Monday, August 3, 2009
The bus ride took me from hot and humid to less hot and much less humid. The scenery was interesting to see as we passed through Israeli cities, towns, villages and smaller. There were arab and druze towns. The bus drove past fields of olives, bananas, grapes and who knows what else.
One thing I do want to note that is kinda of sad, so many Jewish communities, kibutzim, etc are surrounded with fences, gates, guards, etc. The arab towns had none of this. This tells me who is attacking who.
When I got to Teveria (Tiberias) I called Rhonda to let her know I was getting near. I was to call her when I got to Rosh Pinna as it is only a few minutes from her house. She arrived and we had a little difficulty finding each other (and the place is not that big) but after a few minutes on the phone we met up and headed off. Rhonda took me up into the old town of Rosh Pinna and we walked around the ancient cobblestone streets and enjoyed the views.
We then drove through the next town and turned up a one lane roughly paved road leading into the hills. I thought Rhonda was just taking me on a scenic drive (which it very much was) but she kept driving up the mountain. Also we are in the middle of a forest, The Biriya Forest, that was planted by hand in the 1950 by JNF. (All those cans did do something) By Israeli standards this is a forest, it is not as dense as what is thought of as a forest in North America, but there are still a LOT of trees. After driving up the mountain for like 10 minutes, back and forth, snaking our way, Rhonda announces we are in Amuka, where they live. This community only has 48 families, living in the woods at the peak of this part of the mountain. This community is very different from most Israeli towns. Each family has a nice piece of land that creates the feeling of isolation. There are wonderful breezes and the sounds of nature are all around. Five more minutes up the road is Tzfat (Safed) so it really isn't as isolated as it feels. The town has a library, a community center and a synagogue, if you need to buy anything, it's off to Tzfat or beyond...
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I wrote this last week and then got sick before I got the video uploaded to YouTube, so today I am feeling better and got the video uploaded. The sound quality is not great, but you still can get an idea...The video still isn't uploading correctly... so I'll post this and add the video later when I can get it to upload.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Silvy arrived and we headed first to the beach at Hertzlia, which is only a few miles from where I am living.
We then walked down to the Mall next to the Hertzlia Marina, walked around a little, I talked to Jessica while Silvy was trying on some clothes.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
It’s not the Hilton or anything like that, but it is reasonably neat and clean, while older it is fairly well kept up and for the price I can’t really complain. The apartment costs me a 361 shekels per month ($92) and I have to split the utilities with my roommate. I don’t know what to expect yet, but was told Electric, gas and water would each run about 80 shekels per month ($20 each) so the whole thing is about $150 per month. The winter months will be more, but it doesn’t get that cold here, so I can’t guess how much more.
My flat mate is from Turkey. He is 52 and speaks a little English and a little Hebrew. We are able to talk so long we talk slowly to each other. He is divorced, but his ex-wife and kids live in another apartment here. He works and spends time with his kids, so I never see him. I’ve seen him all of three times in the week that I’ve been here. So it’s almost like having an apartment to myself.
Update from yesterday…
Yesterday after class I set off to the bank yet once again to finish getting my things taken care of there. Then I caught a bus to the mall as I needed to go to Office Depot to get school supplies. I first walked around the mall just to see what was there. Lots of stores and a food court. I went down the escalator and saw a huge selection of dining choices, just like you’d expect to see in the states: Burger King, McDonald’s, Sbarro, Chinese, Sushi, Bagels, and other local eateries and they were all kosher. I had a choice of places I could eat at. Since I’ve already had McDonald’s, sushi and Italian, I decided fairly quickly on the Chinese place. I couldn’t fully read the menu, so I used the pictures. One was the “Big” meal but it showed two sides, a meat and an egg roll. I thought that would be fine. I got brown rice and noodles as my sides and spicy peppered beef and the egg roll. Watching them serve it up, I knew I had gotten too much. Each side was 1 ½ to 2 cups and the meat portion was also about 1 ½ cups with lots of meat and the egg roll. The plate felt like it weighed 2lbs or more. I ate the egg roll, some of the rice (there were excellent meatballs in the rice which I ate all of), some of the noodles and all the meat and was beyond stuffed. Since I am only eating one meal a day I didn’t feel overly bad.
Back to today…
Today after class I headed for the fruit and vegetable shop just down the street and purchased, peaches, grapes and bananas. I’ve had some of the grapes so far and they are absolutely fabulous. You’ve not had stuff like this unless you grow your own. Fruits and vegetables are picked ripe here and are then in the stores quickly and thus have so much more flavor than in the states where they are picked before they are ripe and then allowed to ripen in the store or in your home maybe weeks after they were picked. I then went across the street to the Holy Bagel and got my favorite, poppy bagel with cream cheese and lox. The bagel is pretty good, the cream cheese is Philadelphia and the lox is tasty, and for $6 I can’t complain.
When I got back I did laundry for the first time since I arrived. There is a laundry room here at the facility, but it only has 4 washers and 2 double load dryers. You have to have a card to use the machines and it took me a couple of days to catch up with the person who handles that. I got mine today and headed to do the laundry. Each wash cycle is 30 minutes and the dryer is 40. Two wash loads will fit in one dryer. Each machine is $1 to use, so to do two loads of laundry and dry is $3. I had to wait 15 minutes for two washers to become available, The dryer was occupied and I had to wait 30 minutes to be able to put my clothes in and finally dried my clothes for a total of almost 2 hours that I had to sit there…. First time in so many years that I don’t have a washer and dryer…. I survived and the machines did a great job.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
After class I headed to the bank to order checks and a credit card. The compters were down, so they were not able to help me on the spot. The person who opened my accounts the other day made a note of what I needed and will order them when the computes are back online. I had a US check to deposit and they will also process that when the computer comes back online. Finally I still can't login to online banking, and again without computers this would have to wait...
In the same building as my bank is the local kosher McDonalds. Since it was after 1pm and I hadn't eaten much today, I decided to give it a go. It's been 8 years since I've eaten McDonalds hamburgers as that is when I started keeping kosher. So, I had a Big Mac, fries and a drink. My experience last time in Israel with Burger King led me to think I wouldn't find the fast food burger that good (it was good, just didn't find that I missed fast food) but I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the burger and just the fact that I could again eat in McDonalds. I don't think this will become a staple in my diet, but it is here and I'm sure I'll eat there again.
After eating I was heading home and stopped to buy the next needed item, a laundry basket. I will need to be doing laundry in the next couple of days, so having a way to carry it would be a good thing. I then headed back to the apartment.
After all the running around I did over the last week I wanted an afternoon of peace and quiet and spent the afternoon catching up on the blog, e-mail, skype, etc. It was a good day and without a nap I think I am getting close to having adjusted to the time change, I can tell I'm not fully adjusted, but close.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Video from the porch of Susan and Tsvi's house.
Susan and Tsvi were such wonderful hosts. Susan is a wonderful cook too. She loaded me up with various meat choices over Shabbat. We had ribs, steak, deli rolls, meatballs, taco salad and many side dishes. I didn't go away hungry or bored with the food choices.
This Shabbat was most welcome and needed after my first few days of running around. After Shabbat I returned home as Sunday morning I needed to travel to Jerusalem and I didn't want to drag my bag around.
So, thank you to Susan and Tsvi for a most wonderful first Shabbat in Israel.
Friday, July 10, 2009
- Walking down the street from where I live to the main street are three parks. I see all the children playing and I hear their voices, all in Hebrew.
- Israelis get picked on for being bad drivers, but they stop for pedestrians even sometimes before you even start crossing the road.
- One must be better prepared when needing to purchase things, no Walmart here, you might goto several stores to get what you need. Most stores close 2-4pm and for the night by 8pm.
- Cats are everywhere. Most are street cats (at least the ones I see). They are cute and even some are friendly.
- While some of my tasks this week have been mundane, everyone I have come in contact with has been very helpful.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I gathered my things and headed for the door, It seemed like no time had passed and I was at the door, the bright sun in my face and trying to hold the camera too to catch the excitement and remember the moment. I walked down the stairs and reached the ground. No jetways for this flight we need to step off the plane onto the land promised us so long ago. There were journalists everywhere with still and video cameras. Everyone was excited and joyus sounds were all around. I stopped and took a picture for my friends, The Solats so they could have a picture of the whole family with the plane in the background. If I hadn't been a little mentally numb I should have had them do the same for me, oh well.
We then borded the bus and it seemed there was more luggage than people, and in reality I'm sure that was true since we could each have 2 pieces of carry on. The ride to the old terminal took about 3-4 minutes. When we got close we could see all the people, flags, banners and posters. When we stopped there were hoards of people and when the doors opened the sound was overwelming, people screaming, crying, music, shofar blowing and who knows what else. It was joyus. I gathered my things and headed for the gautlet. The chayalim (the soldiers) were lined up to greet us. As I stepped toward the people, not really seeing space to go, but I went anyway, I see Natan Sharansky standing there greeting us personally, shaking each of our hands, I couldn't help myself as this amazing man was there greeting me to my new home that he endured such hardship himself to realize his dream, so I reached out and hugged him. I walked a few steps to then be greeted by Josh Sussman, yet another hug in order, someone gave me a rose and then I see a poster with my name on it (there was anther that I walked past and didn't see until I was inside) being held by my cousin Susan. They kept moving us along, wanting us to clear the way for the rest of the olim to get inside.
So once inside Susan and I got to talk and she took my picture in front of one of the banners inside, you'll see it when I get it... I got an ice coffee (coffee slush) and it was refreshing. I then met Susan's neighbors, who were holding the other poster. I briefly got to say hi to Larua Ben David and finally sat for the ceremony. When watching online it seemed to take forever to get from the plane to the beginning of the ceremony. Doing it only seemed to last minutes, so much going on and my head was spinning a mile a minute. Amazing feeling, glad to be here, glad to hear the words of wisdom and welcome, then time to get to work on life.
Then it was off to the post office again. This time to pay my deposit on the apartment. They do everything it seems at the post office. You pay your electric and water bills there too. In the two times I've now been there I haven't seen anyone actually mailing anything even though you have to take a number and wait your turn. Amazingly enough the Israelis seem to wait there turn here.
Then I went to the Medical building to complete the paperwork to finish enrolling in the national health care. Similar issue as at the bank, all the signs are in Hebrew and thus I didn't have a clue where to go in this 5 story building. The guard told me 1st floor. I went to the 1st floor and they were like no, no, the second floor. So, up some more stairs. 3 offices to choose from, I went into one and asked if this was the place I needed to be and they said yes. I had to take a number and only had to wait about 15 minutes to get with someone. They did the basic processing and then wanted to know if I wanted the "Gold" coverage, over and above the basic care provided by national health care. I knew I wanted it but I still asked how much and it is 43 shekels a month, just a little more than $10. But they have to draft it from my bank account. I didn't have that information with me, so she said I would have to come back. They close from 2-4 and I decided to return at 4. I headed home and stopped and bought some ice trays so I could make ice in the freezer at home, no ice maker here... I returned at 4 and completed the enrollment.
I then went looking for a notebook for class on Monday. I figured I'd look in the grocery store, but alas no notebooks there. I'll find one in the morning.
I came back to the apartment and sat in front of the fan for a few minutes and took a shower now I feel cool and refreshed again. I am now waiting for a friend to pick me up and we will go out.
I just figured out that now that I'm in Israel the spellcheker in my blog editing tools is now spell checking in Hebrew and not my English. I will have see if I can figure out how to tell it to check my English as I know I mispell things even if it is just a typo.
New and Old (Anshei Darom FJMC Presidents - Steve Krodman and me at the FJMC convention in Philadelphia
I am still learning how to use the video camera and I appologize for the unedited files, but I wanted to get them up and not drag this out.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I'll start where I left off yesterday. I took a 40 minute nap and headed out to purchase a needed item, a fan as I have no air conditioning in my apartment. It's not overly hot, compared to SC, but with the air not moving it felt hot. Now that I have a fan it is quite comfortable, even during the hotest part of the day. At the same store I found other needed items, a power strip and adapter plugs to convert US plugs to Israeli plugs. So, now I can plug my electronics in.
On the way back with my purchases, I decided to get dinner at the recommended sushi place near where I live. It was quite excellent and not terribly priced either. It was about $15 for 4 Maki rolls (24 pieces). I met my first "local" and we chatted and exchanged numbers.
I came back to the apartment, hoping to meet my room mate, but he was not here and after I was trying to sleep I heard him return. When I left this morning he was still sleeping.
This morning I slept until about 7 and did some things in my room and on the computer and finally headed out around 10:00 and went to the office to see about doing my paperwork to live here. Dalia was there and she asked if I could go to the post office and register for health insurance while she got the papers together. I got back about 11 and she asked if I could come back around 11:30, she game me some paperwork to read and I returned at the requested time. Then she asked about if I had a bank account yet. I was planning to go today or tomorrow and open an account, but she told me if I had it done and back by 2:00 there would be a representative there from the Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of the Interior) that I could provide the bank information to, instead of traveling to their office to provide this information.
So, off to the bank I went, got there around 12 and walked in and looked around. All the signs are in Hebrew and I don't have a clue how to say "New Accounts" in Hebrew so I just looked around for a person that looked like they worked there and might be the person to talk to. Went to the desk of a woman and asked if she spoke English, which she did and explained that I wanted to open an account. She then took me to her managers office, who then said I needed to speak with someone upstairs, Ronit. Upstairs I went, went to the first woman I saw and asked for Ronit and was then directed to her office. She basically interviewed me, I guess to see whether they wanted me as a customer. At least that was what it felt like. Then after passing muster, she then took me to someone who would actually open my account (person number 5 so far) and we then completed lots of paperwork and decided to wait to process the orders for my checks and credit card until I have my Israeli Identity card next week with my Hebrew name on it instead of my English name that is on my immigration ID. I then wanted to depost the US dollars I brought with me into my new account, converting them to shekels. So, I was directed to the tellers to make my deposit. I waited in line, just one other person, and when I got to the window the teller then informs me for dollars I have to go upstairs to yet another teller that does these kinds of transactions. There were two people ahead of me waiting to speak to her. I finally got into see her and find she doesn't speak a word of English. So I stumbled through in Hebrew and actually converted my dollars, deposited them into my account and received some Shekels back for pocket money. Well it was now 5 til 2. Two hours (and 7 people) to open a bank account and make a deposit...
Well I walked quicly back to the absorption center and made it back by about 2:10 and found out where I needed to go and the represetative from the government was just arriving. We sat around waiting our turns and I met several people that had just arrived two days ago from South Africa. I completed my paperwork and returned to the office around 3:00 and fianlly got to sit down with Dalia and complete the paperwork. We finished around 4:00 and I came up to the apartment and relaxed a little.
Around 6:00 I was starting to get a little hungry, so I set off on a dual mission to get dinner as well as visit the grocery store and get a few things. I found a recommended haburger place, Burgers Bar, and stepped in. Not really surprised, but the menu on the wall was all in Hebrew, and I saw an English menu on the counter. I cheated and figured out what I wanted in English but ordered in Hebrew. It is a much different experience, after you order you sit down while the fresh cook the meat on a fire grill. The bread is obviously freshly made. When the burger is being made they have you come back to the counter and specify what you want on the burger. You then sit again until the burger is finished and then you retreive your meal. You then eat, and don't pay until you are ready to leave. I introduced myself to the people at the next table speaking English and met my second set of new acquainteneces. I just orderd a burger fries and juice and was full after half a burger. So, I wrapped it to go, payed my bill and headed to the grocery store. I walked around and just looked to figure out the store in general, then decided I would buy laundry detergent, juice and some rice cakes. I wasn't really looking for anything specific other than the juice. I paid for my purchases and headed home. I made it back around 8:30.
So, A nice full day and productive too. I am not too exhausted today like yesterday. I am a little tired, but I will hold out for another 30 minutes or so. Hopefully I can get the pics and videos up in that time.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
To access the webcast CLICK HERE or
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We are back in the hotel room and I wanted to update facebook and add this entry to the blog. I will add video from Philly when I get situated in Israel, so for now the pic will have to do...
In the morning we'll find a bagel shop and have breakfast and then head to the airport. See you all from the "other side".
Friday, July 3, 2009
Just in case I don't get to add any further entries... you can watch the plane arrive and the welcoming ceremony LIVE on the internet at the Nefesh b'Nefesh website. The plane arrives between 11:30pm and 12:15am Eastern time (8:30-9:15pm Pacific) on Monday evening/Tuesday early morning, I hope you can join in and watch it live, but if not, a day or so later it will be online in a recorded format.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Well it's time to get to work on the Garage Sale
I led services last night and took a little indulgement and concluded the service with Hatikvah. I also read Haftorah today at services and Kaitlin and Emily led the Torah service. I got to schmooze with lots of my shul friends and reminded them of my open invitation to come visit me in Israel.
Tonight was spent putting the final touches on the preparations for our Garage sale that will start in the early morning, so I will keep this short as I am exhausted and need to go to sleep...
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Today I received a PDF file with the written confirmation of my reservation at the Absorption Center. I had received confirmation from the shaliach both in e-mail and verbally, but it still a good feeling to see it with a JAFI logo, my name, date of arrival, etc...
I have been selling things that are not going with me or that the kids want or need. Ebay and Craigslist are wonderful things. I am down to just a few bigger thing and all the "chachkies" that I'll try to sell at a garage sale on Sunday. So making progress... Tick tock, tick tock
Thursday, June 18, 2009
My English name is Matt(hew) Gottlieb
My Hebrew name given by my parents is משה רחמיאל בן גרשון Moshe Rachmiel ben Gershon
The ben Gershon part of my name means son of Gershon, my father's Hebrew first name. My children are ben Moshe, son of Moshe. So if one is good at keeping up with which children are from which father then you can keep this straight.
It is an American thing to have two names before the "ben Gershon", to be like English first and middle names. In Israel they do not have middle names, so the Rachmiel would be confusing in Israel.
So, I have chosen to change my first name to Moshe but keep my last name Gottlieb. All my Israeli documentation will have my Hebrew name as Moshe Gottlieb but all my American documentation will stay as it is now. I'll also have an Israeli document that links the two names so to help to avoid confusion, but in most cases people would only see one set of documentation so there wouldn't be confusion, unless they were looking at both passports or driver's licenses.
So I completed the online request and they will confirm on the plane and when I get my Israeli ID it will have my new hybrid name. Are you confused yet?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I also arranged for the truck to move out of my place, two weeks from today! Another week after that I'll be in the air!
Friday, June 12, 2009
I then made my way to a kosher deli near Dupont Circle, Eli's Deli. They had a broad menu and while I was looking for the hot brisket sandwich, I saw the steak fajitas... hmm.... I can make a brisket sandwich, I've never made fajitas. They were very good and that hit the spot. Now to kill a little time before I could check into my hotel... I went to the National Zoo. It was hot and the animals were mostly hiding, but I saw the Elephants, orangutans, hippos, and the small mammals. Went to the hotel and got cleaned up.
Why am I in DC? I came to attend a celebration for the olim processed by the Washington Aliyah office. The event was cosponsored by the Jewish Agency, Nefesh B'Nefesh and the Israeli Embassy. It was held at the embassy and we weren't supposed to disseminate the details as that would be a security problem with the embassy. So about a hundred gathered at the embassy mostly from the DC area, a couple of families from Richmond and myself the lone attendee from SC. The shaliach asked in advance if I would speak at the event and I took the presentation that I presented at my shul, shortened it and modified it to meet the goal of my presentation to describe who I am, how I came to decide to make Aliyah and what am I going to do when I get to Israel.
I met several families that will be on the same flight that I'll be on. I met several young people who are on my flight as well who are going over to immediately join the IDF. I am honored to share my flight with people who put in all on the line to defend the country. I am honored to share the flight with the whole planeload as we are part of the present and future of Israel. Kol Ha'Kavod to us all!
I then went back to the hotel to get a little sleep before having to be in a cab at 4:45 to head to the airport to head home. The flight was delayed in Cincinnati but I was still in my office before noon.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
If you are so inclined you can register at the Nefesh b'Nefesh website.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
For me the really interesting (and cool) thing is that he went to the airport to greet new olim arriving from India. While he had no idea that his son would one day be making Aliyah, he got to experience the euphoria of people arriving and being there to greet them. So, while he may not be there to see my arrival, I now have a feeling that a piece of him is with me when I make Aliyah and experience the arrival at the same airport that he visited so many years ago (albeit slightly more developed today).
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Friday was my uncle's birthday and a lot of the family got together to celebrate. The last place you'd expect to find a nice Jewish boy who keeps kosher. The all-you-can-eat BBQ place. I went because of the family gathering not the BBQ. We had a great time and I enjoyed seeing a lot of the family in one place. They recognized that my move is getting near and that this was also a good opportunity for family and I to spend time together too. While the guest of honor got the big cake, they also had a decorated big cookie for me.
Saturday at shul I was the board representative on the bimah and lead musaf too. Not too sure how many more things I'll get to daven but it's definitely something I thought about when I started.
Emily finished her motorcycle class today and was one of only 4 class members to have passed the course. I'm glad that she has the class behind her, but still will worry about her on the bike, at least for foreseeable future. Maybe one day I'll be a little less apprehensive but that just the father in me.
As for kids they finished with school and graduation is coming.
Today I spent a couple hours packing my second box. This time it's the pictures. The reason it took so long.... I had to stop and look at some along the way and even had to scan two (to put on Facebook) since it'll be a few months probably before I see the pics again.
I created a group on facebook for those of us sharing the Nefesh b'Nefesh flight together. So far about a dozen people have joined either the group or the actual flight event. (just 230 more to find).
I put in my cancellation order for my cell service. Since my contract is not complete they have a process to cancel when you move overseas. After only having to talk to two people they told me that basically I cancel my service. I will get billed for the cancellation fees and when I get to Israel I am supposed to send them a copy of a bill (cell, internet, etc) and they'll then credit the fee. I said that was fine, but that they probably won't be able to read the bill. The guy was like "Can't you request it to be in English?"
Monday, May 18, 2009
So, what did I have to say? I felt humbled by the experienced speakers that preceded me but I didn't have the anxiety that I figured I would. Here are the words that I shared:
When I was asked to speak here today I had no idea what I was even supposed to say. I am not a seasoned public speaker, which the next few minutes will prove. I don’t consider myself an activist, nor am I a politician; I don’t work for or speak for an organization that supports Israel. So who am I? I am an American. I am a South Carolinian and in just a few weeks I will also be Israeli.
Growing up in South Carolina has helped shape who I am and will continue to be. I learned you can be many things at once. I don’t have to box myself in and say “I am Jewish” or “I am American” or “I am a South Carolinian”. So to add Israeli to that, does not diminish my other characteristics. I learned to stand up for what I believe in. South Carolinians did that so many years ago at Fort Sumter. We do it today: whether or not we agree with our Governor’s decisions he stands up for what he believes. I do so today by standing here and speaking out to you. “Don’t Tread on Me”
By gathering here today y’all share with me the idea that you can support Israel while not diminishing your support for South Carolina and the United States of America.
I am moving to Israel for many reasons, but this is my way of “Put up or Shut up”. While moving to another country is not what everyone does to show support. I know many of you gathered here today don’t need much encouragement, but Supporting Israel is good for the world. Those of you, I know there must be one or two out there, that have a cell phone should thank Israel. Those of you that are ignoring calls and letting it go to voicemail should also thank Israel. Have you swallowed a camera for medical reasons? Thank Israel. If you have swallowed a camera for other reasons, I don’t think we want to know about it… I could go on and on. Israel is an innovator and has made the world a better place.
Israel is central to the monotheistic religions of the world. We share a belief of one g-d. We share a sense of fairness. We share a responsibility of defending what is right. We want the world to be a better place.
There are those out there that try to focus on the unfortunate events that have occurred over the years in the defense of the Israeli way of life. There are many who think Israel has been evil and malicious in these events. If Mexico were bombing San Diego I don’t think we’d sit quietly and let it go on for years upon years. Bibi Netanyahu said “if the Arabs laid down their arms there would no war, if Israel laid down its arms there would be no Israel.” There is no crystal ball, no magic; the hope is for peace and prosperity. We will continue to work towards this goal and maybe one day this won’t be a hope any longer.
Israel needs us, continue to support her. Speak out, join organizations, visit Israel and if you are so inclined move there.
Am Darom Carolina Chai! – The people of South Carolina Live!
Am Artzot Habrit Chai! – The people of the USA Live!
Am Yisrael Chai!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I would like to note that this has been assembled by a group of people who are true friends and lovers of the State of Israel. Not all are Jewish. I met a couple "Zionistic Christians" when I was volunteering in the IDF, but didn't realize that there are actually a good number, even right here in South Carolina.
So, who is on this amazing list of speakers that I get to share the microphone with:
- US Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC)
- SC State Representative Mac Toole (R-District 88)
- Rabbi Jonathan Case - Beth Shalom Synagogue, Columbia, SC
- Avi Posnick – East Coast Outreach Director - Stand With Us, New York, NY
- Kathleen Cox – Vice President - Israel Always, Charleston, SC
- Bob Schwartz – Assistant Exec Vice President - American Friends of Magen David Adom, Miami, FL
- Pastor Gene Rowell - Gantt Street Baptist Church - Cayce, SC
- Rebecca Pinsker & Friends - Music - Education Director - Beth Shalom Synagogue, Columbia, SC
So, my friends if you are in the area next Sunday, May 17th, join us in front of the SC Statehouse from 2 until 4, rain or shine, but I'm hoping for shine. Wear your Blue and White!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Today I was the guest speaker at my shul. I was asked to speak on the topic of why I am packing up and moving to Israel. This is my presentation as I presented it to my congregation:
In today’s parsha God tells Moses to speak to the entire Israelite community. He is to tell them:
קדשים תהיו כי קדוש אני יי אלהיכם You must be holy, since I am God your Lord [and] I am holy.
He proceeds to tell us how we can do that in the form of commandments. What is really being told to us is that we have to live a certain way, in order to be holy. In today’s world it means to live a Jewish life following Jewish law. We have learned that we don’t know everything at once and we have to grow into “our” Jewishness.
I grew up in this community and recall Sunday School at the education building next to the old JCC. I recall the JNF Tzedakah boxes. I recall the posters of Israel, Jerusalem, the kibbutzim, the chalutziim (the pioneers). I especially remember always singing Hatikvah at the end of each school day. We moved to this building and some of the posters didn’t follow but we continued to sing, I became involved in USY. I considered becoming a Rabbi.
I let society dictate confusion and assimilated myself into secular life and for many years I did not attend shul or do anything Jewish. It took Mormon missionaries in Utah to push me back into the shul. That is a story for a different day. But they also started me down a better pathway of life. I reconnected to my roots, both in general family connections, but also to my heritage. When I moved to Atlanta I was seeking out ways to incorporate Judaism into my everyday life. I found a Jewish outdoor group, Mosaic. Named for the first Jewish hiker, you know… Moses… I went to shul regularly, I went on weekly hikes and found other things to volunteer in within the community.
I was feeling pretty good about my reconnection. Sept 8th 2001 shared the parsha from my Bar Mitzvah. This was the 3rd year of the triennial so Maftir matched from years ago when I chanted those words. The Haftorah was of course the same, while I don’t remember who chanted it that day I recall that I was humming along, remembering those words from so long ago. My heritage, my history and my future. I was moved that Shabbat. Three days later the world shook. September 11th, the Gregorian date of my Bar Mitzvah, was now forever shared with the tragedy in New York, DC and Pennsylvania. I did not know anyone that died, but I was somehow connected. My shul in Atlanta had daily discussions followed by the evening minyan. I went each day, somewhat in shock, but comforted by being with b’nei yisrael, the children of Israel.
I continued my participation in Mosaic events, camping, kayaking, hiking and enjoying that all the participants were all Jewish, we didn’t’ travel on Shabbat, we only ate kosher food at our events. I now had a portion of my life that wasn’t ritualistic but allowed me to live a Jewishly integrated “regular life”. I was on a hike in the Georgia Mountains and was walking along chatting with a friend. We chatted about how he had traveled to Israel and volunteered in the IDF. I was intrigued and asked more questions and basically learned about the Sar-El organization that facilitates civilians volunteering in the IDF. I went home from that hike and thought to myself; that sounds really cool. I researched the organization and within a couple weeks I was signed up to volunteer for 3 weeks. I didn’t leave for a couple of months, but I then became an information junkie regarding Israel. I read everything I could on the internet, bought travel books. I recalled stories from years ago in Sunday and Hebrew School and the places we studied about were about to not be distant pictures but places I could and would actually visit. The Sar-El organization sent me all my paperwork and documents to better prepare me for my travels. One thing that struck me was they mentioned in their documentation, that 46% of people that come on this program eventually make Aliyah. I thought to myself “that isn’t going to be me”. I received several other documents from them before my trip. They all stated the same statistic and I still thought “that isn’t going to be me”.
I went to Israel, when I got off the plane, I had the cliché response, but it was genuine, I felt “at home”. Riding in the car and seeing all the signs in Hebrew left me thinking this is really cool. I am in a Jewish place where being Jewish is “normal”. The entire time I was volunteering they reminded us, 46% eventually make Aliyah… And I said it wasn’t going to be me. I rode on busses and listened to people actually speaking Hebrew. It wasn’t the language of the synagogue, but the language of life, everyday life.
There were several bombings while I was there and that was weird, but I didn’t want to leave. I was part of this and I belonged. I went on a hike with the Mosaic group based in Jerusalem and unlike the Georgia group where we might see a civil war site; we hiked in the valley where David slew Goliath. That left me with a feeling of understanding this was the land of my ancestors and our history was all around me. Spending time in Jerusalem, the old city, the Western Wall just added to this experience. I spent Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, in Jerusalem. Not as a spectator, but a participant. I marched in the parade, waving a flag and ending up at the Western Wall. There was a huge gathering of Israelis. Music playing, dancing and general celebration. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t Israeli, didn’t hardly understand a word of what was going on. They pulled me in, I danced and was an integral part of the celebration. I belonged and they were telling me this, just not in words.
At the end of my trip, I gathered up my memories, got on a plane and returned to the US. I thought to myself, see it wasn’t me. I loved everything about Israel, but Aliyah, not me…
I returned from Israel in May 2002. That summer I read about a charter planeload of North Americans that all were making Aliyah together with the help of a new organization, Nefesh B’Nefesh, Jewish Souls United. I thought that was really cool and at this point didn’t think much more about it. Over the next couple of months I read more and more about Nefesh B’Nefesh and in December I read that they were chartering another plane. I was now thinking ok, “normal people” make Aliyah. People leave North America and move to Israel, just because they want to. My mind was made up. I wanted to be in Israel. I had been wrong. This was me.
I downloaded the application from Nefesh B’Nefesh and started to fill it out. I talked with a child psychologist and was told I either needed to do it right then or wait until my kids graduated. I did some soul searching and decided that right then was not ideal for many reasons, but if I were to wait until the kids were older then it would be their decision instead of me making them go. So, knowing that they would graduate in June 2009 I now had a target date. When I told people that I was making aliyah in six and half years they were saying, YEAH right, today I am telling you about my journey to make Aliyah, six and a half years later. Now I feel many are saying yeah, RIGHT, the same words but the emphasis is on the RIGHT.
What else have I learned about during my journey to this point in my life?
- The orthodox don’t have a monopoly on Aliyah. Conservative Jews make Aliyah. Non-religious Jews make Aliyah. People actually move to Israel because it is an amazing place to live, to raise a family, have a great career. Oh yeah, live Jewishly without having to make much of an effort.
- Assimilation is a good thing, in Israel.
- While we should do everything we can to be supportive of our intermarried friends and family it is still something we have work at. In Israel you would have to work hard just to be intermarried.
- Israel is constantly trying to grow and improve. Israel is constantly seeking new people to grow the majority but more importantly bring new ideas and strength to the state. I feel I have a lot to offer and to contribute to the future of the State of Israel.
- The founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass has stated that we are not running from something, but running to something. I couldn’t agree more.
- Aliyah is not the destination, life is. Living in the land of Israel is the objective
- I recently read an article by Hanna Zakon, who recently made Aliyah she made the point:
Mark Twain once asked us what our secret is. How is it that despite our meager numbers we have stood the test of time? How is it that despite others turning their heads to our suffering, we have survived? How is it that we have outlasted the greatest empires? He, and the world, saw us as the few, as the weak. They measured us by numeric strength. Mr. Twain was missing one piece of crucial information when he wrote his remarks. He saw us as individuals; he did not see the rows upon rows of ancestors that stood and still stand behind us. With his question he missed the point; we have survived because we are a 'We' and not an 'I'.
Rebbe Nachman stated:לכל מקום שאני הולך, אני הולך לארץ ישראל –
To every place I go, I go to eretz yisrael
While you may not be getting on the plane, many of you grew up with me here. You saw the same things; you heard the same things and did the same things. I take with me a piece of this community and you are all invited to join me in Israel, be it for a day, a week, a month, a year or even making Aliyah. I hope I can share a Shabbat meal with each of you when you come. Follow your heart, I am. Please stand and join me in the singing of Hatikvah.