Saturday, February 27, 2010

Happy Purim!

A selection from the Shiputzim family gragger (i.e. ra’ashan – רעשן – for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you) collection:

IMG_0610 As always, click on the picture for a closer view.

פורים שמח

כל עם ישראל

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The end is nigh

Nothing says, “the fast is almost over,” like blogging about food.

And so, here goes.

Lately, it seems as if the whole world is cooking Beef Bourguignon. And, really, who can blame them? (If you’ve seen Julie & Julia, you’ll know what I mean.)

So for a recent family get-together, I decided to come up with my own version, and since this is Israel, I used turkey rather than beef.

If you haven’t planned your Purim seudah menu yet, you might want to consider this dish – although I should note that here in TRLEOOB*, we’re IY”H having pineapple chicken instead.

Turkey Stew


  • 3 – 3.5 kilos of basar adom (literally, “red meat” – i.e. dark turkey meat), cubed
  • Olive oil
  • Onions, chopped
  • Several cloves of garlic, minced
  • Carrots, sliced thin
  • 2-3 TBSP flour
  • 2-3 cups semi dry red wine
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • Salt
  • Pepper


Brown meat and set aside. Sauté onions in oil until golden. Add garlic and carrots, and let cook for several minutes, stirring frequently. Add flour and mix through, and then immediately add wine. Return meat to pot, and then add remaining ingredients to taste. Cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve over a bed of egg noodles.



*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An endless loop

One of the true-to-life comic strips included in Shifra Gluck’s charming Shikufitzky 3 opens with the mother glancing at an invitation.

Loosely translated (we only have the Hebrew edition), the thought bubble over her head reads:

“I’m surprised that Mrs. Levy invited me. After all, we hardly know each other. But of course I’ll go anyway, because I don’t want to insult her…”

And then in the final panel, the mother arrives at the simchah and wishes mazal tov to the hostess, who’s thinking:

“I’m surprised that Mrs. Shikufitzky showed up. After all, we hardly know each other. I only sent her an invitation, because I didn’t want to insult her…”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who can relate to both characters.

It all starts out innocently enough.

Picture this:

You’re compiling the guest list for your upcoming simchah, and you wonder what to do about the X’s.

They’re very nice and all, but to be perfectly honest, you don’t have much to do with them. Yet, you feel you should invite them anyway.

Maybe they’re new to the neighborhood, and this is a great way to welcome them. Maybe you move in the same circles, and you’re inviting everyone else in the group.

Or maybe, they invited you to their recent simchah, and now you have to invite them back.

And there’s the rub.

Because once you invite them, they’re definitely going to feel obligated to return the favor.

And, then, before you know it, you’re both trapped in {shudder} the dreaded Cycle of Invitations…

{cue: wild, maniacal laughter}

How do you handle this delicate situation*? Do you have a way to extricate yourself from this never-ending cycle? Or does it just keep going and going and going…



* Yes, I’m well aware that this falls squarely in the category of  high-class problems… :-)

Monday, February 22, 2010

The CTO’s Day Off

As I’m sure you’ll all agree, hearing about a specific cultural phenomenon from others just isn’t the same as experiencing and witnessing it first hand.

Thus, while on an intellectual level, I knew ahead of time that Rosh Chodesh Adar basically marks the end of the school year for Israeli high school seniors – hey, I even blogged about it! – I’m still surprised that the CTO has had so few classes over the past week and a half.

Today was a case in point.

After moseying on over to his yeshiva for an hour or two of shiur, he was back home by late morning and – in what can only be described as a classic example of life imitating art –watched “Ferris Bueller's Day Off”.

His reaction?

He enjoyed the movie* but was amused by the fact that American schools – in stark contrast to their Israeli counterparts - are strict about attendance…



* Who doesn’t? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? ;-)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

HH 257

The latest Haveil Havalim is available here.

Special thanks to Ruti Mizrachi for including my Adar Lexicon. (Watch this space for an update to that post with some more lexicon entries…)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A small taste of summer

As keen observers of Israeli life are aware, no self-respecting Israeli eats ice cream in the winter.

Krembo? Definitely.

Glidah chamah (literally, “warm ice cream” – basically, Krembo in an ice cream cone)? Absolutely.

But real ice cream? The kind that actually tastes good? The dairy kind which you keep in your freezer?

Not so much.

In fact, in the olden days, one couldn’t even buy ice cream in Israel during the winter.

But in light of the current unseasonably hot spell we’ve been experiencing here in Israel, Jameel’s post on the unique Israeli phrase, “pa’am shlishit glidah (literally, “third time, ice cream” – loosely, “third time’s a charm”) couldn’t be more timely. Be sure to check out his post.*

And on a related note, you may recall that Our Shiputzim guest blogger Malke shared an amusing Heblish story about this expression in the comment section of the Heblish VI post:

…A TV sports broadcaster [was] interviewing a (non-Israeli) Maccabi Tel Aviv player [in English], after they lost (once again) in the Final Four (or Fay-nell Forr, for our Israeli children).

“So, this is the second time Maccabi has made it to the finals and lost. Do you think the third time will be ice cream?” [the interviewer asked.]

The tall, black basketball player looked at him as if he were from another planet. The broadcaster was, of course, translating the Hebrew phrase, pa'am shlishit glidah



*And I’m not just saying that because he wrote some kind things about this blog in his post… :-)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Official Our Shiputzim Adar Lexicon

.משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה

When Adar enters, our joy increases.

And nowhere is this truer than in Israel’s schools – especially the yeshiva high schools and ulpanot – where Rosh Chodesh Adar effectively (and in the case of the 12th graders, almost literally*) signifies the end of the school year.

After all, Adar is devoted to, well, Adar and Purim, which are immediately followed by Nissan and Pesach. And then – in rapid succession – come Yom HaAtzma’ut, Lag BaOmer, Yom Yerushalayim, Shavuot, and everything else affiliated with the Omer period. Which, of course, brings us to the official last day of school…

But this post is about Adar itself.

Anglo parents like myself may be unfamiliar with much of the Israeli school system’s Adar-related jargon, and so, the Our Shiputzim Editorial Board is proud to present:

The Official Adar Lexicon

Hachtarah (הכתרה) - Literally, coronation or inauguration. Basically an elaborate Purim shpiel, but also the event at which the Rav or Rabbanit Purim is crowned.  In most schools, this is considered to be the highlight of the senior year.

Shuk Purim (שוק פורים) - Purim carnival. Often serves as a fundraiser – either for charity or for the following year’s hachtarah.

Yerid Purim (יריד פורים) - Purim fair or “boutique” - i.e. a shuk Purim minus the rides and games.

Ulpizmon (אולפיזמון) [aka ”karaoke” (קריוקי), even though no karaoke machines are involved] - A song and dance competition.

Mivtza (מבצע) - Literally, campaign or project. In many ulpanot, each grade level works on a specific mivtza during Adar. The hachtarah, the shuk Purim, and the ulpizmon are all examples of mivtza’im.

Yom HaTalmid (יום התלמיד) - Literally, Student Day. This one applies more to elementary schools, where the 6th graders replace the principal and teachers for a few hours. Most youth groups adopt a similar idea, and the eighth graders (i.e. Shevet HaRo’eh) serve as the madrichim and the kommonarit (the head counselor/chapter director) during Adar.

Shnorrer (שנורר) – From the Yiddish for beggar. The organizers of the shuk Purim (or the yerid Purim) get time off from school to beg to solicit prizes and goods from various vendors.

Can you think of any other Adar terms?


*In many (most? all?) Israeli high schools, the seniors have few – if any – classes after Pesach, so they have plenty of time to drive their parents crazy to study for the bagruyot… :-)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

J-Blogosphere News

1) A very warm and heartfelt mazal tov to once and [hopefully] future blogger Einshem on this evening’s beautiful siyum on the entire Shas.

May you continue to go מחיל אל חיל!

Mazal tov also to RCT, the kids (including, of course, YAT), and the entire family.

2) The latest Haveil Havalim is available here and also here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Mid-Atlantic States got a gazillion feet of snow…

…And all we got was a lousy t-shirt no Internet access.

Yes, that’s right.

The phone lines in our neighborhood went down late Thursday night, leaving your humble blogger without means to go online and, well, blog.

Although no official explanation was given for this communication disruption, a possible reason was suggested by a rather unexpected source.

You see, when the line died, YZG was in the middle of a business call with someone in the US who had no idea that YZG was calling from abroad.

And hours later, when our phone and Internet connection finally came back up, YZG found an email which basically said:

“Hi YZG. Our call was interrupted. I assume this was due to the inclement weather conditions in your area.”

So there you have it.

The unseasonably balmy (and frankly unwelcome) weather we’ve been experiencing here in Israel these past few days apparently knocked our phone lines out.

Makes sense to me…


שבוע טוב וחודש טוב!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Shabbaton by any other name

Two of the Shiputzim kids were away on two different weekend retreats this past Shabbat.

We interrupt this post to bring you the following digression:

In the States, such events are known as Shabbatons.

However, here in Israel, the term shabbaton (שבתון) means an academic sabbatical, while an organized Shabbat retreat for a specific group of people is referred to by one of the following names:

  • Shabbat ______: The blank denotes either the event’s location (e.g. Shabbat Hevron, Shabbat Yerushalayim, etc.); the participants (e.g. Shabbat Machzor or Shabbat Shichvah – for a grade level, Shabbat Yeshiva or Shabbat Ulpanah – for an entire school, etc.); or the retreat’s objective (e.g. Shabbat Gibbush – literally, consolidation or solidification;  refers to a sense of cohesion, group spirit and camaraderie).
  • Seminariyon: Literally, seminar.

This past Shabbat, for example, one of the Shiputzim kids was on a seminariyon, and the other one was on a Shabbat [Location]. But as far as I can tell, the two events were fairly similar.

And so I turn to you, dear readers, to help me understand the difference between these two types of Shabbat retreats. Thanks in advance for your input.


We now return you back to your regularly scheduled post.

Both kids called home just before Shabbat.

One child vividly described the accommodations, the participants, the activities, the food, etc.

The other reluctantly responded to my questions with a few noncommittal monosyllables and said that “the details” [sic] could wait until after Shabbat.

Can you guess which one is a Shiputzim son and which is a Shiputzim daughter?


Monday, February 8, 2010

In the company of strangers

Imma,” ENG asked me this morning. “How can you be friends with strangers?

She was understandably concerned, because some of her siblings - {cough}MAG{cough} - had been joking about how I had gone to a stranger’s house to meet other strangers.

They were referring to the fact that last night I had made the long trek from TRLEOOB* all the way to Baila's home in Modiin in honor of a bloggers’ get-together.

But I assured ENG that she didn’t have to worry. Contrary to MAG’s wisecracks, I had actually spent the evening very much in the company of friends.

Admittedly, this was the first time I had met any of them in person - as it so happened, none of them were at the J-Bloggers’ picnic on Succot - but that was irrelevant.

After all, we all know each other from our blogs. And so, not only do we have much in common and share mutual points of reference, but we had much to discuss. The conversation flowed, and everyone had a great time.

Of course, most of the credit goes to Baila for her gracious hospitality and Hannah for organizing the event and for her informative and well-prepared talk on blogging dos and don’ts. Thanks to both of you for a wonderful evening!

And in case anyone is wondering – as some of my favorite teenagers evidently were – no, I definitely wasn’t “stuck"



*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Sunday, February 7, 2010

HH 255

The latest Haveil Havalim is available here.

Special thanks to Simply Jews for including my “feeling your pain” post.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fix-It Friday: Oven edition

Our Shiputzim Chief Security Officer YZG (aka “Mr. S.”) is not only known for his Solomonic wisdom and his ability to concoct fake TV shows, but also for his erudite halachic discourses.

But today, YZG has graciously agreed to share some of his vast technical knowledge.

Take it away, YZG!

Disclaimer: The following post may not interest readers who don’t live in Israel and own American gas ovens. Proceed at your own risk.

Replacing Your Gas Oven’s Ignitor

A Guest Post by YZG

The ignitors on many American gas ovens don’t last very long. For instance, we have to replace ours every 1-2 years.

Fortunately, it’s a fairly simple process, and you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself.

Here, then, is a step-by-step DIY guide to replacing the oven ignitor. (I’m assuming that you have a replacement part. If not, they’re available in the US from sites like

This is what the ignitor looks like:clip_image002clip_image004




The first step is to remove the shelf covering the bottom of the oven. Once you do this, you should be able to see the ignitor attached towards the back of the long bar (called a “burn bar”) in the middle of the oven, as you can also see in this picture:


Unscrew the two screws on the top which are holding it on:


There will still be two wires going through some insulation and which are attached to somewhere in the under part of the oven, as shown here:


You’ll need to unplug this from underneath. Here’s how it’s done:

Remove the drawer on the bottom of the oven so you can access the underside of the oven. You should see a metal plate, like this:


After you unscrew and remove the plate, you’ll see a plug as shown circled in red:

clip_image014Click on the picture for a closer view of the plug.

Disconnect the two halves in order to unplug the ignitor. Then carefully pull the wires out, through the insulation, from above.

That’s it. You have successfully removed the old ignitor.

You’re now ready to install the new ignitor:

  1. Put it in place and screw the two screws back in.
  2. Push the wires through the insulation, being careful not to leave any spaces or holes in the insulation. Sometimes the ignitors will come with some extra insulation which you can add to the hole if you want.
  3. Plug the ignitor into the other half of the plug.

Congratulations! The ignitor is now installed.

What’s left now is to test it and then put everything back together.

To test the oven, turn the oven on. The ignitor should slowly start glowing, and after about a minute, the flame in the oven should ignite. If the ignitor doesn’t glow, it’s either not plugged in all the way or it might be cracked. If the flame doesn’t ignite, either the ignitor isn’t positioned properly, or there is some other non-ignitor-related problem.

Once you test that everything is working, you can put the rest of the oven back together.

Thanks, YZG! Excellent job!

שבת שלום ומבורך!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A fake holiday

Many of you may not be aware that yesterday was National Planting Day.

Not to be confused with Tu B’Shvat (which this year fell out on Shabbat - as it does 30% of the time), or even Friday Erev Tu B’Shvat, (which was the day when most schools and gans celebrated Tu B’Shvat), or even the Thursday before Tu B’Shvat (which was the day when many companies served dried fruit to their employees), National Planting Day is the day when all the national-religious youth groups hold their annual neti’ot (literally, plantings).

In practice, this means that although elementary schools officially remain open, few of their students show up. For instance, I’m told that in one class, three quarters of the boys were absent.

Moreover, the student bodies of most yeshiva high schools and ulpanot include so many madrichim and madrichot that the schools don’t even try and fight it. Instead, they just declare it as a vacation day and give everyone – including those who aren’t in hadrachah – the day off.

Yet, none of this explains why National Planting Day was specifically held yesterday (i.e. three days after Tu B’Shvat).

And so, I decided to turn to the experts to find out.

Here’s what a certain madrichah had to say:

“The neti’ot were supposed to be last Thursday, but because of the bagrut in math, which was on Thursday, they had to push the neti’ot off.

“And Friday, it couldn’t be, because neti’ot are the whole day, and of course, it can’t be on Shabbat.

“And so I guess that out of the next few days, Tuesday was the best day for them - probably because most people finish [school] earlier that day.”

In other words, National Planting Day is like the Israeli equivalent of Presidents’ Day.

And in related news, Israeli schoolchildren are currently lobbying the Education Ministry to declare other fake celebrated holidays. Here are some of the possibilities under consideration:

  • National Shofar Blowing Day - celebrated three days after Rosh Hashanah
  • National Eating in the Succah Day - celebrated three days after Succot
  • National Megillah Reading Day - celebrated three days after Purim

As my kids would say, staaaaam


Monday, February 1, 2010

A painful interlude

I dare you to say the following sentence in a voice that’s NOT dripping with sarcasm:

“I feel your pain.”

It can’t be done, right?

I mean, no matter how you say it or which words you emphasize, you still come off sounding insincere.

Interestingly, however, the Hebrew equivalent is a beautiful example of Israeli concern, solidarity, and compassion.

You see,

“אני משתתף/משתתפת בצערך” - “Ani mishtatef/mishtatefet b’tza’archa/b’tza’areich” - “I share in your troubles/misfortune/sorrow”

is used as a meaningful way to offer condolences on someone’s loss.

Yet, as I noted above, if you don’t speak Hebrew but nevertheless wish to use this expression in a non-ironic fashion, you’re pretty much out of luck.

But let me take this opportunity to assure you that I certainly, um, feel your pain…


HH 254

The latest Haveil Havalim is available here.

Special thanks to Joel for including my scene from a Yerushalayim wedding.