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.