Sunday, May 31, 2009


As long time Our Shiputzim readers are well aware, this blog generally shies away from discussions of politics and/or current events.

Yet, as a self-proclaimed chronicler of Israeli life, I cannot – in good conscience – ignore this week’s much-hyped home front drill.

After all, according to media reports, our enemies are closely watching, and numerous foreign observers have arrived on the scene.

All of which is extremely amusing.

Because the truth is that this “drill” is really just a brilliantly-conceived plan to ease the country into what would otherwise be the first full workweek since before Pesach…



* Two points to the first commenter who can correctly identify the source of the title and explain what it means.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

KCC 42

The latest Kosher Cooking Carnival is available here.

Special thanks to Gillian for including my cheesecake recipe:IMG_5735 - CopyThe cheesecake in this picture still needs a few more hours in the refrigerator.

One of my high school teachers used to say that whoever manages to count the entire Sefirat HaOmer with a brachah (blessing) gets to have cheesecake on Shavuot. I’m pleased to announce that the entire Shiputzim family has earned their cheesecake…


חג השבועות שמח

!ושבת שלום

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A royal mix-up

The following exchange occurred after a certain Shiputzim child (ACSC) came home from gan on Sunday:

ACSC: There was no food, and so David HaMelech went out of Eretz Yisrael.

Me: {tries to keep a straight face} ELIMELECH went out of Eretz Yisrael?

ACSC: Yes.


And speaking of the megilah which we read on Shavuot, how would YOU transliterate the name of Naomi’s daughter-in-law?

Basically, there are three options:

  • 1. Use the standard English spelling – i.e. “Ruth” – and hope that the readers realize that you’re not using the English pronunciation.
  • 2. Go the phonetic route – i.e. “Root” – and hope that the readers don’t think you’re talking about Tu B’Shvat.
  • 3. Follow accepted transliteration rules – i.e. “Rut” – and hope that the readers understand that the name does not rhyme with “shut,” “but,” or “hut”.

Personally, I tend to alternate between options (1) and (3), depending on the context.

How about you?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

HH 218

The latest edition of Havel Havelim is available here.

Special thanks to Benji for including my post about the Bagruyot (the Israeli high school matriculation exams).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Yes, Virginia, there IS cheesecake in Israel

A refrain popular among the new oleh crowd is: “How can I replicate my favorite cheesecake recipe using unfamiliar Israeli ingredients?”

However, the truth is that there are now several varieties of Israeli cream cheese. Moreover, one can splurge (both financially and calorically) and purchase the readily-available Philadelphia-brand cream cheese.

Yet, back when we made aliyah, there were fewer options.

But after several years of sampling cheesecakes (it was a rough job, but somebody had to do it), I finally put together a cheesecake recipe which suits the Shiputzim family’s collective palate.

I should note that the recipe for the filling comes from Our Shiputzim Military Expert Be-All-You-Can-Be’s wife; the topping is my mother’s recipe; and I got the idea for the crust from the Israel-Food list.

Say cheese… cake


  • 150 grams of chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed (We like the Hadar brand.)


  • 1 kilo of 5% gvinah levanah (literally, “white  cheese” –one could use 4 packages of cream cheese, softened, instead)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs


  • 2 containers (1.5 cups) sour cream (i.e., shamenet chamutzah for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you)
  • 3 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place cookie crumbs in buttered 9” (23 cm) spring-form pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool somewhat.

Next, prepare filling. Beat gvinah levanah, sugar, and vanilla until well-blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing slowly. Pour filling over crust and bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until the center is almost set. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Finally, mix all the topping ingredients together and pour over cake. Bake at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes.

Refrigerate for at least four hours (or overnight) before serving.

Note: On the Israel-Food list, someone recently suggested that better results can be achieved by draining the gvinah levanah overnight. I’m considering using this idea; I’ll keep you posted.

!בתאבון וחג שמח


Friday, May 22, 2009

Mazal tov: Yom Yerushalayim edition

The entire Our Shiputzim staff wishes to extend a heartfelt

מזל טוב

to the wonderful Be-All-You-Can-Be family

on the brit milah of

Gedaliah Avraham נ”י!

Mazal tov also to all the grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

כשם שהכנסתם אותו לבריתו של אברהם אבינו

.כן תזכו לגדלו לתורה לחופה ולמעשים טובים


Happy Yom Yerushalayim

and Shabbat Shalom to all!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Our Shiputzim Parental Guide to the Bagruyot

As Israeli teenagers and their parents are well aware, ‘tis the season for that annual Israeli rite of passage: the bagruyot (matriculation exams – bagrut is the singular term).

This period can be particularly stressful for new oleh parents. After all, bagruyot are very different from SAT’s, Achievements, Regents, A-Levels, O.W.L.’s, and all the other standardized tests of their own high school years.

In fact, although we made aliyah over a decade ago, there are still many aspects of the bagrut system which I don’t understand. For instance:

  1. How can it be that a “100” in history can lower one’s average?
  2. Why does one need two days off for every bagrut?
  3. How can one’s score on a nationwide, standardized test be partially determined by each individual teacher’s subjective grade?

But one thing I have learned is that the most important thing is to sound as if you know what you’re talking about – even if, in reality, you haven’t got a clue.

And so, in keeping with this blog’s unstated goal of assisting new and veteran olim, I’ve asked the official Our Shiputzim Information Specialist to draw up a list of bagrut basics.

See how many of these terms you can identify. (Please leave your responses in the comment section. B”N, I’ll post an update with the correct answers some time in the next week or two.)

  • Matkonet
  • Ezrachut
  • Hagashah (Occasionally - and somewhat inaccurately - also known as tziyun magen)
  • Megamah
  • Feezikah
  • On-seen (Hat tip: Jameel)
  • Mikud
  • Lashon
  • Yechidot
  • Machshevet (Hint: this is not to be confused with machsheivim)
  • ‘G’
  • Eretz
  • Mo’ed bet
  • Efess-chamesh

Update: The "answers" can be found here.

Don’t feel too bad if you only got four or five.

Or one.

Or none.

Because the next time your teenager cryptically refers to “the matkonet” and complains about “lashon and ezrachut," you can just whip out this guide, nod intelligently, and say:

“Don’t worry. There’s always mo’ed bet, and isn’t the mikud pretty easy this year anyway? And besides, your hagashah wasn’t bad at all, no?”

Your child won’t know what hit him…


!בהצלחה לכל הנבחנים

Monday, May 18, 2009

Just another typical Shabbat here in TRLEOOB*

*TRLEOOB = the real life equivalent of our blog

Although some of the older Shiputzim children were away this past Shabbat, we certainly don’t want them to feel that they missed anything.

And so, allow me to present:

A Shabbat Mealtime Conversation

Me: {noticing that the dishwasher is open} Thank you to everyone for clearing, but I expect the dishwasher to be closed. Part of clearing the table is closing the dishwasher.

{A chorus of “I wasn’t the one who left it open;” “Yes, you were, you cleared the last dish;” “Nuh, uh, you put a fork in afterwards;” “Can’t be, because I was already sitting back at my seat;” is heard.}

Me: {tries to end the bickering} Okay, so from now on, no one sits down until the dishwasher is closed.

YZG: {grateful that I inadvertently served as the perfect comedic foil} That’s right. You have to stand up for a Rav, for a talmid chacham… and for the dishwasher.

ESG: {with a twinkle in his eye} So, when the dishwasher comes in, I have to stand up?

Me: Yes, if a dishwasher ever comes in, you should DEFINITELY stand up!

MAG: And after Shabbos, Imma’s going to put this on the blog…


Good guess, MAG!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

HH 217

The latest edition of Havel Havelim is available both here and here.

Special thanks to Batya for including my Lag BaOmer interview with “a typical Israeli teenager”.

Friday, May 15, 2009

“To be early is to be on time”

Those of you who know the Shiputzim family in real life are aware that we’re somewhat in favor of fanatic zealots about the early Shabbat minyan on summer Fridays.

Indeed, YZG has been serving as the gabbai of our local early minyan for many years now, and not coincidentally, a significant number of our relatives fill similar roles in their respective communities.

Moreover, the advantages are so obvious to us that we are bemused and bewildered by the fact that the vast majority of the Shabbat-observant world votes with their feet in favor of the regular minyan.

And so, I stand sit here today to proselyte.

I’m not even going to address issues such as having the kids awake for the entire meal, having the adults awake for the entire meal, having time to go for an evening stroll after the meal, etc.

Instead, I’m going to share a little-known secret about the early minyan:

It gives me time to blog.

Yes, that’s right. Ironically, I find that I have more time on Fridays when we make early Shabbat.

You see, I can’t light the Shabbat candles until after plag hamincha. And I don’t have to light the candles until just before YZG and the kids come home from shul. (Yes, I realize that some people have the custom of lighting earlier. As usual, CYLOR.)

But, the house is usually clean, the food is usually cooked, and everyone is usually showered by the time they leave for shul.

Which means that I have about an hour to do… well, whatever I want.

And, today, the thing that I wanted to do was write this post…


!שבת שלום ומבורך

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


An ongoing debate here in TRLEOOB (and, I suspect, in many other households across the country and around the world as well) revolves around the question of “how much sleep do teenagers need?”

You see, certain members of the younger generation claim that – all evidence to the contrary – a scant 6-7 hours a night is more than sufficient.

Thus, I was very pleased that the following incident occurred in the presence of the entire Shiputzim family:

During the course of a recent Shabbat meal, a family friend – who happens to be a well-respected pediatrician – casually mentioned that:

“Teenagers need ten to twelve hours of sleep a night… just like two-year olds.”

I’m sure you’ll understand why I decided that today – the day after Lag BaOmer – would be an appropriate time to record the doctor’s statement for posterity…

…והמבין יבין

Monday, May 11, 2009

Smoked tuna and other, er, delicacies

Everyone knows that Lag BaOmer in Israel is synonymous with bonfires (i.e. medurot, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you). Indeed, every available piece of wood is snatched up weeks in advance, and by Lag BaOmer morning, the entire country reeks of smoke.

But some aspects of this annual ritual are less well-known.

For instance, new olim might not be aware that the kids stay out until early in the morning, when they stumble home, take showers, and jump into bed. (Actually, in our circles, the boys first go to shul to daven at the vatikin minyan, where they promptly fall asleep before the shaliach tzibur has reached Barchu. But I digress…)

This bizarre custom naturally begs the question: What do they do all night?!

And so, as a public service, we here at Our Shiputzim decided to investigate.

Following is the transcript of an interview with a typical Israel teenager (henceforth: ATIT), who agreed to shed some light on this burning question (pun intended).

Our Shiputzim: So, what DO you do there all night?

A Typical Israeli Teenager: Make food, play games, sing, I don’t know.

OS: Food? Could you be more specific?

ATIT: Well, each year it’s different, but there’s always some type of meat. For example, hot dogs, kebobs, wings. We usually grill them on the mangal (BBQ).

OS: What else?

ATIT: Usually there’s soup, sometimes spaghetti, salad, French fries. We make a small fire, next to the medurah, and cook the soup and the pasta over it. The French fries – sometimes, we cut them up from potatoes and fry them in a pot. And other times, we fry ready-made chips.

OS: Please tell me about “smoked tuna” (first referenced here on Our Shiputzim in Rachel’s comment on this post).

ATIT: We don’t make smoked tuna at medurot. It’s more for camping and trips, but I’ll tell you how to prepare it anyway. You take a can of tuna fish in oil and open it without squeezing out the oil. Then, you take a tissue and put it on top of the can. Soak the middle of the tissue in the oil. Then, you light the tissue all around. The fire uses the oil as fuel, and the tissue acts as the wick. When the oil is used up, the fire goes out. You move the tissue, and you can eat the tuna fish.

OS: I understand that the burning can is also used for cooking other things?

ATIT: Yes, that’s correct. If you want, you can put rocks around the can and put a pot on top. You can then cook something – like soup or spaghetti or French fries – in the pot.

OS: Getting back to the medurah, is there anything else you can tell us?

ATIT: I guess, just that the main part is making the food and eating it.

OS: And that takes all night?

ATIT: Well, it takes a long time, because there’s a lot of food, and it takes a while for everything to cook. And besides, that’s what the games and the singing are for – to fill in the time between all the food…

OS: Thank you, ATIT, and may you have a very happy Lag BaOmer.

!חג שמח

Sunday, May 10, 2009

HH 216

The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here.

Special thanks to Jack for including my Heblish version of "Mah Nishtanah".

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fiction Friday: “Eragon” edition

As part of her book report on Christopher Paolini's “Eragon”, the Resident Ulpanistit had to illustrate “an event from the book”.

She decided to make a comic strip:

Eragon Click on the image for a full-size view.

The Resident Ulpanistit reports that internationally-acclaimed auteur MAG helped her draw the dragon in the final frame.

!שבת שלום ומבורך

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A chazan with a sense of humor

At supper this evening, Our Shipuzim’s roving reporter YZG shared the following vignette:

Today was Erev Pesach Sheni, and as a result, there was a whole controversy in shul during Mincha. The question was whether or not Tachanun should be recited.

A lively debate ensued, and all sorts of sources were cited. Some congregants noted that Tachanun is not recited on the day before a festival, but others responded that Erev Pesach Sheni is an exception to that rule.

In the end, some said it, and others did not.

The chazan opted to include himself in the former group.

However, he made sure to raise his voice when he reached the words, “Va’anachnu lo neida mah na’aseh* in the final paragraph.

Everyone cracked up…



* Va’anachnu lo neida ma na’aseh – literally, “and we do not know what we will do”…

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

You can’t beat the system

I thought I was being so clever.

I asked for – and (to my pleasant surprise) received – the first appointment with the homeroom teacher at Sunday night’s parent-teacher meetings. The idea was to speak to the teacher before she started to run late.

And, indeed, I was in and out of there in under two minutes.

But there was a catch.

(There always is.)

You see, most of the subject teachers (i.e. morot miktzo’iyot for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you) had not yet arrived.

In other words, I had two choices:

1) I could sit around and wait for the other teachers to show up. Of course, by that time, a long line of parents would have assembled, and I would have been forced to wait even longer.

- OR -

2) I could go home without speaking to the other teachers.

See if you can guess which course of action I chose. (Hint: It wasn’t exactly the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make…)


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Heblish: Pesach Sheni edition

Back in my blogiversary post, I noted that “the four questions in heblish” was one of the search terms which led someone to this blog.

Clearly, there’s a real demand out there for a Heblish version of “Mah Nishtanah”, and so I decided to translate it myself*.

Special thanks to YZG, who suggested that I post it in honor of Pesach Sheni (which comes out this coming Friday IY”H).

And now, without further ado, allow me to present:

The Official Our Shiputzim Heblish Translation of “Mah Nishtanah”

What is this night different from all the nights?

That in all the nights, we are eating chametz and matzah. This night, all of it is matzah.

That in all the nights, we are eating other vegetables. This night, maror.

That in all the nights, there is not we are dipping, even one time. This night, two times.

That in all the nights, we are eating between sitting and between leaning. This night, all of us are leaning.


* How was this Heblish post different from all the other Heblish posts throughout the whole year? In all the other Heblish posts throughout the whole year, I recorded actual Heblish expressions used by assorted members of the Shiputzim family. But in this post, I made it all up…


HH 215

The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here.

Special thanks to Gila for including my Yom HaAtzma'ut post.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Folding Friday: Yom HaAtzma’ut edition

B”H, we were privileged to enjoy a truly wonderful Yom HaAtzma’ut.

The morning was spent at Yad L’Shiryon, the IDF Armored Corps Museum in Latrun.

We actually hadn’t been in a while. You see, whenever we suggest a visit, the kids inevitably start to complain, “Not again! We go every year…”

But this year, we called their bluff. A few days before Yom HaAtzma’ut, YZG asked the kids a few questions about the museum. Their responses showed that they weren’t exactly the Latrun experts they had claimed to be. In fact, the younger kids barely remembered being there at all.

And so, we grabbed hats and water bottles and set out.

In the end, everyone had a great time, and as usual, the highlight was the huge collection of tanks:

IMG_5281 Visitors are permitted to climb on most of the tanks.

During the course of the visit, the Shiputzim family was pleased to bump into our barbecue guests as well as occasional commenter Be-All-You-Can-Be (coincidentally, this blog’s official military adviser) and his wife and family.

Speaking of our guests, thanks to Ein Shem for manning the mangal and sharing some of his nafnaf knowledge with YZG; to RCT for bringing two (!) types of delicious cookies; and to YAT, who helped MAG set the table and fold all the napkins in a Yom HaAtzma’ut-themed shape:

IMG_5299Napkin-folding instructions are available upon request.

In addition, thank you to all the members of the Shiputzim family – each of whom did their share to ensure that we BA”H had a very special Yom HaAtzma’ut.

On a somewhat related note, due to the fact that the Chief of Photography is rather preoccupied with bagruyot (matriculation exams)* and all that they entail, there are no available pictures of either the food or the grill itself. The Our Shiputzim management regrets any inconvenience this may have caused…

!שבת שלום ומבורך


* Watch this space for an upcoming post about bagruyot