Winter's a-comin'.

Opened the window today, and there it was – the first air, the first gust of that fresh, crisp burst of cold. I love the first breeze of a new season.

Note: In two weeks, when it’s damp and miserable and I’m complaining, don’t remind me of this.

Movie review from the end of the world. And left.

We just finished watching “Sof Ha’Olam Smola” which means, “At the end of the world, and left.” It’s an Israeli saying.

The movie, in short, is about the immigrant scene in the late 60s, somewhere in the Negev; the government is desperately trying to fill the desert with people (the whole “make the dessert bloom” thing). A high class immigrant family from India ends up there amongst mostly Moroccan immigrants. Thus ensues an emotional and extremely funny journey of friendship, family, losing friends and family, cricket, and learning to cope.

What I wonder is if Israelis whose parents were not immigrants can truly get all of it. The movie was funny in its own right, but as an immigrant – and a recent one at that – there was a lot for me to appreciate, despite that my only merkaz klita (absorption center) experience was in Talpiot Mizrach.

OK, I guess Talpiot Mizrach is kind of the end of the world and then some.

Jumping in.

I made a commitment to myself that by the end of the second year of my aliyah, I’d feel comfortable enough with speaking Hebrew to ‘jump in’ and ignore the ice-cold water around me.

Look, it’s hard. I feel slightly guilty speaking to Israelis in English, but the truth is it only comes up at the office (except Israelis I don’t work closely with, I do my best) and with Israelis I’m friends with outside work (which is very few). In school I speak in Hebrew (except to Anglos, but those I can count on one or two fingers). In fact, in school I speak, listen, read, write and even think, at times, in Hebrew. With Israeli family who are not formerly Anglo, I speak in Hebrew. With any Israeli I have to make daily transactions with I speak Hebrew.

Casual conversation is not as free flowing as I’d like it to be, but I know if I just ‘jump in’ my self-expression will get better by the day. The problem is – obviously, since I have the skills – I’m so self conscious about it. More self conscious than I’ve ever been about anything in my whole life.

Why? Maybe because it matters so much to me. Because it’s about survival but also not necessary for survival. Maybe because I already knew the stigma is out there and I feel cut off. Maybe it’s the look that old timer Anglos give me – those who have been here longer and make a point of speaking with an Israeli accent (which actually sounds extremely crappy and is actually more frustrating than it is helpful). Which is funny, too, because I’m a self-hating Anglo myself.

Anyway. The two years are almost up; I’m starting to feel the pressures of Q4. I feel that the office may not be the place to start pushing because I feel like everyone is already looking at me. I’ll make the push outside of the office.

When I was younger, I hated the feeling of jumping into an ice-cold pool on a hot day, even though I knew it would be pleasurable. I also loved the feeling of jumping into an ice-cold pool on a hot day, even though I knew it would be painful.

That’s exactly what I feel like now.

Words are my life; expression is my health; language is my soul.

I’m so scared I’ll be bad at it, and cease to exist.

The Bar Ilan professor warp.


After a long year of dodging the language cracks –
After a hope broken into pieces by constant disappointment –
After a long, painful bureaucratic day of Israeli school –

I found my true-to-the-core university experience at Bar Ilan.

My last professor for today’s hectic schedule is the first professor at Bar Ilan that made me feel like I’m supposed to be a curious, insightful, enthusiastic student. Like I’m supposed to feel… inspired!

He laughed! He smiled! He smirked! He showed emotion! He doesn’t wear a navy blue blazer! He got excited about the books he’s teaching from and actually brought them to class to pass around for us!

Most of my professors have happened to be American so far; and somewhere in the professor-aliyah experience it seems they must become pretentious and uncaring… That they must look down at their students with eyes that read, why are you here? …and even their glaring eyes seem to be trying to perfect their Hebrew and put on a poor Israeli accent, at the risk of none of us actually being able to understand.

But today’s last class’s professor broke that for me. He was so – real. He loved what he was talking about. He loved that we were there. And most of all – he spoke Hebrew imperfectly and didn’t seem to let it get to his ego. He even made funny comments in between sentences in English.

And most of all – when I asked him, obligatorily, for official permission to write my work in English (I’m supposed to out of politeness even though it’s assumed), he didn’t put on a look of disgust or answer me in Hebrew, just to be dafka.

“Ani chayevet livdok… Efshar l’chtov ha’avodot sheli b’anglit?”

And his answer? Why, it was just plain English.

“Yes.” He smiled. “Aval yesh lach mazal she ze anglit; Im ze haya sineet, sephardit oh russit, az ain efsharut.”

And I smiled my first real, grateful smile at a Bar Ilan professor.

With the thesis looming overhead, it’ll be a long year (and probably longer than that). But for just that hour and a half, I felt so… intellectually complete.

New word: transfer. I mean, טרנספר

My hebrew word of the week:


I found quite a few uses for this very unique, fancy and sophisticated word. For instance:

?אפשר לעשות טרנספר מחשבון אחד לחשבון שני
מישהו זוכר שהם אמרו ש”הטרנספר לא יעבור”?
אני רוצה לעשות טרנספר מבר אילן לאוניברסיטת העברית

Write on!

Hey, our Anglo out-of-place sadness is gaining some attention, creativity and a conference!

Haaretz reports:

Expanding the local audience for English-language writers is one of the aims of Israel’s first conference on American aliyah in literature, which will take place next week at Tel Aviv University. The conference, which will also focus on current research about Anglophone immigrants, is being hailed by organizers as a major step in creating a broader community of English-language writers here.

The conference, which is open to the general public, will deal with some of the frustrations and occasional sense of shame faced by some English-language writers who work within the dominant Hebrew culture.

“A lot of people [who immigrate here] either stop writing or leave because they don’t have an audience here. The whole point of writing is that you are communicating and if there’s no audience, you are not communicating and giving a voice to people. Many of us are writing for an audience abroad and so often, there’s no one to talk to, no one who gives you feedback. Some people I know have either turned to other arts like photography and painting, or just shut up,” Karen Alkalay-Gut (chair of the Israel Association of Writers in Israel) said.

As an English-language writer, I can completely relate. I’d love to participate in this conference.

FYI: It begins at 9:30 A.M. on Wednesday, October 25 at Tel Aviv University, Gilman 496.

Gaming the conflict.

Danish firm to release computer game based on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

By The Associated Press, taken from Haaretz 10.22.06

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has played out on the world stage for decades. Next year the conflict is also scheduled to play out on computer screens in people’s homes.

Ah, yes. It was only a matter of time. Psst – I said game theory in that other post, not computer game!

“Global Conflicts: Palestine” is part of a trend of politically inspired video games that are part entertainment, part political science lesson.

Entertainment? From a decades-long war? I suppose this is the 21st century.

“The purpose is to give them something more a than the occasional sound bite.”

Right… give them a chance to remake the news?

The plot puts the player in the shoes of a young journalist who navigates the streets of a city that resembles Jerusalem, seeking out Palestinian and Israeli sources for an assignment, Egenfeldt-Nielsen said. At the start of the mission, the player can choose to be pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, or neutral.

“The idea is of course that you can play one mission from one perspective and then play it again from another,”

Ah, so we can recreate history too! I know many who will love this game.

Scheduled for release in March 2007, “Global Conflicts: Palestine” is meant for both private and educational use and is packaged with supporting tools for educators, including an encyclopedia and teachers manual.

Makes me feel slightly better.

It’s all interesting, I guess. Definitely creative. Truthfully, I can’t judge till I see it…

…much like the conflict itself.