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…



  1. You are so right about the mamtakim for tiyulim.. . but the food they need to take extends beyond junk Other required food (for those of you considering aliya, take notes) tuna in oil (to set on fire and make "smoked" tuna), and canned pickles and corn.

  2. i agree you have to take mamtakim latiyul if not what is the point

  3. Rachel - Good point. And don't forget to send along a napkin to burn for the "smoked tuna". (Where in the world did this idea come from?!)

    YAT - So, do *you* like "smoked tuna"? Or do they not do that in your neck of the woods?

  4. True, those are extremely important bits of information for olim. We must avoid traumatizing our children any further than we have by our accents.

  5. And if you lived in Galus... my son had to wear a *tie* to school on Rosh Chodesh. I was in shock. He barely wore one for his own bar-mitzvah. Kacholavan sounds good to me, simpler. (you mean not everyone who makes Aliyah didn't grow up going to Bnei Akiva? )

  6. Leora, something my kids have found especially amusing since our aliya, is that things they thought were made up for their Bnei Akiva camp in the states, are part of everyday life here.

  7. MiI - Our daughter used to ask me why I mispronounced her friend's name. ("But, Ima, isn't her name RRRRe'aya - not Re'aya?") She didn't believe me when I told her that even though SHE could pronounce it correctly, I couldn't...

    Leora - According to the dress code in the school our oldest son attended before we made aliyah, boys from first grade and up had to have their shirts tucked in at all times. Fortunately, we made aliyah before it became an issue. But to this day, I wonder how the school enforces such a rule??

    Rachel - How long have you been here? It sounds like your kids have discovered the key to a successful aliyah - namely, being able to find the amusing side of things!

  8. We've been here a year and half. I'm blessed with relatively easygoing kids who, when asked, will admit that school is hard, and they miss sunday, but "pretty much everything else is better (here)."

  9. Rachel - We've been here ten and a half years, and I STILL miss Sunday...

  10. I don't know if I need therapy for my trauma but my kids probably do. Besides the fact that I did not know that I had to send my 4 year old to his Chanukah gan party in kacholavan (and I still have the pictures to make me cringe) I still remember the twins' first birthday party in gan. Someone tried to explain to me what a "zer" was but obviously did not do a very good job because I made them crowns out of construction paper and glued some flowers on them. I think the ganenet thought of reporting me to child welfare services but I guess she just figured I was dumb American. Luckilt this was only two months after our aliya so the twins were still so out of it they had no idea what embarrassment their mother inflicted upon them...

  11. Malke - I guess I should be grateful that I've never been asked to prepare a "zer" (a wreath of flowers). I wouldn't even know where to begin!


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