Yishai presents audio from an event he recently attended in Maale Adumim which was sponsored by Rabbi Elan Adler, where six new Olim to Israel present the five most significant things they’ve learned since making Aliyah. To kick off this segment, we hear Rebbetzin Yael Kaner. Following the Rebbetzin is Annie Orenstein. We end this week’s show with Maklah Shrybman along with a musical number from Andy Gross.
Where else but in Israel would a fresh-faced, eight-year-old Little League rookie wearing a New York Mets uniform smile and casually ask you, “By the way, during the game today, if a rocket is fired at Modiin, where do we run?”
Where else but in Israel would a confused Tel Aviv taxi driver ask his passenger, “What do I do now?” several seconds after air raid sirens are sounded throughout the city?
Within the span of a few days this past week, I was faced with the challenges of easing a child’s innocent anxiety during a “relaxing” after-school activity and dealing with my own mortality while trying to arrive on time at a meeting in the bustling Tel Aviv region.
Call it what you wish: absurd, surreal, or something else. For me, each instance provided a sense of irony and awe.
Coaching one of Modiin’s Little League squads on Friday afternoons is a physical and emotional release for me, allowing me to realize a lifelong dream of being involved with baseball while diminishing the stress of daily life. But even coaching baseball comes with a proviso unique in Israel. Several hours before the game, the Israel Association of Baseball alerted all Little League coaches (Little League in Israel runs from October until early June) of their legal obligation to instruct all youngsters where to run if air raid sirens sounded.
Several minutes before we started practice for an upcoming Chanukah tournament, I was chosen by the other coaches to explain – in Hebrew and English – the situation to the nearly 20 Little League team members. As I stared at the kids, some of whom had recently made aliyah from the U.S., I wondered how they would react to a potentially chaotic scene. To my great relief, both the American olim and the Israeli youngsters listened attentively and then segued into their baseball banter without missing a beat. In fact, it was one of the most productive practices of the season.
On Sunday morning, I boarded a crowded train to central Tel Aviv, disembarked and hailed a taxi.
Less than a minute after the driver started to wind his way through the busy streets to nearby Ramat Gan, air raid sirens sounded throughout the city. My initial reaction was that I didn’t believe it. But the driver, a grizzled Tel Avivian in his early 60s, was positively confused. He exclaimed, “I have no idea what to do!” Realizing that this was not a scene from a Hollywood movie but a real-life rocket attack in the heart of Israel, I calmly told the driver to pull over so that we could at least make it to the entrance of the nearest building.
We got out and walked less than five yards to a storefront. For several seconds we pondered where the missile would hit. And then a loud boom echoed above our heads. A motorcycle driver standing nearby pointed up and said, “Iron Dome shot it down.”
I looked up and saw the contrails and puffs of smoke from both the Iron Dome missile and the remnants of the Fajr-5 projectile that had been fired by Islamic Jihad terrorists in the Gaza Strip. As if on cue, all of the citizens who had abandoned their cars in the middle of the road, many with the engines still running, returned to their vehicles and proceeded to their destinations. Everyone just kept on moving, without hysteria or tears. Life goes on. (And yes, I was on time for my meeting.)
No one appeared out of sync, except for one marketing executive whose hands were shaking because her son was sitting in a tank along the Gaza border waiting to see if his unit would be among the first to invade enemy territory.
Walking back to the train, I looked up at the skyscrapers that are growing by leaps and bounds in Tel Aviv and adjacent Ramat Gan and just shook my head. For a split second, my body shuddered.
It is widely believed that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are trying to cause an Israeli version of 9/11. A successful missile strike on a skyscraper or two in Tel Aviv or Ramat Gan would kill or maim hundreds and send frantic citizens on the streets below racing for their lives. Despite the fact that the cowering residents of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba, Ofakim and Sderot, among other cities, have been hammered mercilessly, a single Fajr-5 strike against a Tel Aviv skyscraper would make headlines worldwide and spark an all-out war on Gaza. Which is exactly what Iran wants.
Hurricane Sandy’s fury created a ripple effect that was felt in Israel, as thousands of tourists, business travelers and ordinary citizens found themselves stranded on both sides of the ocean.
As of midweek, all flights from Ben Gurion International Airport to both JFK and Newark airports had been cancelled through at least Wednesday morning. With JFK Airport reporting heavy flooding and high winds across its runways on Tuesday, and Newark Airport dealing with high winds and sporadic power problems, it was undetermined when regular flights to Israel from the metropolitan New York area would resume. U.S. Airways flights to Israel from Philadelphia International Airport were also canceled through at least Wednesday morning. Once the region’s airports resume a normal flight schedule, El Al, Delta, United and U.S. Airways will have to deal with a backlog of thousands of passengers whose flights were canceled earlier this week.
Thousands of American olim and native Israelis who live in Modiin, Beit Shemesh, Tel Aviv and other cities in close proximity to Ben Gurion Airport and who regularly commute to their jobs in the New York, Boston and Washington areas, found themselves scrambling to rebook their flights. Many of these commuters board El Al’s midnight and early Sunday morning flights from Israel and then return home via late night flights on Wednesday evening from JFK and Newark airports.
Nature’s fury also exacted a toll on Israeli tourists trapped in their Manhattan hotels, as well as Israelis trying to make their way to the New York area for various functions. According to ynetnews.com, a religious resident of Jerusalem was scheduled to marry his fiancée in the New York area this week, but Hurricane Sandy kept them apart. “The excited grin has been wiped off the chattan’s face,” the groom’s father told ynetnews.com on Monday.
Israeli pop singer David Broza, in the midst of his annual concert tour across the U.S., told Yediot Aharonot, “The situation in Tribeca during the storm was terrible. The streets were filling up with water and power outages were expected. I had a concert scheduled in Manhattan on Thursday but instead my wife and I prepared ourselves just like during the [First] Gulf War. The difference being, instead of taping up the windows with plastic, we have life preservers.”
In the hurricane’s wake, many Israelis were trying to establish contact with friends and family in parts of Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and New Jersey.
Ironically, thousands of American business executives who were able to board flights to Israel earlier this week flooded into Tel Aviv hotels for a phalanx of annual conferences and meetings. According to the Tel Aviv Hotel Association, almost every major hotel in the Tel Aviv vicinity was booked to near capacity.
Team Israel lost in the finals of the World Baseball Classic qualifiers, but the experience should teach an important lesson to Jewish people throughout the world.
The fact that Jewish players and players with Jewish roots who don’t actually live in Israel played for Team Israel should send a critical message to Diaspora Jewry: Israel is the homeland for all Jews.
But Diaspora Jewry is not acting like this is the reality. A few weeks ago I heard words that sent shivers up and down my spine. An Israeli Army Radio host was interviewing a government official who said, “Israel and its government are shifting into post-aliyah mode.” Post-aliyah? Aren’t there millions of Jews still living around the world who are potential immigrants to Israel?
The official explained that, based on the professional assessments of a variety of governmental agencies, there is no group of significant size currently looking to move to Israel. Since that is the case and given the fact that massive aliyot from Europe, Middle Eastern countries, the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia have now ended, we are in post-aliyah mode.
As this official stated, it is time to focus on addressing all the needs of those who are already in Israel and to begin developing alternatives other than aliyah to deal with potential demographic threats in the country. The government recognizes that 2,000-3,000 immigrants from North America and other countries will continue to “trickle” in annually but their expert assessment concludes that no future aliyah will impact Israel in a significant or meaningful manner.
Yes, there are many Zionists who support Israel in many ways but, as these Israeli government experts have determined, aliyah and aliyah education are not a focus of Diaspora Jewry. That is truly a shame. To be clear, I don’t believe every Jew in the Diaspora must drop everything and move to Israel. But how can aliyah be off the table and not an option being even considered and explored for millions of Jews around the world?
The book of Deuteronomy includes over fifty references to the importance of living in Israel, such as “See, I have given you the land, come and inherit it” (1:8) and “See, God has placed the land before you, go up and possess” (Ibid, 21). How can we read these verses and not make the ideal of moving to Israel an integral component of our children’s educations? If people are either too old for such a major transition or too settled in their professions and careers, then why not educate the next generation for aliyah and prepare them for making the move as young adults?
I certainly acknowledge the challenges associated with making aliyah. While Nefesh B’Nefesh has certainly addressed and minimized those challenges and deserves credit for inspiring thousands of new olim, including my own family, to make the move, aliyah is still very difficult. But why isn’t every family at least exploring that option?
If the family cannot make aliyah for any of a number of legitimate reasons, why aren’t the children being brought up with plans to achieve this goal? Why aren’t schools promoting the mitzvah of living in Israel with the same idealism, fervor and encouragement used in teaching all other mitzvot and Jewish ideals?
The North Americans who are playing for Team Israel make a huge statement about the ideal toward which we should be striving. Yes, a person’s citizenship may be that of the United States. But, as Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi said so poignantly, “My heart is in the East.” We need to be a people consumed to our core by identifying with Israel – and who not only see no conflict between Jews living in the Diaspora playing for Israel, but also see it as a seamless and natural fit. The “right of return” and automatic citizenship cannot be just some formality. It needs to be a reality that we carry with us throughout our lives and that drives our dreams, hopes, and aspirations.
One more point. Jews around the world do indeed worry about Israel. Jews fret about tensions related to religious extremism and lack of unity. Jews are concerned about Israel’s economy. They also worry about the Palestinian question, demographic problems, and the future of Israel as a Jewish state. Hundreds of thousands of professional, committed, idealistic, and moderate Jews making aliyah from around the world would help solve many of these issues.
Hey American Olim — Remember the phrase, “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition”?
Well, no one expects to be questioned at the US border when flying to the US for a simcha or visit…by the IRS, about back taxes.
This month’s, “Journal of Accountancy” has a rather scary article about this very issue. First and last paragraphs are the key:
Taxpayers traveling to the United States with unpaid U.S. tax assessments can be detained at the border, questioned, and flagged for follow-up enforcement. If a taxpayer has an unpaid tax liability and is subject to a resulting Notice of Federal Tax Lien, the IRS may submit identifying taxpayer information to the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), a database maintained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The database allows the DHS to identify taxpayers with unpaid tax assessments who are traveling to the United States (Internal Revenue Manual (IRM), §184.108.40.206).
A taxpayer who resides outside the United States may not be aware of outstanding federal tax liabilities if the address on record for the taxpayer is outdated or otherwise incorrect. Consequently, tax advisers with clients who reside outside the United States should ensure that the correct address for the taxpayer is used on the client’s returns and, if the client no longer is required to file U.S. returns, that the IRS still is able to contact the taxpayer about previously filed returns. Taxpayers should be advised that a failure to keep the IRS apprised of a change in mailing address may result in an unwelcome—and potentially embarrassing—surprise when the taxpayer seeks to enter the United States.
This could apply even if you DON’T owe money, but the IRS thinks you owe money, audited you (without your knowledge if they couldn’t contact you), and then…while trying to visit…
So, make sure you file regularly, and make sure they have an address listed for you, which will actually reach you.
Remember the IRS motto: “We’re not happy, till you’re not happy…”
For Israel’s Anglo olim (immigrants), the name Givat Shmuel conjures up a marriage scene to rival that of New York’s Stern College for Women. Home to hundreds of young English-speakers studying at the adjacent Bar-Ilan University, Givat Shmuel has produced a vibrant, growing community of overseas students – and a reputation for their enthusiastic coupling. Each year, the community watches as many new couples are formed, engagements are announced and weddings are celebrated.
While the events vary according to the couple’s religious, financial and other needs, the one common denominator among most Givat Shmuel weddings is that they were planned by students without immediate family in the country.
“You get so overwhelmed planning a wedding all by yourself, while simultaneously studying for a degree and trying to have a life,” explained newlywed Elizabeth G, 21. “You end up obsessing over every detail, from invitations to centerpieces, and then suddenly realize – Oh, no! We forgot to order food for the wedding!”
Elizabeth, who moved to Israel three years ago from Detroit and is currently pursuing a degree at Bar-Ilan, recounted the hardships of tackling the preparations process alone. “If your family is living in another country, planning a wedding will actually start before you’re even engaged,” she explained. “Because your family and in-laws-to-be will need time to buy plane tickets and make other accommodations, you’ll need to coordinate everything with them, starting with when is the best time to get engaged.
“The hardest part is definitely communicating and trying to coordinate everyone’s wishes,” she continued. “Suddenly you have two sets of parents and all of their opinions need to be taken into account.”
Even with modern innovations like e-mail and Skype, Elizabeth confided, the distance and time zone can make even small details hard to communicate. “Something that seems trivial to you – like what songs will be playing under the chupah – can mean the world to your mother, but because you can’t be in constant contact it might just fall through the cracks.”
For Givat Shmuel’s olim, planning a wedding becomes a community project. If the young couple is without a car they’ll need to depend on friends and extended family for rides, especially when hunting for a wedding hall. Anglos with less-than-perfect Hebrew will need help understanding, and negotiating, prices for everything from photographers and floral arrangements to filing for a marriage license. And while parents may try to be as helpful as possible from abroad, they are just as unfamiliar with the system here as their children may be.
“Planning a wedding in Israel is much different than planning one in the States,” says veteran wedding planner Ann Roseman. “Here, everything is up for negotiation. A lot of times a vendor will tell an Anglo family that their requests can’t be met. But in Israel, just because someone says no that doesn’t it can’t be done.”
Roseman, a native of Toronto with fifteen years of experience in the business, sees herself as a bridge between her North American customers and the Israeli market. From organizing travel arrangements to personally translating all Hebrew contracts into English for the families so that they fully understand what they are paying for, Roseman helps young couples cut through the jungle of paperwork and negotiations.
“I act as the families’ eyes and ears and ensure constant interaction between all parties. It’s tremendous zechus(honor) for me to help these couples marry in Israel and I tend to every part of the organizing,” Roseman explained. “Well, almost every part – I don’t shlep the liqueur bottles.”
From the wedding of Chava Forman-Horovitz
Even with the best of planning, olim weddings can remain complicated. For Chava Forman-Horovitz, 25, it wasn’t the organization that was difficult. Lucky enough to get her hands on a comprehensive list of vendors put together by a friend, the Philadelphia native developed it into a spreadsheet, adding in additional vendors recommended by others. Married for seven months now, Horovitz eagerly shares her mini database with engaged friends in need.
“I’ve attended enough Anglo-Israeli weddings to not stress out about the planning process,” she confessed. “What was really difficult was not having my grandmothers at my wedding. Not being part of the whole experience was difficult for them too.” Her family kept a live feed going throughout the event so that her grandmothers, who were unable to travel to Israel for the wedding due to health considerations, could take part in the celebration.
Elizabeth agrees, recalling how she asked her seamstress to snap pictures of her wearing her wedding dress every time an alteration, no matter how minor, was made. “I’d send them to my mother. It was my way of having her there with me the whole time.”
“Sh*t Anglos in Israel Say”, an English-speaking Israeli meme of the popular Youtube video Sh*t Girls Say”, earned 57,000 views in two days, taking comedic aim at the life of the average young English-speaking immigrant to Israel.
With such typical oleh quips as “I’m going to the post office, I’ll be back in 4 hours,” “You’re going back to the States? Oh, can you bring me back some NyQuil?” and “You have last year’s Cosmo? Can I borrow it?” the film poked fun at the frustration, confusion, and occasional desperation of Israelis harkening from the US, Canada, England and Australia.
The video is the brainchild of Shira Rottner and Yosef Adest, a freelance video producer and photographer who made aliyah in 2003 from New York. A self-proclaimed optimist, Adest – who is now 31, single, and living in Tel Aviv – says that while his video is a critique of Israeli society, it was also a labor of love.
“The whole video is a stab at Israel and Israelis,” Adest told The Jewish Press. “It’s about what is wrong with this place, but looking at it and smiling at it. We laughed the whole time we were making it.”
The video centered around the characters’ struggle to adapt to a sometimes brusque and foreign-seeming Israeli culture while remaining within the safe and familiar environment of the Anglo community, with its recognizable products and comforts. “What we joke about in the video is all true, it’s all fact,” Adest said. “It’s not a reason that Israel is bad or challenging, it’s just how Israel is.” The key, he said, is attitude. “I feel great that I’m in a place now that I can say no, I’m not an Israeli and I’ll never be, but I completely feel like I fit in and I can call this place my home.”
“We grew up with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – we’ll always be different,” he joked.
Yet while Anglo Israelis frequently feel themselves to be apart from native Israeli culture, they can also grow to feel that they no longer relate to the culture of their past, either. “I was in America, and people were getting in line to get on the bus, and I was like ‘really? You need a whole line? Here, let me help you with your baby’. I really felt like a foreigner,” Adest said. “And that’s crazy! I’m not an Israeli, but I’m no longer American. I’m in the middle.”
Young and old, recent and veteran immigrants to Israel posted comments and kudos on Youtube and Facebook commiserating and laughing with the cast and crew. Some commenters expressed sheepish surprise at how much the stereotypical immigrants sounded like them, while others shared their joy at being able to identify with the comical trials and tribulations of the actors.
At one point, one of the characters said “I hate it here”, which Adest said is something he has heard some immigrants say. “Myself and everyone involved, we all love Israel, but we included that statement because people really say that,” Adest said. “But I think at the same time, most people who grow frustrated with the challenges love it. I think you can get to a point where you can really appreciate it all. We can make fun of it without harming the integrity of our love for this place as our home.” Incidentally, the character expressing her frustration with life in Israel was immediately answered by a friend saying, “Oh, I love it here”.
As for himself, Adest made Israel home for different reasons than the ones he loves Israel for today. “When I made aliyah, I came for very spiritual reasons, but I’ve actually come to love the Israeli culture, the Israeli mindset as well, completely separate from the religious and spiritual significance of the place,” he said. “I think that’s when you can completely be absorbed here, when you can appreciate the whole gamut.”
JewishPress.com Managing Editor Yishai Fleisher expressed pride in Adest’s accomplishment. “I first met Yosef Adest at Jerusalem II pizza in Manhattan when I was hosting a pro-aliyah event. Later, I greeted him as he got off the Nefesh b’Nefesh plane on aliyah,” Fleisher said. “It was obvious then that here was a young man who was coming to Israel with great ideological passion and a tremendous love of the land and the Jewish people, and since aliyah, he has put his talents to good use. This video is entertaining, but it also shows the normalization of aliyah in American Jewish life and is a stepping stone in the process of the ingathering of North American Jewry to Israel.”
Yishai Fleisher and Yosef Adest have produced two films together – one about the mass priestly blessing which happpens at the festivals in Jerusalem, and one humorous short about shaking the lulav and etrog on Sukkot.
For more videos by Yosef Adest, visit www.yosefadest.com