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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Zionism, not Cynicism

Israel has lots challenges: We have two hostile Iranian outposts on our borders, not to mention Iran itself building a bomb with our name on it. When we fight to defend our citizenry we get the Goldstone Report. The world is trying to stop us from building in our capital. We have a hostage in Gaza and we are being asked to release murderers for his freedom. We have very few friends abroad, and inside Israel we are often divided.

It is not surprising that in such an atmosphere, some people succumb to cynicism. But just as the darkness seems to have the upper hand, suddenly there are bright moments that delight us, remind us what Israel is all about, and shoo away the cynicism. Aliya is just such a cynicism buster. Aliya shows us that Israel continues to attract Jews from all over the world to take part in the most exciting project of the Jewish people in two-thousand years...

However, two recent articles in the Jerusalem Post seem bent on putting a dark spin on aliya as well:

In an op-ed entitled "What American aliya?" (Dec. 16) Haviv Rettig Gur wrote :

...Aliya as a phenomenon, as a movement, as a national project, has come to an end. Some 3,000 American olim come to Israel every year from a community whose population is at least 4.2 million strong... for all intents and purposes, North American aliya is currently at zero.

Then, as a follow up (Dec. 29), Michael Hirsh wrote "American aliya - an exercise in futility" stating:

I ask the well-meaning people at NBN and the Jewish Agency: With which powers of persuasion do you believe you were endowed that will sway someone to whom Israel is an afterthought into leaving everything behind and becoming an oleh? Perhaps that explains the current rate of "success," one-10th of 1 percent.

What negativity! This year was the first time in a decade that there was a rise in the number of new immigrants to Israel: 16,200 compared with the previous year's 15,440. 2009 also saw the largest number of Jews (3,767) make aliyah from North America since 1983. Amazingly, with all of Israel's challenges, aliya is on an upward trajectory - so why knock it?

Nay-sayers won't tell you that North American aliya has already become an economic success for Israel. According to a recent Deloitte audit, the entire population of Nefesh B'Nefesh Olim (6,493 households) has generated government revenues of 989 million shekels while the estimated costs of bringing them were only NIS 528 million. Also, the estimated contribution of American aliya (between 2002 and 2008) to the Israeli tourism industry (parents and pals coming to visit olim) is calculated at NIS 347 million, which brings the net contribution of recent North American aliya to a jaw-dropping 808 million shekels!

And North American aliya is bound to keep growing because immigration has never been easier: Israel has finally gotten the bureaucratic process right through the advent of Nefesh B'Nefesh. At the same time, amazing Anglo communities like Modiin and Ramat Beit Shemesh have sprouted up, making absorption a walk in an ever-more-manicured park. And as though Providentially, just as Israel's bureaucratic and community infrastructure are in place, the economic climate in the US has made aliya more attractive then ever before. In fact, measurable interest in aliya has more then doubled since the onset of the global economic crisis.

The aliya cynics point to the paltry 3,000 Olim a year and conclude that North American aliya is a failure. But since when do we value people as merely numbers? If the dream of gathering in the Exiles is happening only 3000 people at a time is that worthless? When one greets new immigrants one sees the faces of children kissing the ground, the faces of elderly rabbis crying, the faces of El Al pilots glowing with pride. "Total failure"? More like total ecstasy!

In the late 70's there were only 3 million Jews in Israel, now we are approaching 6 million. We have doubled in the last 30 years! No other country can claim that. Yes, it's mainly due to Russian Aliya, and a relatively high birthrate. But the point is that Israel wants to grow, and every Jew counts. Therefore, we must tirelessly continue to push aliya from all parts of the globe - and with special focus on American Jewry, the last major bastion of the Diaspora.

However, aliya cynics do have a point when they tell us that American Jewry is entrenched. It is. But that is not a reason to give up on our Jewish family back in the old country. To the contrary - it is precisely now, when the wheels of North American aliya are finally turning, that we must redouble our efforts to encourage Western Jews to come home.


It is in this spirit that I present three positive ideas of how to help galvanize Western Jews to seriously consider aliya:

* Aliya Day. There are well known state holidays which are used as springboards for massive educational undertakings. Yom Haatzmaut is a national celebration, but it is also a day of award ceremonies, concerts, and gatherings. Yom Hazikaron has its cemetery memorials and the siren that so powerfully reminds us of the IDF's sacrifice. Yom Hashoah educates us about the horrors of the Holocaust.

The time has arrived to unveil a new state holiday called Aliyah Day. Aliyah Day will be celebrated in Israeli schools with children getting up and telling the tale of their family's aliya. On TV, the stories of the various communal and personal immigrations will be told. Prizes will be given out to aliya activists, absorption workers and immigrants who have made a difference in Israel. Each year a different community will be featured and celebrated.

Simultaneously, Aliya Day will be celebrated in all pro-Israel institutions in the Diaspora. There, the discussion will focus on the importance of aliya, and the centrality of Israel. Aliya Day will use the proven model of a State holiday to celebrate the fact that we are all immigrants, and put aliya back onto the national agenda.

* Aliya Rally. There is a powerful force in Israel which, so far, has been totally untapped. Western olim, immigrants to Israel, are typically the most vocal supporters of continued Western aliya. If you enter the home of an oleh and broach the topic, you will find that from Raanana to Kiryat Arba, Western olim are highly enthusiastic about aliya and would like to see Jewish emigration expedited. We should harness the great passion of these people, and give them a platform to be heard.

Many rallies are held in Israel every year, but most of these rallies are anti-something, like calling for an end to some government policy. However, the aliya rally is different – it is positive and reaches out to Diaspora Jews with love and encouragement.

In a large venue in Jerusalem, like Teddy Stadium or the Sultan's Pool, the rally will be a professional production, with musical acts and speeches by well known personalities. Participants taking part in the rally will hold up placards that read: "Come Home My Brother / Sister", or posters of an Israeli passport with the words "Your Name Here" on the front. From the stage and in the crowd, we will call on our fellow Jews to come home and be our neighbors. The rally will raise aliya consciousness amongst Western Jews, empower olim in Israel who feel strongly about aliya, rekindle love of the homeland in native Israelis, and show the world that Israel still calls on all her children to come home.

* Aliya Boat. For American Jews in the US, the occasional press article or video clip about American aliya fails to persuade them that aliya is the future. It's just something they can brush off. We need to change that – we need to make the movement of Western aliya so spectacular and evocative that world Jewry will not be able to ignore it.

Enter the Aliya Boat. Evoking the nostalgia of old-world Jewish immigration, the Aliya Boat, this generation's 'Exodus', will bring 3000 Olim to Israel in just one journey. A plush cruise liner, the Aliya boat will sail for two weeks from the northeastern coast of the U.S. to one of Israel's port cities. Throughout the journey, an Israeli naval ship will escort the Aliya Boat as both security and honor guard.

While on this 'cruise' the almost-new immigrants will be busy: they will begin their Hebrew training at the on-board ulpan, take care of governmental paper work, and begin preparation to deal with their new home and environment. On the boat, children won't be strapped into constrictive seats for hours; instead, they will be 'enrolled' in an Israeli gan. Elderly folks can rest and play shuffleboard. Adults will begin friendships that will last a lifetime.

The romantic retro-iconography of the Aliya Boat will make news for two weeks straight. Embedded reporters and a documentary crew will record the epic tale. In Israel, a massive confetti welcome will make the arrival of the Aliya Boat one of the most moving spectacles of our time. It will be just too awesome of an event to minimize, and it will force every Jew in the world to rethink his or her position onaliya.

Indeed, this is not the time for cynicism. It is a time for Zionism. It is a time to think big and act big. If you will it, it is no dream.


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Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar called on all capable to fast and pray this Thursday in hope that God will bring an end to the drought that has depleted Israel's water sources and struck a blow to local agriculture.

"Because of our sins the water situation is in a serious state," wrote Amar in a notice that was sent out Monday to rabbis, synagogues and other religious functionaries across the nation.

"Our duty in this situation is to scrutinize and examine our actions and bring ourselves close to God with all our hearts. We must must be repentant with broken hearts and anyone who is able should fast, if not a whole day at least a half day."

Amar said that if there were ten men fasting a Torah scroll should be read and during the recitation of the Amida prayer the Anenu prayer should be added like any public fast day.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Useful Site of the Day

The site Shipping Consolidators provides info and price comparison for shipping to Israel and a host of other Aliyah info like telling you which appliances to bring, if and how to bring a car over to Israel, and army issues. The site also features an updated Aliyah news blog, and a Israel pictures section as well. If you're looking for Aliyah tachlis check out this site.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Woodmere Making Aliyah?

Perhaps the best model for North American Aliyah (or all Aliyah in general for that matter) is mass Aliyah. Making Aliyah as a community. Rabbi Riskin proved it could be done in 1983 when he founded Efrat by making Aliyah together with many of the congregants from his Lincoln Square Synagogue. Kumah has always be a strong promoter of mass Aliyah.

Well, today, Rabbi Shalom Rosner of Congregation Bais Ephraim Yitzchak in Woodmere New York, plans to follow in Rabbi Riskin’s footstep and will bring a whole community on Aliyah together. Nofei Hashemesh – located in Beit Shemesh in central Israel - is the name of this new community. You could read more about it on their website.

May this be the first on many new “Aliyah communities” to come!

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Video: American Olim Rock!

An immigrant from Seattle opens an American-style dog grooming parlour in Raanana, Israel!

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Our Friends: Hana Julian and Family

"Arrivals: From Brooklyn to Arad"
by Yocheved Miriam Russo JPOST

Hana (52) and Sinai (57) Julian
Birthplace: Hana, Hamden, Connecticut; Sinai, Los Angeles
Aliya date: July 2003
Occupation: Hana, journalist; Sinai, Chabad rep
Family status: married, seven children

When Hana and Sinai Julian made aliya with Nefesh B'Nefesh in 2003, instead of staying with relatives, going to an absorption center or a rented apartment, they and four of their seven children went directly from the airport to the "unrecognized" Beduin village of Dragot - Drijag in Arabic. For the first three weeks of their lives as Israelis, the Julians lived with the 800 members of the Abu Hamad tribe in the Negev.

Since the 1960s government policy dictates that the country's 185,000 semi-nomadic Beduin must be moved into official "recognized" villages, so they can be provided with water, sewers and other utilities. About half the Beduin have refused the relocation effort, preferring to live in unrecognized encampments such as Dragot, which has no maintained roads, postal service or utilities, except for a sizable generator providing electricity.

For new olim, beginning life in a Beduin village sounds strange, but both the Julians and their host, Younis Abu Hamad, say they regard each other as family. "Jews and Beduin can live together without problems," Sinai Julian says. "We both have the same roots, going back to our father Abraham. It's time for us all to come together."

The Julians met and married in New York in 1990, a second marriage for both. "We had five different mutual friends trying to get us together," Hana says. Born in Hamden, a suburb of New Haven, Hana grew up in a secular Zionist family that encouraged aliya. "I'm adventurous," she says. "I've done a little bit of everything, worked as a firefighter, a bluegrass singer with a band, a journalist, a director of a news bureau and a radio broadcaster, but I'm really a certified social worker. My first marriage didn't work out, although we had two wonderful children. I'd already become observant through Chabad, and was living in Crown Heights when I met Sinai."

Sinai was born into a similarly secular Zionist family in Los Angeles. "Sinai is my birth name - I went through Los Angeles public schools with that name," he says. Like Hana, Sinai had been married before, and had a son. He'd spent time at Kibbutz Gezer in the 1970s, but had returned to the US. "I'd planned just a short trip to wrap up loose ends, but I got stuck for 17 years."

The Julians have four children together, and three from prior marriages. "My oldest daughter is married with two kids in Brooklyn, and my son is in college in Brooklyn," Hana says. "Sinai's son is married with a baby in Jerusalem. He learns in kollel."

Aliya was part of the Julians' marriage agreement, but was deferred, again and again, due to various family issues. The breakthrough came when Hana's recently married daughter visited Israel and became very ill while touring the Dead Sea.

"A Beduin tour guide had been showing the kids the sights," Hana recalls. "As it happened, he was the one who called me in New York, telling me my daughter needed me. I came, and while I was here, he also drove me around. One day Younis asked me, 'What are you doing in New York?' I was a social worker, I explained, but he said, 'No, what are you doing in New York? You're religious. God says Israel is your home. What are you doing in New York?' When God sends a Beduin messenger, we figured we'd better pay attention."

Things moved quickly after that. "I was selling insurance," Sinai says. "We were broke. But I figured if we were gonna be broke, we might as well be broke in Israel. I wanted to live in Jerusalem, Hana wanted a rural community, then Younis suggested Arad. We'd never heard of it, but he said it was a very nice community, with wonderful people, about 10 kilometers from his own village of Dragot. He even offered to find us a house in Arad, which he did - but it wasn't quite ready when we arrived. That's why we stayed with them.

"We made a pilot trip before we came, during the Pessah season. We looked at Arad and decided we liked it. We spent two weeks with Younis and his family then, too, and moved to a hotel for the actual week of Pessah. By that time, Younis and his whole family felt very much like our own family."

Younis, his wife, his son and a cousin came to meet the Julians, participating in the official NBN welcoming ceremony. "They were escorted in, with special clearance from the Shin Bet," Sinai says. "We went from the airport to Dragot."

In Dragot, the Julians moved into a new home that Younis had built for his son. "The son hadn't married or moved in yet, so everything was brand new and kosher," Sinai says. "Our kids loved it - they slept on the roof, where it was cooler, and ran all day with the Beduin kids with the sheep. I davened outside in the garden. We respected their traditions and they respected ours. We were treated just like part of the family."

"I'd get up in the morning to help make the breakfast pita," Hana says. "The women get up at 6 a.m., the men at 7, so one morning, I came out wearing a very long T-shirt, down past my knees. I didn't think it mattered - there were only women around. But Younis's wife was shocked - she sent me back into the house. 'You have to get dressed,' she said. 'You can't come out here like that. It's not modest!' In many ways, our customs are very much alike.

"We felt perfectly safe in that village. We'd have been in more danger in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv - let alone New York."

Today, the Julian family lives in a sunny, spacious home on a quiet cul-de-sac, where they have frequent guests. In addition to their two dogs and five cats, for a time they also had a white donkey named Gandolf, who insisted he belonged inside on Shabbat.

"Excuse the mess," Sinai says, gesturing. "We have 25 children in four bodies."

Hana and Sinai say they're "reasonably fluent" in Hebrew. Everyone learned some Arabic in Dragot, but the language spoken at home is English.

"When we came, Kobi was 12, Esther was eight, Golda was six and Zalman was five. In the beginning, at school, the children struggled with Hebrew," Hana says. "It took about five months to get some tutoring help from the government - they really aren't supportive of aliya to the South. Now, the kids are fine - among themselves they speak Hebrew, but I insist they speak English to me, so they don't lose that language."

"At the moment, we have mostly Israeli friends," Hana says. "The Anglo community in Arad isn't huge, but we have plenty of English-speaking friends, too."

"It's tight. We're struggling."

Sinai commutes to the Dead Sea Mall. "I work for Chabad, encouraging men to put on tefillin, distributing literature and Shabbat candles. In terms of satisfaction, it's the best job I've ever had - but the worst in pay."

"I freelance, plus I'm an editor and writer for Arutz Sheva," Hana says. "I do radio newscasts once a week. Beyond that, I'm also the Ann Landers of the Alzheimer's set - I write an advice and information column for Alzheimer's Weekly."

Hana: "I'm American Israeli, but I'm also a Jew."

Sinai: "I'm an American Jew who lives in Israel. I have to go to the States next month, so I e-mailed some friends, 'Are you ready for a visit from an Israeli?' As I wrote it, I thought, 'Is that me?'"

"We're Lubavitcher Hassidim."

"We love Arad, and plan to stay here. We'd like to buy the house we're renting, fix up the yard, especially."

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Let's Just Cancel the Country

"A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague." Cicero 42 B.C.E.

Now read this:

Mocking Asian Jews, Gov't Minister Favors Selective Aliyah

Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) struck a blow to one of the central pillars of Zionism Tuesday, calling for an end to automatic citizenship for Jews who make aliyah (immigrate to Israel).

Addressing the governing board of the Jewish Agency, Sheetrit said that funds should be directed to helping immigrants already living in Israel instead of absorbing “lost tribes” from Africa and Asia. “Don't go finding me any lost tribes, because I won't let them in any more," he declared. "We have enough problems in Israel. Let them go to America."

Sheetrit said that new immigrants should not automatically receive citizenship, but have a five-year waiting period, take a pledge of allegiance and pass a Hebrew-proficiency test prior to becoming Israeli.

He specifically referred to a rise in cases of neo-Nazism among Russian immigrants, some one million of which immigrated to Israel in the past 16 years. Three to four hundred thousand of the Russian immigrants are non-Jews recruited by the Jewish Agency using Jewish donor funds.

As it stands, the Law of Return, passed in 1950, mirrors the classifications of “Jewish descent” outlined in the Nazi Nuremberg Laws, with the intention that anyone who would have been persecuted as Jewish by the Nazis be granted refuge in the Jewish State.

Under this law, the Jewish Agency has been accused of taking advantage of the Law to recruit non-Jews with tenuous connections to the Jewish people – via one grandparent or the marriage of relatives to a Jew – promising them a better economic situation so as to increase the numbers of immigrants it can report having brought.

Many groups have called for the Law of Return to be amended to open Israel's doors only to those considered Jewish by Halacha (Jewish Law).

The Interior Minister is, however, calling to make aliyah harder for all Jews. The ministry proposes to change the Law of Return to reflect absorption policies of other Western countries. "I want to see that he is not a criminal, that he is learning Hebrew and that he is here for five years before receiving citizenship," Sheetrit said.

The Jewish Agency said in response that "the State of Israel must remain open to any Jew, without any conditions” and continues to support the Law of Return in its current form.

Sheetrit said the funding spent on encouraging aliyah should be used to help immigrants already living in Israel, “whose lives are miserable.”

Michael Freund, who heads the Shavei Israel organization, which assists groups of Jewish descent in converting and moving to Israel called Sheetrit’s remarks “post-Zionism in its ugliest form.”

“Essentially, Mr. Sheetrit has lost sight of what Zionism and Israel are all about. The country was founded on immigration and meant to serve as a refuge for the entire Jewish people,” Freund said. Freund pointed out that Sheetrit’s own family, immigrants from Morocco, would themselves bear the brunt of his callousness had he been Interior Minister at the time of their aliyah. “It is as if he has forgotten everything that he and his family and millions of other immigrants went through.”

Commenting on Sheetrit’s mocking of descendents of the lost ten Jewish tribes, Freund alleged that Sheetrit has refused to study the issue or even meet with members of communities such as the Bnei Menashe, who have been converting and moving to Israel from northeast India. “Sheetrit is, unfortunately, exploiting recent news reports about the discovery of neo-Nazis among recent immigrants to Israel as an excuse to keep out other unrelated groups that sincerely want to tie their fate with the people of Israel. These are apples and oranges. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other.”

Freund went one step further: “Mr. Sheetrit has no place serving in the government of a Zionist Jewish state There is a strong element of racism and ignorance that runs through Mr. Sheetrit’s thinking on this issue. A person’s country of origin or the color of their skin has nothing whatsoever to do with their Jewish identity – nor should it. The return to Zion is a Divine process that is greater than any one man or institution. And no one, not even a minister in the cabinet, can stand in its way. The return of the Bnei Menashe to Israel can and will continue."

Israel's Chief Rabbinate recognized the Bnei Menashe as "Descendants of Israel" in March, 2005 and sent a a beit din (rabbinical court) on its behalf to the region to formally convert them to Judaism.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Consumer Zionism - Buy Buy Buy!

You can talk Zionism and Aliyah, or simply shop! Ariel is the capital of Samaria, 35 minutes from Tel Aviv, great air, a cool college, and only $169,000 for a 6 bedroom apartment with a view. LISTEN TO THIS INTERVIEW FOR DETAILS, or email

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Two Years...

Today is my two year anniversary. Two years ago, today (secular date) I came home. So what's it like two years later? Well I feel at home, that's for sure. The Rechavia neighborhood now feels familiar to me. I know all the shortcuts that tourist will never know about. I know the Rambam was given a much nicer street than both the Rif and the Ramban. In fact I think it's the most beautiful street in all of Yerushalayim while Radak and Ramban remains my most favorite intersection. It's nice living somewhere where the streets are named after Rishonim. Every time I walk up my block I'm reminded of Shabbos Zemiros (the block nearby being named after an author of one.)

But what's even more amazing now is what I see when I visit America and see it now through the eyes of somebody who hass been living in the homeland for the past two years. I am even more amazed than ever at how American Jews could live their lives without giving any sincere consideration toward returning to their true home. I have often maintained there are legitimate reasons for postponing Aliyah (while there are also poor excuses) but I don't see how a truly Torah observant G-d fearing Jew can wake up each and every day without making some sort of effort to return to where we really belong. How such a Jew can live life fully content with the status quo as if living in chutz l'aretz was the ultimate destiny of the Jewish people is beyond me.

The question remains why is it this way? Why in 1948 after Israel independence was declared and permission for every Jew to return home granted (or did that happen in 1917) didn't the floodgates of Aliyah open? Was it too soon after the war? Were we too devastated after the horrors of the Shoah to realize the opportunity that G-d had presented us?

What about in 1967? After the world witnessed open miracles and Jerusalem was reunited under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in 2000 years! Certainly then the call for the Jews to return home was louder than ever. And the shofer has been sounded just as loudly ever since.

Every Frum Jew living in America has to ask himself if the true purpose of our nation here on earth is for every Jewish family to have a five car garage, a swimming pool, a manicured lawn, and a fireplace. For if acquisition of wealth is the Jewish People's purpose than certainly America is the Promised Land and we are living up to our mandate.

But when people say they can't earn a parnussa in Israel are they really saying they can't acquire wealth here? When did we forget the difference between earning a respectable living and getting rich. (Again I understand that there are circumstances where one can't even earn a livelihood and that is a valid heter not to make Aliyah.). But actually I’ll tell you on every trip to America more and more people come up to me and tell me they are making Aliyah. So the truth is maybe we didn't forget the difference at all...

NBN brought three flights of Olim to Israel this week. Perhaps we are starting to get it.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Letters from Home!

Dear friends & family,

We made Aliyah from Woodmere, N.Y. in August '05. My brother, Yudie, and his family made Aliyah with us on the same flight, making our klita that much more special.

All is well here, Baruch Hashem. The kids are finally adjusting in school and are making nice friends. Life here in Ramat Beit Shemesh has certainly taken a different pace than back in the States. Friday is a great day to have off from work. It gives me the opportunity to pursue my new hobby of mountain biking in the morning, help with the household chores in the afternoon and still have menuchat hanefesh going into Shabbat. I remember, not too long ago in New York, jumping on the subway, fighting the weekend crowds, sprinting through Penn Station to catch the last train, walking through the doors of my house within 20 minutes of candle lighting, and that was a good Friday!

I still can't get over the fact that the Kotel is only a half hour away. Ma'arat Hamachpelah is forty minutes away, and Harei Yehuda are my front vista. Kivrei Shimon Hageebor and Dan ben Yaakov Avinu are down the road from us too. There are too many tiyulim here to count. We have nature trails two minutes from our house.

We hope the friendships we forged in Woodmere will, B"H, act as a springboard for others to join us in Eretz Yisroel.

Dovid & Sara Baila Akselrud

Read More!

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Learn Hebrew The Jacob Richman Way

I'm hoping this is the first of many YouTube videos from Jacob Richman. This video will help you learn many important restaurant words. You'll need to know these words, of course, if you want to date Israeli girls in restaurants. You can also check out Jacob's full hebrew site called

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Thursday, February 22, 2007


Nothing beats oleh art. I call it Olart.

("Dude, I just Olarted!")

Anyway, check out the story and the exhibit itself.

Speaking of art, here is some Tel Aviv installation art using fruit and a phonograph stumbled upon by Reb Ezra (the other Ezra - the head of the Lamed Vavnikim in the Old City and the soon-to-be opened Jerusalem Soul Center):

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Kaparot -or-
This Country is Going Down the Toilet -or-
My Neighbor the Angel

Well, I will spare you the pictures on this one, but all of the waste drainage for my brand new apartment was backed up at an unreachable, underground juncture. Every last water dispenser in the apartment be it sink, shower, or other, was draining itself on the floor of my bathroom. I won't name names, but let's just say that someone who lives in the apartment started flushing multiple baby wipes down the toilet.

This has not been the first kapara, or spiritual cleansing punishment, our family has faced in the past several months. In consecutive recent hail and wind storms, one could find me outside rebuilding the five-month-old Keter shed I build next to our home for extra storage. The entire roof flew off, soaking all the valuables stored within. Critical pieces of the shed broke, and were fixed with metal brackets and a great deal of ingenuity.

Much of that ingenuity came from my new neighbor, Nati. Nati has helped me countless times in several weeks. In addition to the aforementioned episodes, Nati drove me to the gas station when my car was sitting outside my apartment out of gas.

Nati is a chef, and a good one. He cooks for the girl's high school Ra'aya here in Bet El. Previous to his arrival here, he lived and worked an identical job in N'vei Dekalim before being forcibly evacuated from his home of eight years with his wife and three children.

They didn't live in Gush Katif on settlement principles. It was an affordable place to live, close to the beach, and just minutes from their family in the now battered town of Sderot.

When the government offered Nati money for his home following the expulsion, he quickly took it and invested the entire sum in an Ashdod apartment, choosing not to link his fate to the rest of the Gush Katif residents that now are dependent on the government for support.

Nati, who was not a farmer like many of his former neighbors, was able to land a comparable job as a chef here in Bet El, following a short stint in a hotel restaurant. Let me tell you, Nati is an excellent chef.

Being of Algerian descent, his wife is Moroccan, Nati's attitude to life is different than my own. Nati, who doesn't speak a word of English, making communication for me challenging, has said time and again: "We family."

It seems that lately, many of my kaparot, and there are others, have become Nati's as well. For some reason, he doesn't seem to mind.

I'm sure there is a lesson to be learned in his behavior. The kapara of one Jew is often the kapara of the entire Jewish nation. And sometimes one Jew's problem cannot be easily overcome without a little support. And with some support and empathy from our fellow Jews, particularly in times of uninviting distress(Did I mention that Nati and I were up to our elbows in sewage?) we can keep this Jewish nation from literally going down the toilet. After all, "We family."

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Becoming a "Real" Israeli

A SUBMISSION FROM BINYAMIN -- For some, becoming a "real" Israeli is voting in their first election. For others it is army service, or better yet, their first reserve duty call-up. But for me, it is buying my first pair of Israeli underwear.

You know you've really integrated into a country when you finally give up on the tighty-whities that have served you so well since high school, and decide to get some new underwear. Also, because it's easier to buy new underwear then to go to the Laundromat and wash your old ones. Some people prefer to shop at the Mashbir. But if you go there, you have to talk to the lady. You know which one I'm talking about. She's the only one working in the men's underwear department. She's been there forever. She knows your size with a quick glance. Trust the men's underwear lady. She will serve you well.

Then of course there is the underwear you buy in the store on Yoel Solomon Street at the same place you get your nargilah and flavored tobacco. You know the place. It's either playing Sarit Hadad or a rap song you heard in America five years ago. This is the underwear printed with the words "I'm Jewish, wanna check?" or "100% Kosher". My friend's girlfriend bought him a pair as a joke. He washed them and hung them out to dry on the balcony. The underwear fell off the balcony and onto the laundry of his downstairs neighbor, an older Israeli-born woman. My friend had to go downstairs and in broken Hebrew, tell this lady that she had his underwear.

But now, my fellow olim hadashim, we have integrated. We have Israeli underwear. We may not know Hebrew fluently. We may not know how to cut in line at the bus station. We may not be in overdraft at the bank. We may not know how to flirt with our secretary and then be indicted. But we have Israeli underwear and thus we are well on our way to fulfilling the Zionist Dream.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Nefesh B'Nefesh Super Bowl Party

While the Super Bowl might be anti-Zionist, there are many Olim who still follow football and like to watch the game. In fact, there are enough American Olim interested in watching the game, that Nefesh B'Nefesh hosted a Super Bowl party in their Aliyah office. Ironic, and fun. Here are some pictures:

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

To Bowl or Not To Bowl, That is the Super Question

I can honestly admit that there is probably no event in the world that is as anti-Zionist as the Superbowl. Professional sports at their best or worst, with billions, yes billions of dollars being wasted in just 4 short hours.

The Superbowl probably consumes more money in just one evening, than most countries registered in the United Nations produce in an entire year. And at the end of the night, there will be virtually nothing to show for it.

And while some cute writers like those at the Jerusalem Post will try to tell you that there are parallels between this Superbowl and Israel's political and security situation; I can assure you, no such similarities exist.

So, now I've bashed the pinacle of pro-football, alienating hundreds if not thousands of American olim and future olim, who all proclaim their Zionism, but for some unknown reason, just can't miss the big game.

Well, I have alienated myself as well.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Joining the Ranks

Well, ladies and gentlemen, congratulate me. I am officially an Israeli.

I, like my sisters before me, have joined the ranks of women who have tearfully sent their husbands off to war for Israel. I, too, have worried as I scramble to fill his backpack at 4:30 in the morning, if he will have enough clean socks. I, too, have scoured odd corners of the house to pass the time while he's in the field. I've battled my anti-social urge to hole up in the house and my equally maniacal urge to call him every 15 minutes. I've sworn not to ask him when he's coming home anymore. I've walked at night, begging G-d to bring him home safely. I've made him the center of every conversation. I've fought off the urge to buy a pint of ice cream and eat it at one sitting. I've threatened to kill the men who have neglected to serve him a single hot meal in 4 days. I've forced myself to make hot meals for myself while he's away. I've planned the meal I'll serve him when he comes home, what I'll wear.

As Yishai says, the hardships are our birthright, too. It stinks. But I swear everyday to love G-d with all my heart, with all my soul, with everything I have. Yishai is all those things.

Pray for the safety and might of Yishai Yaakov ben Tziona.

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