBA:
1) Post the rules and regulations regarding the agra on the web site
2) Include all information on both the Hebrew and English Websites, the various fax numbers for the Collections Division and all pertinent e-mail addresses.
3) Increase to 5 days a week 14 hours a day the availability of the call centers. Currently they are only available three days a week
4) Treat the people who pay the tax like the customers that they are and not like criminals waiting to be sentenced

Add your own suggestions as well. Remember to be polite, no bad language when writing. Together we can make change happen!

Arthur Rabinovitz – Guest Post

Here are my thoughts, or rather questions: Why am I paying a television tax if there are so many commercials on television? (I've timed it; there can be 10 minutes of commercials on Israeli TV).

I received a bill from the IBA. It says, "If you have not paid since 2003, pay x, if you have not paid since 2004, pay y". Does this mean I should choose 2009? And, Arthur, if I respond does that mean I am opening up a can of worms? Should I just ignore it and just not answer the door in case Repo-Man comes to the house?

Finally, how come some people get taxed and others don't? My sister-in-law who has had a television from the moment she moved here, (16 years ago) has never received a bill. That just doesn't seem fair.

Readers, how have you dealt with this issue?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Festival of Lights

Chanukah is here, the princesses are on vacation, but I, alas have to work. It's going to be a low-key week. We were going to do a tiyul (trip), but everyone has something else planned on different days. I'm kind of glad, because I'm still trying to beat this chest cold and feel totally wiped out after a few hours at work focusing on not coughing so that people don't think I'm Typhoid Mary. It's exhausting not coughing when you need to.

Last night, I coughed my way over to Tired's house for a Chanukah party. I had a great time and she served yummy cheese puffs. I also met Aliyah-by-Accident's Gila there. It's always wild-and-crazy when bloggers get together.

I'm curious as to what you guys all do about presents on Chanukah? Do you give them or do your kids not even ask for them? My kids were raised in the Five Towns, Long Island, and just love getting presents. I feel an awful lot of pressure. When they were little I'd get them cute little things like pencils with dreidels on them and note pads and they were thrilled with that stuff. I want them to know that the holiday is not about the presents, on the other hand, it does give me joy to make them happy.

Sufganiyot. In other words, Israeli donuts. Have I ever mentioned that I hate them? I mean the ribat chalav (caramel) ones look amazing, but the only part I like is the caramel. The actual dough part of the donut is usually bland, often greasy and just plain unappetizing. And yet billions of them are being sold (and eaten) as we speak. When I went to buy some for the first night of Chanukah, I was going to go Roladin, a bakery /cafe at the mall whose sufganiyot looked the most appealing. Then we bumped into friends who told us the donuts there were 8 shekel a piece, when next door, at Cafe Hillel they were 4 shekel a piece. So off we went to Cafe Hillel. Sure enough, they were sold out. So much for saving money. We went to a third place, the famous Maape Neeman, where that spoonful of ribat chalav looked cost 6 shekel. The doughy part covered in powdered sugar was free.

In other Chanukah news, my beloved digital camera has broken. I sent it away for repair and they'll call me to tell me if it's worth fixing. I used Liat's camera for these pictures, and well, I know they're not exactly photographic genius.

Oops, well, no pictures. Liat's memory card doesn't fit in my computer and I'll be durned if I'm going to search for that wire thingie to attach to the lap top. So I guess we'll have to wait a few days until I hopefully get my camera back. And now that you can't see the photos, I should tell you that they actually were, ahem, genius.

How is your Chanuka going?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I worked today, even though it's Wednesday. I wanted to make up some of the time I took back when I was sick.

This of course, throws off my whole schedule. As you know (if you are a loyal reader), Wednesdays is the day I do my big weekly shopping. If I go to work, when am I supposed to shop?

I decided to shop on my way home from work. I went to Rami Levi, which is right on the way, rather than going all the way to SuperSol, which would be totally out of the way. A few days ago, my friend and excellent lice lady Pnina (if you need her, e-mail me and I'll pass along her info)* told me that you could park underneath the store, and take the elevator up to the store, thereby avoiding the death-defying parking lot.

I decided to give it a go even though the word "elevator" makes my heart race. But I really didn't want to deal with that parking lot.

I parked the car and went looking for the elevator. It was off to a deserted corner that just shouted CREEPY. When I pressed the button the door lurched open. I decided to walk up the stairs and proceed with my shopping. I tried to forget that I would have to return via the dreaded elevator.

An hour later, with my shopping cart bursting at the seams, I had no choice but to take the elevator. I walked to it slowly, partly because I was hoping someone else would come along to ride with me and partly because Israeli shopping carts just don't go in a straight line. (Ever). When I got to the elevator, I looked around. I was on my own. I pressed the button and there again was that lurching door. "Well", I thought, "if I get stuck, at least I won't starve to death."

But as the door closed behind me, I felt that rising panic within me. I have no control over it. It's not a rational thing and has nothing to do with being stuck or not. It's just fear. I don't experience it when I'm with someone else. I held my breath until the elevator came to a stop and then muttered to the door, "Pleaseopenpleaseopenpleaseopenpleaseopen". When it finally did, I quickly escaped as relief washed over me. This is something I always experience when I am in elevators alone, which is rare. I'd rather climb 20 flights of stairs than be alone in an elevator.

I also have a fear of heights. I hate ski lifts and cliffs. That panic I feel with elevators also rises within me when I am in those situations, even if I am with someone. Especially when that someone laughs at my fear and starts shaking the ski lift chair. Whenever we go hiking Isaac and the kids are always going near the ledge to tease me and I'm practically in tears from the fear. Usually they laugh because the ledge is about a foot off the ground, but still, I think they are cruel and inconsiderate for laughing. Sniff.

I have no idea where these fears came from. Was I born with them? Did something happen in an elevator or on a high mountain when I was a little tike? (The elevator is possible, but there are no mountains in Brooklyn).

For now I'm glad to have my two feet firmly planted on the ground.

What are you afraid of?

*(How's that for a plug, Pnina?)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

As promised, a guest post

My friend CK, has agreed to do another guest post (you can read her first one here). CK and I became friendly, about a thousand years ago when she began dating her husband, whom I was friendly with in Bnei Akiva. We especially bonded over our pregnancies with my Orli and her youngest daughter. We were both beginning our maternity leaves the same day and had plans to go to the movies together. When I called her from the labor room, she asked, "What are those beeps I'm hearing in the background? Are you cancelling our movie date?!" We never did make that date up.

Anyway, as promised, without further ado:

I just returned from a week long trip to Israel. Like many Jews, I have a deep connection to Israel (maybe Baila will let me muse about that someday on her blog), and my trip was filled with many small moments that touched me. I call them small moments, even though they were anything but small, because the “big moments” I reserve for seeing my family and friends there. I am deeply moved by my friends and family who live in Israel, make their home there, and build our country every day just by being there. But the small moments are things that I just stumbled upon unexpectedly that made me nod and say “only in Israel” So in no particular order, here are my small moments:

1. While driving out of Jerusalem, you will note a trempiada next to a gas station. Let me explain: Many people in Israel stand there to await rides with neighbors and strangers. Tremping is catching a ride. A trempiada is a spot where people who are tremping wait for rides. ( I will avoid the word hitchhiking, and if my children are reading this, they know how I feel about that! ) While driving past, I saw many soldiers awaiting rides, and one soldier, was sitting and playing guitar while strangers sang along. I wish I had a camera. (And I wish I knew how to take good photos). In this case, a picture WOULD have been worth a thousand words.

2. We rented a car AND a GPS. (Shout out to my wonderful husband, S. , who navigated over 1200 km with great skill.) As you may know, GPS’s include landmarks and buildings for easier navigation. This GPS actually had on it the Bnei Akiva snif! Bnei Akiva is the world’s largest Religious Zionist Youth Movement. Baila wrote about it here and here. I owe so much to BA – including, but not limited to that this is where I met my beloved. It has also been an important part of our children’s lives and we are VERY indebted to this wonderful organization . But to see it noted on a GPS – that is VERY cool.

3. The mall in Modiin, Baila’s hometown, is beautiful. I didn’t spend nearly enough money or time there this trip. But I did get together with some girlfriends there. They took time out from getting ready for Shabbat to sit, sip coffee, talk , laugh raucously and just do what girlfriends do (God bless every one of them!) While walking into the Cuppa Joe where we were meeting, right at the mall food court, There was a BLOOD DRIVE going on!! IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MALL. No privacy screens – just generous people rolling up their sleeves, lying on the gurneys, giving some much needed blood in the middle of the mall. Getting their juice and cookies afterwards. And of course doing an incredible mitzvah. Maybe if you’re squeamish this would make you uncomfortable. ME? I just loved it. Of course I wish that blood wouldn’t be in such great demand in Israel or anywhere. But the fact that those gurneys were all filled with people taking time out before or after running their errands to help out made me enormously proud.

Those were my top 3 small moments that touched me. What are some of yours?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I'm sorry. I've been busy.

Here's what I've been doing: after listening to the kids leave to school, and Isaac leave for work, I'd lurch out of bed, throw an anti-biotic down my throat. Then I'd drunkenly move toward the laundry, put a load in, hang some out to dry. I'd do some straightening. Then I took inventory:

Remote control. Check.

Cell phone. Check.

Land Line phone. Check.

American Line phone. Check.

Tissues. Check.

Water bottle. Check.

People Magazines (Thanks, Fern!) Check.

Book. Check. (Finished Jodi Picoult's new one. Read the first five chapters first, then the last five, and then random chapters in the middle. You can do that with JP's books. Now I started Annie Freeman's Traveling Funeral).

Thermometer. Check. (I tried not to obsessively check my temperature, but...).

Once I was sure all my supplies were in order, I'd climb into bed. Then I'd get out again to go to the bathroom, and then I'd get back in. The rest of my days passed in a haze of dreams, sounds and sights. (Did you know that Marlon Brando did not "respect his own talent", thereby causing his self-destruction? This from True Hollywood Stories, which I guess I watched).

Yesterday, I began to emerge from my fog. Today, I basically followed my (non-working day) schedule, and I seem to be okay. I'm still coughing, though, and am debating taking the last day of the week off tomorrow and calling it a week.

I never did get to finish Nablopomo. And I'm not sorry. I learned something about myself; daily blogging is not for me. I didn't like the quality of my writing.I felt like it made my blogging boring. It bored me.

So I'm back now to my regular posting schedule. And there are many new and exciting features coming. Okay, really only one--A GUEST POST!!! Look for it, it'll be here soon.

In the meantime, Haveil Havalim is up at Torah from Zion.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cough, cough

I woke up this morning with a little tickle in my chest, but still managed to get my Thanksgiving Lunch together and on the table. At about 5 o'clock I felt really cold and as soon as Shabbat was over crawled into bed, barely saying good-bye to my guests. I must give a shout-out to Stuart, who did the dishes (and there were alot!) and Isaac who did all the post-lunch clean-up. I think the Advil has kicked in as I'm not shivering quite as hard, but I still feel pretty lousy and will spend the rest of the evening in bed. Hopefully, I'll have the stamina to stay up for Hisardut--Israeli Survivor.

Have a Shavua Tov--a good week.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

Today I spent a good chunk of the day at Cup-o-Joe with my friends Carol and Fern. Both of them are librarians and are very up-to-date on the latest good reads. I have so much more to say about this, but since I whittled away several hours with them, I am way behind on Shabbat preparations. I plan to blog more about librarians, libraries in general, libraries in Israel, books, english books in Israel, how to get english books to Israel easily and cheaply (hint: having a librarian friend in America is a good start), and how having friends who love books as much as you do is amazing.

But I can't do that right now. I'm sure you understand.

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom and a great weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Day of Thanks

As I sit here writing this, many of you in the United States are stuffing your faces sitting down to eat your Thanksgiving dinner. No one needs me to remind them to be thankful. We are so blessed to be walking this good earth, grabbing the opportunities that G-d gives us daily and trying to make the most of the time we have.

This year we aren't doing the traditional dinner today. Instead I spent the day getting a traditional turkey dinner ready for some friends (really good friends) who are in town for the week and will come for Shabbat Lunch. On the menu: turkey london broil, chicken with stuffing, cranberry sauce, cabbage salad, sweet potatoes, string beans, apple pie and pumpkin pie. I hope it's enough.

Wishing you all a great Thanksgiving, stuffed with only the best life has to offer.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The study center, my kids and me

Now that the month-long color war is over, it's time for the kids to buckle down in school. At least for the next two weeks until their Chanuka vacation starts.

All of a sudden all my kids have lots of tests on lots of material. And I'm feeling the pressure, even though they don't seem to be.

Modi'in offers a very nice program for olim (new immigrants) called the Merkaz Limmud--Study Center. Merkaz Limmud is an after-school program where extra ulpan (classes strengthening Hebrew), homework help and math tutoring are offered. The program first started when we made Aliya two years ago. That year, I made my kids go, even though they hated it. Truth is, because it was its first year it really was what we call in Hebrew a "balagan"--completely unorganized. Sometimes my kids got tutored and sometimes they didn't. It drove me crazy that they would be there for two or three hours to get help with their homework, but would come home and first have to start. By the time the program got its act together, it was Passover. Last year my kids refused to attend and I didn't push it. But I've heard that this year the program has improved a great deal. There is plenty of staff and kids are really being helped.

I decided that we would give it a try again. The kids of course put up [an excellent] fight, but I held my ground and took them over there today. When we got there, I was extremely disappointed to see only one staff person there with about ten kids. She looked completely overwhelmed. She told me some of the other volunteers were sick (these are Sherut Leumi Girls, girls who opt to do community service in lieu of army service) and that several others had to attend some kind of course. I did not want to take my kids home and have to argue with them again next time. I wanted them to stay, and hopefully have a positive experience, so that the next the protest would be weaker (there is no doubt in my mind that there will still be protests).

On the spur of the moment, I offered to stay and help. If you're thinking about what an altruistic person I am, you are completely off-base. What I said was, "I'll stay and help the other kids, while you help my kids." Yup, just like that, tit-for-tat. The girl took me up on my offer and we were good to go. I had been planning on making dinner when the kids were at the center, but we know what happens to the best laid plans.

I worked with two girls, one in the first grade and one in the fourth. Both of them arrived here just before the school year started and were clearly struggling with the language. "Hang in there," I wanted to tell them. "You'll get it. Eventually." Both kids seemed happy, in spite of their difficulties. I made them laugh a few times, and that felt good. Truth is, it felt good to work with kids who communicate so well. It felt good to be helping these kids. "Maybe I should do this regularly", I thought to myself. Volunteer for a couple of hours a week. (Then I really would be altruistic). But then I cautioned myself not to jump in and do something I may regret, like commit to something that takes me away from my home during hours I know I should be there. So I kept my mouth shut, figuring I could always volunteer at a later time if I still have this good feeling about wanting to somehow give back.

While I worked, I surreptitiously checked the girls. Tali and a friend were studying for a test with a high school volunteer. Orli was reading a page in her history book and summarizing it. She was working by herself and I gotta tell you, I was impressed.

All in all our visit to the Mercaz Limmud turned out be a good thing for all of us.

Only downside was that I had to order pizza for dinner. Which, in my mind, isn't really a downside at all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I am definitely losing steam.... we head into the final week of Nablopomo.

In the spirit of that, I'm posting just to tell you that Mom has Haveil Havalim up at her blog. She did a great job.

[Shoulda done Nablopomo in February].

Monday, November 23, 2009

The flash mob phenonmena

What is the deal with flash mobs? It's getting so that you can't walk through a mall or train station without half the public "spontaneously" breaking into some kind of joyous song-and-dance routine. (Okay, I admit, I never actually participated in or witnessed one of these things, but they are all over YouTube. The Black-Eyed Peas got into the act, surprising Oprah Winfrey with this:)

Now, that was a really good one.

Well, Nefesh B'Nefesh, the people who bring people to Israel, got into the act last week. Apparently, they planned a spontaneous dance on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. As these things go, it's okay. Doesn't seem very exciting to me from the video, but I'm sure it would have been fun to be there.

Tsk-tsk-tsk. Anyone note the mixed dancing?

Totally shocking.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Restaurant Review: Alberto's

Tonight we celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday at Alberto's of Ligad Center in Modi'in. Well, it's sorta in Modi'in. Ligad Center is a commercial center comprised of three different buildings where some catering halls, a couple of restaurants, offices and odds and ends stores are located. It is several miles out of Modi'in and when you drive there you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. I am not sure why the city planners put the place so far out, rather than start at the edge of the residential area of the city and expand outward. Or at least put it closer to the end of the residential area.

But I digress, because I am here to talk about Alberto's. If you think it serves Spanish or Italian cuisine, you'd be wrong; the restaurant is a typical Israeli grilled meat restaurant. When we walked in, I thought they were having a party, because the tables were set up in rows. It looked like a kibbutz dining room. But no, there was no party, so I guess it's set up this way to save room, although we were the only patrons in the restaurant for most of the time we were there.

Three minutes after we sat down a jug of lemonade was placed on the table. Two minutes later an abundance of salads was delivered. These included cole slaw, purple cabbage salad, several different kind of eggplant salad, onion salad, hot peppers, pickled vegetables, chumus, techina and Israeli salad. Then the laffa bread, fresh from the stone oven came. All of this was delivered before we even got the menu. It was all fresh and tasty. Finally, the french fries arrived, also piping hot and fresh, along with a bowl-ful of Heinz Ketchup packets. We started eating before we ordered and throughout the evening the waiter kept on refilling what was scarfed down, ingested.

The pricing works something like this: You order skewers of meat or chicken or kebab. For 45 shekel, you get one skewer and for 55 shekel you get two. (There was also something for 65 shekel, but noone ordered that and I don't remember what it was). For 45 or 55 shekel you get the skewers you order plus all you can eat and drink of what I described above. There is also a kid's meal, which cost 26 shekel.

Most of us ordered the pargiyot (deboned chicken thighs) skewers, while some ordered the kebab. These also came to us fresh off the grill, with just the right moisture and flavor. But, I'm afraid to say by the time they got to the table, I was stuffed.

The bill for seven people was 330 shekel, which is not unreasonable. This included a special birthday dessert we ordered in honor of Abuelita's birthday. And we were indeed stuffed to the gills. I still am. But I have to say, if you're watching your carbs, you really have to be careful here. Those laffa breads keep on coming, and they are pretty irrestible.

All-in-all, I'd say Alberto's is a fun family-restaurant that serves delicious Israeli salads and grilled meats. It's worth a trip....and, well, you'll stick to the low-carbs thing tomorrow.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I got nuthin'

I'm pooped out. Uninspired. Sure, two of my three kids are G-d knows where. Tonight is a big night in Bnei Akiva. New Shevet got their name (Mazal Tov, Shevet Lehava!)* My kids, who are not in the new shevet are out celebrating at barbeques and in the park. Tomorrow my three princesses will sleep in, while I get up to help bring home the bacon (soy only, of course).

But tonight, I got nuthin'. Except for a picture I took in Jerusalem the other night. This thing was so huge, it left the cat category and moved into the lion one:

I know it's not a great shot, but like I said, nuthin'.

I'll be back again tomorrow.

In the meantime, wishing you all a good week.

*I explained all about Bnei Akiva and the new shevet name here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How can anyone ever be that desperate for Bamba?

Bamba, in case you didn't know is Israel's unofficial national snack (actually, it may even be official, for all I know). Basically, bamba is a cheese doodle without that ghastly orange cheese flavor that I love. Instead it has a ghastly peanut butter flavor with the texture of the Herr's cheese doodle. As soon as Israeli kids are weaned, they graduate to Bamba. I believe a gajillion bags of the stuff are sold annually. Last year, they came out with a chocolate stuffed Bamba that really was disgusting. But hey, different strokes for different folks.

You get my point. Israeli's love their Bamba. Still an item I read in the Jerusalem Post this morning had me scratching my head in disbelief. I couldn't find it on the website, so I'm taking time to type out the item here:

Bamba Burglar Busted

A 35-year-old Beersheba resident with a strong late-night craving for bamba recently picked the lock and broke the door of a store across from his home in order to get some of the peanut-flavored snack. He ravaged the store until he found a bag of bamba and then proceeded to consume the contents of the bag, exited the store and left the packet behind.

The next morning the store owner discovered that his shop had been broken into and the only thing stolen was the bag of bamba. The owner contacted the Beersheba police, who came to the site and took fingerprints from the empty bag. These were matched up the fingerprints of a man the store owner identified as a frequent purchaser of large amounts of bamba.

On Wednesday the Beersheba police department claims bureau filed charges against the defendant, who was released on bail. His case is scheduled to be heard in court in the near future. "I'm crazy about Bamba," the defendant told investigators. "I was hungry and all the stores were closed, so I broke into one of them."

Crazy about Bamba, indeed.

Shabbat Shalom, and have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When I last left you...

...a man in a car stopped me while I was on a walk with Ozzy. He had seen me give directions to another who stopped me. He told me he was a policeman and needed to know where that man was headed.

It was so strange. I felt in my gut that the man was not a policeman. Why would there be a man in the passenger seat who seemed to be dozing? If he was close enough to the first driver to see him asking for directions, why didn't he just put the medal to the pedal and follow him? The first person asking for directions didn't seem to be trying to evade a tail. He seemed fairly relaxed.

I didn't ask for ID. The thought occurred to me, but the interaction happened very quickly. The second time he asked me, I answered him by saying disbelievingly, "You're a policeman?? Really???". The man gave an exasperated sigh and pulled away. I started to try to recall some details about the guy in case I heard of something strange happening later and would need to come forward to perform my civic duty. Things like the make and model of the car (a Mazda 6), what he looked like (like many Israeli's, dark with dark eyes and dark, curly hair), what he was wearing (a brown and white striped polo shirt).

And then--this really amused me--a third car stopped me. But this guy really did need directions--I almost chortled out loud as I told him I couldn't help him.

So that's that. I guess this will end up in the annal's Baila's Unsolved Mysteries. Feel free to speculate or make up a story about what this was all about. I was going to do that, but I'm really tired.

Incidentally, to those of you who accused me of getting as much mileage out of Nablopomo as I can by putting this into two posts--you are absolutely right. I hang my head in shame.

And now I better hit publish to get this in on time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This is weird

What do you make of this?

Today, Wednesday,(remember? my almost-favorite day?) is my day off. The weather is refreshingly perfect these days and I decided to go for a long walk with Ozzy. On the way back, a car stopped and asked me for directions to a nearby street. After giving them to him in a fairly competent manner, I continued with my trek. Several seconds later another driver rolled down his window and stopped me:

(Do I even have to mention that all of this took place in Hebrew?)

Man: Ehhhhhm, giveret (lady), I am a policeman. That car that just asked you for directions--where is he going.

[That's funny. You don't look much like a policeman. Are you undercover? And why is your "partner" in the passenger seat dozing? Hmmm.]

Me: Excuse me?

Man: (speaking slowly--did he hear my American accent from just one word?) The car before me that stopped you for directions--where did he want to go? I'm a policeman.

[Let's freeze right here for a while.]

Don't you think this is strange? Has anything like this ever happened to you?

Before I tell you what I did, I want to know what you would have done. Would you have told this guy? Or moved on?

This enquiring mind wants to know.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"בגלל המוזיקה"--For the music

I love radio. I grew up listening to WINS--1010 WINSRADIO--"You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world". On Fridays, my mother would get ready for Shabbat listening to Art Raymond. As I grew older, I started listening to pop music on WABC-AM. I also listened to Don Imus and Howard Stern on WNBC-AM. I listened to Stern when he moved to FM as well, although he started to get totally raunchy and not as funny. When I started driving to work a couple of years before we moved here, I listened to audio books and when those would finish, to talk radio, mostly Sean Hannity and Mark Levine.

I'm happy to say I love radio in Israel, too. I'm relieved to say I understand [most of] it. Like any good Israeli, I turn up the volume when the news comes on. Unless it makes me ill, which is fairly often. I listen to all kinds of talk radio. Fridays on Galei Tzahal (army radio), mothers dedicate songs to their soldier sons and daughters and that always gets me. I listen to psychology and political call-in shows. I once heard a whole segment on air conditioning systems. Fascinating stuff in any language.

But my morning drive is reserved for Galgalatz. I just love the way the announcer introduces the DJ (Hadar Marks) and her show ("lo bo-ayr"). She has a bluesy, husky voice. The playlist consists of both English and Hebrew pop music. Out of the blue I can here a song like California Dreamin', or a Beatles song, or something more recent like the Black Eyed Peas or Beyonce. I'm always surprised, usually pleasantly, and I love to sing LOUD when a good song comes on the radio. (My kids just love that about me). I've even begun to recognize Hebrew songs, and if they play them often enough can start butchering those songs as well.

Here's one song I found on Youtube that's being played alot. I wonder if that means it's a new song. I wonder if the artist, Dani Sanderson, is very popular here in Israel. By being an immigrant, I'm just not in the loop on the pop culture thing. It's definitely something I want to change. It's probably alot more fun than politics (although in the states I was up on both).

Anyway, this song has a catchy tune and reminds me of country-western music:

I like the refrain:

ואתה לבד And you're all alone
מתגלגל בדרכך rolling along your way
אתה לא לבד you are not alone
אחרים לבד איתך others are alone with you

Hope you enjoyed that.

Laila Tov--G'nite.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Halfway through

...Nablopomo, that is.

I wanted to participate because I was having a tough time being inspired lately and I thought if I was forced to write something every day I would have no choice. Since this is, at its heart, a slice-of-life blog, I would have to look at the mundane things in my life and try to bring it to you in an interesting and entertaining way.

I know that sometimes I hit the mark and many times I don't.

Still, I do think alot about everything I do, see, read, and conversations I have. I wonder if it's something worthy of blogging about. Most stuff I discard. I'd like to say you're getting the best of my life experiences, but really my life is sometimes only interesting to me.

It's ironic. Maybe if I got away more from the computer I'd have more to write about.

In any case, I just wanted to let you know that I'm committed to finishing this. So you've got another 14 posts to slog through before we get to December.

If you'd like you can make suggestions for posts. Don't bother asking me to do a post about how often I change my sheets (already done), my sex life, or [another one] Ozzy. But otherwise, I'm open to suggestions.

And feel free to give me constructive criticism. (But I'd much prefer compliments. I'm a very needy person).

I'll see you tomorrow, whether you like it or not.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Benji's selling t-shirts

Not only is my friend Benji of What War Zone a funny guy, he is also quite the entrepeneur. Benji saw a void in the Israeli/American marketplace and is now filling it. Here's what he says:

"For 2+ years, I have walked past t-shirt shop after kiosk in Jerusalem and marveled at the completely lame, unoriginal, pathetic, low-brow, and stupid tourist t-shirts. You know the ones....the shirts which haven't changed in twenty years and probably longer than that..."

I remember seeing some of these shirts when I was here for my year in Israel, in 19--well, never mind, but trust me it was the dark ages. Remember this one?:

It was cute then, but now it's just, well, old. Hasn't it occurred to anyone that we could use new t-shirts. Ah, yes, well, it occurred to Benji!

If you click on over to Benji's t-shirt site, you'll see an updated version of these type of shirts, infused with Benji's own brand of humor. And the prices seemed quite reasonable, I might add.

I'm wishing Benji lots of luck in his new venture.

While you're clicking, why don't you head on over to Ima on the Bimah. She has Haveil Havalim up and running. (Ima is also a fellow-NaBloPoMo-er).

Shavua Tov, everyone. Have a great week.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Do you know where your children are?

I do. Sorta.

Many kids in Israel belong to a youth movement. There are a number of large movements, both religious and not and kids across the country are involved in many ways. In Modi'in (and perhaps everywhere in Israel, I'm not really sure), schools finish early on Tuesdays, because Tuesday evenings are reserved for various activities at the youth movements.

My kids go to Bnei Akiva, a movement near and dear to my heart. I came to BA relatively late in life (after high school), but its ideology of working and living in Israel spoke to me from the very beginning.

For my kids, BA means they are busy on Shabbat afternoons, as well as Tuesdays. They have been hiking all over the country, sleeping under the stars, climbing Masada at dawn, visiting sick children in hospitals under Bnei Akiva's auspices.

But the absolute pinnacle of the year happens now. It is called "Chodesh Irgun" [month of the organization] and is basically a month-long color war between the grades that will culminate in performances by each grade this coming Thursday night. During this month (which begins right after the Jewish holidays) the kids are out almost every night, till LATE, practising their dances, painting banners and the snif (the branch--the youth house where they meet) and well, I'm not sure what else. On Saturday night there will be a special ceremony in which the winner will be announced, the 9th graders will perform a daglanut [dance with the Israeli flag] and will receive the name of their "shevet"--the name which will follow them for the rest of their lives.

Seven more days of wondering what time they will be home. Seven more days of telling them homework must be completed, tests must be studied for and rooms must be cleaned. Seven more days of listening to them debate what the new shevet name will be. Seven more days of them coming home exhausted and dirty, paint encrusted everywhere.

Seven more days till life returns to normal.

But then of course, the countdown to Chanukah begins.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ozzy's new companion

This morning Ozzy started barking like the maniac he can be at the porch door. I went over to look for the cat he was probably reacting to, but saw nothing. I gave him my usual scolding and walked away. He continued to growl and then began barking again. Isaac went to check and was surprised to find this hanging out on our porch:

Where this little guy came from, we have no idea.

We decided not to make the same mistake we made when we were naming Ozzy and call this pet Marianito, after the greatest relief pitcher to ever grace this good earth. We found a box to give him a home and started to integrate him into the family.

Ozzy, after realizing that Marianito the turtle was a friend and not food, spent the morning getting acquainted.

By lunchtime, Marianito and Ozzy were best buddies:

Now, doesn't Ozzy look happy with his new friend? I predict great things from these two.

(Uhhhhmmmm. If anyone has info about caring for a baby turtle, please let us know. Marianito thanks you in advance).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My mother-in-law's blog

May I direct to a new blog that I've been following? Jonathan Degani's Shomer Shekalim provides a wealth of information about how to live on an Israeli budget. He doesn't assume that you are independently wealthy, doesn't assume you have an American salary, doesn't assume your parents are supporting you; he assumes that you are an average Joe, making an average Israeli salary, trying to live within your means while saving for that proverbial rainy day and big ticket items (homes, college, weddings, that fabulous trip to the Far East).

And while some of his posts are specific to us Israelis (eg how the tax system works here--that was an eye opener), others are more general and include advice that would be helpful to anyone who needs money.

While you're there, look closely at his blogroll. Maybe you can gently tell him that my mother-in-law doesn't have a blog. Or at least hasn't told me about it...(hat tip to Mother-in-Israel for giving me the head's up on this, and making me smile).

In other news, today is Veteran's Day in the US. I think that over the past few years, probably since September 11, more Americans take this day much more seriously, which is of course proper and right. I doubt if any actual veterans ready my blog, but if you do, I want to thank you for your service. You and so many other men and women have sacrificed much for America's freedom, and it's appreciated by Americans all over the world...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My almost-favorite day

Ahhh. Tomorrow is Wednesday.

I love Wednesdays because it is my Sunday.

Well, it's no Sunday, but it's my day off of work. Catch-up day, usually spent running around like a maniac, but nevertheless the fact that I don't have to go to work is nice.

Of course, it is marred by my most hated chore of the week: my big supermarket shopping.

The supermarkets in Israel rival those in the US in their sophistication. They are huge. They have thousands of products lining their aisles. They sell everything. Really, it's one stop shopping. You can buy fresh meat at the butcher, fresh fish, fresh cheese and REALLY fresh bread at the bakery. At some supermarkets you can load up on washing machines and toaster ovens as well. You can even buy your underwear.

I'm not complaining about the actual shopping experience. That's fine (if only my great country could figure out how to make the shopping cart wheels roll properly). It's everything else:

Standing in line at check-out. Packing up your stuff and feeling pressure to do it quickly because the cashier can't start adding up the next customer until you're finished packing up. (But I thumb my nose at that and do what I have to do). Loading it all in the aforementioned-shopping cart. Loading it into the trunk of your car. Unloading it into the elevator. Leaving the stuff in the elevator while you park the car in its spot. Unloading it into the house. Unloading it into the fridge, freezer and various cabinets.

You get my point here, I'm sure.

The whole project takes up a good portion of my Wednesdays. Still, it's so much better than having to do all of this in the evening, after work. Last week I went shopping at night and it was awful. It was a Wednesday night, and the store was crowded. I was surprised at how many families were shopping together, with little kids in tow. I'd rather go to the dentist.

So tomorrow is Wednesday. I will face my weekly shop with grace and courage. And return home to a nice, quiet house where the crisp smell of fresh laundry ready to be folded awaits.

Now there's a chore I can sink my teeth into.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Talk to me about your sleeping habits

No, I don't mean that.

I'm talking about the actual sleeping part.

I haven't slept since 1996.

Okay, maybe I'm slightly exaggerating. But really, I barely slept in 1996. I remember that clearly. Oh, I'd fall asleep fine. But I always woke up at 2 a.m. and could not fall back asleep until a few minutes before the alarm clock went.

1996 was before Facebook and blogging. I think we had just gotten our e-mail address on AOL. So I would wake up, not be able to fall asleep and watch old I Love Lucy reruns.

(I love I Love Lucy).

I was desperate, and lonely. Isaac, my husband, is one of the most talented sleepers I know. I'm totally jealous of him. "Honey", he'll say. "I'm going to sl---",and he's out cold before his head hits the pillow. And doesn't move until I wake him the next morning. If I hadn't woken him that first morning, he'd probably have slept through the birth of our children, our Aliyah and any of our other major life events.

I fell in love with those little blue pills (no not those, I'm talking about Tylenol PM). I didn't get addicted or anything like that, but I would take them on Friday nights, because I could sleep late on Shabbat. I couldn't take them during the week, because they made me feel woozy in the morning and I was scared to drive under their influence.

I started telling people about my problem and was happy to find out that lots of my friends suffered from the same issue (what can I say, misery loves company). In almost every couple I knew, at least one person was suffering from insomnia.

1996 was the worst year. It's gotten much better since then. I do awaken in the deep, dark night, but now I can usually put myself back to sleep fairly easily. Occasionally, I still have a bad night. I didn't fall asleep Saturday night until 4:30 a.m. (to bad I didn't volunteer to do Haveil Havalim last week). And while it's been fine since, a night like that kills my week.

And so, I'm curious: Do any of you or your partners suffer from sleep disorders? How do they manifest? What tricks do you use to help yourself sleep? How does it affect your life?

Waiting for your answers.


Attention all ex-pats

My friend Pearl and her kids spent Shabbat with us and mentioned something about a $1900.00 payment that Americans living abroad would have to pay for healthcare coverage even though they do not use the health care system in their native country. A red flag went up in my brain and I stored it away.

Count on Jameel to have the details. If you've been following the news, you'll know that President Obama has proposed sweeping new legislature to provide Universal Health Care, which the House of Representatives passed over the weekend. The bill will now go to the senate. If the bill passes, "even as an American living in Israel, paying monthly health care taxes in Israel, (under Israeli government mandated health care laws), you will also need to pay American Health care, even though you can get zero benefit from US Health care" [quoted directly from the Muqata].

Nineteen hundred dollars is a huge sum to pay for an American benefit that I will not be using.

So what can we as ex-pats do?

We can contact our senators quickly and let them know how we feel about this bill. (You can find your senator and their contact address here). You can contact all your friends and neighbors who are American ex-pats and tell them to contact their senators. Post to your facebook accounts and e-mail lists and if your community has an e-mail listserve let them know aswell.

Jameel adds a sample letter that you can e-mail to your senators (or the senators of the last state you lived in). I don't think he'll mind that I'm posting it here:

The Honorable………
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

November , 2009

RE: America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009

Dear Senator………,

As one of your constituents who resides outside of the United States, I write you as my Senator to request that you alert Senator Baucus and the drafters of “America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009” concerning the urgent need for greater precision in the definition of those covered by the proposed legislation. In the version as released on September 16, 2009, there is wording which would inadvertently cause great hardship to American citizens living outside the United States. We hasten to bring this to your attention, so that it can be corrected early in the legislative process.

Overseas Americas should be exempted from the requirement to participate in the U.S. health plan and as a consequence, they should also be excluded to any right to claim a tax credit available for low income families in the United States under this health legislation.

Under Title 1, Subtitle D, “Shared Responsibility”, the Personal Responsibility Requirement currently states on page 28 that “Beginning in 2013, all U.S. citizens and legal residents” would be required to purchase coverage of one of the specified types of insurance coverage. This broad reference clearly includes U.S. citizens residing overseas. Yet citizens who are bona fide residents in foreign countries have health coverage plans valid in the country where they reside. If they subscribe to the U.S.-specific insurance outlined in the program – which they do not need and cannot use – they will be paying twice for health insurance. If they do not participate in the U.S. program, they will be subject to an excise tax to be levied on their IRS returns as defined in the bill on page 29.

The purpose of the excise tax is to encourage all Americans who benefit from the U.S. health program to participate in its financing. Americans residing overseas cannot benefit from the U.S. health system, so for them the excise tax is just that – a tax with no counter-part service. As per the September 22nd press release concerning the chairman’s markup, the maximum excise tax per family for non-participation, is $1,900, not a negligible amount.

Proposed solution:

A modest alteration in the present formulation would correct the legislation. Following is a suggested addition.:
“All U.S. citizens who meet the requirements of Sec. 911(d) (1)(A) or (B) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, without regard to the tax home requirement in Sec. 911(d)(1), are exempt from any mandate to purchase insurance in the United States and are not subject to the excise tax for non-participation in a U.S. health insurance plan.”

This modification would align the Senate bill to the "America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009" (H.R. 3200) presented in the House of Representatives, which specifically exempts overseas Americans from a tax on not subscribing to a U.S. domestic health plan under Section 401 of the Act (which adds Section 59B of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986). America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 states under Part VIII – HEALTH RELATED TAXES
Subpart A -Tax on Individuals Without Acceptable Health Care Coverage
Section 59.B “Tax on Individuals Without Acceptable Health Coverage
(c) Exceptions:
Any qualified individual (as defined in section 911(d)) (and any qualifying child residing with such individual) shall be treated for purposes of this section as covered by acceptable coverage during the period described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of section 911(d)(1), whichever is applicable."

I thank you most sincerely for your attention to this important issue and trust that you will do all necessary to bring about the change in the text of the proposed legislation.

Sincerely yours,
(Your name)

What are you waiting for? Get to it, folks!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I know, I know

I know that I am participating in NaBloPoMo and that some of you are watching very carefully to see if I post every. single. day, but I gotta tell you, I just don't have it in me today.

So I'm checking in to say hello and wish you all a very good week. I'll be back tomorrow with my regular post.

I know you all understand.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pancake Friday

Friday, the first day of my weekend. It doesn't behave like a Sunday here in Israel, but its not a regular day either.

Lately, I've been trying to do more on Thursday to get ready for Shabbat, so that I can relax more on Friday; that is to say not be as stressed out and constantly snap at the kids to help out. Which isn't such a good deal for them because now I snap at them both Thursday and Friday.

What can I say? Life's tough. Get a helmet.

Which is not to say that Fridays are a complete washout. On longer days we do manage to get to the beach or the pool, or to visit an interesting place. On shorter days when I've done alot of prep on Thursday, we are more relaxed (okay, I'm the one that's more relaxed) and I allow Liat to make us pancakes for lunch. Yes, I do her the huge favor of letting her mess up the kitchen more before I clean it.
And so today, still basking in the afterglow of the Yankee Win, we had yummy pancakes for lunch. Nothing fancy, mind you. But they hit the spot.

Friday Pancakes ala Casa Baila


1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 TBS. sugar
2 TBS. vegetable oil
1 TBS. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt


In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together, breaking up any lumps. Pour batter onto hot griddle (Liat used a Teflon pan). Flip pancakes when the edges appear cooked and the batter bubbles on top. Douse in maple syrup, if you're into that sort of thing (I'm not, but everyone else here is). Serve immediately, because if you don't, they'll get eaten anyway.

Enjoy and have a Shabbat Shalom/great weekend.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rooting for the Yankees

Ahh, the things I learn living here in the Holy Land. It's all that multi-culturalism, right here in Modi'in.

My Aussie friend, Ilana, has informed me that "rooting", which in American English (no we didn't create the language, but we did perfect it) is a nasty, naughty, dirty word Down Under.

Yeah, well, mate, put one on the barbie for me, will ya? And hold the vegemite stuff. After all my rooting, if you will, the New York Yankees have won their 27th world series. They continue to be the winningest team in baseball, probably are the winningest team in the world.

What's that, the rest of you say? Of course, they are, their salaries are the highest anywhere. My, my. You must be a Boston Red Sox fan. And you're feeling bitter. Very bitter. Quit your whinging (that's whining for those of you who don't speak Australian) and accept the fact that the curse is back in place.

And to a certain family where the boys outnumber the girls 4-1 (can't count Bunny, don't know what it is), we miss you all terribly. But we'll be expecting our congratulatory call from you anytime soon.
To the greatest team in baseball, no in America, congratulations. We had a great time watching and rooting for you.

[Can you name all the players pictured? Bonus points if you can tell me which one doesn't belong and why].

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A funny thing happened on the way to my mammogram

If you were reading last year, you know that I go for my annual mammogram at Machon Hala in Jerusalem. Today was my big day. I decided to take the bus into Jerusalem, because I'm trying to treat my car like the delicate flower she is.

I caught a sherut to the Central Bus Station. The sherut is a taxi service, a mini-van that seats ten passengers that follows the same route as the bus. It costs a shekel more than the bus but comes more frequently and makes less stops. On the down side, I always feel nauseous after these rides.

In any case, I was sitting toward the back of the van when it made it's first stop in Jerusalem. A thin, pretty young girl whom I hadn't noticed before got up to get off the bus. She was wearing a very tight, low-riding (is that how you say it?) pair of jeans. As she gracefully slid out of her seat, her pants decided to stay behind (no pun intended, or maybe a little intended). In other words they rode down much lower than she probably intended.

In other words, I saw her butt. Tush. Tuchis. Yashvan. Rear end. Gluteus maximus. The whole show, not just the tiny little crack at the top that is pretty commonly seen these days.

The girl was faster than lightening, picking up those pants while at the same time slinging her backpack over her shoulder as if nothing happened. She's probably perfected that move by now. But I know what I saw, because when I glanced at the young man sitting next me, he gave me a look confirming it.

Do I sound like an old lady when I say, what are these kids thinking with the clothes they wear? Don't they even have a teensy-weensy bit of self-respect?

Rachel, one of the commenter's on yesterday's post, noted that Israel only has two types of clothing: trashy or frummy. She may be right, although I think this also applies to the US in lots of ways. People, including kids, will wear almost anything, or nothing in the name of fashion. Personally, I find this to be scary.

Is there anyone out there who thinks it's okay for a girl's pants to hang so low that you literally see it all?


By the way, Thank G-d, all went well at the mammogram. Is it time to schedule yours?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Shopping. Blech.


I hate it.

But my kids love it. And often they want me to do it with them.

I am not the kind of mother who bonds with her daughters by squealing over adorable pieces of trendy outfits. I leave the squealing for the girls to do with their peers. And we find plenty of other fun things to bond over. Like scraping nails down a chalkboard.

My girls know that I view shopping as a necessary evil. For example, I wouldn't have done it today, but I couldn't very well let Orli go to school in flip-flops(which used to be known as thongs, which are now known as skimpy underwear. But that's for another post). The kids all need closed shoes or boots, because after all, sometimes the temperature here dips down to 50 degrees!

Of everything I hate to shop for here in Israel, shoes are by far the worst. They are fairly expensive at the cheap stores; at the more expensive, higher quality shoes tranlates to a huge increase in price. But shoes it was. Oh, joy.

Luckily, I managed to score a pair of boots and two pair of shoes. For the price of half-a-month's rent, but still I was pleased to get this done.

And in the nick of time, too. I had just about had it. Which was confirmed when Tali said to Orli, "You better choose which pair of boots you want. Mommy's getting cranky."

How do you feel about shopping?

Monday, November 2, 2009


While perusing my blogroll, I noticed that Robin has joined NaBloPoMo--or National Blog Posting Month, where we are asked to put out a blog post every. single. day. of the month. After I signed up, I discovered that Mom and Ima have also joined. Good company.

I think it's a good idea for me to be "forced" to check in every day. Lately, I've been feeling less than inspired to write. I love my blog and want to nurture it for a long time to come, so I've been troubled by my inability to post top-of-the-line content. Perhaps, with 30 posts over the next 30 days, I'll be able to find my stride again.

If worse comes to worse, I can always put up some viral videos.

Until tomorrow's post, check out Haveil Havalim, currently live at Simply Jews.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

'Tis the season

These have been lurking everywhere:

Right after the Sukkot holiday, Chanuka donuts started appearing. Sufganiyot,as they are known in Hebrew, used to come in only jelly flavor. I hate jelly. Now, however, the donuts come filled with all sorts of flavors and creams, including the only one I will eat, ribat chalav, or caramel. But I don't touch the stuff until Chanuka itself. The sugary, fried treats are a cardiologist's dream.

I tried to take pictures a couple of weeks ago in a local supermarket. The donuts looked much more luscious than these. But the guy behind the bakery counter went nuts. "אסור לצלם!"--"Assur Letzalem!--Forbidden to photograph!", he kept shouting. He became quite agitated and I quickly put the camera away. What did he think, I was going to commit some kind of donut espionage? If I was, I would have made sure to use my special SpyCam Surveillance Camera. You know, the one hidden in my shoe. Duh.

So, enjoy the season. I guess this means that Ol' Man Winter's gonna arrive any day around here. The mercury only hit 70 degrees today. Practically freezing.

Wishing you all an early Merry Chanukah.