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Restart

It’s been a while.

Contributions to the blog dropped off since the official community program contracted and Facebook made it easier to keep in contact but perhaps we can jump ahead five years and give some updates.

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Building and Reuniting

Originally posted in the English E-Newsletter for Yeshivat Har Etzion Alumni Tishrei 5770Building and Reuniting Hillel Maizels and Avi Zimmerman2

As the years pass by, it’s not uncommon for Gushnikim to bump into each other and sometimes even get together to catch up. Yet, how often does it happen that Gushnikim find their paths not only coinciding but also intertwining?

After completing Rabbanut Semicha at Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rav Hillel Maizels’95 MTA and his wife Yael participated in the Rothschild Foundation’s “Likrat Shlichut” program, which trains community rabbis in Israel. Rav Hillel and Yael, who were familiar with community life as it exists in South Africa and Buffalo, New York (their places of upbringing, respectively), identified the need for a similar system here in Israel. They sought the appropriate community, with both the desire to develop itself and the potential to do so.

Avi Zimmerman ’95 was living in the City of Ariel with his wife Dana and their two children, Gilli Shirah and Eytan Ohr. Though he is an occupational therapist by profession, Avi accepted the city’s offer to run the new Community Aliyah Program for North American olim. The program, sponsored by all of the major aliyah organizations and institutions, encourages olim to make aliyah directly to Ariel. Many olim have been drawn to Ariel with its substantial benefits and assistance, affordable housing, easy access to Israel’s employment centers, an incomparable quality of life and an ever-developing vibrant religious community. Nonetheless, Avi recognized that the success of Ariel’s aliyah program would be dependant not on the initial arrival of the olim, but rather on their comfort level in the city and their subsequent commitment to build their lives there. The city needed a community oriented rabbinic figure, who could both provide personal guidance to the new olim and assist them in integrating into the framework of an Israeli society.

When Rav Hillel heard that the city of Ariel was looking for an Anglo community rabbi he immediately pursued the contact details. Moments later, the two Gushnikim, who spent 5 years of yeshiva together, were talking about community life in Israel, the future of the Jewish People and the earliest opportunity for the Maizels family to visit Ariel for Shabbat. A few visits later, Rav Hillel, his wife Yael and their daughters Hodaya and Elisheva were all geared up to make the move to Ariel. Rav Hillel now serves as the Rav of the Ohel Efraim community in Ariel and is teaching in a local school.

Maybe it’s not such a coincidence to see Rav Hillel and Avi teaming up. Back in Yeshiva, when Avi was the madrich for the American students, Rav Hillel was themadrich for the MTA students from South Africa and Australia. A few short years down the line, and the Maizels and Zimmerman children are playing in gantogether, while their fathers and mothers are working to develop a paradigm for community life in Israel. Whether it’s a reunification or a natural continuum, Rav Hillel and Avi are taking what they developed in Yeshiva and giving it as a gift to so many others.

Aliyah Tales of Ariel II

 Bull’s-eye

by Benjamin Laskin

 Once my processing for Aliyah was well underway, my next major decision became, “Now, where the heck in Israel am I going to start this new life of mine?” I needed a place to absorb and I hadn’t a clue where to go. So, I did what any serious, sane person would do. I pinned a map of Israel on the wall of my apartment in Japan where I was living, and tossed a dart. After all, Israel is Israel, and it’s so small, anywhere is everywhere.

 

Four darts later and worried that I’d lose my security deposit, I was quite certain that there were no Israeli towns or settlements in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, Lebanon, or Jordan, I decided that a slightly more pragmatic approach to such an important decision was called for.

 

I dug up the handful of colorful fliers that I had picked up while on a visit to the Jewish Agency in Los Angeles describing various towns and cities in Israel that were looking for new immigrants. They all sounded good on paper, but that is, after all, the purpose of a flier. 

I needed a little more info than that.

 

I got online and clicked around, trying to get a better sense of some of these places. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be in or around Tel Aviv or Haifa. Nothing against those cities, but they didn’t tickle my romantic and idealistic fancies.

 

I narrowed my search to four or five possibilities. I sent some emails and waited. And waited some more. Only one address had returned with a rapid reply. The one I had sent to Ariel.

 

Within a few quick back and forths with Avi Zimmerman, I knew that here we had a guy who took his position seriously and could be counted on. Avi far exceeded my expectations, and when the big day arrived and I landed in Israel, Avi was there to drag my weary, bleary-eyed carcass from the airport and cart me off to Ariel. I remained under his big, brotherly wing until he had made sure all my important documentation and ‘to-dos’ were complete, including securing my apartment. I was overwhelmed not only by Avi’s concern and generosity, but by the very special Ariel volunteers who assisted us, led by the indefatigable and wonderful ‘Den-Mother-in-Chief’, Jenny Simon.

 

Having made aliyah directly from Japan where I had been living for some eighteen years, culture shock was unavoidable. On top of that, I was entirely solo, with not a single friend or relative in Israel to greet or help me. However, thanks to Avi, Jenny, and many others of the Ariel English-speaking community, my transition from a sushi- nibbling ‘gaijin’ to a falafel-snarfing Ole couldn’t have gone smoother.

 

After a few months, I wasn’t just chucked aside by Avi, either. He continued to demonstrate honest interest in my well-being and always made time for me from his busy schedule. Avi has moved on to another Ariel-related program, but his successor, Reuvan Franks, has filled Avi’s gigantic shoes most admirably. Like Avi before him, Reuvan is as helpful as you want him to be, and even though I am now a nine-month ‘old timer’ here, I feel that he is always ready to assist me in any way he can.

 

Ariel is a lovely town with many wonderful people, especially those in the English speaking community. Bonds are made fast, and kindness and generosity shine down on new arrivals like the Shomron sun we live under. It is hard to imagine a better and easier way to absorb in Israel than by coming to Ariel. Don’t toss darts and expect everywhere to be the same. Head straight for the bull’s-eye, Ariel.

 

Benjamin Laskin

 

I’m not someone who has wanted to make aliyah his whole life.  My family never regarded it as an option when I was growing up, and I had never even been to Israel until a few years ago.  But over the last few years as I’ve become more religiously observant, I’ve also begun to feel a stronger connection to other Jews and to our homeland. I began to understand that living in the land that Hashem gave us is an important part of our covenant with Him as Jews, and I wanted to fulfill my part in that covenant by living in our homeland. I wanted to live where the holidays that are celebrated are Jewish holidays and where the rhythms of daily life are Jewish. I wanted to be in Israel if, G-d forbid, bad things happen to our people, and to be there to celebrate when good things happen. I got tired of watching from the sidelines.  And I grew to feel more and more like an outsider living in exile in the U.S. 
 
I’ve never thought that Israel is some kind of paradise. I think my life in Israel will be harder than my life in the U.S. had been. Making aliyah wasn’t an easy decision. At times during the process I got cold feet and had second thoughts. Several times I decided not to do it at all. I didn’t think I could quit my job, sell my house, move myself and three dogs to a place where I didn’t speak the language fluently and wouldn’t even be able to read my phone bill. But I could never talk myself out of it. And somehow it all worked out. That must mean something. I did know for quite a while that my heart was in Israel and my soul was in Israel; now I’m very happy that my body is here too.
 
Making aliyah to Ariel has made everything much easier. There is warmth and support here for new olim, and having Reuven Franks, Ariel’s Community Aliyah Coordinator, makes a huge difference. I would not have known how to go about opening a bank account, leasing an apartment, getting my dogs licensed, or any of the other innumerable tasks that are a part of daily living without Reuven’s help. He helped me with all those things, and that’s incredibly valuable.
 
Terry Troutner

Aliyah Tales of Ariel

 

There are a few experiences in life – that you just get to have once. For better or for worse. They are the kinds of experiences that make you say, “Woah, is this happening to me?” The ones that can make you feel drunk on life. The major ones are “Lifecycle Events”. Births, Marriage, and Death.

 

I was privileged to add a Bonus Event to my Lifecycle this week, to my chain of events. I added Aliyah – I elevated my life, my family’s life, as we moved up to Israel.

I was not prepared for this experience. Even though I have been working for it and wanting it for 11 years. The week or so leading up to our departure, people kept asking, are you excited? Every other time I’ve gone to Israel, the adrenaline starts kicking up about that time. I get on the plane and my heart is pounding. This time, it wasn’t like that. I was just Ready. Emotionally. It was Time.

I expected the sad and tearful goodbyes. For the past 6 months or so, when I even thought of saying goodbye, I got choked up. I expected tears as we took off, but they didn’t come. I expected more tears as we landed – but there were just a few. Happy tears. Happy and thankful to be coming home for good.

And I was right, goodbyes were rough. And as we landed in Israel, I did get teary-eyed. I looked across the plane at My Shauli (we were each sitting with a kid at opposite window seats) and I longed to be able to hold his hand – as we landed in our new home. Our new country. And I fell in love all over again because he made this possible. He helped me realize my dream.

We landed, we clapped, we cheered. I cried – but just a little. We got off the plane and headed down the steps, waited for the bus and sped away to the terminal. As I looked out the window and saw the palm trees, I remembered my first view of the land. The palm trees, and the feeling of that blast of hot air. And my heart was overflowing. With love for Shu, Jonah, Sammy, and for coming home. FInally. My eyes started overflowing too at that point… The director of Nefesh B Nefesh, or the Rabbi who started it, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, was on our bus with us. And he saw me crying. He told me, “Don’t do that, now you are going to get me started all over again!” It’s cool that he still gets emotional with each new landing. I pulled myself together and we pulled up to the terminal. And no matter how many live or taped landings I had seen – no way was I prepared for what came next. For how I felt.

The shuttle doors opened and all of a sudden, there was Israeli music blasting. “Havaynu Shalom Aleichem, Havaynu Shalom Aleichem…..” Music blasting, people cheering, everyone waving and smiling. Cameras here, there, everywhere. Everyone welcoming us Home.

I gasped and the tears started flowing. There are no words that can begin to describe how I felt at that moment. No way to capture it. And I just stood there for a second, taking it all in. A random army lady saw me, she looked overjoyed to see me and told me, Welcome home. She gave me a little Israel flag and a hug, holding me tight. There were tons of cameras and video cameras in my face. Taking pictures of the boys in the stroller, Jonah almost asleep. 🙂 We walked along, through the aisle created by the masses of people and all I could see were smiles and tears of joy. I’m the one who came home – yet I can see the excitement in their eyes! I stopped, I covered my eyes, I was sobbing. This is my dream come true. Better even because I’m here with my incredible husband and 2 (and a ½) amazing children. We are home.

Well, if I was that emotional seeing strangers, you can only imagine how I felt when I saw the Zacks crew there to greet us! I saw Nava first and I just started yelling and waving wildly, “It’s Nava, it’s Nava! Shu, do you see her?” Then I saw Naphtali, Daniel, Aviva, Shevy – and I couldn’t get there fast enough!! I couldn’t get past the crowd but I just wanted to get over to them – to hug them. To thank them for paving the way for us! As soon as I got there, I wanted to hug everyone, I held onto Aviva for dear life. The crowd controller was trying to move us along, telling us we were holding up the line. Then Shlomo appeared and I followed him to get inside. Our friend Inbar for Sheirut Leumi in Detroit is there and I hug her – the crying starts again.

At that point, I’m about to faint. It’s almost too much to handle. Physical and emotional overload. Someone hands me a bottle of much needed cold water. Of course, then I notice my head scarf is practically off- woops and so I slip on the handy Nefesh b’ Nefesh hat they gave out. Now I know what those are for. Golda and Sarra arrive and more hugs, I don’t want to let go. Then Arye is there and Simmy and we are surrounded.

Avi Z. and the Ariel gang is there to meet us and I’m so grateful. I can’t wait to move there! We picked a good spot. We take a huge group picture. Go Zacks!

And on that note, since it’s almost 2:30 am and I’m running out of scrap paper to write on, I’ll bid you adieu. Or Shalom. Lehitraot. And for those in America, come soon! There is always room.

My Life By Donuts Mom

Pesach shopping guide

 

Seder plate

Seder plate

In a follow up to the Kosher for Pesach (KFP) shopping list that I put in the files section (on the yahoogroups site), here’s my attempt at giving you some grocery shopping tips for Pesach.

  

First and foremost,

check each package you put in your shopping cart. Most KFP packaging is similar, if not identical, to the regular packaging, some stores are negligent in not separating the two. Kitniyot and non-kitniyot – be careful to read the fine print.

 Chief Rabbinate guidelines

Note that products are certified Kosher for Pesach 5769. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has attempted to make some order by issuing some guidelines such as: must have date, must be printed as part of the package and not a sticker applied to the regular packaging.

 Date stamp.

While we can joke about why something might be kosher this year but not be KFP next year, this is supposed to protect the consumer from recycled products. The day after Pesach, hundreds of KFP items become almost worthless to the store and the producer. Israeli producers have an incredible returns policy where a lot goes back to the producer who has no choice but to destroy the worthless products like potato-flour sponge cake, wine-based coconut cookies, etc… In the past, without a date stamp, the stores/producers could merely resell the stuff next year. Not anymore, almost. I’ve seen this appear with KFP baby formula a month ago. Theoretically, some stuff has an extended shelf life anyways, but you decided your limits. 

Stores selling chametz

make sure that the store has a receipt for selling its chametz. This will be important during and after the holiday.

 Store design

Store management awareness to KFP has grown tremendously. Many stores will have entirely seperate sections for KFP products days before the holiday. During the holiday, they will close off the non-KFP sections, or cover the shelves up with plastic sheeting. The stores catering for the religious/Haredi market will relegate their non-KFP stuff to a small corner and the rest of the store is KFP – truly awesome!

 Store hours are usually extended in all branches.

 Many packages that are normally Badatz will have writing stating ‘l’yamot hashana bilvad’, or something like that. It means that while the product is Badatz certified, it might have kitniyot inside and/or the product might need extra stringency for Pesach that the producer is not willing to pay for. Most Badatz’s are Ashkenazi meaning that most Badatz products are non-kitniyot. Yeah!  I am not endorsing ‘badatz’ food (at this time), just that around Pesach time, them make life a bit easier for us Ashkenazis.

A non-kitniyot tip – salami and other packaged meats. Tirat Zvi (orange packages) offers the widest (and virtually only) selection of non-kitniyot meats, some of which is non-Badatz meaning that it will be cheaper too, You also support the kibbutz up north 🙂

 Okay another tip – if you do not eat kitniyot (and not to start a discussion whether Canola is kitniyot or not), you will need either Palm oil (about 10NIS / litre) or Walnut oil (24NIS / litre). These are only available at the Haredi stores (more info to follow).


 Store locations and features for Ariel residents based on my experience.

 

Mega Ba’Ir (2 X Ariel)

– best to come prepared with Rav Tav coupons so you can save some money. At these stores. be EXTRA careful to make sure you are taking KFP products, ESPECIALLY during the holiday. Even after many complaints over the years, there are problems. On Pesach, a ‘minor’ problem is a major problem. Hopefully, this year there won’t be any. Like most of the ‘regular’ supermarket stores, you’ll see that they cover entire shelves but cut out little windows for KFP products. Many times, adjacent to these revealed KFP products is pure chametz. Often, the sheeting tears, it might even fall down, some people take advantage and take out non-KFP items. To the store’s credit, I once witnessed one of the cashiers refuse to sell a customer a non-KFP product. I think it was ice cream with cookie chunks. I try to avoid Mega Ba’Ir during the holiday and afterwards for a few weeks. Very hard to find non-kitniyot food here.

 

Yesh (Ariel, Kfar Saba, BeErot Yitzhak)

-Yesh is theoretically the Haredi branch of the Shufersol chain so many products are badatz, less so at the Ariel store which also serves different consumers. The Ariel branch is relatively small compared to the other branches. Good prices, no packers in lines. I’ll tell you a secret: the best time to shop for a small order is 15-20 minutes before closing – the store is really quiet then. It’s somewhat risky because there might only be one of two cashes open.

 

### TOP OVERALL PICK ###

-The BeErot Yitzhak Yesh branch is my TOP PICK for KFP shopping. Massive (relative to Israel of course), all KFP food, kitniyot and non-kitniyit shelves/sections clearly marked. Mostly Badatz products. Very good prices too. During the week before the holidaym it is a madhouse. In the evenings and until closing, it might be hard to find a cart since there are many shoppers and some people load up more than one. You will have to stake-out people leaving the store and ambush them. Approach them ASAP asking them assertively to take their cart after they unload. Prepare a 5shek coin so you can make the trade at their car. Doors are open until almost midnight. Lines are horrendous, because of the masses and because people are making massive orders. I assure you that you will wait in line for no less than 30min, maybe even an hour. Take it with stride, be patient, talk with your new line friends, go back to search for more food. bring a book or MP3 player. It pays to drive here, car pool together, I promise that you will pay less here on products, but, but, but you will buy so much here – so take a shopping list. BONUS – frequent minyans in the shul at the back of the store. 

 

Yad Yitzhak (Yaynot Bitan) (Rosh HaAyin, Kfar Saba)

Good selection, many Badatz products but perhaps a small majority. I don’t do pre-holiday shopping here. Some baggers, not at every cash, long lines. Let the locals pack the place instead.

 

### BEST LINES ###

Hetzi Hinam (Yarkonim)

Tens of cashes, shorter lines than all other stores, ‘professional’ baggers at every cash, cashiers that work fast, good prices, large selection. Not many non-kitniyot stuff.

 

Bar Kol (Petach Tikva)

– Good prices, caters to Haredi/religious clientele so mostly Badatz food as well as non-food. Across from the Main Bus Station, but I think that parking is limited. I might recommend this store to people without access to a car because the store is much larger than the Ariel Yesh and size means thousands of more products. ‘Non-mobile’ folks could load up a trolley suitcase or two and put them on the 186 to Ariel and easily cover the return bus fare with the savings on food.

 

Bnai Brak

Shaul HaMelech road (Bar Kol, Yesh, and Ezra V’achva)

– the feeling of Pesach in Israel is just too incredible here on this street. PACKED, tons of Jews getting ready for chag, fighting for parking spaces in Yiddish. SO exciting. Virtually all Badatz food meaning large selection of non-kitniyot food. Even though we now do our major KFP shopping at the BeErot Yitzhak Yesh, I still like to visit this area to stock up on non-food items and for the atmosphere.

 

Others:

‘Supermarket Feely’ in the mercaz

Shufersol Deal (Segula)

Habiv (Segula)

 

Avoid the local Russian cornerstores. While awareness might have grown, there is no stringency. Some will openly sell chametz during the holiday. The 24hour stores should also be avoided. They ‘might’ cover up their pretzels, but still offer you whisky. One is notorious for selling bread and pitas. Hashem yishmor.

 

 

My family and I wish you all a kosher and happy Pesach.

Josh

 

10 tips on renting through a realtor in Israel

Renting in IsraelIt’s time to lay down the “law”.

I have seen too many missed opportunities. People want to rent something but don’t seem to know how to go about things. They look at a place or two, hope to find something “better”, and then end-up regretting having foregone the first place. In the meantime, people don’t realize that they’re driving the realtors a bit crazy (admittedly – not always a long trip). The problem is not only for the family or individual looking to rent, nor for the realtor, but for other individuals and families that intend to rent/buy in the future.

I’ve developed a healthy relationship with the realtors in Ariel, as well as with quite a number of landlords. It’s very important that I maintain those healthy relationships, so that we can assure all of our future olim the opportunity to rent (and ultimately buy) the sort of homes that they’re looking for here. Unfortunately, up to this point there have been”issues” that have arisen with most of the local realtors over the course of their dealings with families that I’ve sent their way.

There may be a number of factors involved, but it seems clear that the primary factor is a lack of familiarity with the unwritten rules of how to deal with realtors in Israel. So – in order to ensure that everyone lands a solid deal, as well as to ensure the continued success of the Ariel Aliyah program, I’ve drafted a list of 10 tips (5 do’s, 5 don’ts) on how to deal with realtors in Israel:

1. BE CLEAR. Know what you’re looking for. That will help the realtor know that you’re serious. If he has something to offer you then you guys will get along great. If not – switch realtors.

2. If the market is competitive where you’re looking (like in 95% of Israel) be ready to sign a contract on the spot.

3. Use the fact that you’re an oleh to your advantage – dedicated to life in israel, you’ll take good care of the place, if you’re not working yet you’ll still be able to pay the bills from your personal savings.

4. PRIORITIZE!!!! We all want a beautiful place, in a particular location, a particular size, a certain floor (not too high, not too low) , some extras (maybe a garden, a balcony), a certain amount of furniture (either none, lots or some), a place that’s well kept, a great landlord, wonderful neighbors, some (to alot) of storage space, a particular date of availability, enough time to decide if we really want the place or if perhaps we can get  a better deal elsewhere, oh- and of course a great price. WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD! Decide on 1 to 2 (maybe 3) guiding factors on the basis of which you are ready to sign a contract.

5. Make it clear to the realtor that he/she is a tremendous help in making your aliyah a (continued) reality and that you GENUINELY appreciate their assistance and all of the work they’ve put in – especially when they do things for you after office hours.

6. Never negotiate before making your thanks and appreciation of the realtor’s efforts abundantly clear.

7. Don’t try to negotiate everything – if there are 3 issues that you want to address (problems with the place, concerns of the wording in the contract, the price)  then mention each of the issues independantly.

8. Do not negotiate with the owner – only with the agent.

9. Do not show-up late.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask. If the place you see looks like it’s falling apart ask: “did you notice that the walls are full of mold?” or “how long will it take the landlord to fix up this place before he allows someone to move in?” Even if the answer to your question is in the form of stuttering or a blank look – you didn’t want to move there anyway. Now the realtor will take you somewhere that you want to see.

These tips are not an exhaustive list, but they should help you along their way. Remember – each of these guidelines was written in the wake of often repeated mistakes. I hope they help people keep on track.