Monday, 20 December 2010

A lonely Jew at Christmas...?

So now I'm beginning to understand how my mum felt all those years I nagged her for Christmas presents.

The other morning, Roni got into bed with us (I really miss that cot...) and said, "We don't have a Christmas tree mummy"

"Hmm..." I think to myself, I wasn't reckoning on this conversation for another year at least.

"Well, you remember all those lovely candles we lit last week? and all the chocolate? and the lovely pressies????"

She sort of realised that we 'did' Chanukah candles and her friends, nursery, Tumble Tots and everyone else, pretty much, 'does' Christmas trees... and more presents and chocolate.

It's tricky living as a secular Jewish family with only a few (also secular) Jewish friends. Most of the people we know celebrate Christmas and of course it's just everywhere you look.... Personally I think it's a nice thing to do but I feel a bit of an imposter doing it when I really don't 'believe' in it. I also don't want Roni getting used to it before we whisk her off to Israel (aged 75 or something) where of course we won't be doing Xmas at all.

One of the best Christmases of mine was the only one I ever spent in Israel where I was climbing the Solomon mountains just north of Eilat with a group of students from the Rothberg School where I was studying. Christmas day we were at the top of the mountains, it was about 24 degrees and sunny, we looked out over the amazing views across Jordan towards Saudi Arabia. It was so serene we all completely forgot it was even Christmas.

So we will light our Chanukiah, give out the chocolate Chanukah gelt and a few little presents. Then we will go to our neighbours' Christmas party where there will be more lovely lights, presents and chocolate.

Not so different after all then....


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Education, education, education

So it's been too long since my last, admittedly brief and somewhat plagiarised post. I could make the excuses of too much school work, CELTA work, plus I'm trying to organise some Holocaust Memorial Day events at school.... but of course I wouldn't want to make excuses now, would I...?

In addition to all this work I have going on, I've also been putting in my two pence worth on the Ha'Aretz Facebook page in a vain attempt to counterbalance some of the more extreme comments I find on there. Of course the response threads on these sorts of websites are bound to attract those with extreme views, but I am still amazed at how quickly every (and I mean EVERY) time a story is posted on the Ha'Aretz page, the responses  turn to the "Israel is an evil Zionist empire" vs "Arabs are all terrorists out to destroy Israel, you anti-Semite/self-hating Jew" rhetoric. It's disappointing really, that people post vitriol at each other, often with no reference to the original article, and then we wonder why such an entrenched conflict is difficult to resolve...
Ha'Aretz - a bastion of liberal Israeli journalism, attacked from every angle online...

One point I have made on this blog and on the Ha'Aretz page relates to education. The most recent message I posted there was in relation to this article which reported on a new course run by Yad Vashem to train Arab educators in Holocaust education. Having attended a course at Yad Vashem in February 2007 as part of my IWM Fellowship I was especially pleased to hear that this course will go ahead. In my opinion, anything that aims to break down the barriers to building empathy between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East can only be a good thing. So many agitators responded to this essentially positive article about building relations between educators with angry messages about who's right and wrong in Israel/Palestine that the point of the original article quickly got lost.

I have been teaching history for 9 years. One of the skills we teach students from age 11 is to recognise different historical interpretations. Admittedly this is not an easy skill and it takes students a few years, looking at several different historical contexts to really understand what we mean by historical interpretation. Nonetheless, by GCSE most students can recognise that different descriptions of, say, the war in Vietnam, does not mean that one is true and the other false. There is often truth in both but the interpretation and motive skews the basic information (although in itself, a bias piece of evidence can be incredibly valuable for understanding other elements of the history).

This element of historical understanding is so often absent on many of the message boards I have read. Maybe I should just stop reading them? I'm sure Mark would like that! But for some reason I keep getting sucked in.  Maybe I have a naive hope that I can broaden someone's understanding of what's going on in Israel. I know I have my own biases, but I hope I can present a balanced perspective when possible, and whatever my own leanings, I am definitely not radical.

One thing that has stuck with me ever since I attended the course at Yad Vashem in 2007 was a comment in a lecture on the pedagogy (teaching theory) of Yad Vashem. The lecturer talked about how Yad Vashem seeks to put a face to the Jews and their stories - to undo the process of dehumanisation they endured at the hands of the Nazis and make them more than just a number. I wanted to ask the question of whether they thought that this pedagogy could be replicated in teaching about 1948 in Israeli schools: to make the Palestinians more than just a number of refugees, to recreate stories and make the people, the victims, human, in order to further understanding.

I didn't ask the question, and to a certain degree I regret not asking. For some reason I thought it wasn't relevant or perhaps that it wasn't appropriate. Although the Holocaust doubtlessly played a part in hastening the creation of the state of Israel (a fact recognised by Ben Gurion) I am not so sure that 1948 should play any part in educating about the Holocaust. Zionism wasn't the reason for Nazi antisemitism and most Jewish victims weren't Zionists. Perhaps Yad Vashem is right.
Perhaps the two events, the Holocaust and 1948, should be kept separate from the perspective of the Holocaust edeucator. The history teacher in me however knows that in a study of 1948 the Holocaust cannot be omitted, and the narratives of both sides are equally valid. It is the lack of validation to each other's narratives that permeates eduction both in Israel and in the Arab world.

I am a teacher through and through. When I (eventually) make aliyah, I want to teach. I know that I will not have good enough Hebrew to go into an Israeli state school and teach history so that is why I began my CELTA course, so that I can teach English. Although I enjoy teaching English a great deal, part of me wants to do something more than teach English to Israelis when I get to Israel. I sincerely believe that there is a problem at the core of the Israeli education system which is it's streamed nature. By having separate schools for Jewish and Arab children, as well as religious and secular Jews, Israel is perpetuating the sense of 'otherness' that exists in this triangle within Israeli society. I'd really like to have the chance to teach in one of the (few) schools that teach Arab and Jewish children together. Givat Haviva and Neve Shalom are perhaps the two best-known examples of such educational establishments... unfortunately where we plan to live is not a particularly mixed area and so there aren't any such schools (to my knowledge) ... well, with the nature of the 5YP being what it is, I have plenty of time to figure out a plan...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Mazal Tov to Kippot for Hope

I would like to wish my friend Adam Williams a HUGE Mazal Tov for winning a Norwood Helping Hands award at the recent Norwood Awards Evening. He has worked tirelessly and selflessly to help a Jewish community in Uganda improvetheir standard of living through creating a market and selling their handmade kippot worldwide.

Please watch this video and pass it on to your friends. It just goes to show what a difference one person can make. Well done Adam, you really deserve the recognition.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Recommended read...

I just finished reading Sayed Kashua's Dancing Arabs. This was an impulse buy at Ben Gurion Airport and I'm so glad I bought it. It's a beautifully written portrayal of a young Arab Israeli growing up in Tira and the issues of identity that he faces as he grows up.

A difficult yet rewarding read

The nameless protagonist, apparently based on Kashua's own youth, walks the tightrope between Israeli and Arab identities and the result is a heart rendingly honest picture of the conflict that lies within the hearts and minds of Israeli Arabs as they endeavour to make their way in the society in which they live. Neither side is shown in a particularly positive light: the Arabs are somewhat backward in their traditions and the Jews either racist or hypocritical. Nonetheless, I found it a valuable insight into an element of Israeli society that I admit I know little about and I intend to pursue this topic further.

To this end I have managed to persuade Mark to come with me to see Kashua's 'Arab Labour' which is being screened in London as part of the UK Jewish Film Festival. We also (finally!) got a copy of Ajami with English subtitles so I'm looking forward to seeing that at last - although I've been warned it's a heavy one.


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

History students fight to use textbook presenting both Israeli and Palestinian narratives - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

History students fight to use textbook presenting both Israeli and Palestinian narratives - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Please read this article - yet again I see a story that reinforces my hope in a peaceful future in Israel. The fact that school students, supported by their teachers and school, are demanding a more balanced history text book is so heartening. The fact that these students are in a school in Sderot - yes that town whose name has been used to justify so much - is doubly heartening.

Aron Rothstein, Principal at Sha'ar HaNegev school in Sderot where students are demanding a more balanced teaching of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Thursday, 21 October 2010


While reading the Crazy Country blog recently I came across this quote from Yitzhak Rabin taken from a TV interview from a few days before his assassination on 1st November 1995. I thought it tied together my two recent blog posts nicely...

- Host: Mr. Prime Minister, your government relies for its parliamentary majority on the vote of Arab Knesset Members. Also in order to approve the Oslo II Agreement you relied on such a majority. How do you answer those who say that a government which relies on Arabs is not legitimate?

- Yitzhak Rabin: (angrily) Anyone who says that is a racist.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Yitzhak Rabin - Z"L

As darkness fell last night, the Hebrew anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin began. As we drove up towards Rabin Square we saw many young Israelis from the scouting movement at a ceremony. Today's Yediot Aharonot newspaper has a special supplement commemorating Rabin that I have begun to read (slowly - it is in Hebrew after all). One article interviews four young Israelis who were born on the day that Rabin was assassinated. It was interesting to get their persepctive on the man and his death.

How and for what do we remember Yitzhak Rabin?
Their comments ranged from "I am not especially sad on this day because despite everything, it's my birthday" (Avi Cohen, Tel Aviv)  to the perhaps more thoughtful "It's strange to me to look at photos and see how everyone was in shock and I had just come into the world on that day" (Danielle Levi, Kibbutz Geveram). One of the young interviewees is an Arab Israeli who lives in Haifa. His revelation was the most surprising. He noted that "At school we never speak about him [Rabin] and not on the anniversary of his death. I know, because it happened on the day I was born, but my friends don't know anything about this date."

This statement has made me sad for the peace that Rabin, despite his faults and the problems of the Oslo Accords, tried to bring to his country, to all Israelis not just the Jewish ones. I am convinced that it will be the people, not the politicians, who will build the lasting peace, whenever that may be. And I also believe that it will have to start in the schools, so that the younger generations will know each other and begin to recognise each other more through being educated together.

There are a few projects (Neve Shalom, Givat Haviva for example) that have begun to educate young Jewish and Arab Israelis together, so it is possible. And admirable. And necessary.

Yitzhak Rabin Z"L - rest in peace, and may there be peace


Sunday, 17 October 2010

Give me strength...

I even went for a run this morning!

Energy seems to have been the theme of the last few days, what with me and Mark both running around like a couple of headless chickens after Roni. I honestly don't know where she gets her energy from.

However, 'energy' is 'Meretz' in Hebrew, and Meretz is of course the liberal, dovish left-wing political party in Israel. I have always thought that when I made aliyah I would be voting for Meretz. Of course I first started to think about making aliyah in the days when Meretz had influence in government. After all, when I first considered aliyah in the 1990s, my (distant) cousin and Meretz founder Shulamit Aloni had only fairly recently stepped down from her post as Education Minister in Rabin's government. Fifteen-odd years and an intifada later and things are vastly different today. Meretz is increasingly sidelined in Israeli politics and with it the voice of the left wing, peaceloving Israelis.

Until, it seems, the other night when driving into Tel Aviv, Mark and I were wondering why the traffic was so heavy. Of course, heavy traffic is not strange for Tel Aviv, even on a Shabbat evening, so perhaps we shouldn't have bothered wondering.... Anyway, out wonderings were soon answered as we drove down Kaplan St we saw a procession of a few thousand people, demonstrating against a new policy that has recently been backed by the governmnet: the notion that all Arab- and non-Jewish Israeli citizens should pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state.

I am proud to report to you that democracy is alive and well in Israel as demonstrators shouted "Lieberman, Lieberman, gam facist ve gam gizan!" ("Lieberman, Lieberman, a facist and a racist!") and held placards declaring that "Jews and Arabs will not be enemies!"

I am not so naive as to think that this demonstration will reverse the political tide whereby Israel is moving ever more to the right, but I am so relieved that people are noticing this disturbing pattern and mobilising and doing something about it. A recent Ha'aretz article I read in this weekend's Herald Tribune supplement bemoaned the apathy of modern liberal 'Tel Avivi types' who care more about what's happening in their TV soaps than in the very real political life of Israel. I was so happy to find that there are Israelis who are truly awake to what's happening in their own lives, and acting to do something about it. I hope that I will become one of them.

PS I was going to leave it there but when browsing for coverage of this demonstration, it is front page in Haaretz, but nowhere to be found on the BBC website, or on The Guardian or Telegraph websites, who are just covering the actions of the settlers.... just an interesting thought, I thought.......


Sunday, 10 October 2010

Helter CELTA

So despite the delay to the FYP I am charging ahead with my own preparations for life in Israel. To this end I started my CELTA (Certificate of English Language for Teachers of Adults) course a couple of weeks ago. This six month part time course will qualify me to teach English to adult learners so I feel better inasmuch as I feel that I am now doing something towards my future career opportunities in Israel.

Sitting in the first observation lesson last week took me back to my days at Ulpan at the Rothberg School in Jerusalem. I made such a lot of progress in a short space of time when I was studying in Israel, I only hope that the students I will be teaching in Hove benefit nearly as much from their language classes as I did from mine in Israel. I also realised that teaching a language was a whole new ball game to teaching history. I enjoy teaching so much, I hope that I can bring the same enthusiasm and energy to teaching English as I do in my history classroom.

Speaking of which I have a pile of history marking waiting for me on the dining room table. Even though my teaching hours are, ahem, lighter this year, as I am teaching a new GCSE specification I am teaching Russian history for the first time. I am actually quite happy about this as it is something I have studied myself and being of vaguely Russian stock (way back in the shtetl) I feel an affinity to the topic.

My final thought for this evening on teaching, learning and language, is something Roni's started saying. I often berate Mark for, among other things, switching between Hebrew and English all the time when speaking with Roni (I would rather he stuck to Hebrw as much as possible). Nonetheless, Roni has started to use the phrase 'ke zeh' ("like this") as a little add-on to her sentences - like "Swiper's so funny ke zeh" - for those of you unfamiliar with Swiper or Hebrew, Swiper is a cheeky character from Dora the Explorer (Roni's latest DVD obsession) and although she's developing a lovely chamoudi (sweet) Hebrew accent, she's using the phrase ke zeh incorrectly - but to great comic effect, making her sound like a little Yenta.

"Swiper's so funny ke zeh mummy!"

As we prepare for Israel,  I am wondering how her Hebrew will develop in the coming weeks. Last time we were there she definitely made great strides in her understanding because she was hearing different people speaking, and hearing more conversation. I hope that her speaking will develop now as I love it when she throws a bit of Hebrew into her speech. At the very least I want her to teach Aunty Lucy a couple of Hebrew nursery rhymes!

Lehitraot! xx


Monday, 4 October 2010

Support Gilad

This was recently brought to my attention by Anthony, my step dad (thanks, Anthony). As you may know from the news or from my earlier post, Gilad Shalit has been held in captivity in Gaza since 2006. His kidnap, from inside the Green Line was a major contributory factor to Israel's Gaza incursion. He is also being deined the basic human right as set out in the Geneva Convention that is contact with the International Red Cross.

Please visit the Magen David Adom website for information of how you can help get Gilad this basic contact by signing their petition.Then please tell all your friends and colleagues. Together we may just be able to do something to ease Gilad's plight.

Thank you.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Too cheesy for words

This has NOTHING to do with anything else on this blog but I have to share it...

This is why I love my sister. This is her response to her friend Ben's status on Facebook.

Ben's status read "Ben is having some cheese"

Lucy: Yuck

She later went on to add:

"you are both weird. However, although i said yuck before, i can tolerate some cheeses, but mainly cheddar (never melted though) and philadelphia on a got crumpet can be very satisfying. Parmesan, although it smells a bit of vomit can be nice on pasta and a little feta is acceptable. But i draw the line there. Melted, blue, and smelly goat's cheese are not for me! And ben, i don't believe you had cheese with the president of turkey, sorry, i just don't!"

I love the way that starts with the phrase "you are both weird"...

OCD??? Lucy??? Don't even get her started on peas...


Monday, 27 September 2010

ho hum...

So Mark came back from the accountants and it looks like it'll be 2013 before we do the Aliyah thing... and thus continues the story of my life...


Friday, 24 September 2010

You gotta laugh...

Well I've spent most of the evening on the computer as there's NOTHING ON TV!!! and, all in the name of research for this blog, I've been scouring the net for other blogs I can identify with...

I've found a few, which I'll be referring to in future posts, but just before my eyeballs fall out onto the keyboard, I will share this with you, especially any of you who may want a light hearted approach to improving your Hebrew (I know I do! Lucy and Hayden, look at this website, it's a giggle) can go to Hebrew Jokes - thanks to The Big Felafel for bringing this one to my attention.

Wow, two posts in one day, I'll have to go and lie down ....

Lila tov xx

To pee or not to pee?

I'm sure Roni will thank me for this one day (!) and it has little (if anything) to do with making Aliyah, but I just want to say how proud I am of her continuing progress with the potty. So much so that it has even inspired me with my most recent 'Favourite photo' (just to the right there... you can't miss this one...)

Roni is now convinced she is a very 'big girl' and although it's tinged with sadness as she becomes less and less of a dependent baby, there is much happiness as she asserts her independence (and boy does she ever!) and becomes her own person. This independent little, sorry BIG girl doesn't like: open doors (they must all be closed) apart from when she's asleep, when the door must now be open (it always used to be closed), mummy singing, mummy talking to people and not paying enough attention to Roni, eating with cutlery.

So our big girl will be staying up late for Shabbat dinner with Uncle Charlie. She loves to light her own (soft toy) shabbat candles and say bits of the bracha - mainly because she gets lots of hugs and kisses afterwards. So from us all in Brighton, and especially Roni - "Shabbashlom!" to you all xxx

Have a cuddly Shabbat!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Too fast??

Yom Kippur is drawing near. I am trying to work out how I will cook for and feed Roni without going crazy-hungry... and I'm also thinking about why I am planning to fast.

After all, I am planning to fast because... well that's just it, you see... I'm not sure why.

If I am to be honest, I have only truly fasted on a handful of occasions. I have 'nearly fasted' (is that like being 'a bit pregnant'?) on numerous occasions and when I have succumbed to my hunger it has been late in the day and usually only to a cup of tea or slice of toast. Nonetheless on those occasions when I am sipping a cuppa at 3.30pm on Yom Kippur I definitely feel guilty. Similarly I feel like I have really accomplished something when I have successfully fasted.

But neither guilt nor a sense of achievement should be the reason why I fast on Yom Kippur. According to (don't you just love that URL?):
"Yom Kippur is G-d’s designated annual day of total spirituality. On Yom Kippur, we get into things that make us like angels the most, and out of things that make us like animals the most: we spend the whole day in Tefillah, and we put our bodily cravings on the back burner."
So I am supposed to consecrate this day: go to shul, say some prayers and focus on G-d (I will have to post again about why I sometimes put a '-' and sometimes an 'o' in that word...). But I know I'm not going to be doing any of those things this year (and I've not been to shul for, well, quite a few years since I moved away from home). I have an appointment in the morning and my dad's coming down for the weekend and we'll take Roni to the park in the afternoon. So if I'm not going to do any of the other stuff, why fast? Maybe it's because it's something I can do, even if I'm not doing anything else. Maybe, even if I'm in town or in the park, my rumbling tummy will remind me of the meaning of the day and draw my attentions to God. Maybe it'll just make me think about food more than usual... there'll probably be an element of both of these effects, I hope more of the former.

As a secular Jew coming up to Yom Kippur I am surely not alone with this scenario. According to YNet,

"Asked whether they plan to fast on Yom Kippur, 61% of Israelis said yes and 28% said no. Six percent said they would fast only part of the day and 5% had yet to decide. According to a religious segmentation, 100% of haredim, 100% of religious and 85% of traditional Jews will abstain from eating and drinking for an entire day. Among seculars, about half of respondents will fast (most of them all day) and half won't fast at all" 
 So no surprises there really. I suspect that it easier for secular Jews to fast in Israel where all the cafes and shops are closed and the streets are empty. In Brighton, I will be in a little Yom Kippur bubble unless I go to shul (my mother would say, "So go to shul!" at this point). I should take comfort from the fact that Mark will also fast, but as he can do a 10 hour shift at work and come home and say "I forgot to eat all day" (How, I ask you, HOW???!!!) I know who will be finding it harder.

More interestingly, "According to haredim and national religious, riding bicycles is forbidden to the same extent as riding in a car is. Traditionalists are also opposed to riding bicycles on the fast day, but are divided as to the degree of severity they attribute to the phenomenon. The secular public said that it is one of the symbols of the day." (full article)

The Ayalon freeway on Yom Kippur (also known as Yom HaOfnaiim - Day of the Bicyles)

Photos courtesy of the lovely Lucy Inbar

I will be fasting, as much as I can. I have found some helpful hints online (thank God for t'Internet!) that I will endeavour to use when I inevitably find the going getting tough, including eating a high-protein, high-complex carb (but ordinary sized) last meal on Firday night, taking a nap in the afternoon (Roni permitting), drinking lots of water in the days leading up to YK to stave off dehydration (often the reason I succumb, to be honest) and, a new one here, sniffing spices (cinnamon and cloves). I have also seen this little mental trick online:  When the going gets tough think "If I made it this far, I can make it the rest of the way." which I intend to be my mantra/affirmation for the day.

So here goes.

Wishing you all a good fast, hatima tova.


PS Why is it called a fast when it always goes so sloooooooooooow?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Shana Tova!

Well, it's that time of year again - time to think back over the last 12 months and forward to the next 12. Achievements? Regrets? Hopes? Fears? Well I've had 'em all and am sure I'll be having more ...

My best achievement I think has been Roni. She's growing into the most lovely sweet little girl. Gone is the baby of a year ago. She's running around, chatting away and even using the potty! (Go Roni!) Of course, I can only take a small portion of the credit for any of this, but like a million Jewish mothers before me, I WILL take the credit, and live vicariously through my children :)

Viva la scooter!
Mummy and Abba's pride and joy
As far as regrets are concerned, well yes, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention (that's for you Dad, a bit of Frank) ... but as now is the time to be mentioning them (before the Big Guy closes the book and all, forgiveness and all that...) I'd just like to say sorry to Mark for being a stress-bucket (moi?? really?? surely not...) and sorry to Nana (who will have to get this from Ian's phone) for not calling as often as I should. I AM GOING TO TRY REALLY REALLY HARD TO SORT THESE ISSUES OUT THIS YEAR.

So we come to hopes & fears... well I am only human so I have loads of these... in no particular order:
  • for the clinic to do well so we can keep on track with the FYP
  • to grow our family (near and far)
  • the peace process - for some progress to happen
  • to complete a CELTA
  • to keep going to the gym
  • that i'll stop going to the gym
  • for Leeds to get promoted again (OK so that may be pushing it a bit...)
  • that Leeds will go down
Ok ok ok, so I'll stop there cos I'm getting a bit carried away, but I'll let you guess which are hopes and which are fears (answers on a postcard...   no prizes though) 

So may it be a sweet and fruitful one for you all, full of love and laughter, health and happiness, music and mirth, friendship and peace. 

Shalom  xxx

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

You wanna peace of me???

Well, today is the first day of the restarted peace talks between Israel and the PA in Washington. So, in the spirit of peace, what do I see on the headlines at Ha'Aretz and Jerusalem Online? That's right (I paraphrase) "Hamas claims responsibility for the shooting of 4 Israelis in the West Bank". It made me think...

I was transported back to the mid-late 90s when I was studying in Jerusalem and Bibi was PM, having won the previous election on his 'Peace with Security' ticket. I arrived in August 1997 just a few weeks after the double suicide bombing in Mahane Yehuda, and just a few weeks before the triple Ben Yehuda Street bombing. Yes I kow what you're thinking - 'Good peace with security Bibi, thanks'. Well... Bibi is PM again and I know that this attack is not necessarily comparable to the bombings of 1997 in target or scale... but the motivation - to derail the peace process - is doubtlessly the same.

The question is... will Bibi and Israel play into the hands of those who use violence to destroy hopes for peace?

The Guardian Online is running a story today that the setllers will defy the government's freeze on settlement building from 6pm tonight. And so the cycle continues: fanatics on one side provoke a fanatical response from fanatics on the other side...

Will the Israeli government and PA take the necessary steps to control and contain the fanaticism on their own side? Will there be enough (any?) trust between them to allow each to 'look after its own' (fanatics)? Both nations need peace and security - from the fanatics within as much as the fanatics without.

The optimist in me prays that Bibi won't use this as an excuse to fall back on the rhetoric of  'the Palestinians don't want peace' and that any settlers who defy the building freeze will be arrested and dealt with by the judicial process. The realist in me thinks that that's exactly what will happen - or at least that a blind eye will be turned to any breach of the building freeze.

According to Ha'Aretz, the PA has spent a great deal of effort trying to find who perpetrated the attack on Tuesday evening. Of course it is in the best interests of the PA to punish Hamas and keep the latest installment of the peace process going... I just hope that Bibi realises it's in Israel's best interests to stay in the process as well.

Fingers crossed then.

hmmm... who do you think he's imagining in his grasp...?

Saturday, 28 August 2010

For Gilad

Today is Gilad Shalit's 24th birthday.

He has been held as a hostage in the Gaza Strip since 2006, when he was kidnapped from Israeli territory during a cross border raid.

Gilad Shalit, aged 20, just before his capture in 2006

Although there have been repeated promises made by the Israeli government to work towards freeing Gilad, no significant progress has been made since Hamas released the video of him in October 2009. CNN, YNet and other news outlets have been reporting that pressure is increasing on PM Netanyahu to make a deal with Hamas that would see Shalit released. I sometimes wonder what Gilad himself would think of the efforts that have been made: firstly the Gaza incursion that did Israel no international favours and failed to get him released, and secondly the negotiations over prisoner swaps - the Israeli government being expected to release 1,000 or so Palestinians in return for Gilad's own release.

I am hopeful of his release inasmuch as is it surely the right thing to do and demonstrates a willingness on behalf of the Israeli government to take bold steps towards finding an equitable solution to the many issues that exist between Israel and the Palestinians. However, with Netanyahu as PM I find it difficult to believe he would go through with releasing the numbers of prisoners it would take to enusre Gilad comes home.

Please click here to find out what you can do to help raise awareness of Gilad's plight and help pressure politicans to push for his release.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Heading for the good life...?

It's nice to know that Newsweek has named Israel as the 22nd best country to live in out of 100 countries. They have measured education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism and political environment as the yardsticks by which the countries have been measured. Israel has scored particularly well on Health but what interested me most was the 'Political Environment' rating. Israel came 27th (the UK came 33rd here) and was scored on 'freedom house rating', 'political participation' and 'political stability'.

I will have to remember this the next time I meet a member of the PSC who claims that Israel is an apartheid state. According to the Newsweek research, Israel has a more highly rated electoral process, functioning government (!) rule of law, associative and organisational rights, personal autonomy and individual rights and freedom of expression and belief that our dear old Great Britain.

You can see the research for yourself here

Monday, 23 August 2010

Another one!

I sometimes feel like I am participating in an episode of Aliyah QI. The questions are very hard and the obvious answer is never the right one. Meanwhile the scoring system is completely random and the person who you think comes first usually comes last. With so many members of my family getting to Israel before me, I reckon I must be the Alan Davis of Aliyah QI.

As I've already (jealously) mentioned, Lucy my little sister made aliyah 3 years ago. My mum amd Anthony have now put their house on the market, and will up sticks as soon as they have a sale. Finally, I have just today joined the Facebook group of my cousin, Hayden, who has just set of for the land of milk and honey on a 5 month internship. Another one has beaten me to it! (I'm just waiting to hear that my Nana has quit Donisthorpe for Netanya ...)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

What is left?

Sometimes I think about what I'll miss about the UK once I've made Aliyah. When the Plan began, I would have said pubs. Now I'm (a fair bit) older (and a parent) I will say politeness, people indicating when they're driving and the friends I've made over the years who I will see a lot less often (but hopefully will not, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, lose touch with).

One thing I won't miss is the angry defensiveness I feel every time I see the Palestine Solidarity Campaign people at the stalls they set up in Brighton to 'spread the word' about Gaza (like it's never in the news...) and encourage people to boycott Israeli goods. Personally I buy fruit and veg I don't particularly need in Tesco when I see it's from Israel so I'm not the best person to try to convert to this particular cause. I was at the Brunswick Festival yesterday as Mark was doing spinal screenings for the clinic. It's a small scale, local community event that's been running for almost 30 years and is a really nice couple of days out (even if it's been a showery weekend this year...). Anyway, the PSC folks were there and I paused to read some of their literature about the blockade when a young lady thrust a leaflet into my hand that read 'Boycott Israeli goods'. I asked her if the PSC supported a boycott of Egyptian goods and she gave me a slightly puzzled look that sort of said 'uh oh' and I continued to remind her that Egypt is also blockading Gaza. She didn't have anything to say so I left, muttering to myself (as I am wont) about one sidedness....

Its strange really because I consider myself to be pretty left-wing and dovish when it comes to Israeli poitics, especially peace politics. However, it angers me that groups push such a one-sided agenda in this country. There was a half hour Panorama programme on the Mavi Marmara the other night which was generally very good (even congratulated by Honest Reporting so must've been good! (lol :-)) but still, the Egyptian role in the blockade was not mentioned even once. Maybe my dad was right that I would become more right-wing as I got older. Although I would like to disagree with him, I think that my views on Israel are more right wing here than they would be in Israel. It's probably a sort of defence mechanism for me, protecting my fellow Jews, that would be unneccessary in Israel, where the Jews all argue with each other anyway.

I am generally very proud of the British media, which gives a wide, varied and overall balanced report of the news when taken as a whole: and indeed this is something I will miss when I make aliyah. I will definitely be keeping up with the  British press online. One thing I won't miss is the trendy-anti-Israel rhetoric that's quite common in Brighton - at least when left-wingers protest in Israel, they know what they're protesting about.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Why why why?

When I mention to people (friends, colleagues, some family members) that I intend to go and live in Israel, I am often met with a puzzled, incredulous face and the question 'Why?'. When you consider the image of Israel that most people have in their mind's eye, formed by in no small part by the media, then it's not really that surprising.

However, when I think about Israel, I find myself thinkg, "home". That's how I felt in May 1988 when I landed for the first time at Ben Gurion airport with mum and Lucy. I was 11 years old and I felt like I had just got home. I was and still am a secular but slightly traditional Jew (Friday night candles and dinner, shopping on Saturday - you know the type) who at age 11 had had some experience of Jewish youth groups (Habonim Dror, YJNF) so had a vague notion of Zionism. The overriding feeling of being in Israel for me though was that I never had to explain to anyone about being Jewish - something I must've felt the need to do a lot at my 'other home' in Leeds, I guess. In short I loved it. Even the extreme sunstroke on Day 5 on an Egged Tour to the north couldn't diminish the hugely emotional response I had to being in Israel at such a young age.

An Egged Tours bus - not a good place to have sunstroke, eh Lucy?

I visited Israel twice more before I turned 18, another family holiday (with dad this time) and an FZY leadership course in 1994. I got the chance to stay (briefly) with an Israeli family in Nazrat Illit, with another family on a moshav in the Galil (shout out to Hazon!) and on a kibbutz near Eilat. This was another side to Israeli life, far removed from the hotels and restaurants of Tel Aviv that I'd experienced up to that point. I loved it.

In 1995 I started my degree in Jewish History at UCL and began to learn Ivrit. Then I spent my third year at the Rothberg School at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. With each passing day I felt more and more like I was somewhere I truly belonged, even though living in Jerusalem could be tense in ways I couldn't really have imagined living in London (the Ben Yehuda triple suicide bomb exploded just 3 weeks into my time there). Although I'd begun my degree thinking I'd be focusing on Holocaust history, I took more Israeli-based courses in my final year and continued to complete an MA in Modern Israeli Studies.

The view from Mt Scopus, where I studied at the Hebrew U for a year - VERY hard to leave that place...

Since completing my teacher training in 2002, I've lost count of the number of times I've returned to Israel to see friends and family and in 2004 after a week in Herzliyya and returning to a rain sodden Brighton and losing my camera (I was soooo pissed off about that) I asked my headmaster if I could take a sabbatical, with the intention of making Aliyah and teaching in Israel.

Things moved quickly after that.

Headmaster said 'Yes'!! - how amazing! I could go and make Aliyah and my job would be waiting for me if after a year I decided to return!

I went on a date with an Israeli guy called Mark who lived in Brighton.

We got on - I mean we REALLY got on...

I changed my mind.

(I didn't want to leave you Mark, after I just found you!! :-))

Did I wuss out? No, we really knew we were going to be together and we both wanted to be in Israel in the future - Mark just needed to make his chiropractic fortune first ( - the only way to make a small fortune in Israel is to go with a big one in the wise words of my husband) and so began the Five Year Plan. Yes, I know that 2004 is 6 years ago, but that's the beauty of the FYP - it changes to suit your circumstances :) We officially started counting again at the beginning of 2007 when we opened the clinic in Hove so we should be in Israel for 2011 but really it'll be 2012 (I told him I gotta get out before the Olympics!)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The story starts here.. sort of

This is me, baby Roni and my little sis, Lucy in April 2010. Tel Aviv. That's where Lucy lives. With her husband, Avi, who is Mark's first cousin. They met a couple of days before our wedding in April 2006, at a party we had in the Crowne Plaza, Tel Aviv. Mark's mum, Yaffa, had put on a fantastic party for our families to get to know each other. Lucy & Avi took these instructions to heart and married in November 2008. Lucy's been living in Tel Aviv since 2007.

Lucky bugger.

I first decided that I wanted to live in Israel at some point between 1994 and 2002. So Stage One only took around 8 years. I am currently 4 years into a five year plan (that began in 2006 - are you keeping count?) Lucy beat me to it by .... some way (3 years if you're still counting...) and she never even planned it. At all.

But I will be there. Deadline April 2012.