Monday, July 31, 2006

post aliyah continued...

so I've finally had a taste of real Israeli beauracracy. the bank account and health iinsurance business went smoothly...too smoothly.I knew I was lucky, and that my luck had to give. and it did. at the student authority.
because I would like them to also pay for my fancy university ulpan, the nice lady told me that I had to open a tik (account) in Jerusalem, where the fancy ulpan would be. (I was in Tel-Aviv at the time.) that sounded simple enough. but my friend, who was doing exactly the same thing I was at the exact same time, only with a different office worker, heard a different seems that before they will pay for our university degree, we have to go and get ourselves drafted.
not bc they want us in the army. we're getting piturim bc we're religous. but the university apparently wants a guarantee that they won't lose us to defending the mothers, children, and noble innocent bystanders of our great nation (not to mention everyone else here) before agreeing to shell out money. I guess they don't want to lose out on the chance that we never finish a degree and fail to become productive members of Israeli society. it does make some degree of sense, despite the fact that nobody I know who has made aliyah before me has ever had this requirement. ok, it's a new rule.these things happen.
except that it's sort of a mess; forget abt getting back to Jerusalem and dealing with more desk people; I have to meet with university people tomorrow to discuss scheduling and registration. they may ask abt this (as in, "sorry, kid, you can't register until we get money from you,") and I don'know what to tell them, especially as it's sort of ambiguous as to whether or not I managed to actually open a tik with the student authority people. (she took my paperwork, made photocopies and sent them to Jerusalem. so that means....what?)
not really particularly exciting; not really even close to what the worst of Israeli beaurocracy can be, I'm well aware. I guess I just felt the need to express some frustrating Israeli-beaurocracy-aliyah story because...everyone else is doing it? sorry; as ever, it's late. but everyone always uses that excuse so I'll add...and I'm sleep-typing. for real. I mean it. really.

(not really.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


so here's the thing; I've been waiting for years to make aliyah and come to israel as an official citizen. and you get all this flak, from family members and friends, for various reasons, abt why or when you should or shouldn't go. and then a war starts and people are really on you abt not going, or postponing until "things quiet down a bit." and then you get there. and I don't mean to say it's a let-down, bc it's not. it's life. and life is what I came for, not fireworks and acrobats. but I feel like I ought to have something profound to say now that I'm here, and I don't. I'm just sitting around, waiting to get things done and for stuff to start and people to come, feeling guilty that I'm not doing more to help out. I would go up north and volunteer, but my parents are nervous enough as it is. I've already given money, and considered giving clothing. I'm not sure I'm capable of giving blood at the moment.
and I want to be able to tell you guys over in America something about being an oleh at this point in history. but the truth is, aside from my teudat oleh and new teudat zehut, I'm not really any different, at the moment, than any other American tourist, here for a summer program. which is kind of depressing until you realize "why the hell should I have anything profound to say, anyway? I'm just a kid!" but I guess we always need to feel we have something profound to say. that's what blogging's all abt right?
may G-d protect all of our soldiers, and all of our people everywhere, within and without the line of fire, and may He bring us peace in which to serve Him and fulfill His will to the utmost. oh, and Moshiach would be good, too. Amen.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Phillip Continued

I'm sure you all remember fondly Phillip, my father's pet bag. So I thought you'd like an update on his health and habitation.
This evening, my parents hosted a small get-together in my honor, as I will be making aliyah, G-d willing, on wednesday. In preperation for which, we- ah, this is a long story; see we've been trying to get rid of junk for a long time, you know, organize notebooks and folders and whatnot from the third grade (four seperate third grades, actually,)and toys and clothes and boots, and get them into storage or donate them someplace. only, us being us, we get things organized and in boxes, and then the boxes sit around in our living room, and den, and dining room, and bedrooms, at various convenient locations in narrow hallways and on stairway landings, and basically everywhere; not to mention mail and magazines and various other sorts and manner of publications, which roost in whatever homey locations they may find. it's kind of a mess. so we were trying to do something about this mess, because we had company coming over. but there is only so much you can do in such a short amount of time.
anyway, in one such pile of boxes lived Phillip these last several weeks. But tonight, Phillip's home needed to be removed. so my father removed him from his box, where he had a full window view of the dining room and all subsequent action and could observe unobtrusively contented, and placed Phillip inside his (my Dad's) hatbox, which resides in a corner of the den and has a top.
"But Dad," I protested. "Now he can't see!"
so my father turned the box around to where the holes lived (because apparently hatboxes come with peepholes,) and said "There, now he can see. See, he's afraid of crowds, so he wanted to hide, but he still wants to keep an eye on the action."
We all contemplated this thought with some measure of satisfaction(although in truth, the peepholes are angled towards the wall and not the dining room; but why trifle over petty details?)
"Hey," said my Dad suddenly, "how do you know which side has the eyes?" Phillip is a plastic Jewel bag, remember, complete with logo and handles, and a noticable paucity of facial features.
"How?" I asked.
"Same side as the ears!" cackled my Dad in response, waving Phillip by his handles.
"Dad - " I paused. I blinked. " - what?"
"Exactly!" And with a final triumphant crow, my Dad placed Phillip securely in his new home.
(Incidentally, we had a chocolate fountain at my party. It was cool.)

Monday, July 10, 2006

I'm currently reading a book entitled "Never Mind the Goldbergs" by a Matthue Roth.It is about a girl who grew up in a modern orthododx community in NY, and gets chosen to star in a new tv sitcom about a modern orthodox Jewish family, something a la The Cosby Show, only modern orthodox instead of black. My feelings on this book are mixed up at the moment, I'm still trying to figure out what the point is. In the beginning I hated it. I liked it more as it went on, although it still disturbs me in bits and pieces. I somehow feel that the author didn't grow up in an MO community; also, even if he did, he's a guy. Now I know that in most Orthodox communities, there are always those guys and girls that hang out, and in doing so, talk to each other. That doesn't mean that they share the same religous experience at all, though. The world of orthodox Jewish females and the world of the orthodox Jewish males are vastly different, which makes me a bit skeptical of this man's ability to write a convincing or entirely truthful account of a teenage girl's experience. Despite that, he does succeed in portraying a not uncommon personality within the Jewish community. "Hava" becomes more and more believable as the book goes on. She becomes more beleivable in the "Jewess among goyim" role than she ever was as "loner punk rock girl among Jews." I think it's the loner part that gets me; this isn't an uncommon personality type within the orthodox community. The fact that she can find no one else like herself in all of NY is what I find the most unrealistic. It could happen in one of the smaller communities, like Seattle or somwhere in Texas, although even there similar people find each other. In New York it just isn't that likely.
I think the main fault of the book (besides it's innacuracies, which aren't as many as you might expect, but still glaring, when they occur)is that I'm not really sure what the author is trying to say. Is this a commentary on the Modern Orthodox Jewish community? On Hollywood? Is it merely the story of one girl's own journey towards self-discovery? I think if the message were a little more clear, it might not bug me so much.
Anyway, somebody else please go read it and let me know what you think of it. I need another perspective.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Jewish Weddings.

I know you're all rolling your eyes at me. that's fine. I just wanted to say (bc I was just recently at one) that there's just something about a Jewish wedding that seems to embody everything about the Jewish community. you've got all walks of the community represented (or several communities, depending on the wedding) people who would never talk to each other normally, coming together to fulfiill this one common mitzvah. And there's something about the moment that brings out all our most Jewish qualities. I'm not even sure how exactly to explain what I mean by that, but I know that it's true. Maybe it's because the wedding is the physical manifestation of the heart of our community. you know, wedding is the beginning of the family, which is the building block, the microcosm, of the Jewish community. somehow, at weddings, you tend to see the best in everyone; everyone's just so honestly happy for the chatan and kallah, and they all just want to do this mitzvah of making them happy on their special day. It's just a time completely centered around mitzvot; the mitzvot that couple are performing that day, the mitzvot all the guests are doing by being there, every mitzvah that will ever occur in the home of this couple or by any of their children,grandchildren, great-grandchildren, all start on this night, in this wedding hall. it isn't just about what's happening right then, but about everything that is to come, and what is to come are whole new lives and worlds of people serving G-d. It's a pretty powerful thing, and it's something that hangs heavily in the air, like humidity; and it's played out physically in very moment of dancing and singing and shtick. it's good stuff. the stuff of poetry and ballads and whatnot, only I'm done playing the troubadore for the moment. (sorry to ramble; it's late and I'm exhausted as usual.)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Why I Am Making Aliyah

As the date of my making aliyah and becoming an official citizen of the state of Israel comes closer I find it more and more difficult to articulate why exactly it is I am doing so.

My reasons for wanting to move to the Land of Israel have always been emotional, largely. Of course, there is the whole "It's a mitzvah, and G-d wants us to," which, really, is reason enough in itself. There is the whole "The future of Judaism is not in America," bit. (If I may quote a friend who recently made aliyah; he told me a story about his grandfather when he left Russia to go to America. Upon leavng, his father told him, "remember,we didn't start out in Russia, and Chicago is not the last stop.") There's the whole "I want to be with my nation throughout all the birthpangs and tribulations of the Messianic era, not watching it on a 62 inch plasma screen tv and leather couch thousands of miles away," bit. I want to suffer as my people suffer; I don't want to be the one who assuages her conscience by sending money.

But increasingly, it's the emotional conncection to the land. I've been saying I planned to make aliyah as soon as I could since ninth grade. One could not say that the schools I attended were particularly Zionistic. And while both my parents fully support the state, and are basically Zionists, they never really drilled the militant Zionism into us as kids. I never even knew we had Bnei Akiva in my city until I went to seminary and heard from others about Bnei Akiva kids from my area. I'd never even been to Israel until I went in the winter of my senior year, to look at seminaries.
It cannot be denied that I had quite a few very close friends who were militant Zionists, and I can't exactly in good conscience say that their effect was minimal. Nor can I say with any definite certainty that I would be able to make aliyah on my own if these friends weren't already there/coming with me. It may be I would've anyway; I suspect something of the kind. But I will never know for sure.

In any case, the fact of the matter is, I never really had any desire to stay in America. To put it simply, there is nothing here. I mean, yes, of course, there are many institutions of Torah Study, many frum communities, many great Rabbanim, entire religous orginizations and institutions that do vast amounts of good in this world not to mention communities in great need of educational and various other sociological reforms that one might be able to say it's our responsibility to try to correct. But I can't help feeling those things are all superficial; a band-aid of Judaism to cover the vast yawning emptiness that lies beneath all life in America. To put it quite simply, I can't see any reason to be here. Not when G-d graciously gave us the invaluable gift of His land.

There are all sorts of logical arguments; one could bring up the Jews of the era between the Temples, when the prophets were telling the people it was time to come home now, G-d said so, and they didn't, because they were too comfortable, they didn't want to give up their large houses and businesses and whatnot. One could argue that G-d wouldn't have bothered allowing some forty-odd nations to vote for a Jewish state in 1948, and protect the same state in every single subsequent war from all her multitudes of enemies, if He didn't intend for some of us to live in it. Maybe more than some of us. Maybe if enough of us were there...ah, well, anyway. There's plenty of those.

And I believe in all of them. But honestly, my reasons have always been more perceptual than logical, and perception is always emotional. The more time I spend in Israel, the less connected I feel to that place in which I was brought up, despite the fact that all my family is here, not to mention a lifetime of memories and traditions. I'm kind of a sentimental person, too, very nostalgic. I have a hard time when my good friends redecorate their living rooms and kitchens, to say nothing of the trauma caused when I came home from my shana aleph to find my Mother had re-done the bathroom upstairs. It wasn't even the entire bathroom, mostly just the sink and the cabinets, but I couldn't help it, the place smells different. My point is, for me to feel disconnected to my childhood haunts and find myslef longing for a land I've only spent a year and a half out of nineteen and a half years in, is kind of a big deal. but the fact of the matter is, I no longer feel at home here, if I ever truly did, and I simply can't see myself living here for good any more than I could see myself living in Timbuktu. (Although, isn't it warm there? that might make it a more likely spot for me than here, anyway. I'm sick of the cold.)I wouldn't be able to stand it here, I'd go nuts.

The fact of the matter is, I'm not sure that I'm coming across in any understandable manner, I think I'm babbling, and I don't think I could ever do a better job of explaining myself, because everything's too jumbled up emotionally for me. But I can say that I sense that anything of any real importance that happens to the Jewish people in the near future will likely happen in Israel; and I can say that I want to be a part of my nation's history, not a bystander. I can say that I want to raise my children in a country where Judaism means something more than what you're wearing. I can say that I want to spend the rest of my life in a country where I don't have to wonder "what the hell am I doing here?" every time I look out the window.

None of these are arguments meant to convince people to make aliyah. I can't do that this way, because I'm too emotional and jumbled, and you can't argue emotion, it's either there or it's not. I'm not saying there aren't arguments for it, and I'm not saying I couldn't make those arguments, were I asked the properly leading questions. But somebody asks me why I want to make aliyah in 25 words or less - because it's the right thing to do, because now is the right time to do it, and because, quite simply, I cannot live anywhere else.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Friday afternoon, I recieve a text message from my father reading "can u quick see if my pet bag phillip is ok important."
I sent him a reply reading "sorry I'm not home so I can't. also, what?!" to which he did not respond.

Later that afternoon I was wandering around in my dining room, setting the table. my father came in to get something and he said to me, "Look behind you." I turn around. there's nothing there but some cardboard boxes that have been sitting there for weeks, on their sides so that their contents are exposed to the world.
"Look," he insists, pointing. "It's Phillip."
"My pet bag, Phillip." Phillip is a plastic shopping bag, of the Jewel or Dominick's variety, brown and rolled up, inside one of the cardboard boxes.
"Why is he in the box?"
"He's happy there," my Dad explained earnestly and sort of fondly. "he can kind of watch everybody and hear everything everyone is saying, and see everything, and he isn't worried about people throwing him out or the cats bothering him...I think he looks sort of cute, all rolled up in his box."
"But what about food?" I asked. "Where does he go to the bathroom?"
"Food?!" cried my Dad indignantly. "He's a plastic bag! what's the matter with you? plastic bags don't need food! ridiculous!"
after which outburst, there was clearly nothing to do but apologize for insulting Phillip and all of plastic bag kind in general with my insensitive questions.

apparently, my parents had been out somewhere and saw a bag from abt half a block away that was all crumpled up funny and my Mom thought from a distance that it was a cat. only it wasn't, it was a plastic bag. this plastic bag was not Phillip, according to my Mother. my Father claims that it is in fact the same bag. in any case, I guess the idea was planted in my father's mind from that experience, and the same day he brought Phillip home from the street to be loved and tenderly cared for.

And verily, thus we acquired an addition to our household, our pet bag Phillip. although he's really my Dad's pet, but we all praise and admire him to make my Father happy.