Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Doctor is in

As I mentioned here earlier, my friend Sarah was in visiting for the week. It was wonderful seeing her, and of course, spending all that time with her makes me miss her more than I did before.

Sarah spent most of the week running around with her kids, but did reserve Wednesday (remember, my day off of work?) to spend with yours truly. I decided to take her to Neve Tzedek the first neighborhood to crop up in Tel-Aviv, a stone's throw from the ancient port city of Yaffo. In recent years, Neve Tzedek has become gentrified and is filled with upscale galleries, shops and restaurants as well as beautiful architecture, lovingly restored.

Unfortunately, Sarah and I met way past the lunch hour and neither of us had eaten. Both of us have been blessed with healthy appetites and it was difficult to appreciate the beauty of Neve Tzedek in our hungry states. Lovely as Neve Tzedek is, none of the scrumptious-looking cafes there seemed to be kosher.

What are two hungry friends to do?

By this time, in our agitated, hungry states we had wandered down to the shore, where off in the not-to-far distance I saw Yaffo. I knew from my recent trip that there were kosher places to eat there, so we walked on over.

We walked past the famous watchtower, hung a left, and came upon this:

Yes, Dr. Shakshuka, a mainstay of Yaffo for about 50 years, famous for its, well, food. I had read about the restaurant before, and heard about it from friends and was thrilled to find it. Knowing it was kosher, Sarah and I walked in and fell in love. The atmosphere is casual, the decor unusual (all kinds of old (antique?) lamps and pots hanging from the ceiling, shared tables with non-matching chairs that looked like they were obtained from the nearby flea market). We sat down, grabbed a menu (a laminated, handwritten photocopy) and decided to go with the "tasting", which meant that our lovely waitress brought us a variety of salads and main dishes to taste.

The food is "Tripolitan", from the owner's native country of Libya.

Here is the vegetable soup that came with the cous-cous, both cooked to perfection.

This is the meat cooked with tomato sauce and beans.

I have no idea, just meat so tender it melted in your mouth and flavors that make me want to stop writing and run out to Yaffo right now.

Is this the famous mafrum, potatoes stuffed with meat, and of course some meat on the side?

This is the table before all the dishes were brought in. I see I didn't photograph the meat with eggplant and okra dish, the most scrumptious dish there. Once I put down my camera and picked up my fork, I was done.

I'm guessing you want to know how much all this cost us. I've gotta tell you I goofed here. The menu said 85 shekel, and I knew that had to be a mistake, it was just to much food for the money. We asked the women sitting next to us and they said it was 130 shekel, which made more sense. When the bill came it turned out to be 170 shekel (85 per person); the women had them omit some of the dishes to get a better price. Had we known, we would have done the same thing--there was way to much food there for the two of us, even with our voracious hunger. Still 170 shekel is about 23dollars each when split two ways. (Have I mentioned the price included fresh lemonade, tea and dessert?) I've eaten alot less for alot more at the "fancier" restaurants. And if you decide to order normally and just get one dish, the prices seemed very reasonable.

After our meal, Sarah and I rolled walked through the flea market and Old Yaffo, but I was way to stuffed to care about taking pictures.

If you live here, go get some. If you visit, put it on your must-do list. Because a walk around Yaffo and a meal at Dr. Shakshuka with a good friend is as perfect a day in Israel as I can think of.

Blog business

Haveil Havalim is up and running at Israel Situation.

The 50th Kosher Cooking Carnival is up at Batya's place. Batya is the organizer of this carnival and Kol HaKavod to her for doing such a great job with it.

Finally, I'd like to remind everyone about the Blogger's Event taking place next week (February 7th) at my place. Remember, it's your chance to meet Ozzy in person. I'm even trying to convince him to sign autographs, but he's very modest...It's also your chance to hear Hannah Katzman of Mother-in-Israel and Cooking Manager speak. For more information and to register for the event, click here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What I like about Tu B'Shvat

Tu B'Shvat, the "holiday of the trees" is upon us. It' a nice little holiday, tucked between two biggies, Chanukah and Purim.

What I like about it is that you don't have to cook and clean like a maniac for it it has become a holiday very connected to the land of Israel. I just read in the Jerusalem Post this morning that when the first olim arrived back in the late 1800's, they realized that the country needed to be built and the land cultivated, because there was nothing here. They decided to take Tu B'shvat and connect it to the land of what would become Israel more than half a century later by planting trees. Indeed, it became mandatory for schools to take the children on outings to plant little saplings. Today we see great forests all over our country because of what these early settlers did, and the tree planting tradition continues on Tu B'Shvat and beyond.

There is a commercial on TV now running for Tu B'Shvat that has a beautiful song that I always enjoy hearing on the radio. It is a reminder that our land, and indeed, the entire planet is a gift from G-d, that we must not take for granted. Very appropriate for Tu B'Shvat and the whole year.

Wishing you all a great holiday, Shabbat Shalom and a peaceful weekend.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bedtime, or do my teens have colic?

When the girls were all little, cute and cuddly, I would give them their baths, often at the same time, put them in their footsie pajamas, cuddle and tickle with them, read them a story, have the "I-love-you-more-no-I-love-you-more" arguement, say Shema, kiss the mezuzah and turn out the lights. By 7:30, it was all over and I had blessed peace until I myself turned in. (Okay, it wasn't exactly that idyllic. There was of course, the hour of I'm thirsty, I need to pee, so-and-so is looking at me, the other so-and-so threw up, the hour after lights out, but still, I had a fair amount of quiet time between the time they went to sleep and the time I did).

And it was a sweet bliss that now lives only in my memories.

Now they are teenagers (cue horror music). Okay, well, Orli is only 12, but that's just a technicality. She's been acting like a teen for what seems like a decade now.

And the bedtime issue drives me nuts. I know that some limits have to be set and they are. But sometimes I feel like the arguement isn't worth it. At what point do you leave it up to them? What if you have a responsible kid who knows her limits and is asleep at a decent hour, except for some occasions when she is up late talking to friends or listening to music? What if you have a kid who just wants to stay up a little longer every night?

What if you just don't want to see the little runts (who are more precious to you than anything in the world) anymore, but they are still roaming around your house like a bad movie that never ends?

I'd say the girls get an average of 8 hours of sleep a night, this with some encouragement from me to GET TO BED!

At what point do I stop policing their bedtimes?

Because I gotta tell you, I am so ready.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What would you ask for?

My friend Sarah's arriving tomorrow. She's the kind of friend who you've known forever, can laugh and cry with, and most importantly doesn't mind bringing you lots of STUFF from the alte heim (the old country for those of you who don't speak Yiddish).

I have been killing myself to get ready. I want the cooking and cleaning done tonight so I can have the day with her tomorrow. I'll give her my usual Modi'in tour (if you come visit, you'll get it as well, and it's fabulous if I say so myself) which ends, duh, at the mall. Hey, I don't want her to get homesick or anything. She can even have McDonald's if she so desires--it's kosher in Modi'in. I'm lovin' it.*

I put in a pretty big order for Sarah to shlep over from the states. I'd give you a list, but I still have to shred the cabbage, make the schug (recipe here) and clean the kitchen and it's 11:30 P.M. so I need to end this post.

Anyone care to guess what I asked for?

*Actually, I hate McDonald's. I'm a Burger's Bar girl myself--and only the grilled chicken sandwiches.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Avi goes to Haiti

My neighbor Avi is the kind of Israeli who has said to me, "Why would I travel anywhere in the world when I still haven't seen all of my own land?". He is an Israeli who loves Israel in that old-fashioned way. He has literally dedicated his life to his country as a career army officer.

Avi is an officer for Unit 669, which is a Search and Rescue unit. He may not have traveled for pleasure outside of Israel, but he has traveled for work to places like Kenya, Turkey and Thailand, always with a contingent of Israeli soldiers and civilians trained to help when crisis strikes.

Last night he got the call again. He left at 5 a.m. this morning for Santo Domingo. From there he will travel to Haiti, a country devastated by Wednesday's earthquake. His wife tells me he will be gone for at least two weeks, probably closer to a month. He is an expert at providing this kind of aid, as he has been doing it for years.

Shabbat begins shortly, and this week, as I light the candles I will say a prayer for the people of Haiti, for Avi and all other Israelis on this humanitarian mission and for all people who dedicate their lives to answering the call when disaster strikes.


The Orthodox Union is serving as a collection point for donations to Haiti, which will be directly forwarded to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The JDC has already helped send an Israeli relief team of medical, search and rescue, and post-trauma counseling experts to assist survivors and will continue to assist with the help of our contributions. Your support is needed immediately. Go to to donate.)

May you all have a peaceful Shabbat and weekend.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wanna meet Ozzy in person?

Guess who's hosting the next Blogger's event. Yup, I am! And I'm thrilled! I hope you all come. Here are the details:


What Do I Write About Next?

Generating Ideas to Keep Readers Coming Back

Time and Date: Sunday, February 7 at 8:00 PM

Speaker: Hannah Katsman, A Mother in Israel

Location: My house (Details and directions to be provided after registration)

Cost: NIS 20

Join us for an evening of networking and creative thinking. Through discussion and an exercise, Hannah will inspire you to find new ways to engage your readers and attract traffic and comments. For bloggers at all levels.

Hannah Katsman has been blogging at A Mother in Israel on parenting, Judaism and life in Israel since 2006. She recently launched Cooking Manager, a site to help home chefs save time and money in the kitchen.

Advance registration is required. Click here to register.

Ozzy's just as excited as I am.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Why I don't want to know what color your bra is

A couple of days ago over on Facebook, I started noticing people's statuses popping up with just one word--something like this: "beige" "polka dot" "white", "black lace" etc. I had no idea what this was all about until I got a message asking me to participate to spread breast cancer awareness by announcing the color of the bra I was wearing and to see how long it would take the men to realize what we wacky women were up to.

The thing spread like a disease (look! awareness already!) and is all over Facebook. Apparently it has also been picked up by major news services. What I'm not clear about is exactly why everyone knowing the color of my underwear spreads breast cancer awareness.

Here's the thing: I'm pretty aware of breast cancer without having to let you know the status of my skivvies. My mother's twin sister died of the disease last year and both my father's two sisters are survivors, although one aunt has the chronic type and will be on chemotherapy, G-d willing for a long time to come. (Which means, by the way, that I need to get tested for the BRCA gene to see just how high-risk I am for getting the disease, because oh yes, I'm in a high risk category anyway because of the radiation I had years ago for that other cancer of mine).

Let's see now, what else? At least three close friends whose mother's faced the disease, with one of them succumbing. Two good friends in their thirties and early forties who are survivors. One survivor friend who produced and directed a short film to make a statement about the disease. One friend seriously considering getting a preventative mastectomy because she says that statistically it's pretty much a sure thing she'll get it. And one blogger-friend who lives with the disease and posts about how she does that almost daily.

These are just women I consider friends. How many more are there that I know of--friends of friends, family of friends, friends of my mother, people in the community that have faced the disease? To many to count.

And I know I'm not alone. Surely all of you have been touched by the disease as well.

Why do we have to be titillating to increase awareness? Wouldn't it be better to use the Facebook status to remind women to get a mammogram? Or to donate to a specific foundation that is engaged in research or is devoted to helping women fighting the disease? And I don't dare imagine what the men will do to increase awareness of prostate cancer.

So no, I won't be telling you about my undergarments. I'll be glad when this thing runs its course.

And by the way, is it time for you or someone you love to have a mammogram?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What I would say at a Chug Aliya

Friends of ours back in the states back in the states have started a Chug Aliya--an Aliya Club. This is a group of people planning on or thinking about moving to Israel who get together to discuss issues related to the process of making the move. They often invite people from Aliya organizations or the Jewish Agency to speak on specific topics such as health care, mortgages, education etc. as related to Israel. Occasionally, they have someone who actually made the move speak about their first-hand experiences.

I have not been asked to speak, but figured I should prepare something just in case an e-ticket suddenly appears in my inbox.

Here's what I would say: (Of course, I'm leaving some stuff out; if I tell everything here, there would be no motivation to have me tell my story in person, would there now?)

I would tell the crowd (I assume a crowd would be gathered to hear my pearls of wisdom, no?) that the younger they and their children are the easier it will be for the klita (absorption/integration into Israeli society). I would tell them that even if they are not ready to make the move now, but are hoping to do it some day in the future, they should be talking about it all the time at home to make the children aware of what they are thinking. But I would also add that we made Aliya with older kids (ages 11-14) and that though there were some really tough times, all are doing well now.

I would tell them to think carefully about the kind of community they want to live in and to think about their children and where they would fit in. I would remind them that in Israel most schools are "public schools" and their expectations of the services their children receive and the length of the school day are very different from what they may be used to in the states. Not necessarily better, or worse, but different.

I would tell them that health care in this country is very, very good, even excellent but culturally very different than what they are used to in the states. I would even have one or two funny stories to tell them to point this out.

I would tell them to of course prepare financially for the move. Many people who make Aliyah these days choose to commute back and forth. It works well for many families, but I also know of some families who chose to go back to the states because it was just to difficult. I would advise them to speak to the people doing it. For those who plan on working in Israel, I would tell them that it can be very, very tough finding work here and they have to expect to be unemployed for a significant period of time (Nefesh B'Nefesh said 6-9 months when me made Aliya, but it may be longer in today's economic climate). I would point out that salaries are much, much lower here and that yes, tuition and health insurance cost a fraction of what they cost in the states, but that still doesn't make it easy financially.

I would tell them to bone up on their Hebrew to the extent that they can, but in the end the way they will really learn the language is if and when they become immersed in it through their work and/or communities. I would tell them that language struggles are difficult at every level and can sometimes make you feel, well, like old Tante Minnie when she got off the boat at Ellis Island.

I would tell them that sending a lift costs a ton of money and that they can probably buy everything here for the same or less money without the hassle and to consider just sending the sentimental stuff.

I would tell them that everyone will say that making Aliyah is hard, but you can't imagine how hard it is until you are in the thick of it. I would tell them there will be days they will ask themselves, "WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING, LEAVING A PERFECTLY NICE PLACE FOR THIS?"

I will tell them to search deep into themselves for the reasons they want to make this move.

Because in the end, Israel will not solve the problems you are having in the states. No matter how much planning and preparation you do you are taking a leap of faith. And you will need that faith and a core belief in what you are doing to sustain you through those hard times.

I would end by saying this:

I believe I belong here and I have no regrets.

(Then I would open it up for questions. What would you ask? Or if you're already here, what would you add to this presentation?)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A first I never wanted

Early in my days here in Modi'in I passed a sign that said בית עלמין, Beit Almin. "What's that?", I asked Isaac. "That's the cemetery", he replied. I digested the fact and tucked it away.

But now I know, and I wish I didn't.

I wish I didn't now know exactly where it was. I wish I didn't now know that to get there, you have to drive up a smooth, curvy road, park and then hike a bit uphill. I wish I didn't now know that the cemetery of Modi'in is nestled on a beautiful, green hill on the edge of the Ya'ar Ben Shemen, the Ben Shemen Forest, where on a clear day you can see Tel-Aviv in the distance. I wish I didn't now know that minutes away from my home are dozens of hiking paths where flowers bloom in January and trees grow so tall they brush the perfect, blue sky.

And I wish I didn't now know how the silence of a Friday morning in the forest can be broken by four sobbing children who, the previous day said good-bye to their mother in the morning and returned home to find out that she was no longer with them. And a husband who said as he buried her, "I loved you, I love you and I will always love you."

She was a colleague of mine, a native Israeli who greeted me warmly when I started a new job in a new language in my new country. She always had a smile, a warm greeting, was beloved at work, and apparently throughout the city of Modi'in and beyond from what I saw at the funeral.

I wish I still didn't know exactly where the Modi'in cemetery is.

But I'm proud to have known Tchiya, z"l. המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלם
May her family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.