Update from Israel

We weren’t here when the sirens wailed on Shabbos. We, with my seminary, went away to Moshav Matityahu, a mostly American closed community somewhat like a kibbutz, but without the communist ideology and specialized industry.

My best friends were here, though. And they heard the siren for the first time. Jerusalem heard it for the first time since the Gulf War, and many people didn’t know what to do. Was it a mess up? The Shabbos siren had just wailed fifteen minutes previous to announce the start of the holiday. Where should they go? How long to stay?

Lessons learned quickly in times of war.

But it’s strange, because in Jerusalem, at least where we live in Har Nof, it doesn’t really feel like a war. We’re closed, in our small neighborhood, we have buses that are safe, and we don’t hear the wail of sirens every few minutes like they do in the South. We think constantly about Jonathan’s aunts and uncles and cousins who were called into the army, who are mobilizing on the border of Gaza waiting for further commands. We cried when we heard about the three people who died in Kiryat Malachi, we say tehillim (psalms) and daven every day for the safety of the Jewish people in Israel, and all over the world.

On Shabbos, Jerusalem got a tiny nibble of what it must feel like for citizens closer to the “danger areas.” We unlocked our Miklat (bomb shelter), made sure we knew what to do, and discussed what we would do if we weren’t together at a time when the siren started to wail.

Over the past few days, I’ve thought about a lot, but mostly — what is it like to be at war with a country that doesn’t exist? What is it like to be at war with a group of people that don’t believe that you have a right to exist? With a people that have so little regard for the sanctity of life, even of their own people, that they haphazardly aim missiles at crowded cities and celebrate when they hit the fields of people who share their culture? The answer is, it’s terrifying. Much more for Jonathan’s family and the Israelis and Arabs (and Bedouins) that live in the South; for the people that have less than 30 seconds to get themselves into a bomb shelter before they hear the boom, and usually have to stay there all night.

But, we have the best army in the world, and one video can illustrate that fact to the utmost. In this video, which was shot today – Israel bombs (from an airplane) a rocket launch center located next to a mosque, and hits it with surgical precision. You can see the shrapnel flying from the rockets, the black smoke caused by the detonation of the explosives, and the mosque – which remains unharmed. Would any other army in the world even bother with this kind of precision?

We’re safe — I’m going to update as much as I can to keep everyone informed, but really, our lives haven’t changed much. We’re staying low, keeping out of crowded areas (not for fear of rockets, but for fear of demonstrations), and avoiding buses that go through Arab neighborhoods, which are most likely to be stoned. Please keep Israel in your prayers.

As usual, here’s some food for thought.

Spare Us the Pieties on Gaza

Say what you want about Dennis Prager – his politics, his beliefs; he hit the nail right on the head with this one.


Media Bias

In a blog update last year, I mentioned the unfortunate tendency that media outlets have to sensationalize political situations surrounding Israel, as well as their consistency in creating “media-hype” that victimizes Palestinians while making Israel seem like the bad guy. The blog I wrote was about what ended up being an isolated incident where an Egyptian was referred to as “Superman” several times in an article because he scaled the Israeli embassy in his country, removed the flag, and threw it to the ground in flames, giving him a new superhero name, “Flagman.”

For the past few weeks, Israel has been experiencing a tirade of rockets parading down on it’s southern cities, including Beer Sheva, where a lot of Jonathan’s family lives, killing three people this morning. For the first time since 1991, sirens wailed in Tel Aviv as rockets threatened the huge metropolis. This has prompted Israel to launch a military response, to assassinate Hamas’ largest military leader, Ahmed Jabari (who commanded the operation to capture Gilad Shalit), and to deal with a lot of unwarranted media bias from the world news.

Israel has been targeting only the areas where Hamas manufactures its weapons, the people who manufacture them, and the tunnels through which they are smuggled from Egypt. They drop pamphlets before they attack, send mass warnings to civilians of Gaza, who are trapped under Hamas’ rule, an internationally recognized terrorist organization that currently rules Gaza. They choose to build their military facilities next to and/or IN elementary schools, hospitals, libraries, mosques, and other civilian buildings.

A sample of the pamphlet the IDF drops in Gaza before every military operative.

Hamas claims that Israel cages them, puts them inside large fences, prevents them from traveling to their holy cites, withholds necessities that they need to survive, and fails to provide them with equal representation in the government. Let me clarify a few of these misconceptions:

  1. Israel left Gaza in 2005 — removing ALL citizens (it is actually illegal for an Israeli citizen to enter Gaza) — in the name of peace. Our reward: rocket fire from Gaza into Israel — over 850 in 2012 alone!
  2. Israel still provides electricity to Gaza (paid for by Israeli citizens/taxes as opposed to — you know — the people who USE it!)
  3. There are (thank G-d) far fewer Israeli casualties than Gazan casualties for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which are: a) we build bomb shelters and USE them, b) we cancel school and non-essential work in the name of protecting our citizens, c) Hamas uses dense population centers from which to launch attacks, thus using their own citizens as shields.
  4. Multiple Israeli rescue and/or philanthropic organizations consistently send aid (in many forms) to global locations struck by natural or man-made catastrophes. Now compare this to the reaction of the Palestinians on/after 9/11 (the streets of Ramallah and Gaza were filled with people celebrating the attack on the “Great Satan” — or have you already forgotten?).
  5. Israelis are prevented from traveling to and living in many of our holy cites, such as Hevron, where the tomb of the forefathers and foremothers is — it’s only open at certain times of the year, and even then, it’s dangerous to go to.
  6. Israel has agreed to countless numbers of “peace talks,” has given back land that more than equals the size of the small country, and has withdrawn military presence countless times for the sake of peace with a country that REFUSES to recognize Israel as a country, let alone recognize that the country has a RIGHT to exist. Here’s a visual:

This was the proposed U.N. Partition plan. Israel would have received an indefensible portion of land that was mostly desert and swampland, with very little access to water and other resources. They agreed to the plan. The Palestinians said no, and 7 Arab countries attacked Israel on the day of it’s Independence. With no mobilized army (the majority of the Army consisted of Holocaust survivors – remember, this was 1948), no budget for weapons, and no machinery, Israel miraculously won the war.

Following the 1967 War, where Israel captured Sinai, these are the concessions of land Israel made for peace, most recently with the disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

People who like to criticize Israel throw around words such as “occupation,” “apartheid,” and urge universities and companies alike to boycott, divest, and sanction thousands of products because they (or a fraction of the product) were made in Israel, by Israeli companies, or Israeli people. Before you get sucked into the hype of BSd, check out this video.

When I taught Hebrew school, many of my students were confused about why Israel would attack their neighbors in Gaza in 2008, and since they got most of their information from the news, they were very influenced by the media bias I want to encourage all of you to avoid. They didn’t understand the damage a few rockets could do. Surely they aren’t made out of sophisticated materials! Surely, they can’t do much damage! Obviously, Israel’s expensive military machines can cause much more, and they do, right?! So I put it in terms I think they could understand.

A brother and sister are on a car ride, stuck in the same place for a very long period of time. The brother starts to play a game my sister LOVED – poke with your finger. On the arm, and he continues to poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, and poke. This goes on for hours, and it starts to hurt. After a little while, the area becomes red, then redder, then redder, and swollen, and more sore. After a few more hours, there’s a bruise starting to appear, and the sister just can’t take it anymore. How does she respond? Does she simply “poke” back? No – she slaps him across the face – the only thing that can get him to stop. If that doesn’t work, she has to try something else, and may even result to kicking him out of the car. This is Israel’s position, except the rockets launched from Gaza, while unsophisticated, HURT. They do damage. They break buildings, burn down cars, and kill people.

Here is a list recommended reading and watching. I urge you to heed the advice of Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesperson, and be careful about where you get your information.

As for us, we’re safe in Jerusalem.

Recommended Reading:

One thing I agree with Eric Yoffe About:





Meet Chelsea, Wonderdog!

My parents rescued a dog fairly recently, and her name is Chelsea. She’s very sweet, looks just like her predecessor, Snickers, and has a thousand times more personality. Am I allowed to say that? Okay, maybe not more personality per say, but just a more…hyperactive personality.

One of Chelsea’s calmer moments. I may have been holding a toy. Or something shiny. She likes those.

Anyway, apparently the weather in Philadelphia hasn’t been so good the past few weeks (but today it’s beautiful!), so my parents had to be creative when trying to figure out how to help Chelsea blow off all her extra steam.

Luckily, she’s very smart.

I Am Allergic to Apples

Yesterday, I brought two mangoes to class to eat for breakfast. Since eating mangoes usually results in delicious juice dripping down my face, hands, and clothes (anyone else feel like they can’t ever get the stickiness off?), I decided that being in a class where we were using sefarim (holy books), I should try to find another approach.

It took me forever to eat these mangoes. I peeled them, cut the flesh off the pit, and used a fork and knife to eat the mangoes. Apparently (I obviously didn’t know this, at the time), it mesmerized everyone in my class. Afterwards, I was approached by several people, all asking:

“Do you always eat mangoes that way?”

Although I don’t always eat mangoes that way, I do usually eat mangoes over any other fruit. This, I am sad to say, is because I am allergic to the majority of other fruits.

When I was a teenager, I went to see an allergist, who did a plethora of tests. The blood tests revealed that I am not allergic to any foods.

But wait, you must be thinking, she just said she’s allergic to the majority of other fruits. Is this person insane?

I assure you, I am not insane. Both of these things are facts. I am not allergic to any foods, but I am allergic to most fruits. This is because my allergy is not the result of an allergy.

What I have is called oral allergy syndrome. It means that I am allergic to some sort of pollen that has a protein compound similar to the fruits, which gives me an allergic reaction. When fruits are cooked or frozen, I am not allergic to them because those protein compounds have broken down. I learned the hard way that those protein compounds do not break down if the fruits are freeze dried.

So what fruits am I allergic to?

Apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries (these give me the worst reaction), plums, and almost any other fruit that has a skin that you eat along with the fruit (save for grapes).

What happens to me? Nothing life threatening, thank G-d, but my mouth gets very itchy, and cherries make me lose my voice. I’ve heard that these reactions can get worse if you eat these fruits more often, so unfortunately, there’s only one way for me to enjoy these foods, which I happen to love:


See: Pie.



Mangoes in Israel

Since we’re on a limited budget here in Israel, our food choices are sometimes affected. This, however, does not stop us from stocking up on something that in America, costs way more than it does in Israel. No, I’m not talking about rice, or fish, or meat. I’m talking about G-d’s candy. I’m talking about fruit.

The fruit in Israel, specifically mangoes, which are my all-time FAVORITE fruits, are AMAZING here. The first time I bit into one was like the first time I ate a mango — it redefined what the fruits are supposed to taste like. Since I’m allergic to almost all other fruits (I can only partake in them cooked), and I want to eat them here, I’ve been making a lot of fruit-filled desserts. During the holiday, I made a delicious Apple Crisp using my mom’s recipe not once, not twice, but three times. Each time the baking dish was licked clean by all of our friends guests Jonathan me.

Sorry for the caveat — I definitely have fruit on the mind today, and I know I promised an update on my etrog jelly, but we’re having a little bit of trouble getting it to set up. It tastes delicious, but I think I over-soaked the pectin from the but I am having some trouble with my etrog jelly. Unfortunately, it isn’t setting up like it’s supposed to — I guess I over-soaked the pectin out of it! So I’m off to the health-food store to try to find some powdered pectin!

I’m meeting Jonathan there, so we’re probably going to get some falafel for dinner while we’re out — I’ll try to update again later!

While I’m here, I want to give you the chance to ask me some questions so that I can answer them on my blog. Anything you want to know about what it’s like to live in Israel? What it’s like to be an Orthodox Jew? Feel free to post a comment if there’s something you’d like to know.

Chodesh Tov! (Rosh Chodesh, the new moon, is today and tomorrow — it’s a minor festival in Judaism, and it means no housekeeping, no sewing, and definitely no laundry — all things I’m happy to not have a reason to do :-))

Hope and Change

We’re living in scary times. Living in Israel, it feels sometimes scarier than when we were in the United States — feels like all eyes of the nations are on us, waiting for what may or may not be a war.

When a drone entered Israeli airspace last week, there was very little public media surrounding it. As one of my friends posted on her facebook status:

I used to love talking about politics. Even today, give me a topic: let me talk about social welfare, the media’s sway over public opinion, the economy; chances are I probably have an opinion. And I could talk your ear off. But ask me about today’s leaders or current international relations and I’ll probably shy away from sharing ANY sort of opinion I have. And that’s because I’m quite honestly fed up.

There has been a video circulating around the internet for a few weeks which has gotten over 2 million views on youtube and has been featured in many other news articles, and I think it speaks for itself.  If you have time, I highly recommend sitting through this 19 minute video, where politicians from across party lines speak about some of their concerns with the Obama administration.

I can identify with this woman. Like her, I was also inspired by Obama’s message of hope and change, and I was excited to see him implement the new economic plan he outlined during his campaign, felt optimistic about socializing health care, and thought that he would bring the walk to follow the talk once he was in office. This is why I attended rallies and proudly cast my ballot for Barack Obama in the 2008 primary and presidential election. In hindsight, I feel duped.

Many might accuse me of being a one-issue voter because Israel is so high on my list of voting priorities, but I need to set this misconception straight.

Supporting Israel is not ONE issue. It’s MANY issues. It has to do with posterity, the preservation of democracy in the Middle East and around the world, and making sure that America has an ally in the region. It has to do with preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, something that is in everyone’s best interest, and something that this current president has on his priority level BELOW getting re-elected. The time bomb is ticking (pun intended), and Israel is not the only country that’s on the hit list.

To illustrate this point even further, the day after the Benghazi and Cairo attacks, Obama went to a political fundraiser in Las Vegas and was in a jolly mood, not choosing to mention the fallen diplomats or their security team that were brutally murdered. In response to what many countries would interpret as an act of war, Obama apologized for a defamatory video that was later proven to have zero connection to the attacks in the first place, and still can’t give a solid explanation about the attacks, including whether the administration had any previous knowledge of it, or present a plan of action for the future to the families who lost their loved ones in the terrorist attack, let alone to the country.

Just to be clear: I am not only voting based on fears about Israel. Our economy has not improved at all since Obama took office; we are are more in debt as a nation than we were when he was elected. My generation is facing the worst consequences to this current financial situation, and under the Obama administration, thanks to Obamacare taxes are going to increase for everyone, not just the “1%.”

Voting democratic to support a woman’s right to choose is noble, but a republican president won’t have much success even if he vows to overturn Roe v. Wade. They don’t get overturned by veto or by chance — and no president can just snap his (or her) fingers to remove such long-standing freedoms. Voting based solely on such an issue, my friends, would make you the one issue voter.

Obama fooled me once — and as the old adage goes — fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That’s why when my absentee ballot comes in this week, I’m going to be doing something I never envisioned myself doing. Something that, if you told me five years ago I’d be doing today, I would have never believed you.

I’m voting republican. I’m voting Romney.