Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When The World Has Gone Mad

              I've had several conversations with friends in the past few weeks (since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge) about just how confused they are. Was it just June, when their Facebook walls were filled with pictures of weekends in the Hamptons and Buzzfeed quizzes ("What color is your aura?" "I am such a purple!")? Suddenly, their feeds have become a battleground, filled with anti-Zionist diatribes and calls for all Jews (themselves included) to immediately denounce Israel and take up the Palestinian cause. Their friends will engage them aggressively, pepper them with questions, throw back-handed insults at them, and generally make them uneasy with the fact that as Jews, they are right to support the Jewish Homeland from attacks, both physical and ideological. Now, my experience has been blessedly different. I would guess 90% of my Facebook friends are pro-Israel, 5% are indifferent and the last 5% are those well-meaning "equivocators" who just want both sides to be right and both sides to be wrong. Mmmmkay. So with absolutely no authority other than my own experience, I've created a list to calm you down and build you up, so you can tackle the hatred coming your way with confidence and strength. Hope it helps:

Be calm: I put this one first, because it's the one I too have to work hardest to put into practice. We, the Jewish/Israeli side, wants this war over. I have yet to speak to a person who wants it to drag on, endangering the lives of more of our precious soldiers. We also want Hamas disabled, the rockets to stop, and the tunnels destroyed. That is why we are still fighting. The objective on the other side is more complex. Simply put,  Hamas (and those who support them) wants Jews gone. From the West Bank, Israel, Europe, America, what have you. It is in their charter. Their reason for existing, as a terrorist organization, is to eradicate the Jews. This may panic you. Keep a clear head. Never be the person screaming "Death to ----!" The (rational) world will see the signs that say "Hitler was right!" and "Death to Jews!" and they will hopefully understand the mental instability of the other side. Were they to see Jews/Zionists doing the same, it would give them all the permission they need to blame both sides equally. This is not an equal fight. This advice applies to rallies as well as Facebook and social media. We can not curse and we can not WRITE IN ALL CAPS. We are better than that and we are smarter than that.

Be real: Get rid of the noise. If you haven't defriended or been defriended by those anti-Zionist friends of yours, I highly suggest doing so, or unfollowing them. While I don't know how deep your friendships run, I do know that a major aspect of anti-Israel sentiment is a latent anti-Semitic feelings, and I, personally, have little in common with people who, I dunno, hate my nation and Homeland. If you don't want to cut the cord, maybe unfollow their postings. That way, you'll have a few less pieces of propaganda clogging up your feed.

Be realistic: If you have people who virulently hate Israel, enough to repeatedly post negatively about it and argue the Palestinian side regularly, you will not change their mind. They are not "on the fence" or "apathetic" to the situation. There is absolutely nothing you can say to bring them around. You can't link them an article, a video, or a graphic perfectly explaining Israel's just position and have them say "Wow- I never thought of it that way! You are so right! Thank you for shining the light of truth into my eyes!" This is a fantasy. That brings us to...

Be informative, but not a one-person PR firm: I can appreciate you all wanting to share a cool video or article or infographic with your friends and family on Facebook and social media. That said, if you share every single one of those you see, you will do more harm than good. There is nothing that will annoy a real-life acquaintance/Facebook friend more than 25 JewsNews articles a day. "What is with this chick? Enough with the op-eds! Unfollow!" While it's great to share interesting information, it's greater to sift through that information and share that one knock-your-socks-off piece so that people actually take it seriously. This leads me to those of you who are maybe not so in-the-know:

Be informed: Many of you know Israel is in the right, support Israel, but can't articulate yourself. Get to know that facts and figures. Watch a video (maybe ones titled "Israel's position in under 5 minutes!" or something like that), do the research, ask a friend who seems like they may know the answer or where to find it. I would obviously prefer you check resources less biased against Israel (I'm lookin' at you CNN, the Guardian, NYTimes, MSNBC, Haaretz, Politico, etc, etc) but even biased media has been reporting the truth about the tunnels and human shields. So get in the trenches with us, so that when your friends come at you with fake facts and figures ("The death toll! The civilians!") you can respond with actual facts to refute their claims. Take the death toll, for example- dazzle your friends with these factoids: One of the most unbalanced death tolls in history was the German vs. Allies during WW2- weren't the Nazis in the wrong then? And where are the death toll numbers coming from? Hamas itself! And why is the reported civilian casualty rate exactly the same as was reported in Operation Cast Lead (82%)? Come prepared, if not to change anyone else's mind, then to sharpen your own.

Be aware: Anti- semitism is real and it's back. Or did it ever really leave? We are living in an era where Jews are being assaulted, shops are being burned, swastikas are being spray-painted, and holy sites are being desecrated. It may not be pre-war Europe, but Europe is inching eerily closer to their usual ways- consistently present throughout history during the Inquisition and the Crusades, the pogroms and the blood libels. And you need only to listen to the chants "Death to the Jews, Back to the Ovens!" to realize that this is also a Jew thing, and not just an Israel thing. Is this to say that the whole world hates Jews? NO! It is to say that we need to be aware, and we need to stand together, against the hatred. This brings me to the most important tip:

BE PROUD: Your detractors want you to be scared. They want you to not answer back, they want you to turn against your homeland. They delight in every single Jew who publishes an article slamming the state of Israel or other Jews. They publish photos of those crazy Hasidic looking men who rally with the jihadists. I know many of you don't feel very Jewish. You may not have done anything Jewish at home, you may have no Jewish friends and you may not care at all about the Jews as a people. But I care about you. And I want you to have pride in the fact that you are Jewish- whether you learn Torah every day or just eat lox and bagels. I want you to realize that we are part of a special people, a kind people, an accomplished people. We are a people who values knowledge and compassion and life, not a people who values death and destruction and annihilation. Be proud like our ancestors before us were proud. And let that carry you through these hard times we're seeing. I will leave you with this quote I love from Menachem Begin:

"We did not return to our historic homeland through the right of might, we returned here through the might of right."
May G-d bless and protect you, the IDF and the State of Israel.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


              I don't know if you've heard but tourism is down. Birthrights are half-empty, study- abroad programs are canceling on their students, and families are postponing their trips to the Holy Land. I feel it is my solemn duty as a member in good standing of Israeli society that I help turn this ship around. 
              Should I talk about the beautiful Mediterranean Sea? The historically and spiritually unparalleled sites? The gorgeous guys and gals? We already know all that. What you may not know is that a trend is sweeping the country, and all it will cost you is FIVE SHEKEL! "Five shekel!?" you ask. How can this be? Even a small cup of cafe hafuch (cappuccino) is at least 8 shekel here in Jerusalem. Not anymore!
             My new obsession is the Cofix and Cofizz coffee shop chains popping up all over Israel. From the outside, all it looks like is a sleek little cafeteria, selling sandwiches, pastries and beverages. But one cursory look at the menu will shock and delight you: every single item is five shekel! Want a sandwich? 5 shek! A fresh squeezed juice? 5 shekel! An iced coffee to feed your newly acquired iced coffee addiction? Just 5 shekel! These stores are not only ubiquitous in larger Israeli cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but they are shaping the prices of the cafes that surround them! Popping up all over Ben Yehuda these days are cafes, coffee houses and bakeries, touting fresh and delicious treats for one small coin!
               To be fair, Cofix is the brand that truly has my heart. In addition to all the usual goodies, Cofix has a full bar, offering a glass of wine, beer or even something harder (if you're into that sort of thing) for just 5 shekel! And this ain't no happy hour, kids! If you are a weirdo who likes an 11 AM glass of vino, you can have one for just 5 shekel! So popular is Cofix, a long line every night has made Cofix more popular than any other bar in town! Additionally, they sell various kitchen utensils and pre-shabbat goodies, all for that magical price.
               I know it seems as though this is an ad, but I am not getting paid (although I am certainly not opposed!) I am simply putting the word out to both those on their way here and those on the fence about visiting. Just another wonderful reason to make Israel your next vacation destination.
Here is my offer to you- come on home to us and visit! I will buy you a beer!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dear Birthright, I Love You

                Today I was sent an article posted on an online publication, where the author ostensibly blames Taglit-Birthright for the death of Max Steinberg, an American IDF soldier who died this week during Operation Protective Edge. I will not link the article, nor name the author or publication, because neither deserves recognition of any kind. In her diatribe, she asserted that Birthright is indirectly to blame for Max's death, due to the fact that they brainwash their participants into joining the IDF or making aliyah, and if not for this hideous mind-control, Max would be comfortable and safe in California. Two things struck me immediately. The first is that it takes a special kind of self-hatred and lack of compassion to use the occasion of a soldier's death to strike a blow to Taglit-Birthright. Imagine a person, upon hearing the horrifying news of a Jewish boy dying in battle, thinking to herself "I should write an article blaming a Jewish organization, and indirectly the entire state of Israel, at this exact point in time." Boggles the mind.
                The second thought I had, and the reason I am writing this post, is to show solidarity with one of the greatest things to happen to world Jewry in the last 65 years. I am writing in defense and recognition of Taglit- Birthright. 
                It is no secret that I love Birthright. I have taken this 10-day trip as a staff twelve times. This means I have had the pleasure of sharing the land of Israel with my young American Jewish brothers and sisters to the tune of about 450 participants! Add to that the 100 or so soldiers I've had the pleasure to meet, and the various co-staff, tour guides, medics and bus drivers with whom I've had the pleasure of sharing a cramped bus. I have seen more of Israel than most, and I've loved (almost) every minute of it. But that's just me. One rabidly- Zionist Orthodox girl's experience. Except I am not Birthright's target demo. Most of my participants had never been to Israel. Most are non-practicing Jews. Most are not particularly Zionist. Most have predominantly non-Jewish social circles. For many, without Birthright, these Jewish kids would have zero Jewish experiences and maybe even not know any other Jewish people! (I'm talking to you, Jews in Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, etc). Birthright gives Jewish kids an opportunity not only to connect with Israel, but other Jewish kids! And Israeli Jews! And Orthodox Jews (hiiiii guys!) It is a way to build a community in a world they never even knew they could belong.
              And now to the trip. I would love it if I could honestly say that it was some right-wing, ultra Zionist, indoctrination machine. But it is not. It just isn't. I've had tour guides who are right- wing, talking about our biblical ties to Israel, and left- wing, discussing their sadness at the plight of the Palestinians. I've had religious guides, making kiddush Friday night and staunchly atheist guides, wherein I made the kiddush Friday night! I've had soldiers who loved the army or, quite frankly, would have rather been doing anything else. I've had guides who took us to Sderot and the partition wall, to the border of Lebanon and kabbalist artists in Tzfat. I've had spiritual shabbats at the Western Wall, and others where the kids lounge at a pool near Masada. So do kids fall in love with Israel and their soldiers? Yes, quite often. Does it spur some on to serve their homeland in the IDF, or even make aliyah? Blessedly, yes! Does it make kids think more about their place in the Jewish world, and how that might impact their future? YES. But why is any of this a bad thing?! 
             Honestly, unless you really dislike Israel or Jews, I don't see the problem. All I see is an organization who saw a need in the world Jewish community and filled it, pouring money and love and dedication into a diaspora Jewish nation who desperately needed something to connect to. I am so grateful for the time I've spent on Birthright- the places I've seen and the people I've met. Quite honestly, some of my closest friends are former participants and staff. So I thank you for reading this and allowing me to share my appreciation with Taglit- Birthright, and I urge you all to do the same if you can.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In Tribute of Sgt. Sean Carmeli

              Life is basically a bunch of experiences, strung together over time. Most of these experiences are mundane- going to school, the bank, lunch with friends. But some change who you are and how you see the world. Last night, I had one of those experiences. 
               Israel experienced the tragic reality of a ground war yet again, when 13 brave soldiers from the Golani brigade faced a tank explosion in Gaza. Two of these soldiers were chayalim bodedim, or lone soldiers. This means that their families live outside the country, and they are here in the IDF in Israel essentially on their own. One of the soldiers was a young man from Texas named Sean Carmeli. His parents were Israeli and moved to Texas to raise a family. When he was in high school, Sean moved back to Israel without his parents, to finish school and then join the IDF. He was a sergeant in the Golani brigade infantry, and he was just 21 years old.

               Whenever there is a chayal boded, there is a fear that his or her funeral will be forgotten, or poorly attended. After all, they are not from here, they grew up in another country and their family and friends generally live abroad. Therefore, social media took over, publicizing Sean's funeral details for anyone who wanted to attend. The Haifa soccer team (Sean was a huge fan) put the details on their Facebook page, the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center publicized the details. I heard about the funeral at 7 PM and made an impulsive decision to take the next bus to Haifa (about 2 hours away) to attend Sean's funeral.
               There were a few reasons I made this decision. Most obvious is that I wanted to pay final respect to a soldier that had given his life for his country and his people. But more than that, I felt a pull, a need to represent American olim, those of us who had grown up as American Jews like Sean, spoke English like Sean, loved America like Sean, but decided to move to our Homeland. His story was similar to that of Michael Levin, another lone soldier, killed in the second Lebanon War. An American kid, filled with a tremendous Zionism, I always wished I could have met Michael, or attended his funeral. It was important for me to do whatever I could to represent American olim for Sean Carmeli.
               The experience of getting there is a story unto itself. After arriving in Haifa, a city with which I am extremely unfamiliar, I asked everyone on every platform if they were going to the funeral, or if they knew where it was. No one was, and I started to worry. I finally got vague directions and boarded a bus to the cemetery area. As the bus made its stops, it began to fill. And fill. Until at the cemetery stop, the bus was standing room only. Once off the bus, all you could see was people. People on foot, in cars and on buses. People in uniforms and plainclothes. Men and women (and a few children), religious and secular, Hebrew and English-speaking. It was an absolute mass of humanity, all at a cemetery at 11 PM in Haifa to pay their last respects to a soldier they never even met.

             People (myself included) hopped over fences and ringed the graves, jostling for a spot to see something, to hear something, to be a part of the community. Haifa weather is most unlike Jerusalem. In the summer, the air is as stifling at night as it is during the day, still and humid. It was not a comfortable feeling, but it felt appropriate for the time- it was not a comfortable situation. Bodies parted as his coffin, draped in the Israeli flag, was carried through the crowd by Sean's comrades, followed by his grieving family. Instructions were given to the crowd in case a siren should sound- get to the ground quickly, cover your head. It was our new grim reality here in the midst of our communal grief.

             Prayers for the IDF and the people of Israel were recited. Sean's father recited the most heartbreaking kaddish for the crowd- the cries of "Amen" filled the air. The mayors of Ra'anana and Haifa spoke, as did his high school principal. They talked about how he loved sports and his girlfriend, how he was a good student, and how his family were pillars of the Texas Jewish community where they live. His family recently became more religious, and Sean spent some time before the army learning in yeshiva. How Sean would talk about his family when he was with his unit, and his unit when he was with his family. How Sean was told he didn't have to serve right now, due to a wound on his foot but chose to stay with his unit in their time of need. They mentioned his ever-present smile, and always positive attitude. There was even a speech in English, enabling me to soak up every word I could about this impressive young man, taken way too soon. I was able to get to know this beautiful boy who I would never actually know. The service ended with a gun salute, and the crowd dispersed. 
                Estimates of attendance were between 12-40,000 people. We did not know Sean. But we all loved him, and wanted to thank him for his sacrifice. It is because of people like Sean that we are able to live in our Homeland. What struck all of us in attendance most was the absolute sense of unity we felt as a Jewish nation. When you are in grief for a fallen soldier, religious differences and cultural differences and political ideologies are forgotten. We all, every one of us, lost our brother Sean Carmeli, and we all came to mourn our fallen hero. May his memory be a blessing to his family and the whole nation of Israel, and may we all know no further sorrow.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Home is Where the Ulpan Is

               Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I moved into my ulpan dorm last week, and the only place where wifi is available is the common area in the lobby, and since my preferred blogging position is cross-legged on a bed listening to Britney Spears (yep, still) and wearing pajamas, this new arrangement isn't quite working for me. 
               If this post makes me come off as a spoiled American oleh, kvetching about first-world problems, well- that's probably a valid complaint. As far as New York Japs go (dispensing with the formality of being outraged at my employing the word "Jap") I would say I'm a solid 5.3. I can rough it if I have to, I can kill bugs, I can eat on the floor/grass, my grooming regimen is pretty normal, but at the same time- I like nice things, I have more pairs of shoes than most full-sized families, and my cooking skills are virtually nonexistent. So when I came to my new home for the next 5 months (we'll see...) my expectations were about what a seminary girl or university student might expect from her new dorm home for the next year. Oh, those heady days with my biggest fear being how small my closet would be.
             When applying for ulpan, you are told the rooms accommodate two or four residents each. Requests are not allowed, but (obviously) I wrote an impassioned email to the ulpan, imploring them to have pity on a single oleh in my current stage of life, and put me in a room of two. Lo and behold, I enter the ulpan and am informed that there is a magical rooming option called "a 3- person room!" Two people sleep in a larger bedroom and then there is one tiny adjoining room- big enough for a bed and 2 shelves. I honestly saw this room and little sparkling hearts appeared before my eyes. I wanted this room. So I asked, in my most charming possible way, if before anyone else moved in, I might have one of those treasured rooms instead on the teeny tiny room I was to share with another person. I spoke to the madrich (dorm counselor), then the guidance counselor, and then the office assistant in charge of making the rooms. I was offered a 4 person room instead. I was gobsmacked. I know I'm new to this country, but by my estimation 4 people is more than 3 and most certainly more than 2! It was a no- go. Let the record show "In July of 2014, Jordana Brown did not get what she so politely requested, and she still lived." So, on to the room that I begrudgingly moved into.
               During orientation, we were told that we are the 130th session of our ulpan. That means our ulpan has been functioning for over 65 years. To say that my room has not been renovated since then is no exaggeration. We are talking original electricity, plumbing, furniture and grime. We are talking Six-Day War- era luxury. We are talking Yom Kippur War-time facilities. There is no air-conditioning in the room. Thankful as I am for Jerusalem's blessed nighttime breezes, they are often accompanied by the rowdy noise of the students outside at 1 AM. So what's it gonna be- sweaty but quiet or breezy and raucous? You choose! Let's take a tour of my domicile, shall we?
              First to the beds. You know when you have a child over to your house, and he's only but 5 years old, so you keep a small bed in case he sleeps over? That is our bed. A mattress as thick as a notebook, wedged into a tiny metal bed frame. Two shelves and an adorably rickety desk,  round out the bedroom furniture. Did I mention my roommate and I are so physically close to one another we can stare lovingly into each other's eyes and share secrets all night? We can, except we're adults, so we don't.
                Onto the kitchen. A welcome surprise! Although it was left to us in a condition somewhere in between dirty and the kitchen-that-time-forgot, we still have a cute little fridge/freezer, a whole bunch of cabinets and drawers (which I will likely use to store excess shoes) and a burner/hot plate combo. It is the bright spot of the dorm, and my new happy place. 

To the bathroom, possibly the most shock-inducing room in out palatial dormitory. There is the shower, a misnomer as it is basically a continuation of the floor with a spout on top, a sink; which only has pressue on the "hot" tap, of course, and then the "medicine cabinet" which is currently housing my Advil. And it's full. Add to this the prehistoric grime my roommate and I have to eradicate, and we most certainly are living the Israeli dream.

                   Any of you who know me know that I have a lot of clothing/shoes/accessories. You saw me packing and thought "where will she keep all this?" Well, I am here to inform you that you were all correct! I have 2 large and beautiful clothing cabinets except for the niggling fact that I have to share them! On our little, tiny hanging- clothing rod, of which I was given half, I have essentially put 3 items of clothing on every hanger. I have turned my closet into a virtual rummage sale, or the clearance section at TJ Maxx. Nothing makes sense. Denim vests on shabbat dresses, leather jackets over maxi dresses- it's chaos in there!

                  But let's end this post on an up- note! I am trying to make this work. I am working to make this dorm my home. I am putting up pictures and posters. I am keeping things clean, neat and orderly. I am stocking my fridge with essentials (and by essentials I obviously mean cereal and cheese.) I am picking up cute (and cheap!) wastebaskets and other assorted knicknacks to brighten up the place. And I am constantly telling myself- you live in Jerusalem, the most beautiful home in the world! It ain't so bad!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Back to School, Back to School

             You know that dream we all have where you are sitting in class, about to take a test, and you completely blank on everything? Including your name and how to correctly hold a pencil? Usually, these dreams peter out over time, as we move further from our school days, but I'd estimate I still have them 3-4 times a year. That is 3-4 mornings where I wake up in a cold sweat, wondering why in the world I signed up for physics when I barely passed chemistry! Then I calm myself down, put on my grown-up clothes, and drive my grown-up car to my grown-up job. I have been done with school for many years, and always assumed I was done forever. But now I'm back!
             I haven't gone back to college or university or trade school or anything (although I'm looking into becoming an electrician- those guys make a fortune here!). I am spending the next 5 months in an Ulpan program, where I will intensively study Hebrew language, 5 days a week, 5 hours a day. My goal is to become fluent, or at least on the road to fluency. It kills me that after being in Israel a million times, spending 12 years in Jewish schools and a tremendous amount of time with Israelis, I am essentially at a 6 year old level, at least grammatically. And if you know me, you know that I take grammar seriously. So I signed up for this program, where my classes are free and my living expenses are subsidized (more on that in my next post- lots to say about my new accommodations!) 
             I haven't really moved in yet but I got to the ulpan yesterday to speak to an administrator about some informational stuff I needed. Little did I know that I was late for an orientation! People may joke that I am late to meet them ("In the car! On the highway! Traffic!") but for the first day of school? I am Swiss-precision, generally. So I get to the ulpan and see a gaggle of Israeli staff, informing the new students of various rules, requirements and factoids. So I stood outside, like an interloper rather than an actual student, and listened to one teacher after another take a crack at a "Hebrish" (Hebrew+English hybrid) introduction. 
            After the intros, I realized that I was wholly and completely unprepared to start classes. I didn't have my passport photos on me, or my teudat oleh, I hadn't gotten my student card, and I was apparently late to take my placement test. Have you ever had your nightmare actually come true, almost to the letter?! So I begged apologies, promised I'd have everything ready by class time, wrote down all the information I was given (pro tip- teachers love when you take notes) and headed over to take my Hebrew test.
           If you are reading this and you don't know me well, you should be aware of 2 facts about me: 1) I need to excel at my studies, or else I get anxious and 2) I will do the absolute minimal amount of work/studying to accomplish this. This is why this test was really up my alley. There was no studying required, and I think I did pretty well. There was a multiple choice section, basically focusing on you spoken- grammar knowledge, a written section (where I wrote a 4th grade-level paragraph about my first day in Israel post aliyah) and a short conversation with 2 of the most Israeli-type Israeli ladies I've ever met. At the end of it, they told me I spoke "very nicely" and I just about floated out of there. 
           Another interesting part of testing day was meeting the other students. There are both internal (living at the ulpan) and external (living on your own) students and we hail from all over the world. And by all over the world, I mean France. I'm kidding, but also not. There are a load of French Jews fleeing France right now, and I totally get it. As an American, you move to Israel, where most of the people you know here are also American olim (okay, maybe Canadians too) and you assume that everyone in your ulpan will be American, though hopefully not New Yorkers. I'm hoping I fill the New Yorker quota. But the reality is, I was one of the only English speakers! There were French, Italians, Latinos, Russians ("wherever ya go, there's always someone Jewish!") but basically just me and a few Brits speaking the Queen's language. So I essentially just spoke to them for now, biding my time until both myself and the others can all have beautiful and meaningful conversation together- in Hebrew!
           As soon as I know my class level results, I'll pass them along, in addition to a detailed post about my impressions of my new home base here in Jerusalem. Until then- shalom, chaverim! (Goodbye, friends!)

Monday, July 14, 2014

"Stay Safe!"

           Every time I start to write a post about my day to day life acclimating to a new country and a new culture, I am jarred back to my current reality in the form of a "buzz." I want to write about my shabbat in a chareidi area and --"buzz." I have a funny story about my foray into Tel Aviv and-- "buzz, buzz." I mentioned earlier that I downloaded an app which alerts me to every rocket fired by Hamas toward Israel. When I first downloaded the app, the buzzes jarred me. My cousin and I would call out "Sderot. Ashkelon. Ashdod. Ashkelon..." 
            But soon the locations changed, the net widened. "Tel Aviv, Hadera, Jerusalem, Beersheba..." until no place was safe. Just today, "The Golan Heights?!" (Thanks for your help, Syria!) While leaving Beit Shemesh Saturday night, right before heading to the bus stop, two more sirens had me rethinking my journey back to Jerusalem. To risk being on a bus as rockets landed indiscriminately all over the country? Even me, in my indestructible new-immigrant fantasy world wasn't willing to chance that. So I stayed close to my friend's trusty apartment shelter and she made me a cheese toast to calm me down.
            And so to the title of this post. Normally, when saying goodbye to a friend, some common goodbyes include "see you later, have a great day, call you soon." I, and most people I meet now, will end our interactions with "Stay safe!" That is not how I would ever fathom ending conversations in Queens, New York. The Bronx, New York? Maybe. But Queens? The Five Towns? The Upper West Side?! Nope. 
            I remember the fears I had before I made aliyah (even just reading old blog posts, I can laugh) where I was anxious about making friends, finding a job, navigating bureaucracy and tackling the language barrier. Now I think about whether I'll be in the shower when a siren goes off, how to help fight a losing media battle on Israel's behalf, and whether my mother will really, truly lose it with worry over me at some point soon. I worry that there will be no end to the rockets, that this life will become the new normal. I fear that the Iron Dome will prove fallible (G-d forbid), that tourism will stop and the economy will suffer. I worry that people will stop visiting me, stop visiting their home. I worry about people I know every time a rocket reaches a familiar address. I check in with friends in Tel Aviv, friends in Arad, in Haifa. I worry that my precious homeland is in danger.
             But to be honest, I don't worry too much of the time. When the sirens sound and I am praying for our safety, I allow myself those moments of worry. I allow my mind to wander into darker places. But it never stays there long. Because, at the end of the day, I am a person of faith. I feel like I am lucky, to have a faith which constantly reminds me that "if He sees you to it, He'll see you through it." It is my faith that allows me to laugh off the fears of family and friends in the States. And it is that faith that realizes that while Israel has seen better days, she has also seen worse ones. And so when I say goodbye now, I always say "stay safe". Because even though we'll be just fine, it's still nice to be careful.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Red Alert

          It's kind of surreal to write a post one day about running errands and then the next about hiding in a stairwell, waiting for a rocket to land, but as I've been told by numerous Israeli friends, "That's Israel!" But how did we get here? This is the abridged version of events in a completely biased, right- wing- lens type of way, because well, it's my blog.  3 Israeli teens are kidnapped and killed by terrorists, an Arab boy is kidnapped and killed by ostensibly a Jewish teen terrorist (6 arrested, 3 let go, one confessed FYI), Arab riots break out (resulting in the destruction of 3 light rail stations in Jerusalem, stoning of buses and Molotov cocktails being thrown at police officers), rallies by Jewish nationalists admittedly screaming anti-Arab sentiment, and then rockets falling into the usual areas, Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod. 
          We in Israel and the world over for some crazy reason, have become so accustomed to rockets bombarding these areas, we don't realize how truly insane it is to allow this to happen for the past decade. I just read a statistic that 25,000 rockets have fallen on these areas since the Gaza withdrawal-WHAT?! We can just accept that there are bomb shelters built next to playgrounds and baseball fields? And yet, accept it we have, as a part of Israeli life, because Sderot is not Tel Aviv and Ashdod is not Jerusalem. And it's not that the one million Israelis living in the line of fire are any less important, it's just that, to the world, their story is not compelling. 
           So 2 nights ago I went to see "22 Jump Street" with my cousin (film highly recommended) and had my mother calling me frantically. I had no idea why until after, when I heard that rockets were flying more often and further than usual. I downloaded an app for my phone which alerted me to the location of every rocket, via a buzz. Little did I know, that buzz would become my phone's most regular notification. I told my cousin, perhaps presciently, "When will people care about what's happening here? Does it have to hit Tel Aviv for anyone to notice?" He shrugged and said "Probably."
           That night was the night my cousin and I become full-on news junkies, scouring the Internet for information (which is difficult when you have to disregard CNN, BBC, Haaretz, the Jewish Daily Forward, etc, etc) that showed me timelines and statistics, rather than old and doctored stock photos of Arab mothers crying. Add to that the buzzing of our phones every few minutes (Hof Ashkelon, Sderot, Lachish...) and it was a tense night.

            The next day was kind of bizarre. I've always heard that even in times of duress in this country, life goes on, but to experience it was a whole different animal. The app's  buzzing continued throughout the day, and people would talk rockets, but life continued on, uninterrupted. Tourists toured and prayers prayed, bagel makers made their bagels. My cousin and I decided we should prepare ourselves in the ridiculously infinitesimal chance that we heard a siren. Our building was constructed in roughly 1487 (kidding, but basically) so we don't have a shelter. The buildings around us don't have shelters. According to the "public shelter map" we located, the closest shelter to us is about 4 blocks away. Now, I know I ran a half marathon this year (barely) but from the time a siren goes off, a rocket can reach Jerusalem from Gaza in ~1.5 minutes. I can not clear 4 blocks, in flip flops, in 1.5 minutes. So we decided, if need be, we would run to the bottom of the stairwell, into a corner, away from any windows, and wait it out there. But it would never be necessary, because rockets wouldn't make it all the way here!
              As I mentioned, my cousin and I had become full-fledged news junkies with perpetually buzzing cell phones, so when the location "Tel Aviv" flashed on the screen, I thought it must be wrong. Checking out "the Muqata" on Facebook (I highly recommend!) for up to the minute breaking news, I saw that the rockets had indeed reached "the Merkaz" and how insane this all was. And obviously, I calculated Jerusalem's distance from that area- a measly 40 minute bus ride. Before I could even process what this all meant for the country, a mere 15 minutes later I heard a horrific wailing siren, a sound I will never forget.
             My cousin and I looked at each other, probably let out an expletive or two, jammed on our flip flops and ran to the stairwell, like we had planned to do. We sat in the corner as the siren wailed, and I prayed. I said tehillim (Psalms) and thought about how Hashem will keep his people safe in His Holy City. After a minute of so, silence, and then the unmistakable sound of a low boom. I would later find out that boom was from the rocket hitting an empty house outside Jerusalem in Giv'at Ze'ev-no casualties, thank G-d). After a few minutes we left our stairwell, and I called my mother, shaking. Mercifully, her phone went to voicemail so I called my father. I love my mother undendingly, but she is not my crisis hotline. She's actually not even my "in case of emergency" as I can't have her yelling at the person calling to inform her of an emergency involving her child. So I called my dad, shaking and crying a little, and he calmed me down with innocuous questions about the siren, until my heartbeat normalized somewhat. And only then was I prepared for my mother to call me back, and calmly explain the situation. (PS- it didn't work and she's still freaked, but that's her style and I love her.)
             Running back to check the news, I could see that rockets had been aimed at so many population centers- Rishon Letzion, Hertzeliya, Kfar Saba- with a further and further reach. And I saw the videos of Arabs celebrating on the Temple Mount after the rocket reached Jerusalem, ignoring the possibility that they themselves could have been killed by those same rockets. I saw the US and EU and UN request restraint from the Israelis, and the pictures of Palestinian children being shepherded to Hamas targets to act as human shields. I saw pictures and videos of the brave soldiers of the IDF, preparing for battle, reservists kissing their wives goodbye as they are asked to defend their country, once again. And I kept hearing the buzzing. The continuous buzzing of more rockets falling- how do they have so many rockets? Why now? What can we do? Questions with no answers, a country with no friends in this world. 
               This experience will stay with me for a lifetime. First, I hope it is the only time I experience it at all. I hope I can tell my children about "that one time I heard a siren", as if it was just a story in my past. Second, it proved to me how much I belong here. A lot of people have been noting that I certainly picked "a crazy time to make aliyah!" And the irony is not lost on me. A million trips to Israel and when I finally make it permanent, rockets fall on Jerusalem- pretty crazy stuff. But I know that this is my country, and that my people shouldn't have to suffer while I sit in Jamaica Estates, eating Bagels and Co. People here are really my family, and it feels right to be with family right now. And the last thing I want to say about this is that I hope it makes Jews around the world and Jewish allies wake up to the realities of the Jewish State. No one is asking you to hate Arabs, kill Palestinians or defend every single decision Israel makes. What we are (I am) asking you to do is stand with Israel, make your support known, educate yourself on the Jewish/Israeli position, and don't feel guilty if you honestly discover that this is not a balanced operation. Israel didn't launch rockets. Israel doesn't target civilians. Israel is the side that truly wants peace. May Hashem protect His people, His army and His country. Amen.

Monday, July 7, 2014

All Around Town: An Errands Story

         Please congratulate me- today is my aliyah day! I know you're all thinking, "Jordana, we have been following your madcap Israeli adventures for a week now!" and you would be correct. But today is the day that I believed I would be making aliyah since April and only through a cruel miscommunication with my aliyah-liaison did I wind up leaving a week early. But c'est la vie! Another week to get myself together here! And what do I have to get done? Millions of errands! There is never a shortage of boxes to tick off on the myriad lists I have been compiling on my iPhone (right under "Lot B, section 33"- so I won't forget where I left my car in the mall that one time last year.) I've always had errands to do in New York (I'm a grown-up, thanks very much!) but they used to go faster and I think I may know why:

       This little beauty may have been perpetually low on gas (oops!) and never very clean (double oops!) but it got me from the bank to the post office to my grandpa's house in under an hour. In Israel, I can only hope to accomplish one full task in that amount of time on these 2 little legs of mine (well, average length for a Jewish girl.) The bus and rail systems in Jerusalem are quite good, but since I'm living in the center of town until my ulpan begins (shout out to the Bacharachs!) I try and walk to most of the locations I need. While this is fabulous for my cardiovascular system, in the Jerusalem summer heat, well let's just say: I'm shvitzing.
       So what are these very important errands? Let's just start with today and my new favorite hangout- the bank. After signing away my life and future offspring to the bank, they still wanted me to come back this week for my bank credit card. But did you know that the hours of the bank are insane? It closes for lunch from 1-4PM and then reopens til 6. Unless you are silly enough to want to come any day but Monday- then it closes at 1 and you, sir, can just go home! When you enter your bank, because for some reason, you need to swear allegiance to one bank in the country ("I will love you, King George Street bank, more than any other Bank Leumi!") you must get a number to speak to a woman who has no one else who needs her attention and can easily speak to you without the formality of a deli-shop number but won't. She gives you your pin number, which the bank has chosen for you and you can not change. How will I ever commit it to memory?! She informs you it cannot be changed "until 120!"- which only lessens the sting because, how cute is that little infusion of Jewishness into her bad news? So cute!
         Then, you need to take all your pertinent bank information, and give it to the Ministry of Absorption. Do you think the Ministry is open when you need it? Nope! The door is open. The guards are there. But you will have to wait 2 more hours until the ministry is back from lunch. And I thought my speech therapist schedule was light- but municipal work here is laaaaid back. So while taking a break from my last errand, I decided to run another errand! One of the only kitchen appliances I regularly used back in the old country was my Keurig coffee maker. I would go so far as to say I loved my Keurig. So I did some research and decided to bring a mini one-cup Keurig with me to Israel (a total bargain after the Bed Beth and Beyond coupon!) Of course it will work, I thought, some lady brought one with her to Germany and it worked out splendidly! And so it did, the first day. By the second, the transformer I was using decided not to transform my coffee sufficiently, and so I went to the electrical expert (and by that, I mean the guy who works in the cell phone store) to possibly switch my voltage (yeah, that sounds right!) Undetermined price for services, undetermined period of time needed to fix my Keurig- errand success!
           Back to the Absorption office, where the lady tells me I need these papers, not those papers! Luckily, I saved every one of the papers I've been given, so after a bit of sifting, I had the right papers! Haha! One win for the little guy! What I realized, after signing yet more paperwork is that I can never commit a crime. Not that I was planning to, I would just be the easiest person to find! My signature's on everything, pictures of my face are on all documents, my bank information is connected to every other network I'm in, which is connected to my US banking info- I am most definitely in the system! She informs me that I'm all set, and I have an appointment for next week. Wait, what? If I'm all set, what's the meeting for? It's to go over all my benefits, in case I have any questions. Now, I never mentioned having questions, never asked any questions; but I suppose there's something nice about being signed up for an informational session anyway. Right? Right!
           All told, I have at least 5 new cards/documents sporting my name (in English and Hebrew) and my so-happy-to-be-in-Israel smile. Here is a nice little collage I made of them while waiting on one of the 3,000 lines of which I found myself a part:
           Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading about my errands significantly more than I enjoyed running them. Oh, who am I kidding- I live for this stuff!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Let's Settle Things

         I'm really trying to keep this blog funny and silly and light and fluffy. And 99% of the time it will contain self-deprecating stories of the jams I've gotten into and the ridiculous thoughts that float through my head (like why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?!) but once in a while, I'm going to give my view on something that can be seen as "controversial" so I add the disclaimer that this is my viewpoint only, shaped by my own experiences and in large part my Zionist- religious upbringing. So this post is going to focus on "the settlements" or as I glibly refer to them "biblical Israel", "Judea and Samaria", "the Gush" or simply "Israel." Some amongst you, I'm guessing (hoping!) a minority, may know them as "the occupied territories" or "the single greatest obstacle to peace." Semantics. The reason I'm even mentioning them is because this past Shabbat (thanks to the amazing Berg and Mark families) I had the great pleasure of spending the holy day in the evil settlement of Efrat. I'm sorry, did I say evil? I meant wonderful, beautiful and special!
     To call Efrat a settlement is a little bit of a misnomer as it's basically a city, with thousands of Israel- loving Jews living, working, playing and serving their country with a joy and pride rarely seen in Tel Aviv or maybe even Jerusalem! I'm serious- these "obstacles to peace" out in Judea are madly in love with the land of Israel- every part of it. So in love with it are they that a huge percentage of them left their cushy lives in the States to live a much different and low key life out in the Gush. So in love with their country are they that their levels of enrollment in active military service are unparalleled anywhere else in the whole country. So in love with their country are they that they eschew the relative ease of living in a big city like Jerusalem or Modiin for the privilege to live in ALL the land that G-d promised the Jews so long ago. That's love!
    Not only do these folks love Israel, they're also pretty enamored of their fellow Jews. While we've heard of the horrors of "tremping" or hitchhiking here in Israel, fact is, it's kind of awesome that it's a way of life to stop and give a ride to some Jewish kid you don't even know. How many of us in NYC have ever in our lives picked up a teenager and taken him to his destination? Not me! While at lunch on Shabbat, I heard of the way the community of Efrat banded together to take care of the soldiers stationed there while searching for the kidnapped boys. The community didn't just offer blankets and water. They made every night a celebration for the soldiers, complete with barbecues, every need met, and a huge screen set up so the soldiers could watch the Mondial (World Cup)! Can you imagine the love these people have for their fellow Jew? Wow. Word on the street is that many of these soldiers who grew up resenting these same people for living in the Gush as "obstacles to peace", really had to rethink that stance after experiencing the unmatched embrace of hospitality they were shown.
      Now, I'm not here to argue the case for those Jews who hate non-Jews. That is not me and that is not this blog. I'm here to tell you about loving our fellow Jews in this country as if they are truly all part of our own family. That's rare. And special. And beautiful. And I was lucky enough to experience it this past Shabbat in "the West Bank" and I hope to do it again, many times in the future!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Ohhhh- Yom Ha'atzma'ut L'America?

        The title is an actual quote from a conversation I had with an Israeli cousin, when I told him today was a holiday for me- "oh? The Independence Day for America?" So, yes! Happy 4th everyone! I really wanted to get this post out about my first July 4th as an Israeli (and really my first time celebrating any American holiday abroad) before July 4th was a distant, hazy memory (YAY BEER!)
       I think a misconception for a lot of people is that those who move to Israel from America dislike America and want to leave it. I can't speak for everyone, but for myself and many friends, this is just silly-talk (excuse my language). I love America! I think it is the second greatest country in the world! I just decided that I should live the the greatest country in world, so that's why I moved. But America is fabulous- the food (hot dogs, apple pie #nomnomnom), the sports (baseball, football), the people (Southerners, West Coast chillers, New Yawkers, et al #notboston jkjkjk!) and mostly the free and open way of life. Politics aside, I love what America stands for, the easy access to education, the strong and brave military. And obviously the outlet shopping centers- I'm sorry! You know I hadda say it. I think America is really the bees knees. That said, I moved here to Israel, just 3 days before the 4th, so I tried my darnedest to appropriately mark the day.
         Even before arriving, I prepped my outfit by purchasing sparkly, some might say tacky, red-white-and-blue accessories from none other than that bastion of American consumerism, Walmart! And not just any Walmart- the Walmart in the Catskill Mountains! If you're gonna do a Walmart run- do it right! So earrings and headband purchased and packed, I knew I would be ready to take on the 4th. 
          But first, the 3rd. Since the 4th is a Friday this year, celebrations began the night before, in deference to Shabbat (#Jewishcountry!) I was invited to a BBQ in a park by a friend from the old country who moved her a while back and does this every year. This year, I got to go! And meet a million new people who were all friends with each other! (gulp) Now as you know, I am a sociable person, but I was feeling overwhelmed to say the least. I decided to go with my friend Gabby who lives nearby and she's so great. The only problem is that for as bad as my sense of direction is, hers is worse. We were the proverbial blind leading the blind, or rather the Waze app leading the GoogleMaps app. And still lost. And because my mother doesn't allow me to go places empty-handed, I was carrying a 6-pack of Goldstar (BudLite is hard to come by 'round these parts) and it was legit as heavy as a 6 month old baby after a while.
            When we finally found the "hidden park" as we shall henceforth refer to it, the party was happening and the food was ready. I could eat a cow, I was so hungry and luckily, the cow was ready! The one problem I had was that there were no buns. There were pitas, and no buns. Now, I know I'm a total noob here in Israel, but I wanted buns. Womp! There was a lot of hummus though and a lovely selection of beer and wine, so I made it work.
            Another funny aspect of the party was that a majority of attendees were not even American. You had your Israelis and your Brits, your Aussies and South Africans. And then your patriotic Americans, taunting the Brits among us for winning the Revolutionary War. They seemed cool with the whole thing, which leads me to believe that the school system in England isn't quite giving that war the attention it deserves in history class. 
            Anyway, when it was over, the buses weren't running as regularly so I begged for a ride from a sweet guy I had met not 20 minutes earlier. And wouldn't ya know- he said okay! The people in this country are just dolls. The next day, (today) I woke up late and had to rush to another park (Israel and their parks, am I right?) where Nefesh B'Nefesh (my aliyah organization) threw a BBQ for expats like me. It was super cute (more burgers in pitas) and I met more Israel-Americans (dolls, one and all) so I was pretty satisfied. Walking back, I passed the shuk (market) and saw all the Birthright groups prepping for shabbat (I got a strong, strong jealous twinge for a sec) and so I wished them all a shabbat shalom and a happy 4th! They looked at my outfit (jealous?) and wished me the same! Oh, here's my outfit:

          So that's basically it! My first July 4th as an Israeli- I think I nailed it, but who knows? Catch you guys in a hot sec- Shabbat shalom from Israel!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jordana Is Really Israeli!

         So last post was pretty heavy stuff but this one will be as light and fluffy as the eggs I had for brunch yesterday from Cafe Rimon! (I do brunch here most days- economical, you know.) So back to business- I'm Israeli! Like Te'udat Zehut and Te'udat Oleh and all the fun Te'udats they can bestow upon me! I will give you the timeline of the aliyah process (I got this, Nefesh B'Nefesh!) and try and spice it up so it's not just a list of activities.
         Back in JFK, I came with 4 ginormous bags, just busting with the most important items in my life (and by that, I mean shoes.) The very nice non-smiling, non-Jewish, non-Israeli woman checking me in at EL AL (go figure!) charged me for an extra bag and TWO overweight bags! So not even Israeli yet and I'm $300 in the hole. Is this what they mean by Israel making you poor? Sign me up! Moving on, I check in and say goodbye to my beautiful family. While it was certainly emotional, I couldn't help but wonder how much more so it would be if I didn't have cell phones, American phone lines, Skype, FaceTime, Tango, Whatsapp, iMessage, Facebook, Viber, email and accessible air travel to make things easier. I imagine more difficult, but hey #firstworldproblems!
           The flight was unremarkable. I was asked to switch to sit next to a woman so the hasidic man who was supposed to wouldn't be eternally damned by sitting next to a female- you're welcome, pious man! The food was meh and the movies were below meh. Like, I know I don't take in the cinema all that much, but I don't think these winners even graced the theaters, so that was a bust. I slept in preparation of aliyah, deciding to be fresh and ready for living the dream!
           Once landed, the process was relatively easy. There were about 20-odd others living the dream with me (I refer facetiously to the motto of Nefesh B'nefesh-the aliya organization- but it is really quite apt!) We were taken through customs in a special line: 
and then taken in a tram to the old airport which apparently, time forgot. Paint peeling, limited air conditioning, really made you excited to join this thriving country. (I kid, I kid.) Once seated, we were given our IDs, various information, and chose our health insurance companies. So ready to try out this socialized healthcare over here! You know it's impressive when everyone you ask for a recommendation says "choose any company- they're all fine." Yessssss bring on the fine healthcare! I also spent some time getting to know my fellow dream-livers, and exchange information, so that was lovely. After that, it was time to meet our friends/family or take our free rides to our destination. This is what I had waiting for me:
Could you plotz?! I had my beautiful Berg family, my amazing soldier cousin and look at those signs! All I could have asked for (minus the shofar I wanted blown and the personal hug from Bibi Netanyahu, but oh well!) We took my 2 trolleys of luggage out to the car and discovered that Yoni's fabulous compact sedan was most definitely too small for a Jappy American girl's 4 huge bags. 2 in the trunk and then two....on the roof? But how to put them there? No luggage straps. Hmmmm:
If you guessed a roll of cel-o-tape wrapped around the roof- you are correct! Now, to say I was nervous about my bags falling off the roof, with my shrink-wrapped clothing flying all over Highway 1 is the understatement of the century. I said quite a few personalized prayers to the One Above to keep our Pinterest-worthy luggage rack intact. And they worked- thanks G-d! 
              After a delicious sushi dinner (you can take the girl outta NYC, but...) I went to sleep early, woke up, and went over to the bank to open an account, like the adult that I am! I met a very nice lady, as typically Israeli as could be (completely uncharmed by me, completely not getting my humor- oy, this country!) and she explained the ins and outs of what I was signing, since it was in a Hebrew above my pay grade. I must be honest, it is very likely I bought a camel or sold my first born child to the state of Israel- I really have no idea. I just signed and signed until I couldn't sign no mo'. 
              That's basically the extent of my immersion into Israeli society thus far. I wish I could say it's been crazy or jam-packed but it's been pretty laid back. If you're still reading this- congrats! I know it was long, but thanks for joining me on this trip back in time! Yet to come in the next post: July 4 in Israel- 'Murrrica!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ALL the Feels

This is my first blog posting from Israel. Today, I became an Israeli citizen! I was up to my eyeballs in papers and visas and all that fun bureaucratic stuff. The last 24 (48? 72?) hours have been a blur- a compilation of people and places and tastes and smells, but mostly of feelings. Tomorrow, I will blog about the silliness of the past few days; who I met, what I ate, where I went- but today I wanted to write about my feelings. I hear that when it's my own blog, I can do that.
         I will start by saying, as you may already know, that I am a passionate person. I have opinions and fears and thoughts and emotions and sometimes, they are maybe even too strong for my own good. Well- meaning people often tell me to "tone it down" and not be so opinionated- and they are probably right. But it is this passion that led me to make aliyah, this passion that guides so many of my life's choices and it is this passion that leads me to express myself here. I am not middle- of- the- road. Centrist. Vanilla. When it comes to US politics, I am strong-minded and truly believe in those convictions. And if your convictions are different than mine, I will still love you and be your friend and go to bat for you. You probably won't convince me of your views, but I won't convince you either- and we can still go get some froyo together. When it comes to Israeli politics, I am a "hawk". I believe unceasingly and unequivocally in Israel's right to exist, to remain a Jewish state, and to protect it's people by any means necessary. So as long as we're all clear on where I stand in this blog politically, I can talk freely about how I'm feeling with regards to the heinous murder of the 3 Jewish souls yesterday, at the hands of animalistic terrorists.
          It is hard to place a finger on where my emotions have been at any one time. Once the initial shock wore off after hearing the news (while frantically packing), I was gut-wrenchingly sad. I honestly felt like a family member died. Because, actually, 3 of them did. Three of my young, beautiful Jewish brothers were murdered in cold blood, for the "crime" of being Jews. And no amount of equivocation can ever lead me to believe that any, solitary act of terror is ever justified. It will not happen. I don't care if the Palestinians are left sitting in the dark with no water for a week. It still wouldn't justify randomly murdering 3 defenseless children (and by the way, Israel would never leave them in the dark without water.) 
          After my short bout with crippling sadness came anger. White- hot anger. Now, again, I am a passionate person. But this kind of anger is rare for me. Right-wing as I am, I don't loathe every Palestinian or Israeli Arab I see on the street. Do I wish Israel was demographically more Jewish and that the Arabs could live in one of the 22 Muslim- only countries or numerous Muslim-majority countries around the world? Or even Europe? Yes, I do. I'm sorry-sue me. But on a day-to- day basis, none of this ranks high on my list of concerns. So this anger was overwhelming- I didn't know what to do with it and where to direct it. The internet and most news outlets and the statement of the presidents did not calm me down. Israel should "use restraint?" Really? That's your recommendation right now? Would that be your feeling if it was your family, your brothers? Comments and opinions flying, it was hard to compartmentalize what was irrational and what was deliberate. I'm still trying to do that. The anger will subside, but for now my mind and my mind races. It was definitely a difficult day for aliyah, one that this nation will never forget, but there is a sort of poetry about this being the day I moved here.
          When I made aliyah today, when I stepped off the plane and into the ministry where I was processed as a new citizen, I felt so many more feelings washing over me- sadness at leaving my family, fear of the unknown, delirious tiredness. But mostly, I felt pride and gratitude. Proud that I get to live as a Jew in a Jewish country and be a part of the miracle that is Israel, every single day. I can't wait to see what else is ahead.