Three Months Later

Wordle: ilana-davita

It’s already been three months since I resumed blogging after a four-month hiatus. In fact, in hindsight, the pause was a good idea which helped me focus on what I enjoy about writing this blog.

It is also five years since I started blogging altogether – in January 2007. I had of course no idea then that I’d still be writing and loving it five years down the road.

I now seem to have found a rhythm: two posts a week and an extra if I feel inspired. How do you organise your blogging time? Has it evolved since you started?

Just for fun, I have created a Wordle of the most read posts in the past 90 days. Click and enjoy!

Not Quite Farewell


As you probably noticed – well I hope a few people at least noticed – this blog has been very quiet for the past few weeks. I have certainly been busy but I also feel a total lack of inspiration and ideas.

The school front is much quieter, which is a very good thing. I have not read many books worth writing about recently and my spiritual life is not worth sharing right now.

After much thinking and worrying, I have now decided that I will write whenever I feel like it rather than fret about I can possibly write about.

Still a few posts are already scheduled: at least two book reviews I promised to write (even though I have not received the books yet), a few recipes and JPiX in March.

Meanwhile I may or may not post on this blog but will still visit yours; I am subscribed to a lot of your blogs.

I suppose saying goodbye is a bit hard so I will end this post with a question. Can anyone guess what the photo above features?

What I Look Like



… on the Ipad.

If the tablet is the digital tool of the future then WordPress is already quite ahead as far as blogging is concerned. Its Ipad layout makes one’s blog look crisp and elegant. I have taken two (poor quality) shots of my blog as it appears on the Ipad to illustrate how this theme works.

The top photo features the latest picture on my blog but it is possible to set a default picture instead, which I probably will. The little dark ribbon on the right reads “swipe me”. When you do, the next page shows the latest five posts. All you need to do is touch the screen to access the article. If you wish to read the rest of the blog, you just tap the link at the bottom of the page.

More on this topic:
WordPress enables new iPad-optimized layout for its 18 million blogs
Wow Your iPad Readers

Yearly Review: Selected Posts of 2010


It is this time of the secular year again, when people ponder on what they have done (or not) or, in my case, on what I have written. Selecting one post for each month was sometimes a bit hard; there were times when I could have chosen two or three and months for which finding a decent post that was neither a recipe nor a photo was quite hard.

January: Jews in Postwar East Germany

February: Kosher Products in HK

March: Poor Teacher: Surviving Panic

April: Parshat Acharei Mot – Kedoshim

May: Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran

June: Organ Donation

July: Commemorating the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup

August: Jewish History in Hamburg – part I and part II

September: Training a Trainee

October: And They Shall Be My People

November: Mitzvah Girls

December: Sign Language for Babies

My interviews of 2010

Rosh Chodesh

This is not a reference to the Jewish calendar but a new feature on my blog: the custom blog header Leora Wenger made for me. It seems to fit my blog like a glove and reflects the things and places that are dear to me.

Thank you Leora for your patience in trying to humor my whims and accomodate my wishes. But above all thank you for the great result.

Blog Musings


– I recently read an article about blogs and bloggers. It seems that a peak has been reached and that bloggers now tend to post less often than they used to. This is certainly true for me although I am not quite sure why: lack of ideas, different priorities, a different schedule…

– The number of spams I get has rocketed. Fortunately they are blocked in the spam section of the blog but the number is still impressive. Am I the only one?

– WordPress has a wonderful feature which enables the readers of a blog to subscribe and get an email each time a new blogpost has been published. It is much more comfortable than checking RSS feeds. The unfortunate result is that I probably read non-Wordpress blogs less frequently.

– What about you? Do you find that your blogging activity has evolved?

P.S.: Upcoming change on this blog.

Haveil Haveilim and Weekly Interview Roundup


This week’s edition of Haveil Havalim – the almost Elul edition – is up at Ima Bima. Thank you Phyllis for hosting my post. For those who may have missed an interview or two, here is a list of all the interviews who have appeared on this blog in the past 14 weeks. Thanks again to all who took part and to the people who took the time to comment so as to show their appreciation.

Treppenwitz, Shimshonit, Mimi, Mrs.S., Mother in Israel, Rabbi Barry Leff, QuietusLeo, Robin, William Kolbrener, Baila, Ruti, Tamar, Michael, Risa

Weekly Interview: Risa


This series of interviews is drawing to a close and I am honored to end it with Risa who has lived in Israel for so long. Please read the moving posts she has selected from her blog. Thank you Risa for your wonderful contribution and your kindness in the emails we exchanged prior to this post.

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

I’m Risa, I was born in New York and have lived in Israel since 1967. I am married to David, we have six children and a whole bunch of grandchildren.

What is your religious background (if any)?

I grew up in a warm Jewish home and received a modern orthodox elementary school education. My family’s religious experience was a journey of learning and incorporating Tora and observance into a middle-class Jewish life.

When and why did you decide to make aliyah?

Almost as long as I can remember I knew I wanted to live in Israel. I guess children don’t like being different. I wanted to be somewhere where there were people like me and I thought a Jewish country would be just the thing for me. In high school I joined a Zionist youth movement (Betar) where I found other kids who identified with the idea. The Six Day War broke out just after I turned 18. I arrived in Israel the week after the war ended intending to stay for a year but that stretched into forever.

Where in Israel do you live and is there a special reason you live there?

I live in Rehovot which is a medium sized city south of Tel Aviv. Our main claim to fame is the Weizzmann Institute of Science. We’ve been here fourteen years. For twenty years before that we were members of a moshav in Ramat Hagolan where my children were born and mostly grew up. Farming was not working out well for us financially and we moved. Wherever I live in Israel is special and I feel privileged to be alive in a generation that can live here.

When and why did you start blogging?

I started blogging in the summer of 2006 when Batya of me-ander and Shiloh Musings asked me to post while she was on a trip to the US and wouldn’t have access to a computer. I’ve known Batya and her husband Winkie (actually I met him first) from my Betar days, so I couldn’t say no.

Have you been surprised by the way your blogging activity has evolved over the years?

I must admit that I didn’t think I would write as often as I do. It’s nice to have a place that is about me and the things that are important to me. I was never really into keeping a diary mainly because I never saw the point of writing to myself. But this is like having a memory box and letting others peek. I hope someday some of my descendants might look at some of this and understand a bit about my life. I wish I could read how my my grandmother felt when she arrived at Ellis Island.

To what extent do you feel your blogging activity reflects on the global perception of Israel?

None at all, not that many people read my blog and those who do mostly are pro-Israel anyway.

What post(s) are you most proud of?

My favorite posts are about my family and our history:
About my granddaughter’s birth
About my discovery on the cemetery on the Mount of Olives
About my grandfather
About my mother and her Shabbat candles

Would you care to share a blog or two you enjoy?

I like the feeling of an on-line community that has evolved among the many jblogs especially the ones by women like your own and Leora’s, In the Pink, Call Me Chaviva, Beneath the Wings, Coffee and Chemo, One Tired Ema, I”ll Call Baila, A Mother in Israel and many more. I read some blogs devoted to Torah subjects like The Rebbetzin’s Husband and Hirhurim-Musings and try to keep up with what’s going on in Israel.

Weekly Interview: Michael


I met Michael a while ago, before he had his own blog, via a comment he left on mine. A conversation followed, then emails. Here is someone who never runs out of ideas and references if you wish to dig into a subject. Thank you Michael for your contribution, and for being the youngest participant in this series.

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

I grew up in Silver Spring, MD (the suburbs of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area), and grew up as a committed but mostly non-observant Jew. When I was 16 years old (specifically, the summer of 2004), I began becoming more observant, culminating in my becoming Modern Orthodox. Since my high graduation in 2006, I’ve spent the past four years learning in yeshivot in Israel.

What is your religious background (if any)?

As I said, I grew up “committed but mostly non-observant.” My family would do things like a hold a seder on Pesah and have a Friday-night Shabbat meal, and go to religious services on Rosh ha-Shana and Yom Kippur, but other than that, we didn’t “do” very much. On the other hand, because my mother is a convert (she grew up as an Evangelical Christian and converted first Reform and then Conservative), she was ideologically very committed to whatever she did do or believe, and so I was raised with a very strong Jewish identity, even if it was represented very little in actual ritual practice. I was raised to believe very strongly in what Judaism is and what its purpose in the world is – “ethical monotheism” and tiqun `olam and such – and that I was Jewish and was supposed to marry Jewish.

When and why did you decide to make aliyah?

I remember sitting in computer science class in either seventh or eighth grade (2000/2001 or 2001/2002)– I forget which – and thinking to myself, “Well, G-d gave us the land of Israel, and He’s letting us return, so nu – what am I waiting for? I’m making `aliyah!” Of course, what I had to wait for was my high school graduation. By the way, keep in mind that this was some two to four years (depending on when during seventh to eighth grade you count) before I became observant (in the summer of 2004).

Where in Israel do you live and is there a special reason you live there?

I live wherever the educational institution I happen to be attending is located. I lived in Jerusalem for three years (attending Machon Meir), Petah Tiqwa for half a year (attending Yeshivat Hesder Petah Tiqwa), and I plan to be living in Ramat Gan soon (for Bar-Ilan University). As for my reason, I feel that it is where G-d intends us to live. The Torah repeatedly tells us to keep the mitzvot “when you enter the land into which I am bringing you,” and the Gemara says that anyone who lives outside of Israel is nearly guilty of worshiping idols; that’s enough to convince me!

When and why did you start blogging?

Let’s see…the timestamp on my first blog entry is 26 January 2009, so I guess that’s when I started blogging! I started because I kept posting long notes on Facebook, and someone told me to open a blog, so I did.

Have you been surprised by the way your blogging activity has evolved over the years?

Not particularly. When I started the blog, I’d just post whatever happened to be on my mind at the time (whereas I had previously posted onto Facebook whatever was on my mind at the time), and that’s pretty much what my blog still is. I have no themes, no agenda, nothing. I just post whatever is on the top of my head.

To what extent do you feel your blogging activity reflects on the global perception of Israel?

My blog affects the global perception of Israel extremely little, I’d imagine, and only slightly more than my blog affects the global perception of China or the ground beef industry. I get very few readers, and still fewer of those readers spend more than literally a few seconds on my blog (according to Google Analytics). Furthermore, I do extremely little (if any at all) hasbara (defense of Israel), because that’s just not my thing. I have strong opinions on the justice of Israel’s actions – at least as far as I believe it ought to concern the rest of the world – but I think Alan Dershowitz and the WZO and whoever else is out there can do a better job of doing PR for Israel than I can. (The Israeli government itself, on the other hand, seems to have hired sea slugs to do its PR, because monkeys were too expensive.) Most of my discussions are more “preaching to the choir,” involving issues of Modern Orthodoxy or Israeli politics for those “inside” the circle. In fact, the same way I don’t hasbara, I also don’t try to present Orthodox Judaism to non-observant Jews. I’m simply not a propagandist; I have neither the aptitude nor the stomach. I’m more like an academic who analyzes issues and subjects for those who are already relatively involved and knowledgeable in the cases at hand. Some people are good at arguing persuasively and putting glitter and rainbows all over their words, to convert the uninitiated, but I’m better at talking verbosely about minutiae with a preponderance of scholarly footnotes.

What post(s) are you most proud of?

Oy, I’ve written so many, and I don’t know where to begin! Well, off the top of my head, I’m proud of what I’ve written recently about libertarianism, and of my posts on that subject, the most developed I’ve written have probably been Religious Coercion, or On John Locke and the Kehilla’s Right to Assess Tzedaqa and Judaism, Democracy, and Health-Care Reform: A Reply to Dr. Jonathan Tobin.

I’m also proud of an article I wrote and had published elsewhere, A New Hearing on Kol Ishah. I can mention that article because when it was published, I made a brief mention of it on my blog. 😉

Would you care to share a blog or two you enjoy.

The Cake Wrecks blog is simply spectacular for morning laughs.
Shimshonit’s blog is written by a good friend I know personally in Israel, but I met her initially via her excellent blog.

Last week’s interview

Weekly Interview: Tamar


I have only just discovered Tamar’s blog; when I posted QuietusLeo’s interview a few weeks ago, Tamar put a comment on this blog. Since she was someone I didn’t know, I had a look at her blog and was immediately intrigued by her life story. Thank you Tamar for accepting so readily to be interviewed by a blogger you didn’t know. I hope my readers enjoy what you share about yourself.

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

A writer, editor, content developer, and blogging enthusiast, I live in two hemispheres (USA and Israel) — one at a time, where I help organizations (big and small, publicly-traded and nonprofit) to communicate online. In the USA (Atlanta), I am an active volunteer with the Atlanta Bhutanese Refugee Support Group helping our new neighbors resettle in the USA. They came from United Nations-run Nepalese refugee camps where they were living nearly two decades — victims of ethnic cleansing in Bhutan. In Israel (Tel Aviv), I volunteer at the Beit Avot [Home for the Aged] on Yavne and Allenby Streets. In my visits with residents, I ask them to tell me their stories.

What is your religious background (if any)?

I am an educated Jew who is at home in any denominational setting. My formal Jewish education was in New York City at Beth Hayeled (a pluralistic bilingual, bicultural primary school), Ramaz (a Modern Orthodox, coeducational yeshiva day school, and, while a student at New York’s public Music and Art High School, I attended after school programs at Herzliah Hebrew Teachers Institute (a pluralistic program that merged with the Division of Judaic Studies, Touro College, NYC) and the Jewish Theological Seminary Prozdor, now the Ivry Prozdor High School. I summered at Camp Massad (a pluralistic Hebrew-speaking Zionist camp) in the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. My family belonged to the (Reconstructionist) Society for the Advancement of Judaism. In Tel Aviv, I attend services and events at the liberal Beit Tfilah Israeli .

Jewish sacred texts and literature remain a focus of my studies. The past dozen years in Atlanta, I have been learning one-on-one in havruta (Aramaic: study partner) with Torah Mitzion Israeli Religious Zionist graduates of a Hesder yeshiva ‎‏(combining religious studies with army service‏), a Bnei Akiva (Religious Zionist youth movement) Ethiopian-born Israeli volunteer, and now, an American Conservative rabbi. In Tel Aviv, I learn with a Religious Zionist settler who travels 3.5 hours each way to meet. I have blogged about several of my learning partners.

When and why did you decide to make aliyah?

In late 2002, as the curtain rose on act three, I was hoping to shape a dramatic work that would incorporate meaningful new experiences and establish a sense of belonging to a land I where I was born yet barely knew. Details here.

Where in Israel do you live and is there a special reason you live there?

Tel Aviv is a wonderful fit for me — a living museum of the first modern Hebrew city now 101 years old. The Big Orange is cosmopolitan, dynamic, home to people of all religions and none, and rich in resources I love: the sea, the Carmel shuk, the Cinemateque, and green boulevards and parks. I enjoy the close proximity to ancient Jaffa with a vibrant Arab-Israeli population, cultural centers, and amazing neighborhoods and eateries.

When and why did you start blogging?

When I made aliya, an Atlanta colleague urged me to start a blog to connect with friends this way instead of sending individual emails. I resisted several years. Then, I went BlogHer 06, in San Jose, CA, and I “got it.” Last year, I began blogging, too, for the Atlanta Bhutanese Refugee Support Group.

Have you been surprised by the way your blogging activity has evolved over the years?

I am not surprised because in any venture, changes are inevitable. Some changes since my early blogging years are shorter posts are with fewer images, and including more of my videos to support or tell my stories. I am always striving to be less of a citizen journalist and more open about my views and myself.

To what extent do you feel your blogging activity reflects on the global perception of Israel?

I experience Israel as quite different from reports generated from afar or close up by naïve, black-and-white opinionated people. And so what I blog about — the people I meet, the places I go, the events I participate in often surprises my readers, whether in Israel or abroad.

I do not discuss politics though I have preferences, biases, and blind spots, and these are apparent in my posts and videos.

What post(s) are you most proud of?

Tough question. Almost all! Some popular ones —

Atlanta’s Bhutanese refugees and their new neighbors
Knowing Hebrew is no help in learning Arabic
Dear Israeli Soldier, Dear Aviah
Mt. Tabor, Israel — lessons and gifts

Would you care to share a blog or two you enjoy?

Time Goes By
One in 8 Million
East Med Sea Peace
The Magnes Zionist
Green Prophet

Last week’s interview: Ruti

Turnabout’s Fair Play: Israel interviews France, Ruti interviews yours truly