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Say Shalom... and other lies of Hebrew school


Hey, there, long time no see!
You know, I could give you a whole bunch of excuses, about how things are busy busy busy and I'm working hard to both make a living and write creatively - and ideally get published someday soon.
But I won't.

I'll just share with you something I just realized almost NOBODY tells olim.
When you start learning Hebrew, they begin with hello and goodbye, which -- almost everybody will tell you -- is the exact same word: שלום / Shalom.
Handy, right?

Except that much of the time you probably won't use it for either.

Shalom is definitely a word, and you will certainly use it often.
But maybe not the way you think.

First of all, I don't know if I've ever heard any Israeli actually say Shalom as goodbye. I honestly think people would look at you weird if you tried. It IS used in formal contexts, like in an add reading, "Say Goodbye to Dandruff," you might use the word "Shalom." I've only ever seen this in a negative context - things you don't want, like cockroaches.

Introducing: The unique Israeli holiday celebration you’re not going to want to miss! (with video)


Yes, it’s one of my favourite unique Israeli holiday customs: hakafot shniyot! And I can’t believe I haven’t written about it before (or maybe I have?).

Outside of Israel, most people keep 2 days of chag so they're all partied out by the time Simchas Torah ends. But here, it's all one day, so people want to keep right on partying. Not to mention -- if you wait until AFTER the chag, you can have a BETTER party: one with loud music, live or otherwise, stands selling snack foods, bubble blowers, and other kitschy glow-in-the-dark accessories, and much more. PLUS you can record it on your phone. Which I did last night.

Hakafot shniyot - second hakafot - are pretty popular regardless of how religious the community is. They take out the sifrei Torah and announce which hakafa it is, starting each one with a round of "hosha na"s -- very much like the real thing. I don't know if there's any halachic basis to any of it, but basically it's a lot of fun and not a lot of rules.

That said: This year, they WERE enforcing a very strict "tav yarok" (תו ירוק / green tag) which is basically the green passport system. To get into the area in front of the main shul here, you had to show either the COVID passport app or a test from within the past 24 hours (that's how little kids were able to get in). Even with the COVID passport app, they were making you recite your Teudat Zehut by heart while the guards held the tav yarok so you couldn't see it and borrow your friend's. If you passed the test they were giving out wristbands.

Here's what it looked like around here last night...

Which instant coffee is best in Israel–? (with handy Hebrew coffee vocabulary)


This being Sukkos, or as we say it in Israel, Sukkot, there’s probably one burning question on your mind: which instant coffee is best? Okay, it doesn’t actually have much to do with the holiday, except that I’m home and have a little bit of time on my hands.

The first thing you should know is that if you ask people what the best instant coffee is, people being what they are, you’re going to get a whole bunch who tell you that nothing will compare to REAL coffee. Which, depending on who you ask, is either brewed or cold-brewed or espresso’d or capsuled in a special machine or whatever.

So let’s just get that out of the way first. If you’re looking for REAL coffee, almost any coffee is probably fine as long as it’s fresh. You can go to a special roastery – everyone has one they swear by and I guess I will shout out to  Gabriel Coffee in Kiryat Motzkin for being a cute friendly shop that roasts coffee beans and grinds them nicely to whatever fineness you like (I have a French press, so coarse grind is important).

And if you’re one of those people who say, “Well, if you’re getting instant it’s going to be garbage anyway,” then I honestly wonder what you’re still doing reading this. I’ll give you a second to click away.

Okay, good. Now we’re alone.

But first, a terrible joke

Now that we’ve gotten rid of the drip-coffee and barista purists, let’s move on to a joke my ulpan teacher taught me that I still don’t understand: “When it comes to coffee… it’s either neis, or it’s botz!”

So the first part of this is neis. Which is the generic Israeli term for instant coffee, from Nescafe. Israelis love

A small Pesach adventure close to home


Are you still feeling holed up this Pesach???

I feel like a groundhog coming out of its hole, a little bit at a time, after a year of… well, weirdness.

I hope the past year has been okay for you and your family.

I hope you’re somewhere safe and healthy enjoying Pesach with a few more loved ones than perhaps you were with at this time last year.

After having every single plan cancelled for the last year-and-a-bit, we finally ventured out on an official Family Outing yesterday. I didn’t dare go too far afield, so we visited a local “national park” called Ein Afek (its official name is “The En Afek Nature Reserve”).

National parks in Israel are naturally smaller than the ones we’re used to from Canada, with a whole lot less nature. But the trade-off is that they are always pretty close to either home or other civilized parts, you can often get there by public transportation, and they also often offer a glimpse into some pretty interesting history.

Ein Afek has all three:

  • It’s a ten-minute bus ride from our local mall, the Kiryon, probably a ten-minute drive from our house, if we were driving
  • It has some cool nature bits, including some natural local wetlands
  • It has some cool history bits, including both Biblical, Crusader, and British Mandate-era connections

I won’t pretend that this is Deep Nature, but at certain angles, it’s quite pretty and you do forget that you’re in the middle of the vast sprawling suburbs known as the Krayot, halfway between Haifa and Akko.




Our children were entertained, I think mainly by being out of the house, but also by

Translating legal documents in Israel? Here's what you need to know

Sometimes, people wonder what I do for a living here in Israel.

Even more weirdly, sometimes they don't. I guess they assume I make a living blogging or writing children's books. But no, or at least, not yet. Which may be why you don't hear from me here so often!

A lot of what I do these days is translation. (You can find out more on my site:
I translate a whole bunch of stuff: kids' books, academic documents, and these days, a whole lot of CVs. Oh, and from Hebrew to English only.

Many people assume I translate both ways, which baffles me. I'm great at writing in English (in my humble opinion), but I can't imagine my writing in Hebrew ever progressing beyond the most basic level.

Sometimes people ask if I provide "legal translation," not meaning legal documents (which I don't do; you need a specialist in the legal system for that), but legally certified translations that you can use for purposes like immigration or other legal-related things.

The short answer is that what they want is probably a NOTARIZED translation, and I can't do that because I'm not a notary. And because in Israel notaries must be lawyers, it will probably cost a whole lot more for translation even if you do find a notary to do it. Fortunately, there is another way.

Things that are cool in Israel #12: Boureka Laws (with boureka and freezer puff pastry dough vocab lists)

Every once in a while, just when we start feeling Israeli, something new comes along that honestly charms the pants off of me all over again. Something like… the Boureka Law.

Yup, that’s really a thing. Read on to find out.

Tummy rumbles 

For supper tonight, at NR's request, we're making homemade bourekas. We bought the pastry and now we just have to make a bunch of fillings and bake them up. In case you're wondering, there are a million kinds of freezer pastry here. Probably in North America as well, but there, most of them weren't kosher. Usually, we just

Little Minyans Everywhere

So we moved!  And one of the greatest unsung features of our building is a very regular minyan.

This is temporary, due to corona. Building minyans are nothing new in Israel, but usually they're "lobby minyans" held only for "quickie" davening, like maariv after Shabbos, not on a regular basis, with a Torah, for longer davening. And definitely not Shabbos morning, when everybody tends to go off in their own direction.

Until now.
And one of the joys of life in a Jewish country, I've decided, is waking up Shabbos morning surrounded by prayer.
Not just mumbling, but all-out singing, with gusto.

(This picture has been making the rounds of social media... best guesses seem to suggest it's somewhere in England.  It’s definitely not Israel, so I guess this phenomenon has spread out a little.)


Last Shabbos, our last in our old apartment, I went out for a walk with the kids after we lit candles (with masks on!).  We passed at least a dozen little minyanim, so we started