Thursday, February 26, 2009

KCC 39

The latest edition of the Kosher Cooking Carnival is available here.

Special thanks to Batya for including my blueberry cake post.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Things your shaliach never told you: Rosh Chodesh edition

The title refers to what the famous Treppenwitz explains as:

“There is a genre of 'war story' common to almost all western immigrants to Israel, known as 'Things my 'Shaliach' never told me'. Some, whose Aliyah experiences may have been bumpier than the norm, might even amend that to 'Lies my Shaliach told me.'

I suppose that the modern way of saying this would be: “Things NBN Never Told You”. But since our aliyah pre-dated NBN, I’ll stick to the original formulation.

In any event, here are two things which you may not know about life in Israel:

1. KacholavanKacholavan is an amalgamation (is that the word I want?) of kachol (blue) and lavan (white). It refers to an outfit composed of a white top and a blue skirt/pants. Many new olim aren’t told* that:

  1. Most elementary schools require their students to wear kacholavan on Rosh Chodesh.
  2. Black is the new… well, blue. You see, most girls wear black skirts in lieu of blue. (Maybe a member of the younger generation can explain to the rest of us why black is considered to be, like, sooo much cooler than blue…)

2. Mamtakim (candy, treats) on a tiyul (trip) – It doesn’t matter if they’re going to be gone overnight or are just taking an hour long tour of a nearby factory. When it comes to school trips, all Israeli kids take mamtakim. (Note that I use the plural – i.e. they all take at least two snacks per trip. V’chol hamarbeh, harei zeh meshubach) Although I have no proof, I suspect that there’s a chozer mancal (literally, “management circular” – refers to a directive) from the Education Ministry to this effect. 

Happy Rosh Chodesh Adar!


* New and veteran olim: Did you learn about the aforementioned cultural oddities the hard way? For instance, on your first Rosh Chodesh in Israel, did your child come home embarrassed that you hadn’t picked out kacholavan for her to wear? Or, was your child the only one on his first Israeli tiyul without any snacks? If so, please feel free to use the comment section as therapy for your trauma…


Monday, February 23, 2009

A modern day Shlomo HaMelech

Two of the kids were fighting over a doll.

After listening to their bickering for a minute or so, YZG felt that the time had come to inject a bit of levity into the proceedings.

I have an idea. Why don’t we divide the doll in two, and you’ll each get half,” he joked.

But the young combatants took him seriously.

Noooo!” the older one immediately blurted out in tones of horror.

The younger one, in contrast, took a more pragmatic approach and said matter-of-factly, “Okay. But I want the part with the head. That’s the bigger half…

I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you which child is the doll’s actual owner, do I?


Sunday, February 22, 2009

HH 205

The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here.

Special thanks to Sarah for including my second Hephzibah post.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Behind the scenes with MAG

Shavua tov!

After several readers wondered how MAG made his stop-motion movie, our people contacted his people; the relevant parties did lunch; and we were granted exclusive access to this up-and-coming star.

MAG is an adorable and well-brought-up young filmmaker with an infectious grin and a twinkle in his eye. (We here at Our Shiputzim pride ourselves on our objective and impartial journalism…) He recently took time out of his busy schedule to meet with the fabulously-dressed Our Shiputzim entertainment reporter, who appears to be about twenty-five years old. (Hey, it’s my blog; I can be as creative as I want!)

Our Shiputzim: “Thank you for meeting with me. Please tell me how you made your movie.”

MAG: “I used a digital camera to take the pictures. (I put the camera on a tripod to keep it still.) After taking the pictures, I put them on the computer and opened them with a free program called Monkey Jam, which turns the pictures into a movie. Then I added titles and sound with Windows Movie Maker.”

OS: “How many pictures did you take for this movie?”

MAG: “I don’t remember exactly, but I think it must’ve been about 550 pictures.”

OS: “Did you have any help?”

MAG: “My older brother helped with the end of the first part, and a friend helped me with the second part.”

OS: “How did you get into stop-motion animation?”

MAG: “I watched a bunch of stop-motion movies, like ‘Wallace and Gromit’ and ‘Chicken Run’, and I decided to try doing it myself.”

OS: “What projects are you working on now?”

MAG: “I’m working on one movie with characters made out of clay and also on a computer-animated movie using a program called Pivot Stick Figure Animator (3-Beta).”

OS: “Your parents must be very proud of you BA’H…”

In conclusion, MAG tells me that he’d be happy to answer any of your questions as well…

Friday, February 20, 2009

Film Friday: Lego edition

After watching and enjoying Leora’s son’s cute time-traveling movie, MAG asked that I post some of his own films.

His favorite technique is stop-motion animation.

Here’s one of his earlier efforts, involving Lego:

If you can't see the video, here's the direct link.

Shabbat Shalom from the entire Our Shiputzim staff!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Virtual goat-herding

Oddly enough, goats have proved to be a popular topic in the J-Blogosphere:

Speaking of Hephzibah, some of you observed that you hadn’t pegged me as the type to have a livestock-owning sibling. And the truth is that all of us were startled to learn of the goat’s existence.

However, one must embrace one’s relatives’ eccentricities. Indeed, there are those who claim that my blogging habit is equally unconventional. (Do people actually read your blog? Seriously? Why??!!” –- a close family member)

In any event, here’s a picture of Hephzibah, בכבודה ובעצמה:


If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting Miriam and her family, you’re no doubt aware that their neighborhood is known for its strong winds.

Recently, these winds blew Hephzibah’s house down. (Apparently, the wind was unable to distinguish between a goat and the Three Little Pigs…)

Thus, as you can see in the next two pictures, her owners were forced to tether her under the awning leading to their front door in order to protect her from the elements:


But not to worry.

Hephzibah’s new digs are currently under construction:


And in conclusion, please prepare your favorite marionettes. All together now:

High on a hill was a lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Loud was the voice of the lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo


Monday, February 16, 2009

The bilingual blues

Chances are - if you’re an English-speaker living and working here in Israel - you encounter the following scenario many times throughout the day/week:

You’re talking to a fellow “Anglo” (that’s the Heblish term for a native English-speaking Israeli) when an “Israeli” (that’s the Heblish term for a native Hebrew-speaking Israeli) joins the conversation.

At this point, etiquette demands that the conversation switch to Hebrew. (Admittedly, in certain Anglo enclaves, YMMV…)

In other words, you’re forced to speak Hebrew… to an English speaker.

Personally, I always feel like I’m acting. It’s just feels so fake. But over the years, I’ve learned to ignore the feeling and to soldier on in Hebrew.

Yet my resolution dissolves as soon as someone slips an English phrase or comment into the discussion. Inevitably, I find myself automatically reverting back to English.

Of course, as soon as I realize what I’m doing, I make a conscious effort to go back to Hebrew. However, my new resolve only lasts until the next English phrase or comment…

How do you handle these types of situations?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

HH - Lots to Read Edition

The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here.

Special thanks to Leora for including my Olameinu magazine post.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Second to none

By a show of hands, how many of you grew up reading “Olameinu” magazine?

/*counts hands and reaches number which roughly corresponds to the number of Our Shiputzim readers who were raised in Orthodox Jewish homes in the US*/

[Brief sociological observation: Israeli schoolchildren don’t raise their hands. They raise their pointer fingers. But I digress.]

And, again by a show of hands, how many of you always skipped the Hebrew-language page which inevitably appeared toward the back of the magazine?

/*counts hands again and comes up with the same number as before*/

Yeah, that’s what I thought. I mean, no one I knew ever read that page, and YZG reports the same thing about his friends and siblings.

In any event, a number of years ago, YZG’s parents cleaned out their basement and gave us – among other things – all their old Olameinus. We’re talking about a massive collection, spanning several decades.

When the magazines arrived, YZG and I  were transported on a sentimental journey down Memory Lane. (“Ooh, look, Mendel the Mouse!” “Hey, I remember this! It’s about Mashiach, and all the shuls and schools fly to Israel. I loved this story!” “My favorite part was the comic strip on the back. Here’s one about R’ Aryeh Levine.”)

Our kids, in contrast, weren’t initially impressed. The older ones thought the magazines were juvenile, and the younger ones couldn’t relate to most of the content. Also, since most of the issues were produced without a computer, the layout and graphics just couldn’t compare to today’s sleeker children’s publications.

But the interesting part was that the kids even skipped over the Hebrew page. It’s not that they didn’t understand the words. Quite the opposite, in fact. The problem was that it was written in overly simple Hebrew with English definitions in the footnotes.

Nevertheless, we placed the stack of magazines on a shelf on the off chance that someone would want to read them.

And sure enough, over the years, the Shiputzim kids slowly made their way through the pile, and to their surprise, they enjoyed the magazines… almost as much as YZG and I did when we were children.

So, dear readers, if you happen to find yourselves here in TRLEOOB (i.e. the real life equivalent of our blog), you’re more than welcome to avail yourself of the Our Shiputzim Olameinu collection.

Just don’t forget to skip over the Hebrew page…



P.S. Two points to the first commenter who can explain what the title has to do with this post.

P.S.S. True confessions time: As a child, the phrase “second to none” baffled me. I couldn’t figure out if being second to none was a good thing or a bad one…

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Too clever for our own good?

As far as I can recall, I was never before this undecided so close to an election. In fact, YZG and I didn’t make a final decision until right before we headed to the polling station this morning, and many of our friends and relatives seemed to be in the same boat.

In the end, YZG and I decided to be oh-so-clever and deliberately split our votes: one of us voted strategically, and the other voted ideologically*.

Hopefully, we won’t come to regret our decision.

May these elections bring besurot tovot, yeshu’ot, and nechamot (good tidings, salvation, and consolation) for Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, and Torat Yisrael.


* In case you’re wondering who did the dirty work, let me state for the record that YZG – ever the gentleman – offered to do the strategic voting.

Who ever said that chivalry is dead? smile_regular

Sunday, February 8, 2009

HH 203

The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here.

Special thanks to Esser Agaroth for including my gan birthday party post.

Sunday on Tuesday

Shavua tov, Our Shiputzim fans!

In the comment section to the previous post, Jameel provided yet another excellent reason for making aliyah: vacation on Election Day.

Yes, that’s right. Here in Israel, Election Day is a national holiday.

And – most significantly - unlike every other Israeli national holiday, Election Day has no specific religious component.(Other than perhaps praying that one’s party of choice does well, of course…)

Thus, like most Western olim, we here in TRLEOOB (that’s The Real Life Equivalent Of Our Blog, for the newcomers amongst you) like to refer to Election Day as “a Sunday”. In other words, a day where one has absolutely no obligations*.

As some of you may recall, the previous elections (or was it two times ago?) came out a few weeks before Pesach, and Election Day that year was popularly known as “National Pesach Cleaning Day”.

But this coming Tuesday הבעל”ט, we don’t even have to worry about Pesach cleaning. (I do realize that if you’re like certain long-time Our Shiputzim readers who started their Pesach cleaning on Chanukah, YMMV…)

And so, after we stroll over to our local polling station and perform our civic duty, we’ll IY”H have the rest of the day to do whatever we want.

Including doing absolutely nothing…



* Admittedly, this doesn’t really apply to freelancers like myself, but at least, we don’t have to worry about getting the kids out in the morning, etc.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Reason #4734 for making aliyah

I find it interesting that whenever there’s a discussion (online or otherwise) about the tuition crisis facing American Jewry, some American oleh will inevitably chime in that everyone should make aliyah to get away from those crazy tuitions.

Now, it’s true that tuition here in Israel is a mere fraction of what it costs in the States. After all, we’re talking 10-12% of American prices for high school and about 5% for elementary school. (Feel free to correct me in the comment section if my numbers are way off.)

But I don’t know of anyone who made aliyah just to get away from excessive tuition. There has to be another reason.

Aliyah shouldn’t be about running away from something. One should move to Israel, because one is going towards something. Because one feels that this is the place to be. Because one believes that this is the Promised Land. Because one loves Eretz Yisrael. Because one enjoys the Israeli lifestyle. Because this is our country. Etc.

And so, if you haven’t yet found the reason that works for you, here’s something that just may convince you:

Two words -



Need I say more?


Monday, February 2, 2009

Prepare for the Day of Reckoning

A while ago, my friend Mother in Israel posted a pair of posts about popular Israeli names. If you’re an expectant parent, I suggest that you check out the comment sections for many beautiful naming ideas.

Yet, at the same time, I must warn you that the Day of Reckoning will surely come.

You see - assuming that you’re planning on making aliyah or that you’ve done so already – someday, you just may find yourself sitting in your child’s gan, celebrating his or her birthday.

And now is the time to start preparing for that.

I should begin by noting that Israeli ganenets (nursery teachers) take birthday parties to a level unimagined in the US. Indeed, having been (ba”h) to a fair number of both, I can say that American nursery and kindergarten birthday parties don’t hold a candle (no pun intended) to their Israeli counterparts.

Israeli ganenets have a whole slew of birthday songs, games and rituals at their disposal, and it seems that each year, they come up with new ones.

But one thing never changes.

At some point in the festivities, the other children in the gan bestow brachot (blessings) on the birthday child. These brachot range from the sublime (“may you see the Beit HaMikdash and the Kohein Gadol) to the adorable (“may your mother have a new baby”); and from the spiritual (“may you ascend the rungs of the Torah”) to the material (“may you be healthy”).

And then comes the mother’s turn.

Inevitably, the mother is asked to give her own brachah, to share a story about the child, and… to discuss the origin of the child’s name.

Yes, you have to do this in Hebrew. Yes, the ganenets and all the other kids are listening. Yes, usually 2-3 kids celebrate their birthdays together, and so there are some other mothers listening to you as well.

And no, you can’t just say, “we liked the name.”

If you’re lucky and your child was named after someone, you can talk about that person and how your child is continuing in his or her footsteps.

But otherwise, you’re going to have to be creative.

For instance, you can link your child’s name to the parsha/haftara of the week s/he was born, the season, or upcoming festivals. You can explain what the name means and how it fits your child. You can talk about your child’s Biblical or Talmudic namesakes. You can cite an obscure Midrash or resort to Gematria.

All it takes is advanced planning and thinking, and you’ll be fine. So, I recommend that you start early.

Like the day you bring the baby home from the hospital.

Or, you can wait until the morning of your child’s three-year-old birthday and then hope to somehow wing it.

But don’t say that I didn’t warn you…


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Olim blog about Operation Cast Lead

West Bank Mama has an excellent roundup of war-time posts written by new and veteran olim. Check it out here.

Special thanks to her for including my “Ani mavtiach lach, yaldah sheli ketanah” post. The title is a reference to Yehoram Gaon’s poignant song from the Yom Kippur War, “HaMilchamah HaAchronah”. The words of the heartrending chorus are:

,אני מבטיח לך, ילדה שלי קטנה”

“…שזאת תהיה המלחמה האחרונה

“I promise you, my little girl,

That this will be the last war…”