Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Israeli Kids

Yesterday was a giant boost to my self-esteem. It has been at least 10 years since I've been able to think of myself as both the fastest, and the tallest member of a sports team.

My Hebrew teacher, Chen, due to enormous pressure by her students, took us on a field trip to her son's third grade class.

(If you have spent much time in Jerusalem then you have probably seen the school - it's right off Ben Yehudah street).

As an introduction to the third graders, all of us American/French university students were drilled as to why we are in their classroom, why we are in Israel, what our names are, where we are from, why do we care about learning Hebrew, and then, if Jeff is a rapper.

We then split up into groups. The boy university students played basketball or soccer with the kids, and the girls did something else... I think they probably cooked or something.

So it was Jeff and me versus five third grade boys. And if it weren't for our height, we definitely would have lost. There was one kid, as you'll see in the pictures, who was a little over-weight, yet he could do everything ten times better than we could. I don't know if his lack of intimidation was because he is Israeli, or just because he could sense that Jeff and I were weak.

Anyway, the end score was tied 15 to 15 when the teacher called us in from recess.

And in the middle of all this, I did succeed in achieving the purpose of the trip. I improved my Hebrew speaking abilities. For example, "Sa! Sa! Sa!" means "drive the ball!". "Fowwelll Bawl" means foul. And "SHEET!" means "shit!" which was used a lot, without any reservation. They also liked to give eachother the finger.

One thing I recommend, if you get the chance, is to speak to kids when you are learning Hebrew. They aren't afraid to correct you, they actually don't know enough English to ruin your chance to practice speaking, and they are not too intimidating.

The classroom

Jeff trying to guard that kid. Ariel and French David playing soccer with the other kids.

The star. I'm not sure if it's visible or not, but there is a ton of random shit and rocks all around the basketball goals - good for falling on.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Israeli Films

Good analysis on Israeli films by Michael from Jewlicious.


Thursday, May 25, 2006


There are two main sources of evil in this world.

They are both vehemently anti-Israel, inspire intense hatred and anger, and are counter to all modernity.

  • The first is the president of Iran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (For obvious reasons, ie, not thinking the Holocaust was effective enough).

  • The second is the municipality of Jerusalem (I assume other municipalities are bad too, but I wouldn't know).

The iriyya in Jerusalem must be the main rationale for not making aliyah to Israel, and is certainly the only justification for leaving this country.

How can a municipality offer a 'student discount' on property taxes (arnona), entirely based on the fact that you are not allowed to be able to afford to pay to go to university?

You are instantly disqualified from the student discount if you pay tuition. Seems backwards doesn't it? Isn't attending university the essence of being a student?

In addition to this, there is an absurd requirement that you must go to a lawyer and pay him $250 dollars to validate your desitute student status. BUT, if you can afford this letter then you are also unable to receive the discount!

So basically, this is not a student discount.

This is a discount for destitute people who do not actually go to school and have lawyers in their families OR a discount in disguise for yeshiva students. Is that a leap of logic? No. You are either forced to get a letter from a lawyer (that you are not allowed to be able to afford to pay), or you are allowed to get your rabbi to write it for free.

So us non-orthodox, tuition paying, university attending, semi-productive people are excluded from this "student" discount. But we aren't overtly excluded. No one ever tells us that this discount is impossible. We are messed around with, led on, and given impossible tasks with the intention of us eventually getting the point that this is not really a discount for students.

And in case you think you have thick enough skin to deal with this bullshit. Believe me, you don't. Not only do they offer empty promises, but there are only a couple months a year when you can go in and try to deal with them. Moreover, in those two months they work half-days, and tend to go on strike. They will make it a point that you make multiple visits inspired by false hope.

These are the Ahmadinejads of Israel.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


There were about ten goats wandering around a parking lot at Hebrew University today.

I guess they got past the security fence.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Lag B

Here are some belated Lag b'Omer pictures.

First on the list: pre-bonfire set up.

While I was walking around looking for people setting up their stuff, I came across a drum circle. As I got closer, I noticed it was a drum circle for disabled people. Not sure what their disabilities were, but I'm guessing this was either being done as a kind of therapy, or just plain entertainment.

Then some actual bonfires, there were literally hundreds of them in this one park.

And for the grand finale.... a forest fire that was about 4 stories high. I could see it from my roof, and would like to consider it my own personal Lag b'Omer bonfire.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Man of Culture

Jerusalem bus rides have become my primary source for sub-cultural experiences.

Today is Lag b'Omer, which means my bus had to take an alternate route in order to avoid the thousands of Haredim lining up to get their hair cut on Mea Shearim. It was a terribly inconvenient way to go, and it added another twenty minutes onto my trip back from Hebrew University to Nayot.

To top it all off, there were two Germans behind me who wouldn't shut up. It got to the point where they were sitting across from each other calling each other over and over again and laughing as hard as they could every time the other would check to see who was calling.

It got really irritating, I even turned around to tell them to shut the hell up, and then I noticed... they weren't Germans. Not even close. They were a 60-something year old Haredi couple speaking Yiddish to each other (not German). I didn't tell them to shut up, but I did start staring - suddenly I became the annoying tourist that I was resenting just two minutes before (even if I am inherently less annoying).

They were actually pretty entertaining once I realized this. In addition to the idiotic prank phone calls, they kept threatening to attack each other - the woman threatened to use her walker, the man used his hat. And every time a generic elderly person struggled to stand or sit down, the Haredi couple would yell "oopah!!"

And then, as if it couldn't get anymore intriguing, this jovial/fanatical duo got up from their seats, and actually.... put their trash in the trash can. I know...it's hard to believe, but it really happened.

So next time you debate cabbing or taking the bus, weigh all the obvious pros and cons, but in the end go ahead and pick the cultural experience.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A.B. Yehoshua

Click on the link below to read his explanation of what he said at the AJC conference. And I would have to say, I agree with him.

"What I sought to explain to my American hosts, in overly blunt and harsh language perhaps, is that, for me, Jewish values are not located in a fancy spice box that is only opened to release its pleasing fragrance on Shabbat and holidays, but in the daily reality of dozens of problems through which Jewish values are shaped and defined, for better or worse. A religious Israeli Jew also deals with a depth and breadth of life issues that is incomparably larger and more substantial than those with which his religious counterpart in New York or Antwerp must contend."

The link: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArtVty.jhtml?sw=yehoshua&itemNo=715028

Really, read it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


I put up 3 new flickr albums. That's all I am allowed to put up this month unless I want to pay for the service. Like that is ever going to happen.

Anyway, if anyone knows how to 1)arrange the pictures other than by date etc, and 2)knows how to change the cover picture of each album, then please let me know.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

At home in Israel, taking life as it comes

Tulsa World
By BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer


JERUSALEM, Israel -- A Tulsa family's move to Israel more than two years ago was part of an ancient Jewish practice called "making aliyah," returning to the Jewish homeland.

Making aliyah has been in the Jewish psyche since the children of Israel, led by Moses, returned to Palestine 3,200 years ago after 400 years of slavery in Egypt.

Jews also returned to their homeland after being taken into captivity in Babylon about 600 B.C.

And in modern times, first a trickle and then a flood of Jews from all over the world returned from nearly 2,000 years of dispersion after the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Aliyah is the Hebrew word for immigration to the land of Israel. It means ascending, and has a spiritual as well as a physical context, signifying identification with the Jewish people and their historic link to the land of Israel.

Larry and Carol Feldman, their son Seth, 21, and daughter Amira, 16, met with a reporter Sunday evening in the lobby of a hotel near the walls of Jerusalem's

old city to talk about their personal aliyah.

"It's been a riot," Larry said.

The Feldmans' decision to move to Israel came at a time when they were looking for a life change. Larry had sold his dental practice in Tulsa and was doing some property investing.

When the idea of moving to Israel came up, it immediately appealed to the Feldmans, and they acted on it quickly.

"We'd visited Israel many times and always found it rewarding," Larry said. "The idea of moving here was a beautiful dream."

They are glad they made the decision, but the reality is far different from the dream, he said.

"We were naive."

Said Carol: "We always came as tourists. Living here is much different. People in Tulsa don't realize how easy life is there. In Israel, it can take two or three hours to cash a check."

Their life in Israel continues to be challenging.

While daughter Amira quickly picked up Hebrew, the new language has been tough for the parents -- in their 50s -- both to speak and to write. It is entirely different from Western languages, using a different alphabet and reading from right to left.

Jobs are difficult to get without good language skills. Larry is doing some land investment but does not plan to practice dentistry.

Life in Israel is expensive. The Feldmans sold their 4,000-square-foot house in Tulsa for about $300,000 and are spending more than that for an 800-square-foot flat in Tel Aviv.

But the pressure to "keep up with the Joneses" does not exist in Israel, Larry said. Life is more relaxed. More time is spent walking and socializing with neighbors.

The Israeli government provides good, free medical care.

The Feldmans now feel at home in Israel.

"This feels like my country," Carol said. "I've never felt this way before."

Larry agreed.

"Having a majority experience is important," he said. "You feel like you're among your own. But Tulsa feels like home too."

One member of the family strongly protested the move.

Amira said she hated the idea of leaving her friends in Tulsa just as she was going into high school, and leaving the only house she had ever known as home. She begged her parents not to move.

"But now I feel like I'm home in Israel. It's the best place for me," she said.

Some time after their move, Amira left Israel to go to a Jewish summer camp in Texas. As she headed back, she realized she was anxious to get home.

"She went to camp an American, and came back an Israeli," Larry said.

Amira said she loves it that teens in Israel have so much freedom.

"We can stay out 'til 6 a.m., and it's normal, and it's safe."

She is even looking forward to her mandatory two years of service in the army after high school.

Son Seth was a student at the University of Wisconsin when his family moved. He is spending his junior year studying in Jerusalem this year and plans to move to Israel some time after he graduates.

The Feldmans said they feel completely safe living in a country regularly attacked by suicide bombers.

Carol said she often walks home alone from friends' houses late at night without a concern. Parents have no fear to let their children stay out all night, because personal crimes are rare.

The religious breakdown in this 80 percent Jewish nation does not conform to U.S. Judaism.

In Tulsa, the Feldmans were members of Temple Israel, a Reform congregation. Now they attend a synagogue that would be described as traditional. And they are not there every Sabbath.

"In Tulsa, going to synagogue is a way to identify with your Jewishness," Larry said. Here, Judaism is practiced as part of the culture, in a less religious way.

Will the Feldmans ever return to the United States?

Larry shrugged.

"People in the United States feel like they have to plan all the details of their lives and their retirement. We're going to just take it as it comes," he said.

As for Amira, she plans to stay in Israel.

Itai Lavi, Israeli emissary to Tulsa whose job includes helping Americans who want to move to Israel, said Israel encourages immigration because of a belief that the nation is the homeland of all Jewish people.

Israelis also believe it is their duty to help Jews living in danger or poverty around the world to find better living conditions in Israel.

And, he said, the Jewish population in Israel is not growing fast enough, so immigration is needed to maintain a Jewish majority in the country.

He said one or two Tulsa families make aliyah each year.

Since 2002, 8,000 Jews from the U.S. and Canada have moved to Israel, Lavi said.

The government has an extensive program to help immigrants adjust to life in Israel.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Yom HaZikaron

It's amazing, even when the entire country is completely silent, it still has a lot to say.

Last night was Yom HaZikaron - Israeli Memorial Day. It commemorates and honors all the soldiers who fought for Israel and were killed as well as all the people who were victims to Arab terror.

There were a few thousand people at the memorial last night at the Ra'anana community center. It went from the chaotic noise of thousands of Israelis all pushing to the front to get the best spot, to utter silence as soon as the two minute siren started. It's really nice to see how serious people take this. The only sound in the entire crowd was a baby crying off in the distance.

The event started with a few speeches, and miscellaneous photos of soldiers. The rest of the night was split into three main sections. They started by naming and showing a picture of every person from Ra'anana that was killed in war between 1938 and 1967. It then showed everyone from 1968 to 1980, and then everyone between 1981 and 2006. It was very well done.

Only in a place like Israel does the entire community come out to commemorate the people who sacrificed their lives for their children and the future of the state. There is just something really special about being here, and I can't really put my finger on it yet.

First time period of people killed. I think it says 1946.
Second time period.
Rabbi speaking
Third time period.

Yartzeit candles along the wall.