Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Peace Summit on the 480

       I just met Lenny, an American Jewish philosophy professor, on the bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We chatted the entire ride. Lenny informed me that he was here in Israel as a member of the MERETZ delegation from the States, and essentially he was here to make peace between Israel and its neighbor.

        Now, normally, I don’t engage too deeply with people on the complete opposite side of the political spectrum. And before you yell at me, hear me out. I am right- wing. Quite. Duh. I’m not really that middle- of- the- road, nor are my opinions “developing” or “fluid.” I also like people and want them to like me. And one way to ensure someone won’t like me is to have a screaming match with them about politics. And therefore, I try not to engage to the point where this might occur.

        Back to Lenny. He said he was here with Meretz. I kept my eyes from rolling straight back into my skull, because I’m an adult. Then Lenny said, “well, we’re both Zionists, so we can build on that!” I paused. I asked him, “Does Meretz really consider itself Zionist?” He responded affirmatively and I realized that, like their religious observance, generally people think that their Zionism is the correct way to do Zionism. So that was a good starting point.

         Throughout the ride we found lots to agree on- the miracle of Israel, the fact that academia has become an impossible place to be a Zionist, the incredible people who live here, the shameful lack of assistance for some olim that causes them to leave.

          We disagreed on more. The African refugee/migrant problem (semantics play an issue). Changing demographics- he believes Jews will soon lose their demographic majority, I don’t. We were on the same page about BDS until he told me he won’t buy from “the Settlements.” I told him to please change “settlements” to “Jews” and be aware that he is boycotting Jews. Boycotting Jews like the Germans did in the ‘30s. Then he said his father was a survivor and we just agreed on a lot of Holocaust stuff for a bit and got back on track.

           He tried to make me believe that the conflict was about land, while I think it’s religious. I begged him to please not equate Bibi with Abbas (Meretz despises no one on earth more than Bibi, I learned. His name came up many times, as he is apparently the root of all evil in this country. Who knew?)

          At one point I tried to turn around and get back to my 12 waiting games of Words With Friends. Lenny kept the conversation going. And I realized this. Lenny is an idealist, I am a realist (although he’d say he’s a realist and I’m a pessimist.) He genuinely wants everyone to be happy and content here and I worry mostly about the Jews in Israel and our safety and well-being. He believes we have peace partners (it’s not his fault, I’m certain Palestinian reps are telling Meretz reps whatever they want to hear) and I think that’s just a fantasy.

          So much of what divides us is our vocabulary. Lenny always called them “settlers” and I call them “citizens.” Lenny only calls Judea and Samaria “the West Bank.” Lenny talked about the “hilltop youth”- a not large group of nationalists who have become a bogeyman and a convenient parallel for Muslim terrorists. Lenny called the Africans “refugees” while they have also been referred to as “migrants.” We come from such different places- he in secular American left- wing academia, me in Modern Orthodox right- wing Israel advocacy. 

But at the end of our trip, we talked about what we agreed upon- a strong, safe, Jewish Home for us all. We shook hands, wished each other well and I can only assume he’s writing a blog post about me as we speak!

           Good luck with everything, Lenny, and keep fighting the good fight!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Five Stages of Dealing with Anti-Israel Social Media

If you're anything like me, you've gotten sucked into the news lately, and if you're pro-Israel, it can be a maddening ride, especially on social media. So like any other grief- like situation, let's get through these 5 steps, and come out the other side.

yelling steve carell GIF

DENIAL: “Who are all these people on the internet calling my beautiful, kind and brave country everything from murderers to Nazis? Can’t be! They don’t know what they’re saying! If they only knew! They don’t mean it! It’s the optics- as soon as they hear the other side, they’ll understand!”

people ants GIF

ANGER- “THESE VILE ANTI- SEMITES! How dare they?! Who do they think they ARE? What would THEY DO if someone ran at them with a machete?? Et tu BETTE MIDLER?? CHELSEA EFFING HANDLER SHUT THE EFF UP!”

Angry Employee Office Destruction GIF
BARGAINING- “We’ve sent aid to Haiti! We sent provisions to Gaza- that they destroyed! We tried rubber bullets, tear gas and threats to the rioters, but still they come! This is Hamas- Hamas are terrorists! We’ve made so many concessions! Oslo! Gush Katif! CHERRY TOMATOES!

i need this please GIF

DEPRESSION: “I can’t do it. I can’t handle everyone hating me. Maybe if I apologize more, maybe if I capitulate more. I can’t handle the back and forth- “liking” pro- Israel posts and angrily fighting the trolls. So many anti-Israel trolls! Where do they come from and why don’t they like us? Why can't they see?"

sad all nighter GIF

ACCEPTANCE: “Wait a second. This wave of hatred also happened in 2012. And 2014. This happens every single time Israel has had the nerve to defend its people. And the haters will always hate, no matter what we say, or how many times, or however eloquently or loudly or calmly. So you know what? I’m gonna shut off Facebook, call my friend Dudu, fire up my electric scooter and go get a falafel while listening to Netta! Yalla BYE!

gal gadot GIF

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

70 Years Young

So it's Yom Hazikaron in Tel Aviv. Tonight, I heard the siren on the bus for the first time. I had always wondered what people riding on a bus did when the remembrance siren that sounds all over the country goes off for a full minute. Well, I don't know what every bus does, but ours stopped mid-street, everyone got out of their seats (driver included) and we stood solemnly, many with tears in our eyes, thinking whatever the siren made us think about.

Normally, I do the (insert number here) things I love most about Israel, but this year I'm going to take a bit of a break from that for several reasons:
1. I have been pretty sick with intense allergies since I got back to Israel. Weirdly, one of the reasons I loved Israel in the past was because I didn't have the killer seasonal allergies I did back in NYC. Whoops, guess I do!
2. After the month away and the allergy plague I was dealing with, I also have to work! And be social! Sadly, the list-making fell by the wayside. And
3. Making a list of over 50 of anything is hard! If I told you right now to make a list of the 50 things you love most about your mom, it would be tough, lemme tell ya. Well I did that twice in a row and starting today I will start collecting 71,  don't you worry! (Feel free to contribute ideas!)

Just decorating my new balcony!

So instead, I will write a love letter to my country and its people:

Dear Israelis,

Thank you for your warmth. Thank you for inviting me and hugging me and caring about me like your own family. Because honestly, I am. Thank you for inviting me to dance and joining me in lchaims! Thank you for dealing with (and not dealing with) my Hebrew and my accent. Thank you for building this amazing place in such a blindingly short period of time. Thank you for making the desert bloom, and helping the world every time it needed it (and being so gracious when the world rarely thanked you.) Thank you for your sons and daughters, and the incredible sacrifices they have made to ensure Israel can endure under incredible pressure.

Dear Israel, 

Thank you for being our sanctuary. Thank you for being the one place in the world where a Jew can be proud to be a Jew, where wearing a kippa won't get you punched, where a kosher meal is just around the corner (and then around the next one), where the calendar is lunar and the holidays have been celebrated by my people for centuries. Thanks you for taking in the survivors of the Shoah and the refugees from the Middle East, the tribes of Ethiopia and and India and the persecuted of the Soviet Union. And though some in America may forget (willfully or not), I will not forget the home you have given to millions of Jews in need, Jews truly escaping from exile.


You are impatient and you are generous to a fault. You are aggressive and you love fiercely. You are argumentative and you are innovative. You hate so much about this country and love it fully. Sometimes you leave because the golden streets of America (or Canada, or London, or Australia) call you, but you always know that this is your home.


You are beautiful and complex, you are so young and you are ancient. You are left and "hard right." You are vegan and you barbecue for every occasion. You are ultra-Orthodox and you are the most progressive country in the region. You are Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but you are also Haifa and the desert and the mountains and Tzfat and Judea and Samaria and all of you is home.

Dearest Israelis,

My blessing to you is limitless success and wealth. May we build together a land so full of material wealth that American Jews come here to build their fortunes! May you continue to grow in number and in joy- may we unify as a people in a land as we were always meant to- one Nation with one heart. And may our differences not tear us apart, may they teach us more about one another. May we realize that we, each other, are the greatest gift we have. And may we celebrate many more smachot together.

Dearest Israel,

My blessing to you is safety and strength. May our holy army remain safe from harm, and may our enemies see no fruits from their terror. May G-d continue to watch over His people and His country, so that in the next 70 years and beyond, we know only peace and happiness. Thank you for welcoming me and thank you for being my Home.

Chag Haatzma'ut Sameach to everyone!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Goodbye to the City of Gold

I'm sitting here in my first Israeli apartment, surrounded by boxes and bags, waiting for my moving truck. This is the first time I've properly sat here all week. I've been collecting boxes, shlepping and folding, throwing (not enough) things out and taking full cars of stuff to the new place. And my apartment is doing this crazy magic trick where I move more and more things out and yet it never looks less full. 

About 1/10 of my never-ending box-stravaganza
I remember moving in here 3 years ago with around 5 big duffel bags. It is insane (and highly embarrassing) to realize how much I've accumulated these past years. But I had to turn this empty box into a home, and that I did.

I am moving to Tel Aviv today. I know it seems totally crazy, especially to you readers who don't know me or to those I haven't spoken to in a while. I have been the consummate Jerusalemite- heck, I even named my blog after my city! And I was certainly no fan of Tel Aviv in the past. But over the past years, that's changed. I know I don't blog as frequently as I did or should, but I'm a different Jordana than the one who made Aliyah. I'm still an observant Jew (that's a common question when people ask how I could possibly move to Tel Aviv.) I'm still a fervent, full- throated Zionist (and a right-winger, about to move to the city of the Left!) I'm still committed to staying in Israel for the long haul, with no plans to move back to the States (sorry, Mama.)

But this is where my road is taking me- a new city, new friends (keeping the old ones though, because I picked some good ones here in Jerusalem), a new job (pending!), a lovely new apartment with a new incredible roommate (after 3 years of living alone!) and oh yeah- the beach!

It's true- I do!
I leave behind the city I love most and the birthplace of a thousand stories. In my years visiting, Jerusalem was my anchor- it was where I landed and the place I knew best. I can get anywhere, find anything in this city. There is nowhere more diverse, beautiful, frustrating and real. I know that I will miss this city, its people and its stones every single day. I know that I will come back to visit, at first a lot, and then less. I know that when my Tel Avivi friends laugh about Jerusalem- its religiosity, its conflict, its otherness- I won't join in. I will be the defender of the Holy City in the White City- because if they only knew Jerusalem like I know Jerusalem, they'd fall in love too.
But it's time to go and start fresh now. It's time to feel the sand between my toes and sip cafe hafuch on Rothschild. It's time to stay out til 3 am and then hit up the huge kiddush in shul on Shabbat afternoon. It's time to hang out on rooftops and turn on the air conditioning! It's time for me to make the move. And find a new blog name too, huh?

Saying goodbye to the Cabana
If life is a book with many chapters, and I'm on to the next one. Keep reading to find out what's in store!


Jordana (originally of) Jerusalem 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hello from Jordana in Jerusalem (, Israel!)

Depending on whom you ask, what happened yesterday was either the greatest thing ever, the worst catastrophe since Hiroshima, or no big deal. Reactions range from "Trump is the messiah" to "This is going to cause untold danger for you" to "Okay, so what?" To the first person I say, "Relax, bro. Appreciate the good vibes, but he most certainly is not." To the second I say, "thanks for your sudden concern for my personal safety! Where was this concern during the last knife intifada?" And to the third response, I say, "Perk up, buddy! This is great!" And here are the top 5 reasons I think so:

Some think this is cheesy. Luckily, I love cheese.
1. Pragmatics- I was just talking to a pregnant friend who said, "Finally my baby will have 'Jerusalem, Israel' on his passport. Do you know how much I'm hurt every time some anti-Israel consulate official smirks when he hands me a passport that says 'Jerusalem, nowhere?' Happy that won't happen again!" And it's true! Although this move changes little legally, I know when my future babies are born (please Gd poo poo poo!) they will be from both the city and country they were born, at lease vis a vis their American passports!

2. Ripple Effect- Already the Czech Republic followed suit in recognizing our capital and Hungary and the Philippines want to move their embassies to Jerusalem. This recognition by the United States, like everything else they do, gives other counties the strength, cover and precedence to do the right thing. Can't wait for the day when we learn in the history books about that crazy time when Jerusalem wasn't considered the capital of Israel!

3. Legitimacy- Enough arguing with leftists over "status of Jerusalem." By nature, arguing with true leftists is a fruitless endeavor (don't think I'm blind to the fact that them arguing with me is almost as fruitless.) But it's always nice to have this moment, this little legal feather in my cap. And as much as they insist that Trump isn't their president (hi guys, Obama was mine and as you may remember, I wasn't a fan. And yes I know, you really hate Trump a lot) he is officially the president, he let the waiver lapse, and ultimately, the law passed in 1995 (under President Bill Clinton) will be implemented. In short, a law that was put on hold for over 20 years is now going to be implemented. So that's awesome.

4. Return to sanity- Jerusalem as capital is reality. When I was little, as a native New Yorker, it bothered me that small-town Albany, and not New York City was the capital of New York. It annoyed me that Washington DC, a city from no state, was the capital of the USA. I was 10.  But it didn't change the fact that Albany was the capital of NY and D.C. was the capital of America. So it's great for America to get on board with the facts. Wikipedia knows it. Siri knows it. Google knows it. Weather.com knows it. Now we all know it.

5. Shows us where we all really stand- Like I mentioned before, while I can appreciate people suddenly caring so much about my safety and well-being, you actually really don't. This whole situation is showing me that people believe we should give into bullies, kowtow to terrorists, and put the anger of our enemies before the fulfillment of our own people. A friend wrote on Facebook that the international condemnation of this move highlights the real racism. It is a "racism of low expectations." It is expecting, rightfully, that anything done that does not adhere to treating the Palestinians with kid gloves will be met with death and destruction. And somehow, that's okay with them. It's bizarre. 

I've been hearing a lot about this not being the "right time." I would like to know when that time will be. Can anyone reading this tell me a time in the near (or distant) future, when the enemies of Israel will be open to this move? At what magical future time will Jordan, Turkey and Abbas all say, "You know what? It's really time to recognize Jerusalem- call off the rage!" That time ain't coming, kids, so let's let this be the time.
And for you sweet souls who believe this outrageous move put an end to "any hope for a real peace agreement"? Please message me privately, I have a huge bridge I'd like to sell you! 

Okay, so I have to get back to my job, here in Jerusalem, Israel. If you need me after 6, I'll be at my apartment in Jerusalem, Israel. And if you want to send me a letter, please send it straight to Jordana in Jerusalem, ISRAEL. K, I'm done!

G-d bless you and G-d bless Jerusalem, Israel.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Friend Made Aliyah

I couldn't think of a flashier title, because the one I chose is so full of emotion, I didn't want to mess with it. Last week, a close friend of mine names Ariella made Aliyah, and it was just about the most exciting thing I could imagine. As I celebrated 3 years here on July 1, I thought of the changes in my life that have happened in that time. Nothing huge. No wedding, no babies, not elected to Knesset (yet). And as of today, I'm still Jordana IN Jerusalem! So what, really, is the big deal about 3 years here? 


At three years, I have watched my ulpan and Aliyah friends decide that Israel wasn't for them, and leave. I have seen more people come to Israel to try and make it their home too. I have seen holidays and festivals, birthday parties and smachot. I have been to concerts and funerals, I have seen babies born here, and witnessed pretty much every Jewish life cycle event after that. Three years in the scheme of a lifetime is short, but it is enough time to outgrow my Aliyah "honeymoon phase" and the sparkly title of "olah chadasha" (new immigrant.) 

Although I probably still am a new immigrant, most days I feel completely at home, in a way I never did living in New York for decades. I walk the streets here or traverse the country in the knowledge that these are my streets and this landscape is my own. I never feel like I'm visiting, like this is a stop on my journey. I consider myself unendingly blessed to feel that this was truly my destination.

So when I tell you that my friend making Aliyah was one of the most exciting things to happen, it's not hyperbole. Let's not kid ourselves, life is hard sometimes and moving to a whole new country and culture will be tough (we've talked about this here and here) but the only consistent bummer is being away from family and close friends. I pray regularly that my family will join me here, but it doesn't seem to be on the horizon. And although sporadic visits from family members and my yearly pilgrimage back to NYC are great, they will never be a substitute for living near family. So when a close friend like Ariella told me a few months back that she was going to make Aliyah, I was elated!

Not to get into the back-and-forth about how Aliyah should be EVERY Jew's ultimate goal (because I don't want to argue with you) but the idea that someone I love, in a similar social situation, with a similar background and the same attachment to her family was making Aliyah just like I did was extremely validating and exciting. She would ask logistical questions and always preface or end conversations with "sorry to bother" and I would respond "this is no bother! I wish I could have this conversation with every one of my friends! I'm so proud of you!"

Some Israelis riding the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv bus!

So when she finally made Aliyah last week, it hit me harder than I thought. It was my friend, taking a huge step and hopefully succeeding in building an amazing new life in Israel, of course. But it was also seeing someone else, realizing a 3,000 year long dream, leaving the diaspora to come home and showing everyone back in America that this is the goal we should ALL have, we should ALL strive to achieve. 

This is what 3 years has taught me. It has been HARD and it has been wonderful. It has been LONG and it has gone by in a blink. It has been LONELY at times, but I have made new soul connections. It has been DIFFERENT to what I expected and so much more. And it has showed me, an American from New York with a tiny bit of jappiness, that there is more to life than Target and Bagels and Co. and that a new goal in my life is to help my friends and family come home- to Israel.

And when that time comes, I will tell you everything you'll need to know. I'll stay on the phone with you as long as you want, answer all your questions. I'll calm you down and build you up. I'll sit with you in Misrad Hapnim and give you the name of a great manicurist/real estate agent/pediatrician/handyman. I will do whatever it takes to have you here with me and Ariella and the rest of your Jewish brothers and sisters. 

I promise!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

On Parades and Aliyah

I may have mentioned that I grew up in a super pro-Israel household. The Israeli flag flies outside our door. I toured the country top to bottom at 13 with my family. We ate falafel at shul every Yom Haatzmaut. And most importantly, my family attended every Salute To Israel Parade down Fifth  Avenue in New York City, every year of my life. 

I was rolled through it as a baby in my stroller, flag flying behind me. I was a spectator most of my childhood, due to the chareidi nature of my elementary and high schools- Bais Yaakov of Queens may not have marched, but the Brown family most definitely attended! In 11th grade, I switched to a Zionist high school and was able to march for the first time. All my new friends yawned and complained about having to march again, but I was unbelievably excited. I even marched proudly again in 12th grade, when a large segment of my senior peers opted out. And in the college and post-college years that followed, Parade Day was one I always looked forward to, painting my nails blue and white and planning my outfits and coordinating meet up spots with my friends, some of whom I would only see on that one magical day of the year. 

I think I've also mentioned that it was never my lifelong goal to make Aliyah. For much of my young adulthood, my goals were: getting a well-paying job, finding a fellow pro-Israel  Jew to marry, settling down in some orthodox Jewish enclave and raising pro-Israel children, who would then hopefully repeat the cycle. Nothing on that list isn't exactly what 99% of my friends were hoping to accomplish as well. But about 6 years ago, when I began to become interested in Israel as a place to live, rather than a place to visit, the Parade changed for me, too. 

Deciding to move to Israel is a seismic, fundamental shift in character. It is a change in every way you can imagine, and my own move shocked everyone who wasn't intimately involved in my Zionist activism in the few years that preceded it. If you didn't see me during the years I took those 12 Birthright  groups to Israel, you would think I was the same Jordana who sang "Hatikva" at my Young Israel's 5k run-walk for Israel".

But once I decided that Israel was the place I had to live, because I am a pro-Israel Jew, I began to feel something odd at the parade. This isn't going  to be a blog where I berate everyone for not making Aliyah- I'm sure that will come someday, but not today. This is just my view as Jordana in Jerusalem, and maybe a bit of food for thought as well. 

Supporting Israel is great. Visiting Israel for Sukkot is great. Donating to Israel  is great. Singing hatikva in your Young Israel is great. Hanging the Israeli flag outside your home is great. Cheering on Team Israel at the World Baseball  Classic is great. Eating a shwarma on Main Street that Dudu sold you is great. Painting your nails blue and white is great. Dancing to Omer Adam at your house party is great. And going to the Salute to Israel Parade is great!

But it is not the goal, or at least it shouldn't be. Even if you think Aliyah isn't for you- it's so hard (it is), you'll be poor (you will), it's too far (sooo far), you don't speak Hebrew (lo norah), the people are mean (yeah, but they're also so nice!) and every other excuse I've heard a million times, it should be an ideal. Something you wish you could do, you hope to do someday. I promise you, ten years ago, Aliyah was not in my plans. But it was always an ideal, something I wished I could do. And ten years later I did!

Just think about it, and have an amazing time celebrating our country at today's parade!
My last parade before Aliyah