Why my French flag won’t fly

I’m having a really hard time expressing my feelings today. I began writing a whole long blog post, but nothing was coming out right. Then I commented on the Facebook status of someone more or less accusing those who hadn’t changed a profile photo to the French flag of resisting solidarity with the French victims. And somehow in the comment I was able to get across exactly what I wanted to say. So I’ve scrapped the rest of the blog post, and I’m just putting this here:

What happened in Paris is terrible. So is what happened in Beirut. What happened in Sydney. What happened in Mumbai. What happens daily in Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran etc. etc. etc. I don’t feel the need to change my profile picture to the flag of another country in order to express my anger/sadness at yet another act of Islamic terror that has come upon the “civilized” world. Of course I am sad for the families of the innocents who were barbarically murdered in cold blood. But how on earth does putting a French flag on my Facebook feed make any difference to the blindness being shown, even in the wake of another brutal act of terrorism? We need a lot more than flags and “je suis Paris” to rid the world of this filth.

I want to get something straight – not changing my profile picture to the French flag has absolutely nothing to do with the French track record on Israel or Jews. It has nothing to do with much of the world turning a blind eye to the Israelis being targeted by terrorists daily for the last couple of months. It is unrelated to the rising number of anti semitic attacks around the world – New York, Milan, Manchester, wherever.
Any normal person is upset at terror attacks anywhere in the world, and regardless of who carried them out. Oklahoma City. Atlanta Olympics. 9/11. Sydney. Mumbai. Boko Haram in Nigeria. 7/7 London. 13/11 Paris. Beirut. Kenya. Argentina. Somalia. Belfast. Derry. Enniskillen. Sweden. Norway. Russia.
Those really not showing solidarity are those celebrating in the streets, handing out candy, letting off fireworks, dancing – because of the murder of innocents. And I don’t have to tell you where that is happening.

What’s it really like?

Perhaps the question people ask most often is “what’s it really like, living in Israel, when all these attacks are going on?” And you can’t really explain it, because how can you explain it, without sounding either freaking out crazy (OMG,  you cannot imagine how scary it is to leave the house, when any second someone might stab you!!!) or nonchalant (Well, it’s terrible what’s happening, but we can’t let it get in the way of living our lives).

Watch the video. All of it. And then tell me what you think it’s like, to live here, right now.

In the video we saw an attack from today.A security guard (note, not a soldier, or a policeman, just a civilian security guard) was stabbed by a Muslim woman. He managed to shoot her after he was stabbed. In general, I don’t watch the graphic videos from terror attacks. I don’t need those images imprinted on my brain. But this footage was different. It so perfectly captures the insanity of these latest attacks on Jews in Israel. Why? Because you see just how calm this woman was, as she walked along the street, like she was going about her business, right before she attacked a man with a knife. The security guard asks her for her ID, which she hands over to him. While he is checking her ID, she reaches into her purse, and pulls out a knife and simply goes at him. This was clearly a carefully calculated attack. You would imagine that a woman about to attempt to murder a man would have difficulty walking at a steady pace. That she may hesitate briefly before carrying out her mission. And yet, she simply appears to be behaving “normally” right up until that moment, and then she just attacks.

How can we possibly not be suspicious of every Muslim we see in the street, after watching footage like this? Regardless of where you stand politically, how can anyone say “It’s not all Muslims/Arabs/Palestinians”? There is no way of knowing. This is what it’s really like.

I am in the camp that firmly believes we cannot let the crazies make us change how we are living our lives. I do what I have to do, I try not to limit my children’s freedom too much. But we are all more aware, we are more jumpy, we are more careful and perhaps a little less carefree.


15 Oct 2015 Leave a comment

“I see you looking over your shoulder
Tell me who do you think is out there 

I’d rather die than fade away
I read the rules
And yeah I know them
Still you ain’t ever gonna
Make me play the game of
Fear “
 Fear, Bon Jovi – from Keep The Faith, 1992

No one can argue that the current situation here is not  frightening. People going about their daily business getting stabbed is hardly normal.

Back in the 1990s, when I lived in Jerusalem, the preferred modus operandi of terrorists was to detonate themselves on buses. I won’t go into too much detail, because thinking about it triggers a certain amount of post traumatic stress disorder in my brain, and produces photographic memories that I will never be able to erase. Suffice to say, that back in those days, when I relied on public transportation to get everywhere, getting on a bus was easier said than done. Twice “my” bus was blown up. Twice, thank God, I wasn’t on it. Other buses that I frequently took were also blown up. On multiple occasions I chose to get off a crowded bus and walk to my destination, even if it was still a couple of miles away. It felt safer to walk, than to risk being on a crowded bus, and making myself a potential terror statistic.

Until Tuesday, taking the bus felt safer than walking, with this current rise in attacks. And then a terrorist got on a bus in Jerusalem and started stabbing passengers, Last night it happened again in Jersusalem – thankfully this time, only one passenger was stabbed.

This morning my husband dropped me off at the health clinic to get a flu shot. In the center of town. After my shot, I walked to the mall and bought a pair of shoes. Then I remembered a book I needed to pick up, so I walked from the mall  back through the center of town to get the book. From there, I waited at a crowded bus stop, on a busy street in the center of the city, to take a bus home.

It was only as I walked the 7 minutes from the bus stop to my apartment that I realized something. I hadn’t felt scared all morning. I went about my daily life as normal. I am always alert when I walk around – I was in the US too, where I was far more fearful of being held up at a bank, or a gas station. I rarely use my phone when I’m walking in the street, and today I left it in my purse the entire time I was out. Contrary to what you may have read on Facebook, I did not have my big golf umbrella with me  – it’s a lovely sunny day here. I did have my new shoes in their box, which I could have swung at anyone trying to carry out an attack.

I realized, when I got home, that while I’m scared by the situation in general – the attacks are in random places all over the country – I am not scared to live my life here. I’m worried about my kids – they normally have so much independence, but right now we are not allowing them nearly as much freedom. I’m nervous that this will continue for months, and that the number of casualties will continue to rise.  I still feel safer than I did in America. I don’t worry about walking into the bank, or getting gas, or about school shootings.

Stop the madness. Stop the hatred. Stop the incitement. Stop the violence. But I won’t play the game of fear.

Live Before You Die

11 Oct 2015 Leave a comment

“When you’re young you always think
The sun is going to shine
One day you’re going to have to say hello to goodbye
Shout it out let someone somewhere
Know that you’re alive
Take these words wear them well
Live before you die”

Bon Jovi – Live Before You Die Lyrics | MetroLyrics
Well that’s a bid morbid, isn’t it?
But here’s the reality that we in Israel are living right now. We have no sirens. We have no safe room. No Iron Dome. No Patriot missiles. No 90, 60, 45, 30 or 15 seconds. Everything is immediate impact. It could be in the mall, or in the street, in the synagogue or in the supermarket. In the playground, at the bus stop, the train station. It could be right here, right now.
For more than a week now, since the horrible murder of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin, shot point blank, in their car, with their 4 small children watching from the back seat, I’ve lost count of the number of attacks on Israelis. Stabbings, mostly. With scary looking serrated knives, or screwdrivers, or whatever else a would-be terrorist can get his or her hands on. Yes, her hands. There have been multiple female terrorists too. Just this morning, a female terrorist attempted to blow herself and a long line of traffic up near Ma’ale Adumim, just outside Jerusalem. Thank God for a very vigilant policeman, who stopped her car. She detonated the bomb, but the impact wasn’t what she hoped for, and the policeman was lightly injured, and the terrorist more severely. She is now being treated for burns IN AN ISAELI HOSPITAL.  These attacks are happening all over Israel. Not just in the disputed territories of Judea & Samaria. In Tel Aviv. Petach Tikvah. Afula. Hadera. Pre-1967 Israel.
Let’s get one thing straight. I don’t hate Arabs. I don’t hate Muslims. I don’t hate Palestinians. I hate terrorists, and when I look around, it seems that most terrorists today are Muslims. When Jews carry out “revenge” terror attacks on Arabs in Israel, they too, are terrorists. The difference is that when that happens, the Israeli government (in whom I don’t have the greatest faith right now) immediately condemns the attack. The perpetrators are arrested as soon as possible, and given jail time – just like Palestinian terrorists are. The difference is, that when a Jewish terrorist is put away, that terrorist’s family doesn’t receive a life-time wage from the Israeli government – which is what the families of Palestinian terrorists receive from the Palestinian Authority.
Back to our current reality. Our motto has always been to keep living our lives. In the 90s when they were blowing up buses, we kept taking buses. To stop living is to let terror win. And yet. How, how do we live, how do we allow our children to continue living their lives as normal, when at any moment, we could say “hello to goodbye”?
Should my teenager still be hanging out at the mall with her friends?
Should my younger children still walk to school on their own?
Should my son and his friends be allowed to skateboard in all their usual places?
Is that man over there a terrorist?
Is that woman in the hijab hiding something under her clothing?
What is he taking out of his pocket?
Is she going to try and hurt me?
Is he going to try and kill me?
Should I scream?
Should I run?
This is how it is, in our part of the world. And we always choose life.

“You learn to love to live
You fight and you forgive
You learn what’s wrong and right
You live before you die

I made mistakes I caught some breaks
But I got no regrets
There’s some things I don’t remember
But one thing I don’t forget

When you’re young you always think
The sun is going to shine
One day you’re going to have to say hello to goodbye
Shout it out let someone somewhere
Know that you’re alive
Take these words wear them well
Live before you die
Live before you die
Live before you die”

Bon Jovi – Live Before You Die Lyrics | MetroLyrics

We Don’t Run

04 Oct 2015 Leave a comment

How to explain the emotions of the last few days?

ושמחת בחגיך והיית אך שמח

Succot, the festival of Tabernacles, we are told to be happy. To have days filled with joy. We build our succahs, we sit in them for our meals, some sleep in them. We spend time with family and friends. Those of us lucky enough to live in Israel have the opportunity to go up to Jerusalem, just like Jews did in the time of the Beit haMikdash.

For me this Succot was to be extra special. Not only did our close friends and former neighbours from Boca make a beautiful barmitzvah here in Israel, but a dream of a lifetime was to come true. Bon Jovi finally came to Israel. Jon Bon Jovi, who couldn’t care less what anyone thinks, spat in the face of BDS and after nearly 30 years finally announced a concert in Tel Aviv. As a Bon Jovi fan for almost 30 years myself, I have always wanted to see them play in Israel.

And yet.

Thursday, after our friend’s barmtizvah, we visited other friends who live in the Shomron. We came home Thursday night, and I didn’t even  hear about the terrorist attack that left Naama and Eitam Henkin dead, and their 6 children orphaned until the next morning. This happened in the Shomron. Not close to where we were, but still, the Shomron. In addition to that murderous attack, there was rock throwing attack near Tekoa, in Gush Etzion, where thankfully, none of the family in the car were seriously injured. And then, shortly before  I lit candles on Friday evening, I learned that a dear online friend, Christie, whom I have known for about 10 years, had succumbed to cancer. A heaviness accompanied me into Shabbat of Succot, My happiness was tainted.

My excitement for the concert on Saturday night was hard to curb. Music has always been my comfort. When I’m sad, when I’m happy, when I’m scared, music, especially Bon Jovi music, is what I turn to. For me they have lyrics for every occasion. The rock anthems of the 80s, the ballads of the 90s, and the country-tinted songs from the 2000s. And the rest.

I headed into Tel Aviv with a group of friends. We arrived just in time for the band to get on stage. It was electric. For me it was my fourth time seeing BJ live. But nothing, absolutely nothing, can compare to this one. Jon played to the audience. The setlist was tailored for the Israeli crowd – very few songs from the last few albums, mostly older stuff. It was by far the most amazing experience.

Unknown to the band (and to most of us in the crowd) shortly before they took the stage another murderous attack took place. This time 2 more Israeli men were killed by Palestinian terrorists. The wife of one is in a serious condition in hospital, and their baby was also injured. A baby. This attack happened inside the Old City of Jerusalem. The victims were on their way to pray at The Kotel.

Jon Bon Jovi played one song from their recently released album “Burning Bridges” last night. He dedicated it to Tel Aviv, saying “This should be the fight song for Tel Aviv” – I think he meant for all of Israel. The song is called “We Don’t Run”. You can read the lyrics here.

We left the concert, and that was when we learned about the new attack in Jerusalem, in addition to two separate attacks on children – CHILDREN – sitting in their succahs that occurred on Friday night.

How much longer can this go on? Have we entered a third Intifada? What do we do?

We don’t give in. We don’t give up. This is our land. This is our home. We must be able to live here, in spite of those who try to get rid of us.

In the words of Bon Jovi:

“We don’t run
I’m standing my ground
We don’t run
And we don’t back down
There’s fire in the sky, there’s thunder on the mountains
Bless each tear and this dirt I was born in (run)
We don’t run, we don’t run”

Lessons from our first full summer

06 Sep 2015 Leave a comment

After a long, hot (very, very hot!) summer, school is back in session since September first.

My 8th grader was excited to return to school – in spite of the few difficulties she has last year, she really likes her school and has lots of friends. I’ve never met a group of teenage girls so happy to be back in school, as those girls who are in Pelech. Even getting up by 6:30am to get her bus is effortless! Long may that last.

The younger two kids refused my offer of walking them into their classrooms on the first day. In fact, when I offered, they asked if I meant that I would drive them to school. When I replied that my intention was to walk with them, they said no thank you, we will walk on our own…

Sadly, as second year olim, my kids are no longer entitled to the six hours of help that they received during school hours last year. Apparently this year they will get 2 hours of pull-out help, plus help in the classroom from the sherut leumi (national service) girls. I sincerely hope this will be enough, especially for my son in Kita Vav (6th grade) who will be starting Middle/High School next year. Time will tell.

Both my elementary aged kids have the same teachers as last year, which is very helpful. My son’s teacher placed him next to the new oleh from this summer, a boy from Denver, CO, who we have had the pleasure of getting to know in the weeks since he arrived. At first I wasn’t sure that this would be a good idea, but it turns our his teacher is a genius. She’s been doing this job so long that she taught most of the parents of the kids who are now in her class (rumour has it she was cajoled out of retirement again to stay with these kids until they graduate at the end of this school year). By having my son sit next to a kid who really can’t speak Hebrew, she is forcing him to listen to her, and to then convey information to his new friend. Turns out he understands a lot more Hebrew than any of us realised…


As for me, what have I learned, my first year back in Israel?

  1. Israelis are loud. They yell. A lot. But this doesn’t mean that they are angry or upset with you. Indeed, often they are yelling at you because they want to help you, but you may not realise that, because all you can hear is yelling, and therefore you can’t hear the words…
  2. The driving license bureau is a scam. What should be a relatively simple procedure to change a valid driving license from your country of origin to an Israeli license is made really complicated by the number of steps necessary. In addition, no one will take responsibility if there’s a mess up along the way – as discovered by a close friend who now has to claim back money from the licensing bureau, due to a mistake made by the post office, but that neither they nor the licensing bureau will accept responsibility for. So, good luck with that…
  3. Summer vacation is very long, and most camps only last for 3 weeks, and only run from 8am–1pm. Which leaves every afternoon in July, and all of August (prone to major heatwaves) to fill in somehow.
  4. Joining a pool is a necessity, not a luxury (see 3 above).
  5. Shopping for school books and supplies in July is smart. No Israeli shops for school supplies before the 3rd week in August. The down side is that some of the books won’t be available until August, but those can really wait until school has begun – they don’t do much until “after the holidays” anyway.
  6. During the last two week of August it is perfectly normal to see little kids at work with their parents, regardless of the line of work. There are no camps or daycare at all for those two weeks. It’s not uncommon to see 3 and 4 year olds “helping” out parents who work in retail stores, medical offices, hi-tech companies – anywhere really. It’s almost a given that you can bring your kid to work.
  7. Due to the lack of daycare etc. (see 6 above), it is very difficult to a) get appointments with various doctors, therapists etc. in those last 2 weeks of August, as everyone is on vacation, and b)due to a), very difficult to find hotels to stay in around the country if you would like to go on vacation within Israel during those last two weeks.
  8.  Due to 6 and 7, if you want to take vacation during the last two weeks of August, even if just for a couple of days, book your time off with work as early as possible, and make any hotel reservations as early as possible! Alternatively, you can do what we did, and find awesome friends who invite you to stay with them for a couple of nights so that you can have a fun mini vacation without the hotel stay!


One week from tonight will be our second Rosh Hashanah in Rehovot. Allow me to take this opportunity to wish all of you Shana Tova, ketiva vechatima tova, and leshanah habaah beMedinat Yisrael – don’t be afraid to take that step and make aliya! You never know what it may bring – Bon Jovi is coming to Israel in October for the first time ever. If someone had told me that all it would take for them to come here was for me to make aliya (again), I’d have come back years ago!

Aliyaversary: From the eyes of the teen

12 Aug 2015 1 Comment

Today, August 12, marks exactly one year since our Nefesh B’Nefesh flight arrived at Ben Gurion Airport. We were greeted by the then new President of Israel. Ruvi Rivlin, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, and a host of other people. Rami Kleinstein played piano and sang at our welcome ceremony. A friend busted the dog out of her crate. It was the final point in a long adventure, and now it’s been a year of adventures.

The most asked question, posed by Israelis and non-Israelis alike, is “How are your kids doing? Are they happy? Have they integrated?”

So, I asked my 13 year old daughter, Noffiya, if she would write this blog post for our one year aliyaversary. To my delight, not only did she agree, but she wrote a piece that I’m proud to publish here. I hope she will guest blog for me again in the future.

<<This post is a guest entry written by: Noffiya Brooks

(Some of you might recognize this name from other blog posts because I’m Vanessa’s daughter and she writes about me very frequently)

When my parents announced to us that they were considering making Aliyah, I was hoping for an “April Fools!”, even though it wasn’t April. I was 11 years old, and was feeling sort of like that typical teenage girl in every movie like “ugh mom my life is officially over!” And of course, to top it all off, a pilot trip. Without me. I had never been to Israel before. This is still my first time here. (Never left yet mommy, still waiting for that Florida trip…) All the time my parents would tell my siblings and me so many great things about Israel, from when they were here back in the olden days. “Oh there’s makolet (mah-ko-lete) on every corner” “the fruits and vegetables are fantastic” etc. etc. I was not happy with the decision. When they went on their pilot trip, Chanukah 2013, I kept hoping they would come back and say “we were wrong. Israel is not the place for us to be right now.” But they didn’t.

Well, after the pilot trip, I started to tell my friends. Some said “it’s not such a big deal, its in 8 months” while others said “we have to start doing more things now!” Someone even asked me if I hated my parents for this. I was shocked. I told them that I couldn’t hate my parents for making the decision to move, and that I might be mad at them but I don’t hate them.

I also got tons of (useless) “advice” from people that were more like opinions. Here are examples of a few of them.

~Never buy clothes in Israel they’re terrible! (it depends where you shop though)

~Don’t buy ice cream from the vendors (?)

~Get a boyfriend (why? …)

~ Israeli shoes are the best (some are and some aren’t. just like America)

And of course, during Tzuk Eitan (most recent war, known as Operation Protective Edge in English), I got bombarded with the “are you scared of the rockets and/or sirens???!!?!??” To which I answered “No, not really” to which then I was told I was “very brave” and that I had “such wonderful trust”

Up until that very day, that very second that I put my foot on the plane from New York to Israel, I hadn’t actually thought about everything. That I was moving and leaving my friends and family behind. And I was sad, knowing that I might not see some people again, or for a very long time. So I thought on that plane, and I slept and dreamt about some of my fun experiences that I had in Boca. Then we arrived, and I hated it. I couldn’t stand the thought that now I actually was on a whole other continent than my friends, and that we had actually moved. It was too hard to grasp.

School was very hard for me. Obviously, it was in another language, but that was only the half of it. I had a special teacher that took me out twice a week to teach me. Her English was absolutely terrible, and so was her teaching. There was a girl that sat next to me, whom everyday would scream “you need to do your work! If you don’t do it so then the teacher will be mad at me!” and when I explained to her that I kind of had no clue what the heck those work pages were about, she told me she can help. So when I would ask her a question (after every single word because I didn’t understand) she would scream “I CAN’T HELP YOU I ALSO HAVE TO DO MY WORK” I mean, her English isn’t that good, but why offer something you can’t fulfill. I had to do two projects. One of them was an oral presentation in Hebrew, back in March. I did fine, and after I finished, the teacher then told everyone I was an olah chadasha, in the country for only a few months, and everybody clapped and said my Hebrew was so good for someone who hadn’t even been in the country for a year. The teachers were very understanding. Well… most of them were. I had one teacher who would force me to take tests that I didn’t understand. It wasn’t only me though, because one of my friends who made Aliyah 5 years ago had an exemption from that class as well as me, and she also was forced to do the tests. I have friends now, but I still find it more comfortable to hang out with people who speak English as their mother tongue. Most of the girls my age in Rechovot were born in Israel, so even if they speak English, Hebrew is their first language. Most of my English-speaking-made-aliya friends are in Modi’in, and I would much rather live there.

Now, I’m used to Israel a little bit. I’ve been here a year. Do I love Israel? No. Do I like Israel? I guess. Do I like living here? It’s different. I have to wait for my dad to go to America so I can get clothes, talking to my Boca friends is extremely hard because either I’m in school, or asleep or vice versa. I basically feel like the emoji that has a smile but a tear drop on the side of its head. I have mixed feelings about being here. It’s now my home, or at least; until I’m eighteen. And who knows how I’ll feel by then.>>

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