Friday, March 23, 2018

Are We At The End of History? GUEST POST by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

NO ONE CAN deny that we are living in “special” times. There is so much going on that could easily have MAJOR significance, positively AND negatively. The first part of this book started that conversation and pointed out many such details.

The question is, are we living in THE special time? Are we at the end of history? Is Moshiach about to reveal himself and, finally, to do what “we” have been waiting for him to do now for thousands of years? In Egypt, Messianic times lasted 79 years before they finally ended in departure from Egyptian slavery. How many years will OUR Messianic times last before they end the utopian world of Yemos HaMoshiach?

Until now there have been many “possibilities.” Dates that were actually predicted for Moshiach’s arrival by those who could have known such things have, in the end, come and gone. They may have resulted in something to do with the Final Redemption with redemption-like things occurring at that time. But, they have not resulted in the Final Redemption itself. 

Now it is 5778, 2018 in Western terms. We’re definitely one year closer to the “end” than we were last year. But are we AT the end? Is there anything to indicate that this might be THE special year, a year in the scheme of things that says, “No matter where the Jewish people are holding, Moshiach must come!”

Who knows for sure? Yet, the following facts are, at the very least, very interesting. They don’t PROVE anything—yet. But they do indicate a certain specialness about 5778 that, we may LATER find out, were signs of BIG things to come, REDEMPTION-like things.

The last of the four exiles is Golus Edom. When Ya’akov Avinu had his dream about the four exiles, he was only told the length of the first three: Bavel (52 years), Media (18 years), and Yavan (180 years). Golus Edom, or the “Roman Exile” was left open-ended. Ya’akov never saw the Angel of Edom descend the ladder like the previous three angels.

When did Golus Edom even start? Officially, it seems to have begun when Pompey conquered Jerusa-lem in 63 BCE, or 3698. That is when Israel became an official vassal state of the Roman Empire, and Jews were taken from their homeland to other parts of the Roman Empire. The Jewish people would not regain control of their land again until 1948, 2,010 years later when the UN officially sanctioned the establishment of a Jewish State and homeland. 

Ten years prior to 1948, or 2,000 years from the start of the Roman Exile, was 1938—the year of “Kristallnacht,” a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany by SA paramilitary forces and German civilians. The name comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues were smashed.

It wasn’t just a pogrom, however. Kristallnacht was the beginning of something bigger:

Kristallnacht changed the nature of the persecution from economic, political, and social to physical with beatings, incarceration, and murder; the event is often referred to as the beginning of the Holocaust. In the words of historian Max Rein in 1988, "Kristallnacht came...and everything was changed.” While November 1938 predated the overt articulation of the “Final Solution,” it foreshadowed the genocide to come. Around the time of Kristallnacht, the SS newspaper Das Schwarze Korps called for a “destruction by swords and flames.” At a conference on the day after the pogrom, Hermann Göring said: “The Jewish problem will reach its solution if, in anytime soon, we will be drawn into war beyond our border—then it is obvious that we will have to manage a final account with the Jews.” (Kristallnacht, Wikipedia)

This part was obvious. The part that was NOT obvious was the more historical event it signaled. For all intents-and-purposes, the Holocaust brought about the end of the “European Exile,” which was really just the extension of the Roman Exile. 

It had been the Romans who had exiled Jews from Eretz Yisroel to different parts of Europe, and though the names of the kingdoms of Europe have changed many times over the millennia, the locations of the Jews rarely did. Exactly 2,000 years since the Romans began their exile of the Jewish people, the Nazis, who viewed themselves as the third “Roman Empire,” began to end it, and the fourth and final exile of the Jewish people.

It is said that “Eretz Yisroel was built upon the ashes of the Holocaust.” This is true for a number of reasons which, collectively, explain why it took TEN years (never an insignificant number) for the Jewish people to go from Kristallnacht to being an officially accepted nation by the rest of the world. 

To begin with, though some emigrated from Europe to Eretz Yisroel prior to World War II, the vast majority of European Jews were content to remain where they were. They had put up with anti-Semitism and the pogroms until then, and had built up communities where they were. The status quo reigned, especially since America had yet to be a major draw for them. The Holocaust changed all of that.

Secondly, though the Balfour Declaration of 1917 gave the Jewish people the right to a “homeland,” it did not give them the right of statehood. There were too many other political forces with which to contend, and the British were wary of rocking the Arab boat. It was the Holocaust that compelled leaders like President Truman to give the survivors of the worst genocide ever a country of their own.

The Holocaust also shook the Jewish people out of their complacency. Until that time there was little sense of having to build up the Jewish people. The Torah world had strong centers of learning, and the rest of the Jewish world was content pursuing its own course of “Jewish” life.

However, the quick loss of half the nation meant having to pour a lot of energy and resources into the rebuilding of the nation. The Holocaust reiterated in very strong terms what many Jews had always known: the safest place for a Jew is in their own country. 

As had been foretold to Ya’akov Avinu, the Babylonian-Median Exile lasted 70 years in total. According to Rashi, it was the number of Shmittah years the Jewish people had violated. Perhaps, but the number 70 is specifically associated with the concept of redemption:

So says Hashem: After 70 years of Bavel are completed, I will remember you and fulfill My good word concerning you, to return you to this place. (Yirmiyahu 29:10)

I, Daniel, pondered in the books the number of years of the word of God that came to Yirmiyahu the prophet regarding the completion of the destruction of Yerushalayim: 70 years. (Daniel 9:2)

After 52 years, the gematria of “Eliyahu,” Koresh allowed the Jews to return to Eretz Yisroel to begin reconstructing the Temple. Eighteen years later, the miracle of Purim occurred, and the Jewish people were free to return to Eretz Yisroel, completing the redemption that had begun in Koresh’s time.

The story of Haman is told in 70 verses. He also only ruled for 70 days. 

In 5708, the Jewish State was reborn. Fifty-two years later was 5760, 2000 CE, a year predicted to be one of redemption, including by the Vilna Gaon. It was the year of the “Millennium Bug,” otherwise known as, “Y2K,” which in Hebrew is Yud-Bais-Kuf, the word “Yabok.” That is the name of the river Ya’akov Avinu crossed in advance of his battle with the Angel of Eisav, which symbolized Golus Edom. 

“Yabok” is also the gematria of three names of God, and therefore represents the spiritual completion of a person. When a person rectifies his three lower levels of soul—Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshamah—they gain access to the levels of light associated with these three Names of God.

It is now 5778, 18 years later. Is the completion of the first level of redemption that occurred back in 5760, when because of the potential problems of Y2K even the mainstream media began talking about Armageddon and the arrival of Moshiach, set to occur this Pesach?

Rabbi Yehoshua says: “In Nisan, the world was created . . . in Nisan, they were redeemed, and in Nisan they will be redeemed in the future.” (Rosh Hashanah 10b)

Even the names “Gog and Magog,” the perpetrators of the final war of history and threshold to the Messianic Era, has a gematria of 70. Historically there are really only 70 nations, each with its own ministering angel, PLUS the Jewish people. All other nations have descended from one of the 70 Biblical nations.

According to Kabbalah, 70 represents the concept of “Da’as Elohim,” which is Torah knowledge:

Anyone who becomes settled through wine has the da’as of his Creator . . . the da’as of the Seventy Elders . . . (Eiruvin 65a)

There are 70 facets to Torah. (Zohar, Bereishis 36)

Furthermore, it also says:

God, Who has 70 Names, gave the Torah, which has 70 names, to Yisroel, who has 70 names which originated from the 70 souls that went down to Egypt with Ya’akov, and which was chosen from among 70 nations, to celebrate 70 holy days in the year—52 days of Shabbos and 18 days of Yom Tov, including Chol HaMoed—the Torah was transmitted to 70 elders. (Midrash Yelamdaynu)

Since the month of Nisan is the Rosh Hashanah of months, the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh Nisan would be the 52nd, and Shemini Atzeres would have been the 18th “Yom Tov.” It just adds another redemption element to the year 2018.

The Final Redemption is also spoken about in terms of da’as:

After [the War of Gog and Magog], The Holy One, Blessed is He, will take His revenge against them, as spoken about in Yechezkel, and the Jewish people will dwell in their land in security and with much good. DA’AS—Godly knowledge—will greatly increase, as will wisdom and purity. (Drushei Olam HaTohu, Chelek 2, Drush 4, Anaf 12, Siman 9)

The number 70 also seems to represent the end of a cycle at which time a certain Divine purging takes place:

Rebi Chanina said: Once every 60 or 70 years, The Holy One, Blessed is He, brings calamity to the world to destroy the mamzerim . . . (Yerushalmi, Yevamos 49b)

As it is known, the period in advance of Moshiach’s arrival is called “Chevlei Moshiach,” or the “Birth Pangs of Moshiach.” The rabbis compared the arrival of Moshiach to the birth of a baby, which is usually preceded by painful contractions. So too is the “birth” of Moshiach, if the Jewish people do not merit a merciful and miraculous redemption, preceded by difficult times for the Jewish people. 

The comparison is more profound than this. Kabbalah explains that the entire build-up to and arrival of Moshiach is like a birth. Redemption is a function of Divine light that must be spiritually “conceived” and then “born” before it can be actualized.

For example, the light necessary to free the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery was “conceived” the night of the first Seder. The light was not “born” until seven days later when the Jewish people miraculously crossed the sea. The crossing itself was a physical gesture that was part of the spiritual birth of the light that made total freedom possible.

The Second Temple was built in 350 BCE and stood for 420 years, before being destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, or 3830. If 3,830 is subtracted from the current year, 5778, 1948 remains. That was the year in which Avraham Avinu was born, which began the destiny of the Jewish nation.

This means that the amount of time from Creation until the destruction of the Second Temple, 3,830 years, is the same amount of time from the birth of Avraham Avinu until the current year, 5778. It may mean nothing, or it may mean everything.

The Midrash compares the birth of Avraham Avinu to the creation of the original light on the first day of Creation, the “Ohr HaGanuz.” It was this light that the Temple was supposed to radiate to the rest of the world, and which was lost when the Temple was destroyed. 

Even though the Second Temple did not reach the status of the First Temple, since it was missing key elements like the Aron HaKodesh, it was still the Temple. This concept still remained true, as the Talmud reports:

Herod [revealed himself and] said: “I am Herod. Had I known that the rabbis were so careful with their words, I would not have killed them. Now tell me what I can do as an amends.” 
[Bava ben Buta] answered: “As you have extinguished the light of the world [by killing so many Torah leaders] . . . go and attend to the light of the world [that is, the Temple, of which] it is written, ‘And all the nations become enlightened by it’ (Ye-shayahu 2:2).” (Bava Basra 4a)

If this is true about the Second Temple then it was certainly true about the first one, which was destroyed in 423 BCE, 429 years earlier. However, the destruction of that Temple by Nebuchadnetzar only signaled the beginning of Golus Bavel, which ended with the story of Purim. It was the destruction of the SECOND Temple that concretized Golus Edom—the Roman Exile. 

Furthermore, it occurred just 20 years prior to the end of one of the most important periods of history, the “2,000 Years of Torah.” The first 2,000 years are called by the Talmud the “2,000 Years of Tohu,” because the world was Torah-less until that time. Therefore, history during that period is compared to the null and void that preceded Creation.

At the age of 52, Avraham Avinu began educating the world about God. That happened in the year 2000, and it began what the Talmud calls the “2,000 Years of Torah.” The highpoint of that period was the actual giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people in 2448, or 1313 BCE, which also started a 1,000-year period of prophecy that ended in 3448, or 313 BCE. Another 552 years later, the period came to an end at 4000, or 240 CE.

This began the LAST of three periods of 2,000 years, called “2,000 Years of Moshiach.” As the name indicates, it is the time period during which Moshiach MUST come. The more time passes, the more this is the case. This year, 5778, is 1,778 years into this period of time which began just after the destruction of the Second Temple and the end of a 3,830-year period of time stretching back to Creation. 

Will the events of 5778 also signal the end of 3,830-year period stretching back to the birth of Avraham Avinu? Will it be the beginning of a whole new era, and will its threshold be the final War of Gog and Magog? It is hard to know and even harder to predict correctly. But, this certainly gives us reason to go into Pesach with eyes wide open. If the Seder teaches anything, it is the importance of preparation when it comes to redemption.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

An Anniversary Trip to Tiveria: A Photoblog With Commentary

One of the things I love about living in Israel is that, even when we have just a few days to get away, every place in Israel is close enough.

For our wedding anniversary, my husband and I always pick someplace in Israel we want to explore. This year, it was Tiveria (Tiberias).

Along with Jerusalem, Tzfat and Hevron, Tiveria is considered one of Israel's Four Holy Cities.

We started at the tomb of Yitro (Jethro), the father-in-law of Moses. The site is a Druze holy site and we had a lot to learn about how to behave in such a place. The Druzim call him Nabi Shueib - the Prophet Shueib.
The rules are strictly enforced. DH was wearing a kippah and a short-sleeve shirt. He was told he'd have to cover his arms and his head.  We were also required to remove our shoes which, as Jews, was a little weird.

This might be the first time he ever wore a garment with Arabic writing on it.
This is my husband in his borrowed long-sleeve shirt and cap.
I, on the other hand, was deemed to be dressed "b'seder". What a turnabout! The man was asked to cover up, not the woman.
The plaza area was beautifully tiled and very clean. Does anyone know what this flag represents?
We weren't allowed to take any pictures of the inside room where the tomb was (and there was a guard to make sure we didn't. But while at the tomb, one of the things I prayed for was that we should again experience peaceful relations between Jews and the Nations, like there was between Moshe and Yitro.
We didn't pick the best day to visit Kever Rambam. There were Arab workers doing renovations all over the site.

Walking up to the tomb, the steps are flanked with 14 pillars, representing the 14 sections of Rambam's Mishneh Torah
The renovations night have hurt business for the gift shop owner. But if you want a giant portrait of Maimonides, this is the place to be.
Shockingly, there is no mechitza (partition) separating the men and the women at the Tomb of Maimonides. It may be the last holy place in Israel where men and women are in the same room.

The holy woman sitting on the bench gave out Books of Psalms to other women, most of whom were secular-looking. I got the impression she spent hours at the site, saying Tehillim herself and also being helpful to others.

I'm not sure what this cage structure is.  There's a prayer here that is intended to be said at Rambam's grave.
My husband jokes that Rambam lived from 1135 to 1204 - and what he did with those 29 minutes was truly exceptional!
There were Arab workers all over the site today. It wasn't so conducive to prayerful intentionality.
This is probably an Only in Israel sign. It asks people not to light candles because they are a fire hazard (rough translation).
There are a few other graves nearby. This one says it contains a collection of bones.
When you leave the area of Rambam's tomb, there's this hand washing station that reminds me of the one at the Kotel.
The grave of the Tanna Yochanan ben Zakkai who was a major contributor to the Mishnah
The grave of  the SheLah Hakadosh, best known for his prayer that parents recite on behalf of their children.
We didn't just pray. We also ate amazing Chinese food (okay, three times in 48 hours) at Pagoda, on the bank of the Kinneret.
This was the view from our table at Pagoda. Imagine looking at this sky over the Kinneret while munching on the best egg rolls in Israel.
Another view of the Kinneret, this time from the road.
We've passed this sign for the tomb of Rachel, wife of Rabbi Akiva, a bunch of times, but never stopped until today.
This is the building that houses the grave of Rachel, daughter of Kalba Savoua and wife of Rabbi Akiva. She sacrificed so much to support her husband becoming THE Rabbi Akiva.
Rabbi Akiva famously said to his students who didn't understand Rachel's contribution "Sheli v'shelachem, shelah - What's mine and what's yours (meaning their merit for Torah study) is hers."
More of Rabbi Akiva's praise for his wife.
When I stepped into the women's side, I could see that the place was in disrepair.
The kever of Rachel itself, from the women's side.
Tefillat Rachel (Rachel's prayer) for salvation from all manner of problems.
The building that houses her tomb overlooks the Kinneret.

I was both very touched by the holiness of this site and also really saddened by the state of disrepair of the building so I was moved to make a donation. The caretaker was so grateful, he bestowed this stash on us, even though we hadn't intended to buy anything.
On the way home, we drove through Kibbutz Degania, which I always, mistakenly, think of as Kibbutz Gan Dafna from the movie Exodus. Along the road are hundreds of banana trees. We've never been this close to a banana tree and we wondered about the purple flower that hangs upside down, exactly opposite the way the bananas grow.

And there you have it. The highlights of our 48 anniversary hours, spent in Tiveria.

There was also a pool. And a very nice hotel. But truly, if you're still reading this, you got the highlights.

Trust me.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

We Are Surely Being Tested

This is much bigger than any one issue. But here is a small sampling of recent issues in which this dynamic is playing out.

A yeshiva school bus in Williamsburg, NY that has covered windows so the students shouldn't see anything happening on the street on their way to school. 

An elementary school in Lakewood that requires girls to line up to have the length of their hair measured to ensure it fits the arbitrary rule someone made up. 

Jewish women and girls wearing burkas, completely covering their entire bodies, including hands and faces, on the streets of Israel.

Photo Credit:
 An IKEA catalog with absolutely no pictures of women. By design.

Every single time a new development appears, the arguments are the same.

Some people are horrified by what new rules/practices/restrictions are being imposed in the name of tzniut*.

"This is not Judaism! This is not Torah!" they decry. "This is exactly the sort of thing that drives young people away from Judaism!"

And the counter reaction, totally predictable, is always "Who are we to judge!?" or "It's not your community. Why do you care?" and my personal favorite, "How dare you cause a chillul Hashem** by judging them?"

Every. Single. Time.

Personally, I fall on the side of being horrified by what is being sold as an attempt to increase holiness. But this is not really about my personal opinion. I'm trying to make a larger point here.

Clearly, the Orthodox Jewish community is working something out. And it isn't pretty to watch.

is a fundamental split between outlooks. Are these new stringencies good for the Jews? Do they make us more pious and closer to God? Do they show how much we value holiness and what we're willing to sacrifice for it?

Or are these new stringencies not good for the Jews? Do they take us away from the essence of Torah? Are they merely a reflection of an obsession with men separating themselves from women?

Further, do we have a right to rebuke other Jews when we feel they have lost their way? Are we obligated
to speak up when we think a core Torah value is being perverted?

Or is it a higher value to live and let live, especially when one is not being required to comply?

One thing is certain. We are surely being tested.

And frankly, I don't think we're earning such a good grade.

*generally translated as modesty, but actually more nuanced than that. Tzniut, in its fuller sense, is related to the spiritual practice of not calling attention to oneself and not being overly concerned with externality.

** a desecration of God's name

Sunday, April 30, 2017

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The 24 Hour Clock

There are plenty of things that take getting used to when you move. Especially when you move to a new country. Especially when you're an American moving to Israel.

Making aliyah is definitely easier if you're coming from anywhere else in the world where the metric system is already in use. But when you're an American, used to pounds and ounces and feet and miles and dollars and writing MM/DD/YY and AM/PM, it's disorienting.

My smoothest adjustment was buying food in kilos instead of in pounds. It wasn't that hard. A kilo is 2.2 pounds, so it was pretty easy to do the conversions in my head.

I would like to say that, once I started earning shekels, I stopped thinking in dollars, but that's not really true. I just learned to stop doing it all the time. And I learned that sometimes, it's best not to attempt a conversion. Like when ordering a bowl of soup in a restaurant in Israel.

A life lesson for new olim: DO NOT convert the shekel price of a bowl of soup in an Israeli restaurant to dollars. Just don't do it.

For awhile, I had my iPhone's weather app set to Celcius.

And I used this little ditty that I learned from an old friend and fellow blogger as a guide:

30 is HOT
20 is NICE
10 is COLD
0 is ICE

But I switched back.

Because Fahrenheit is so much more precise.

And familiar.

And doesn't require me to do any conversions in my head.

I have to be honest. I really resisted giving up the AM/PM thing. I hated that I couldn't find an AM/PM digital clock to buy. And it annoyed me when people would schedule an appointment for 16:00. Why can't they just say 4 in the afternoon? I didn't like the way 16:00 taxed my brain.

Does it sound like I'm whining? I don't mean to. It's just that there are so many things you have to relearn when you make aliyah. I kind of resented having to relearn how to tell time.

Recently though, the time thing began to make sense.

Once, when flying internationally, my husband and I confused AM and PM on the itinerary and ended up with a 14-hour overnight layover instead of the 2-hour late morning layover we were expecting.

The 24-hour clock makes sense because there's only one 14:05 and only one 8:22 per day. So there's much less room for confusion.

So let's do lunch Cafe Greg at 13:00. And we'll catch a movie at Yes Planet at 21:30.

Hey! I think I'm getting the hang of this living in Israel thing.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Buying Frozen Spinach in Israel

I really am going to teach you a trick about buying frozen spinach in Israel. But first I want to tell you why I think it's important, even if you don't like spinach. ¹

In 1991, Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein published this little guidebook to help people make the transition to everyday living in Israel. It was full of useful information.

When she published her guidebook, most olim from America lived in a mercaz klita (absorption center) when they first arrived in Israel. Phone calls were made on public phones using asimonim (telephone tokens).

Asimonim. Photo credit:
We're talking a decade before Nefesh b'Nefesh was even founded.

I'm working on an updated guidebook, chock full of helpful hints for today's olim. Because as soon as olim arrive in Israel, we have to learn tons of new things. Sometimes, a neighbor will give us a useful tip. Other times, we have to learn the hard way. 

My goal is reduce the amount of trial and error by equipping olim with practical, useful information.

Like this.

I knew that the Hebrew word for spinach is תרד- tered. But it took me years to figure out that there are (at least) two different kinds of frozen spinach sold in Israel. 

I definitely noticed that the frozen spinach pellets I was using came in two sizes. I just thought it had to do with differences in the factory that produced them.

I was wrong.

Turns out, the larger pellets are called עלי תרד (spinach leaves) and are frozen spinach leaves. They take longer to defrost and always end up wrapped around the blade of my immersion blender.

Spinach leaves
The smaller pellets are called מדליוני תרד (spinach medallions) and are minced or chopped spinach.
chopped spinach medallions - much better for my green smoothies
I think you can see why I got confused. I just looked for the word תרד. Unless you see them side-by-side, the bags are virtually identical.

While we're on the subject, notice the red oval at the top of the bags pictured above. That's the Sunfrost logo. They are the most widely available brand in Israel. Sunfrost offers lots of varieties of frozen vegetables, beans and rice and the quality is very good. They also tend to be more expensive than other brands.

Now that I've shared my spinach tip, I want to hear from you. I know that if you've been living in Israel for more than an hour, you've got at least one.

So, what have you figured out about life in Israel that you'd like to pass on to new olim?

Or what small mistake did you make that you'd like to warn others about?

Here are some topic areas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • food shopping
  • celebrating chagim in Israel
  • public transportation
  • dealing with government offices
  • crucial Hebrew vocabulary
  • running a household, utilities
  • money and banking
  • education
  • shopping in general
Feel free to respond in the comments below, or email That's also the email address to use if you'd like to be updated when the guidebook is ready for purchase.

¹ The reason spinach is so awesome in green smoothies is because you can't really taste it. All those nutrients and, despite its reputation, there is absolutely no bitter taste. Spinach for the win!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Stories and Tips to Ease Your Transition to Israel

As my own aliyah journey unfolds, and as I continue to learn new things about how daily life works in the Holy Land, I've published lots of practical tips for managing our new lives in Israel, both on this blog and in Facebook posts.

After almost seven years in Israel, I'm ready to take these random tips, add tons more, and put them all together in a neatly-organized, practical guidebook for olim.

I'm envisioning a book full of tips and stories about the kinds of things olim learn from neighbors and from one another. 

Or from trial and error.  

Or just from error. 

Things like:
  • Finding trash bags that actually fit your kitchen trash can 
  • Surviving your first asifat horim (parents' meeting)
  • Figuring out which item near the sign is actually on sale
  • Cooking a vegetable you've never seen before
  • Knowing which Facebook groups are best to turn to when you need specific advice
  • Mastering the Hebrew slang that is really critical for olim
  • Learning what time of year strawberries and fresh garlic are in season
  • Adjusting to Sunday being, ahem... Israel's Monday 
  • Cleaning your floors without an American mop
My goal is to produce an encouraging guidebook, full of concrete tips as well as amusing stories. I want it to be both fun to read and truly practical.

To make this happen, I'm going to need lots of input from olim of every vintage, whether you got off your aliyah flight yesterday or have been here since before the Six Day War.

Please feel free to comment on any or all of these.

1) Do you have a funny/cute/embarrassing story of a mistake you made as a new olah/oleh? For example, did you wash your clothes in fabric softener for a year because you didn't yet know the word for detergent?

2) Do you have a serious story of a mistake you made as a new olah/oleh from which others can learn? For example, did you fail to respond to a piece of Hebrew-language mail that you really should not have ignored?

3) What's your #1 tip for living successfully in Israel, even if you've been here for years? Can be something practical or maybe a motto you've adopted.

4) What did it take you awhile to figure out that you wish someone would have explained to you from the beginning? For example, it took me almost seven years to notice that there's a difference between frozen chopped spinach and frozen spinach leaves.

what small thing have you figured out about life in Israel that you'd like to pass on to newer olim?

Or what small mistake did you make that you'd like to warn others about?

Feel free to respond in the comments below, or email