I know for a fact that there are Israelis who think I’m crazy for choosing to leave the United States to live in Israel – I know it because they tell me. Repeatedly. It’s not all Israelis or even most, but those who do have a tendency to question my sanity for reaching such a decision. They aren’t interested in hearing about my former identity as a Diaspora Zionist or my pro-Israel campus activism. They’re not impressed that I fell in love with the country when I was just fifteen years old, vowing on that first trip that I would someday move here (much to the chagrin of my parents who, more than 30 years later, are still hoping it’s merely a phase). The bottom line is that everyone wants to know how I could choose to leave a country where the salaries are higher and the living is easy.
Sometimes, I wonder the same thing. I’ve lived here for more than twenty years and have no plans to leave. I do, however, occasionally fantasize about having a life that’s financially easier, a life where I don’t feel compelled to make professional compromises that enable me to take my son to visit his grandparents in America once a year and pay for his Waldorf education. Of course, with the amount of money we save by purchasing Legos in the US, the trip practically pays for itself, but still… (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
My son clung to me and cried as he begged me to turn off the news last night. Through his tears, he said that he’d been ok in the morning when I gently broke the news to him that Arik Einstein had died, but that all day long, no matter where he went, people wouldn’t stop talking about it. And suddenly, while watching President Peres eulogize Israel’s greatest musical icon, he simply couldn’t take it anymore.
Not that it was easier for anyone else, of course. I, like so many of my friends and fellow Israelis, labored to get through a day that was permeated with sadness and seen through the occasional haze of tears. We shared memories and milestones that played out against the backdrop of his music, and it seemed that no matter where we’d grown up or what we’d done, Arik Einstein’s songs were seamlessly woven into the tapestry.
Growing up in Young Judaea, his music was as much a part of our collective Zionist identity as Israel itself – so much so, that during the National Summer Convention in 1985, we voted to make the song “Ani V’Ata” (see the transliterated version and a translation here) the movement’s official national song. And yesterday, as I struggled with my writer’s need to convey all that Arik Einstein had meant to me, I remembered that the starting point of my love affair with his music began with that song. Suddenly, I found the words I wanted to write.
You sang that we could change the world
And we believed you as only youngsters can
But really, it was you who changed ours
For we allowed your words to guide us
And as we strove to make a difference
Your music was the soundtrack of our lives
Rest in peace, Arik. Thank you for changing our world and creating the soundtrack of our lives.
1939 – 2013
…יהי זכרו ברוך
by Liza Rosenberg
Several weeks prior to Passover, my editor at Haaretz contacted me with a story assignment – profiling several Israeli women’s organizations in order to mark International Women’s Day. We compiled a list of possible choices and selected three very different groups for the article – Or Chaya – The World Center for the Jewish Woman (based in Jerusalem), Economic Empowerment for Women (based in Haifa) and comme il faut (based in Tel Aviv), a company with a very strong feminist agenda that runs a fashion house as well as other women-related concerns.
I loved having the opportunity to become acquainted with these organizations, both by perusing their websites and speaking with representatives of each group. I was also amused to discover that Sisters, the trendy little sex toy shop that a few friends and I had popped into on a whim last summer in Tel Aviv, was renting space in Bayit Ba’namal, a building owned by comme il faut… 🙂
The article can be found here, or by clicking on the image below.
by Liza Rosenberg
More than 25 years ago, I spent my gap year in Israel on Young Judaea‘s Year Course program. One month of that year was spent living with a family in an agricultural community (a moshav), and while I can’t remember the names of anyone from the family I stayed with, I do remember the family below, which hosted a friend of mine (and was actually much nicer to me than my own host family). Arlene is also a former Young Judaean.
What follows is the text from an email that Arlene sent to a local mailing list that I moderate, and she quickly agreed to allow me to share it here. Please do what you can to help, and please share this note with your networks.
Note that (as mentioned below) Israeli hospitals conduct worldwide registry searches for suitable donors, so being registered in almost any country can potentially help someone in need, no matter where in the world they happen to be.
Our son, Guy Bar-Yosef, was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia this past April. He has undergone aggressive chemotherapy, and now the doctors are saying that there is hope for recovery only if he receives a bone marrow (=stem cell) transplant from a matching donor.
We are turning to everyone and anyone who may be able to help. Healthy donors are accepted into international registries between the ages of 18-45. Blood type does not matter. Because of Guy’s genetic lineage, we are specifically looking for donors with mixed genetic backgrounds – Ami’s parents were of Moroccan and Lithuanian origin, and Arlene’s parents hailed from Latvia (Baronovich, Russia, and nearby).
In Israel, the organization which does tissue typing and matching is “Ezer Mizion”, and in the USA, it’s “Be The Match” or “Gift of Life”. People in the USA can ask for a kit to do the test at home and mail it in. All other developed countries have similar setups, and Israeli hospitals conduct worldwide searches.
The initial test is merely a saliva swab taken from inside the cheek. It is painless and quick. If the person is found to be a tissue match, he/she will be asked to donate blood on a given day, at the hospital in Tel Aviv. If the person is from abroad, the flight to Israel and all expenses will be paid. It is similar to donating blood at Magen David Adom – no surgical procedure is involved.
Many of Guy’s friends, colleagues and family members are coming forward to be tested, but they can’t all afford to pay for the tests themselves. So another way to assist is by a monetary donation, in any amount to “Ezer Mizion” in Israel. It costs 250 NIS ($65) to process each test, and as they don’t have the necessary budget, they seek donations to cover the costs.
Ezer Mizion: 40 Kaplan St., Petach Tikva, Israel. Tel: 03-9277772, via check, telephone, or online, (there’s a place to name the person in whose honor the donation is being made).
The website is: https://www.ezermizion.org/Donate (Donations are tax deductible and receipts will be issued).
Anyone making a monetary donation as well as those who go to Ezer Mizion to be tested should mention Guy Bar-Yosef’s name.
Time is of the essence. Anyone who has Facebook or other social network media, or who work or study in places where they can notify friends, colleagues, etc., is kindly asked to help spread the word. We sincerely appreciate every and all effort made on Guy’s behalf.
Thanks so very much.
Arlene and Ami Bar-Yosef
If people in South Africa are interested in finding out more about that country’s bone marrow registry (which would also be scanned for possible donors for Guy), please contact the South African Bone Marrow Registry:
South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR)
Match codes: South Africa [ZA]
Groote Schuur HospitalE52,
Old Main Building
Since this current round of fighting began, I’ve been overwhelmed by the concern shown in emails, messages and chats – friends, relatives and acquaintances checking in to see how we’re doing, voicing their love and support (both for us personally and for Israel as a whole) and reminding us to “stay safe”. And yet, no matter how many times I tell friends and loved ones abroad that we don’t live within missile range, it continues to sound like one of the most surreal statements I’ve ever written. Even after living here for more than twenty years, it’s still jarring to have to talk about one’s life in such terms, especially when our usual state of normal isn’t much different from the way my peers are living abroad.
There’s something very unnerving about day-to-day life under these conditions. On the one hand, a large portion of the southern part of the country is essentially under siege, being hit with barrage after barrage of missiles. Friends in the central part of the country have gotten a small – some would say very small – taste of what that’s like too, as Hamas tries to flex its muscles and show off its capabilities by periodically firing rockets in the direction of the greater Tel Aviv area and even towards Jerusalem. Yet here in the relative north, aside from noting the absence of colleagues and friends who’ve been called up for duty and a difference in the traffic on the roads, life continues as usual. It’s been so “normal”, in fact, that I haven’t felt the need to actually explain to my eight-year-old son what’s going on, instead preferring to follow his lead and address his questions as they arise.by Liza Rosenberg
I had the television news on this afternoon, but only for a little while. With my face buried in my computer screen and my ears picking up bits and pieces of the ongoing live reporting as I typed, every time I heard a siren, I jumped a little, momentarily startled and wondering for just a sliver of a second if it was coming from outside instead of the news report. We live far away from the rockets and missiles being fired at the south and now the center of the country, but in Israel, “far” is merely a relative term. Tel Aviv is just under an hour away by car, and Kiryat Malachi, the town where three people were killed by rocket fire on Thursday (and also the town where my husband is from and one of his brothers still lives), is just over an hour away if we take the Trans-Israel highway (known locally as Road 6), the country’s only toll road.
It’s sadly amazing to me how we always manage to seamlessly slip back into the jargon of war. My Facebook feed is filling up with words like rockets/missiles, sirens and booms, and people in “safer” parts of the country are letting friends and family know that they’ve got room for guests if anyone feels the need to get away. The “situation”, as times like these are always referred to, is discussed over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at a bat-mitzvah in a resigned, almost casual manner, simply because over the years, we have grown so used to periodically doing so.by Liza Rosenberg
…the title of my latest story for Haaretz. Moving to a new country is never easy, even when it’s something you really want to do. When the decision involves uprooting your kids, making that move can prove to be even more challenging. Pals Zahava Bogner and Jamie Traeger-Muney were kind enough to share their aliyah stories with me for this piece, and Jamie, a psychologist by profession and one of the founders of Olim4olim, provided me with lots of great professional advice.
The article can be found here.by Liza Rosenberg
I can say, without a doubt, that my love of and knowledge regarding Israeli music is a direct result of my years Young Judaea‘s Camp Tel Yehudah. Every day after lunch we’d have a camp-wide sing-along, working our way through the camp songbook, calling out favorites (often by page number – such was our familiarity with the songbook) and singing song after song at the tops of our lungs. The songs were taught to us by whomever the music counselor happened to be that summer, and songs ran the gamut. We learned folk songs and relatively contemporary hits, and in the early years, our singing was accompanied by an accordion. This all changed the summer that Jay arrived on the scene, for Jay played an electronic synthesizer. We were wowed by his talents and thrilled by his song choices. His synthesizer not only gave new life to the old songs we loved, but it also provided the gateway that allowed us to enter the world of Israeli rock, for as much as we appreciated the accordion, it simply didn’t do justice to Israeli music from the 80s.
In short, we were hooked! We quickly learned the words to all the new songs, singing loudly at mealtimes and pushing our chairs back so that we could jump up and dance. Of course, everyone had their own favorite song, but there were a few that were loved by everyone. “Yom Shishi” (“Friday”) by the popular Israeli band Benzene (for whom I can’t seem to find a link in English, unfortunately – the Hebrew Wikipedia page can be found here) – led by the talented Yehuda Poliker – was probably the most requested song of the summer one year, and to this day, whenever I hear it, I can’t help but sing along (as long as there’s no one in earshot) and start to dance (again, as long as no one else is around, since I really, really can’t dance…). (more…)
On a drizzly Sunday morning in Niskayuna, NY, as my family and I were heading out the door to attend a picnic for my 20th high school reunion, a quick look at the news revealed that an Israeli soldier had been kidnapped. The date was June 25th, 2006. It’s been more than five long years since Gilad Shalit was taken across the border into Gaza. Five years of demonstrations, banners, tents and marches; a nation refusing to give up on the dream of bringing one him home. And tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, Gilad will finally be coming home. The price is painful, but in my opinion, Israel is doing the right thing. The current instability in the Middle East means that we may not have gotten another opportunity to carry out the exchange, and five years is a long time to be held in captivity.
In addition to the official negotiating teams, there was one individual working behind the scenes; one individual who made contact with someone from the other side and laid the groundwork for getting Gilad Shalit released. That individual was an American-born Israeli who grew up in the same youth movement that I did – Young Judaea.
Say what you will about youth movements, Zionism and the like, but Young Judaea helped to make me the person I am today. It taught me how to think critically; it taught me that there doesn’t have to be just one way to do things. And it taught me that together, we can change the world. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
As some of you may remember, several years ago I wrote a weekly blog post for a series I called “80s Music Video Sunday“. Having grown up in the 80s, the music of that decade was the background music of my teen years – the theme music for my teenage angst, if you will. Each week I chose a different song and wrote about the memories behind the choice, waxing nostalgically about everything from my first slow dance to the music I listened to on a loop when I was confined to a hospital bed in Jerusalem after shattering my ankle, to my student activist days in university.
I managed to keep that series going for about a year before I felt that I’d run out of things to write about, and I regretted it. I enjoyed being able to share the stories and experiences of my past alongside the songs that had played such a dominant role in my life, but it was becoming harder to come up with new ideas and the songs were becoming increasingly more obscure. With a heavy heart and a touch of relief, I put an end to the series, while at the same time wondering how I’d be able to resurrect it – or something like it – later on. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg