Memories of INS at Miami Airport

In August of 2001 I entered the United States as a legal alien with a conditional, two year green card. I came exactly 2 weeks before the September 11 terrorist attacks. I arrived with my American  husband of 21 months – less than two years, hence the condition attached to my green card.

With all the talk about the latest immigration policies and current upheaval in the US surrounding immigration from certain countries, I started thinking about my own immigration to America story. Leaving aside refugees, my thoughts are mainly about those people who hold valid green cards, and who have been living in the United States for a period of time, or who have recently received their green cards and wish to move to the US within the time frame they have been given. Once you receive your green card, you have a limited amount of time within which you must physically arrive in the country.

I applied for my green card before September 2001. Even so, it took a year and a half for the process. At the time we were living in London. In order to simply file the application we had to provide an incredible amount of paperwork, including police reports from all countries in which I had lived for more than 6 months after the age of 16. For me that was 3 countries – Ireland, Israel and the UK. This was proof that I have no criminal background. In addition, we had to provide multiple copies of birth certificates, marriage certificate, proof of current employment in London etc. My husband had to provide proof that he could afford to support me in the United States financially – green card holders had to sign a waiver that they would not claim any benefits (medical or otherwise) for 10 years after moving to the US – even though green card holders pay taxes the same as citizens. Once the paperwork was processed and approved the next step was medical. I was subjected to a multitude of tests and vaccinations. I was tested for HIV and drug use. I was x-rayed to show that I don’t have TB. I obtained from my childhood doctor a letter stating that I had measles and mumps as a child, or I would have been forced to be vaccinated. I had to get a tetanus and a rubella booster, because I had no proof of the most recent ones I had received. All this was paid for by me, the applicant and required a full day of  vacation from work.

As one of the lucky ones, my green card was approved relatively easily. My husband and I were called for our interview at the US Embassy in London where we were asked to show all the paperwork again, and we had to answer some questions about our relationship and our plans once we arrived in Florida. Another day off work. But I got my green card.

One would think that once you have the card, entry into the United States is simple. Not so. While having a green card allows you to enter through the US Passport line (or it did,  until now), the first time you arrive in the country with that green card, you are taken to that room. You know, that room you pass after passport control, with the big letters “Department of Homeland Security” – or back in the pre-9/11 days “Immigration and Nationalization Services”. That room is where people who are denied entry into the US are sent. That room was eye opening. That room was frightening. That room was possibly the most humiliating part of the whole green card process. While I knew that my documents were in order, and that it was a matter of protocol and fingerprints, while I waited my turn I watched families get torn apart. I saw a mother get told she could not enter the country with her husband and children. I saw an old man get escorted to a closed room for an extensive interview. Those images have stayed in my memory for more than 15 years. When my turn arrived and I was called for fingerprinting I was shaking so hard the INS officer had to hold my hand steady. I remember him saying something like “Relax, you’re almost done! Welcome to the United States” and that he was smiling, while all around him people’s lives were being destroyed.

If the process for me to get a green card took 18 months, pre-9/11, pre -“Homeland Security”, an Irish citizen married to an American, living in London, I can only imagine how much more difficult the process has become, especially for anyone living in war torn countries. And it should be difficult,because the country has every right to deny entry to people who may be dangerous. The process is there for a reason, and once a person has been approved for residency s/he should be allowed to enter the US with US citizens through the same passport control booth. End of story.


Postpartum Depression

Most of what follows here, I just wrote as a response on Facebook to a friend who posted something from a nurse at a baby clinic. The nurse was defending her position, by pointing out that in Tipat Chalav (baby & infant clinics in Israel) they have new mothers fill out a questionnaire that enables them to identify potential post partum depression.


All this comes in the wake of a horrible tragedy earlier this week, where a young mother of 4 allegedly strangled her daughters, before setting their apartment on fire, and then hanged herself on the balcony. While the story sickened me, what upset me far more was the handling of it by the media. Headlines such as “Heartless Mother” appeared the next day in the newspapers, and all I could think was how cruel that headline is.


We are so open today in society about so many things – LGBT issues, political affiliation, religious affiliation, yadda yadda yadda, and yet when it comes to depression, and psychological issues in general, people still turn a blind eye.


While details are still emerging about what happened to this poor family, it appears that the mother was suffering from some type of postpartum depression, or possibly psychosis. The youngest of her children was just 11 months old, and PPD can begin to manifest up to 6 months after birth, and without proper treatment will not just go away.


So while nurses, social workers, midwives & gynaecologists are all trained to see the symptoms of PPD, the problem still is that women are raised to believe that motherhood and having a new baby is the height of perfection, and that those days are supposed to be the happiest of our lives. For many, many women, if they aren’t feeling that euphoria that they’ve been told they should feel, they simply feel like a failure. So they hide it – because no one wants to be seen as a failure. They put a smile on their face, they go about their business, pushing the stroller around, letting everyone tell them what a beautiful baby, is she a good baby, does she sleep at night, are you breastfeeding, oh why not, oh you are, that’s so good but so tiring, giving unsolicited advice, baby is dressed too warm, too cold etc. Very, very rarely do people ask about Mum, beyond the “you must be exhausted”. And frequently, PPD doesn’t start to properly manifest until a month or more post partum, and people’s concern for new mums generally starts to wane, right around the time when they probably need it most.
The stigma attached to any kind of depression needs to go, but especially for PPD, when women are vulnerable anyway, at the mercy of their hormones, possibly dealing with post traumatic stress if their labour and delivery didn’t go as they imagined, and ended up with some kind of emergency. I believe that tipat chalav nurses, social workers, midwives, even gynaecologists are all trained to “see” PPD and that potentially they could all help, but they won’t see what mum doesn’t allow them to see. Mothers are better than anyone else at hiding things – we spend our lives just doing what has to be done, while we are sick, while we are sad, while we are angry.

This is a subject very, very close to my heart – I am very open about the fact that I had postpartum depression after my son was born. But I was extremely lucky – I recognized in myself that my symptoms were not simply exhaustion and baby blues. I knew something else was going on, and while I did feel like a failure, I had 2 babies to take care of – my daughter was only 16 months when my son was born – and I took myself to the doctor immediately. Even with the right care PPD is tough to deal with, because you need the support of your family – from your husband to your parents and in-laws – and your close friends. I do not take for granted how lucky I was back then. My husband was my rock, taking over whenever I needed him. His grandparents made themselves available to babysit at all times, often at very short notice (and what a special thing that is, to have great-grandparents who are both willing and able to care for their great-grandchildren). My own family was on another continent, but I had their support in other ways.

As I started to get the right treatment and care, and to feel more like myself again, I looked around me and I saw similar symptoms in other women that I knew. So I began talking about having PPD. I told anyone who asked me “hey, how are you?” – “Well, I’m doing better now thanks. I have postpartum depression, but I’m getting the help I need now, and I feel so much more like myself”. The number of women whose eyes widened and said “oh wow, you know, I think I may have had that too, but I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone” told me that something had to be done. So I started a local support group, called JOMINOS – Jewish Observant Mothers In Need of Support. For a very long time we met monthly. It was a safe place for women who needed to talk about being mothers, who perhaps didn’t feel that bliss when they had a baby. We had information available for women who felt they needed help beyond a support group. Above all, we didn’t judge, and we all learned to spot the symptoms of PPD in others, so that we could try  to step in where help may be needed. Sometimes stepping in can be done directly with the mother – a simple “Are you really doing okay, or are you at your limit?” can often be the catalyst to let it all out. Other times, it needs to be done through a close family member – husband, mother, sister, mother-in-law – “I’m worried about X, she is showing some signs of PPD, and I’m concerned that when I try to talk to her about it she won’t talk”

If you have a friend who has given birth recently, watch them. Keep calling them regularly, offer to come by for a coffee, or to meet them somewhere, look into their eyes as they talk and see if there is more going on than they are letting on. Learn to spot the signs of PPD

And for anyone reading this, I am ALWAYS available to talk. I’ve been there, done that, and thank God, lived to tell the tale.

Do you ship to Israel?

One of the things people miss when making aliya, especially from the United States, is the ease with which you can shop online there, compared to Israel. Having said that, in Israel I am able to order my groceries online very easily, whereas in Florida, I could not. Everything else, however, not so. There are a few problems with online shopping in Israel. I just can’t go into them, it would take all night, but click the link below and watch the clip and enjoy (I apologize I couldn’t find this with English subtitles, so if you don’t speak any Hebrew you may not get it). It’s so close to the truth.

Okay, now you’ve seen the supposed parody of how the post office in Israel works. Only it’s kind of really like that. You order something from, say, Aliexpress, and then you forget about it, and about six months later you get a notice from a post office, somewhere within 25km of where you live, to go pick it up, only by the time you get there, they’ve returned your package. Or you arrive there only to find that they can’t find your package because it’s so small it’s fallen behind another package (and as it’s that small, how come they couldn’t just slip it into your mailbox to begin with?).

So here’s 2 stories. I frequently order books. I read a lot, and the local library has a rather poor selection of books in English, and the second hand book shops also don’t have much. So I buy books from an online shop that ships for free to Israel, and the books usually arrive within a couple of weeks. A few times, the books have even gone straight into my mailbox. Score!

A couple of weeks ago I received an SMS from the postal service telling me a package was ready for pick up. I knew it was a book I had ordered. I didn’t recognize the pickup location, as it was neither of the two post office branches that I normally get to pick up from. No, it was a supermarket about as far away from where I live as you could get in my city. Two buses each way. I filed a formal complaint about that one, but I still haven’t heard anything from the last formal complaint that I filed about a year ago, so…

Then 10 days ago, I took advantage of a free shipping offer and ordered my kids some winter pyjamas from the UK. Happily, I got an email from a private courier company with tracking information, and the lovely news that the PJs would be delivered directly to my door. Expected delivery date was last Thursday, and sure enough, that morning,  tracking info showed that the package was “on truck for delivery”. I was all excited – it was almost like waiting for Amazon Prime packages to show up in the US via UPS! Sadly, Thursday night came and went, and no pyjamas. But in our mailbox that night was a little slip, from the Post Office “courier service”. It had a tracking number on it (that didn’t match the tracking number I had), but no addressee, and yet requested that the addressee come to a neighbouring city to pick up the package with identification.

So this morning (Sunday), Keith and I drove to the neighbouring city and found this post office. On entering I found that there was no paper in the ticket machine, so I had to declare “I’m last” and wait my turn *. When I got to the clerk, she took one look at my piece of paper and told me I was in the wrong place. The courier service depot is out the door, to your left, down the hill towards the car park and the second door there. I had her repeat that twice. So I followed her directions, and found myself in a warehouse under the post office with 3 employees sitting there. I handed over my slip of paper. What happened next is like something out of a cheesy movie.

Employee: Oh you ordered something from Amazon
Me: No.
Employee: Ebay then. All the tracking that ends with 22 is Amazon or Ebay
Me: No. I ordered pyjamas from the UK
Employee completely ignores me and starts picking up boxes that are definitely not my PJs. I see a package on the bottom shelf of the shelves designated for my neighbourhood (oh yes, the whole shelving unit was for my part of my city!) and try to point it out to him, but he continues to check boxes.
Employee: Oh, wait, it’s passports. It’s your new passports. Look, this is your address.
Me: Em…. I am not getting passports, yes that is my address, but that’s my neighbour, not me
Employee: Oh. Do you want to take this for your neighbour? Do you know her?
Me: Did the wrong note get put in my mailbox? Can you please check that black package on the bottom shelf?
Meanwhile, I call my neighbour (she happens to be one of the few I know well enough to have her number)
Me: Hey, it’s Vanessa. This is kind of odd, but I’m here picking up a package and they are trying to give me your passports. Would you like me to sign for them and bring them home to save you the trip?
Neighbour: Wait, what? They’ll allow you to sign for them? Sure, if you can.
Me: They’re practically begging me to take them….
Employee: Oh hey! I found your package! It’s this black one on the bottom shelf. What is it? Feels like clothes or something. Hey, did your neighbour say you should take the passports?

You cannot make this stuff up.

*this works in every situation in Israel with a queue – you simply say “I’m last, and the next person who comes in will ask “who’s last”, and the “last” person tells them it’s now them. It’s always important to know who is in front of you and who is behind you, so you can go off and do other things and then return before your turn comes, and you can say “I was after him” – this may result in a riot, but it’s just how it works here. It’s quite common in supermarkets, for example, for people to put their shopping cart in line at the register while still quite empty, and then to go off and do their shopping and come back and fill the cart while not having to stand in the queue for very long.

And at 13 to Mitzvot

The following post is the translation of the Dvar Torah that I gave this morning in Hebrew at our synagogue on the occasion of our son’s barmitzvah. I’m mostly putting it up here so that those in my family who don’t understand Hebrew can read it, and so that those family members who were unable to join us can also read it. Mazal Tov Elnadav – you are the best son a mother could pray for.


Breishit (Genesis) Chapter 12, v 1-2

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ
“Now the LORD said unto Abram: ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee.”

וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה.
“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing.”

Parashat Lech Lecha, to me, is the first indication we have of Israel being the Promised Land for the Jewish people.

After man is exiled from the Garden of Eden everything goes downhill. The world goes bad, God brings a flood and only Noah, his family, the animals & Og the King of Bashan survive. After the flood, the world quickly returns to its wicked ways, and the people, who all speak the same language, build a tower to reach the God in the sky, and God’s solution is to give them all individual languages and confuse them all. Imagine how easy Aliya would be if the tower of Babel had never been built! We would all speak the same language and there would be no ulpan!

Avram, born in the year 1948 after creation – no coincidence in my opinion – is living in Haran, married to Sarai, and according the famous midrash, is working with his father Terach, who had an idol shop. Idolatry was normal in Mesopotamia, an ancient civilization, rich in culture and in some kind of worship. It is no coincidence that the land given to us as Israel, is situated exactly between Mesopotamia and Egypt – the two most ancient civilizations. According to the midrash, Avram knew there was something more to faith than idols, and he smashed up the idols in his father’s shop to prove that there was nothing to them, that there was indeed a higher being.

Now it’s all very well to take a stand against your parents. What teenager hasn’t voiced an opinion that he knows will shock his parents to the core? But in Avram’s case, he didn’t stop with just voicing his opinion. Avram heard the voice of God, and Avram did what he was told to do.

A man is told by a voice to take his wife and his possessions, and to leave his homeland and most of his family. He is told to go to the place that the voice will take him to, a place where he has not been before. He is sent to Canaan, a mostly barren land, occupied by feuding kings and multiple nations.  With no hesitation, just a complete belief and faith in this monotheistic being that he believes is the one true God, off he goes. Are we today capable of having that type of blind faith in God, or have we become too cynical for that to be possible? Today, with all the different brands of Judaism, with all the sinat chinam (baseless hatred) between all of us, is there any chance for any one of us to rediscover that pure belief in God?

וַיְהִי רָעָב, בָּאָרֶץ; וַיֵּרֶד אַבְרָם מִצְרַיְמָה לָגוּר שָׁם, כִּי-כָבֵד הָרָעָב בָּאָרֶץ“. (Gen 12 v 10)
“And there was a famine in the land; and Avram went down to Egypt to dwell there, because the famine was bad in the land”

And yet, shortly after Avram arrives in the Land of Canaan, there’s a famine, and Avram chooses to go down to Egypt. Why does Avram choose to leave Canaan, the land that God has shown him and has promised to him? Surely he should show the same faith in God that he showed when he left his homeland to go to Canaan to begin with?

According to the Ramban, Avram sinned by going down to Egypt and by making his wife Sarai lie to Pharoah:

 “ודע, כי אברהם אבינו חטא חטא גדול בשגגה, שהביא אשתו הצדקת במכשול עוון מפני פחדו פן יהרגוהו. והיה לו לבטוח בה’ שיציל אותו ואת אשתו ואת כל אשר לו, כי יש בא-לוהים כוח לעזור ולהציל. גם יציאתו מן הארץ שנצטווה עליה בתחילה מפני הרעב – עוון אשר חטא, כי הא-לוהים ברעב יפדנו ממות

And you should know that our father Avraham committed a great sin unintentionally, in which he brought his righteous wife to stumble into transgression because of his fear of getting killed, and he should have trusted the Name to have saved him, his wife and all that was his, because Elohim has power to help and to save. Also his going out from the land – of which he had been commanded at the beginning – due to famine was a transgression that he committed, because Elohim would have saved him from dying (even) in a famine.

However, if we read the text as it is in the Torah, we can argue that the Ramban’s theory is not without flaws. Did Avraham really sin by going down to Egypt? No, because before Avraham goes to Egypt, when he is still in Alon Moreh, God promises the land to his descendants and not to him personally: “לְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת – Unto thy seed will I give this land” (Gen 12 v 7).  The actual promise of the land to Avraham himself and to his descendants comes only after he returns to Israel from Egypt and after he has parted from Lot:

כִּי אֶת-כָּל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה רֹאֶה, לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה, וּלְזַרְעֲךָ, עַד-עוֹלָם.”
“for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. ” (Gen 13 v 15)

Therefore we can surmise that it was acceptable for Avraham to go down to Egypt when there was  famine, because at that time he was still wandering the land, and it had not yet been promised to him personally. God had not told Avraham to settle the land, only to wander the land. Only later, after returning from Egypt does God’s intention become clearer. Once Avraham had split from Lot, Avraham was given the land for himself and his heirs, and after that he never left the land of Israel again.

Rabbi Menacham Leibtag suggests that God did not make the full promise to Avraham until after he separates from Lot, because Avraham had viewed Lot as his heir. Lot was his orphaned nephew, and as long as he had no sons of his own, Avraham saw Lot as his son. So when God made the original promise of the land to Avraham, “לזרעך אתן את הארץ הזאת “ – “to your seed I give this land” Avraham took it to mean Lot. After their shepherds fought Lot chose to go his own way – and he chose a way that was both physically and spiritually distant from Avraham (Physically he went far to the East, near the Jordan River, rather than nearby on not so distant mountains. Spiritually, by choosing the area near the Jordan River, Lot was saying he wasn’t counting on God to guarantee water, but the river would ensure that there was water, while Avraham relied on God to provide rain). The Torah specifically says:

וַיהוָה אָמַר אֶל-אַבְרָם, אַחֲרֵי הִפָּרֶד-לוֹט מֵעִמּוֹ, שָׂא נָא עֵינֶיךָ וּרְאֵה, מִן-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה שָׁם–צָפֹנָה וָנֶגְבָּה, וָקֵדְמָה וָיָמָּה.
כִּי אֶת-כָּל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה רֹאֶה, לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה, וּלְזַרְעֲךָ, עַד-עוֹלָם.
וְשַׂמְתִּי אֶת-זַרְעֲךָ, כַּעֲפַר הָאָרֶץ:  אֲשֶׁר אִם-יוּכַל אִישׁ, לִמְנוֹת אֶת-עֲפַר הָאָרֶץ–גַּם-זַרְעֲךָ, יִמָּנֶה.

“And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him: ‘Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward;
for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.” (Gen 13 v 14-16)

Once Lot was out of the equation, God’s repeated promise to Avraham about giving the land to his descendants took on a new meaning to Avraham – now it was clear that by descendants, he meant of Avraham’s own seed.

Immediately after the clarification of the promise, God tells Avraham to keep wandering:

ק֚וּם הִתְהַלֵּ֣ךְ בָּאָ֔רֶץ לְאָרְכָּ֖הּ וּלְרָחְבָּ֑הּ כִּ֥י לְךָ֖ אֶתְּנֶֽנָּה: “Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for unto thee will I give it” (Gen 13 v 17)

This phrase is at the top of every permission slip I get from my kids’ schools for field trips, and I never tire of seeing it.

IMG_3191A little over two years ago, Keith & I said to Elnadav our son: “Leave your country, the land of your birth, and go to this country we will show you, where you have never before set foot” and Elnadav, like Avraham, listened, and went. When I say, he listened and he went, I mean, he did not have to be dragged onto the plane. Like Avraham, Elnadav arrived in the Promised Land where he knew no one and did not speak the language, but he has made a fantastic life for himself here. He has many, many friends, I’ve been told he speaks Hebrew (and though he will never speak it in front of me, after hearing him read from the Torah today I know now that he reads it very well) and he has maintained his general carefree personality, in spite of the challenges he has faced. Elnadav wherever you go you find friends and followers. Your character traits are similar to Avraham Avinu in many ways. You are modest, never boasting about your achievements. You are a shrewd yet honest businessman. You are happy to get by on what you have, even though your luck tends to bring wealth in your direction without you even trying. You constantly attract others – kids of all ages like to follow you and learn things from you – solving Rubik’s cubes in almost record time, Capoeira, football, basketball, pretty much everything you attempt, you manage to succeed in. My blessing to you is that you continue to be successful in all that you do, that you always maintain your humility and your smile. I am bursting with pride right now.

While Avraham Avinu came to a land that was mostly barren, Elnadav came to a country that is flourishing. I stood up in our synagogue this morning, not only as Elnadav’s proud mother, but also proud to be part of this very special community in the Land of Israel. I want to take this opportunity (because I doubt I will ever stand up there again) to thank the Berman community for making our Aliya & absorption so easy, and for welcoming us to Israel, not only with open arms, but with open homes and open  hearts. I think I speak for many people in our synagogue, when I say that while our families are far away geographically, this community allows us to form new bonds, to create “almost family” so that no one is ever alone. My children, who do not see their cousins often enough, have friends here that they are so close to they may as well be cousins. Together with our almost-family we are forming new traditions for festivals, while keeping our own family customs. This is a wonderful, magical place, where it is truly possible to turn Aliya into “living the dream”. In the inimitable words of Herzl:

אם תרצו אין זו אגדה ואם לא תרצו כל אשר סיפרתי לכם אגדה הוא יוסיף להיות .
“If you will it, it is no dream, and if you don’t will it, everything I have told you will a dream continue to be”

May all of you, who are not yet living in the State of Israel merit to join us soon, so we can sing to them, like our community sang to us “ושבו בנים לגבולם”  (and the children return to their borders) and hasten the arrival of mashiach and the geulah (redemption).
Shabbat Shalom.


2 years on: Through the eyes of the Teen

A year ago I asked my daughter  to guest blog about her first year in Israel. This year, I asked my son, who is going into middle/high school this year, but he declined. So I asked the 14 year old if she was willing to do it again and she said “of course Mom, anything you say, Mom”. Well, not exactly, but she did agree to write, and without any bribery, so we’re in a good place.

Personally, I cannot believe that our second “aliyaversary” is already here. It’s been a fantastic couple of years, and if life continues to improve each year as it has the last two years, we will always be very happy here. And now I hand you over to Noffiya.

<<Hi Mom’s stalkers, it’s me again but now it’s been two years in this country! Throughout this year I’ve been mentioned quite a lot (I’m guessing, I don’t really want to read this boring blog, I don’t know why you guys do) but now I’m going to write again!

In this past year, many new changes have occurred to me. My group of friends is now mostly Israelis and I speak Hebrew 90% of the day. My English is slowly getting worse, but my Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish (Arabic I learn in school, Spanish at home for fun) are getting better. Shopping in Israel is still fun especially when I go to malls in different cities with my friends. A few weeks ago my friends and I took the train to Ashdod and spent the day at a mall there. Yesterday, I went with some other friends to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Yavne and we got ice cream. In the beginning of the summer, me and my friends from school decided to go on vacation without our families, and so we went to Netanya for a couple of days. Can you imagine going alone to a different city, an hour away, with 7 friends, in America?! Recently, I went on the summer camp with Tzofim (scouts but I hate calling it that) which is 5 days in a forest in the middle of nowhere with no tents, no air conditioning, no showers, bathrooms, outlets, etc. etc. Why did I do it? Honestly, I have no idea how I let my friends convince me to go on this trip although I hate to admit it, I had fun and am looking forward to going next year even though it will be 10 days! My mom asked if I wanted to write “I guess I’m becoming Israeli after all” but that’s not true.

The past school year as a whole was a lot easier for me because of the language. I understood 85% of what the teacher was saying during the classes. Most people tell me that I sound like an Israeli and you wouldn’t know that I had made Aliyah 2 years ago. But that’s a lie. I know that my Hebrew isn’t as good as they say it is. Although the fact that there’s no new Olim (new immigrants) in Rehovot and at my school who are my age really bothers me.

I’ve made plans with a friend to go to London in two summers and we’re serious about that. We really want to go out of Israel (neither of us have left since making Aliyah) and we think that if we can save enough our parents will finally let us. On the subject of leaving Israel, last year I said I wasn’t sure… this year I’m quite sure that I’m going to stay.>>

The British Are Coming

*The title has nothing to do with Brexit, as clearly, the British are leaving today… *

It’s 1947, the British Mandate is still in “Palestine”. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors from the Holocaust are in displaced persons camps in Europe. Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel is illegal. Read about the “Aliya Bet” here.

On Wednesday night our son Elnadav had his “graduation” ceremony from elementary school, which goes until 6th grade. It was less of a formal graduation, and more of a celebration of the kids, and I have to say that I enjoyed it far more than any graduation I have attended in the past. There were few long winded speeches, and it was not about glorifying the school, but simply about the kids. They performed some amazing dances, and an incredible sports show. The only pomp and circumstance was the handing over of the school flag to the incoming 6th graders. You can watch that here. Elnadav is one of the boys holding the flag.

The following night (last night) was their end of year trip – an event that our school has been taking part in for about 30 years. When I first heard about it, I decided immediately to volunteer. The Zionist in me just had to be part of it.

Why? Well they take the kids to Nitzanim Field school, in between Ashdod and Ashkelon, in the dark of night. There they are separated into 3 groups: The British, The Haganah (Jewish underground at the time of the British Mandate) and The Ma’apilim (The name given to the illegal Jewish immigrants). Time rewinds to 1947, the ship Shabtai Luzinsky breaks through the British blockade and lands off the coast at Nitzanim. We (I was part of the Haganah) spent 2 and a half hours trekking through sand dunes evading the British patrols, listening carefully to the radio transmissions coming from the Haganah HQ in Tel Aviv, until we eventually got to the landing area. The 800+ passengers disembarked (okay not last night), and most evaded the British. We ran to greet our Ma’apilim group and distributed ID cards, and mingled with them, and told them to answer only “Ani Yehudi M’Eretz Yisrael” (I am a Jew from the Land of Israel) to any question they are asked. When the British group arrived a moment later and started to ask questions, this was the resounding answer heard.

From there we trekked another couple of kilometers back to where a large bonfire had been lit, and we learned more about the history of the Ma’apilim.


“A Jew from the Land of Israel” written in fire

This is the only photo that I have from the entire experience, because we were not allowed to use anything during the activity that wasn’t available in 1947. We had only water and a flashlight each, and even the flashlights we were not allowed to use most of the time, for fear of being caught by the British patrols.

For all the kids this was a fun, educational experience. For my kid, and a couple of other kids who were not born in Israel, it was a lesson that making Aliya was not always about hopping on a plane with Nefesh b’Nefesh and being welcomed to Israel as a Jew under the Law of Return. My son’s teacher told me that her parents arrived in Israel on a boat from Italy after the Holocaust. For her this is a very personal excursion.

The whole experience was fun, educational and enlightening. We were out in the wild (spiders, sand creatures, and even Hyenas!), in the beautiful moonlit night, no cellphones, nothing but the radio of our commander to be in touch with anyone. The sirens we heard were so realistic that a couple of the kids asked at first if it was a rocket attack. (To be clear, the sirens were very obviously from “police cars”, and sounded nothing like red alert sirens, but some girls like to be overly dramatic… and darkness apparently lends to an exaggerated imagination).

I would love to see the US day schools who bring their 8th graders to Israel add this activity to their schedule. What better way to encourage Aliyah than by showing today’s children just how easy it is for us now?

Shabbat Shalom.


Highway to Hell

Not an AC/DC fan really, but no other song title quite matched this week’s experience with our beloved </sarcasm> car.

There was no sand involved this time, just a bad transmission and a man who didn’t listen to his wife. The kids are witnesses to that.

Our car was not new when we bought it and we have had a few problems with it. We knew that the transmission would need to be replaced, but we were told it wasn’t critical to replace it immediately, so we waited. Yesterday while out with my newly 14 year old I heard some new noises (the “old” noises we already got used to…) and I mentioned it to my husband.

We had plans to meet my aunt and uncle in Herzliya for dinner at the marina (Bistro 56, delicious, yummy food, definitely recommend it). We left Rehovot around 5pm and before we even got on the highway the noises began to get louder, and the car wasn’t shifting gears properly. I suggested to my husband that we pull over and turn around to go home, call the restaurant and leave a message for my aunt and uncle that we couldn’t make it. But he continued on, and accused me of being pessimistic when I said I didn’t want to end up stranded on the Ayalon on the way home later, in the dark, with the kids in the back. I insisted I was being realistic – I had no idea that I was actually being a prophetess.

Sure enough, on the way back from dinner, just before HaHalacha exit, on the Ayalon Southbound, the car began to slow – it’s very scary doing 35km/hour on a road where most cars are doing a minimum of 90. We managed to get over to the shoulder and stopped. Called the tow company – thankfully this kind of towing is covered by insurance, as opposed to getting towed for being stuck in a field due to following Waze. They said they could send someone out to tow the  car to the mechanic in Rehovot, but they only have room for one person in the tow truck, the other 4 of us are on our own. I asked the woman on the telephone if she had any idea how the kids and I could safely get off the Ayalon, and the answer was “I’m not a rescue company, people just figure this out on their own” Ok, thank you very  much.

Keith called four Tel Aviv cab companies, none of whom were willing to send a cab to get us. So meanwhile I used Whatsapp to contact our friends. We have a couple of group chats, so I sent a message to one saying  “Guys, in the never ending story of this f*%#ing car we are currently stuck on the shoulder of the Ayalon Darom just before Halacha. waiting for shagrir (tow company) and can’t get a cab to get us. Help. Shagrir can only take one person and we are all of us. What the F do we do??????”

10 seconds later two friends responded that they could come get us. Within 10 minutes one was on his way – thanks to Waze we could send him our exact location. Within 40 minutes he pulled into the shoulder in front of us and we got the kids and me safely into his car. At that point more of our friends saw the message and started texting to make sure we were good, and to see if we still needed help. The tow truck was only a few minutes behind, but Keith, alone in the car, put his time to good use and broadcast live on Facebook… (whatever keeps you happy man). Keith managed to convince the tow truck guy to give him a ride all the way to Rehovot (the woman on the phone said they would only drop off at the nearest public transportation place and you were on your own from there! WTF?!), and another friend picked him up from the mechanic’s place and dropped him home.

Meantime, I got home with the kids, put two of them to bed and then took the dog out. Got back from walking the dog to find the newly 14 year old making school lunches for all the kids. Which almost made me cry, because she’s a teenager, and she’s grumpy and scary a lot of the time, and yet she totally figured out what she needed to do! To the kids’ credit they were amazing the whole time, not freaking out at all (although that might have changed if their devices ran out of battery…)

Now we wait to hear how long it will take for the car to be fixed (hopefully we will have it back by the end of the week….)

But once again I am just blown away by this wonderful, amazing community that we live in. This is the definition of making friends your family. No hesitation, no thinking “oh that’s terrible, sucks to be you guys”, just “send me your location on Waze and I’ll get there as soon as I can”. Thanks JW for rescuing me and the kids – and you are my witness that all 3 of them said explicitly “This is so Daddy’s fault, he should have listened to Mummy”

Thanks SP for offering to come get us, AS for picking Keith up from the mechanic, to EW for dropping him back off there this morning, and to all our other fantastic friends who made sure we were all safe and sound.

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