Fun, free day in Israel with kids: Visit the ‘Hebrew park’ in Rishon Letzion

Around six months ago, Rishon Letzion opened two new ‘themed’ parks: ‘Gan B’Ivrit’ and ‘Gan Musica’ – big open spaces with a different sort of take on play equipment for kids.

On Friday I got to settle my curiousity and we visited the Hebrew park. Aside from a few really gorgeous park equipment setups, grassy areas for kicking a ball, and lots of open bbq space, the idea there is to offer a few alphabet-themed attractions.

First, the Aleph Bet water fountain, which was perfect, because it was an exceptionally hot day for beginning of March. Jerusalem-hill-ites that we are, I did not come prepared with bathing suits or change of clothes (or… sunscreen) but the kids managed to get doused (and dry, pretty quickly). It’s refreshing to see these types of water fountains opening up in parks around the country.

Rishon Letzion Gan B'Ivrit

Moving on, we hit a whole range of aleph-bet and language related equipment. The ‘mountain climbing’ through letters was a fun one:

Rishon Letzion Gan B'Ivrit

And the words wall was a little over my little kids’ heads but we did pick out some fun ones to read and recognize letters…

Rishon Letzion Gan B'Ibvrit

There was also a chalkboard wall for practicing letters. And the Wikipedia entry boasts a few more sections we didn’t see.

And the fish pond was sweet, too.

Rishon Letzion Gan B'Ivrit



Kid-friendly volunteer opp in Jerusalem: Pantry Packers

With a friend’s awesome initiative, a rag-tag group of Tzur Hadassah Anglos got together and made rice, not war.

Yesterday a bunch of us young families got organized and volunteered as a group with Pantry Packers in Jerusalem (a food distribution project run by Colel Chabad). The highlight was to give our children a kid-friendly volunteer experience and show them the importance of giving.

So… I highly recommend this as a 2-hour, bilingual, local Jerusalem group volunteer opportunity. They take tour groups from outside Israel too. It was a great community-building exercise for us.

Originally I thought we’d be packing food pantry boxes… This ‘factory’ was an extension serving a more mainstream organization that doles out boxes of food to 5,000 Israeli families a month. What they’re trying to accomplish is buying grains/legumes directly and packaging it themselves to keep the cost down – and then give it out/sell it for a third of the price to needy families.

So we actually assembled the packaging, sorting, sealing, and packing for these bags of rice. The kids had a great time with the machines – some as young as 4-years-old. And afterwards I had a meaningful conversation with a group of the kids about what it’s like to be a hungry child – how that affects you in gan and school and how it affects the moms and dads who have trouble finding work.

I’m proud of our kids! I’ve been passively hoping to make volunteering an integral part of our family time, starting with a few times a year. But I wasn’t aware of such young kid-friendly opportunities. So let’s look out for some more, and please share what you know in the comments!

Help an orphan, help the world: Donate to orphanages in Israel

You know, we don’t think about this much. I think for too many people, orphans and orphanages are plot material for Broadway shows, TV or 19th century literature.

How often do we actually give deeper thought to what it means to be an orphaned child?

Who cooks their hot meals? Who supplies them with clothes, toys, education? Who’s there to explain to an orphaned preteen girl what she’s about to go through? Who teaches an orphaned boy to know goodness and compassion? By whom do they know they’re loved? Where will they turn when they turn eighteen?

Thanks to Kelli, a reader who emailed me to ask if I knew of orphanages in Israel; she’s an Atlanta resident who wants to help out in some way. The days after she wrote me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it – firstly, how amazing her drive is. Secondly, how much we never really think about orphans at all.

I compiled a quick list based on a Google search. Please share more details/options in the comments and I’ll gladly add them.

Lev LaLev/Heart to Heart

The physical and emotional adjustment required of our girls in being moved to the Children’s Home on what is usually a sudden and unexpected transition, in addition to having to deal with whatever traumatic circumstances they were removed from, is a daunting task for the staff at the Children’s Home and they take their roles as new caretakers seriously. Lev LaLev partners with the Children’s Home by providing financial support for the many programs and services needed to help these girls grow past their often tragic circumstances and become well adjusted children and later, self sufficient and productive citizens.

Ways to donate

The Zion Orphanage

Rabbi Blumenthal pioneered the practice in modern Israel of providing an institution in the form of a home with the warmth and care of a loving family. As their “father”, he provided for all their needs including teaching them a profession. During those initial years it was farming, today their potential future means of support are mostly technology-based fields.

 Donation options

General Israel Orphans Home for Girls (Jerusalem)

GIOH is a loving home for children of all ages who have been orphaned or abandoned. Many of our children come from dysfunctional homes where they have been neglected and abused. Some were at-risk children who are now thriving in the warm, caring and loving atmosphere at GIOH.

Donate now

Yad Eliezer

Yad Eliezer began in 1980 in the kitchen of the Weisel family of Jerusalem. They prepared a food basket for a neighbor who could not feed her children, and were soon delivering monthly food baskets to hungry families. Yad Eliezer has now grown to encompass nineteen primary economic and social service programs that impact tens of thousands of individuals.

Donations and Programs

Thanks to Kelli for the inspiration!

Check out more Israel charity information.

Do it for the Anglo teens: Sponsor my 10k run for Team Crossroads

Hello, it’s that time of year again where I get off my ass, get motivated by some grace of god, and run a 10k and then feel awesome about myself (then stop and procrastinate another 3-6 months).

This time, I’ll run as part of the Jerusalem Marathon, and I’m going to do it as a member of Team Crossroads.

Crossroads is a safe-haven for Anglo immigrant teens in Jerusalem; often their families have made aliyah to Israel but the kids come from dysfunctional homes or have major difficulty adjusting to their new setting. They’ll turn to Crack Square and lose the way. In their words…

Crossroads provides critically-needed programs and social services for at-risk English-speaking youth in Israel that are homeless, struggling with drug addiction, violence and domestic abuse, as well as social, emotional and educational difficulties. Crossroads offers an alternative to the streets, with the aim of instilling every at-risk teen with hope, motivation, tools, and a direction for a better future.

No need to get specific about why this organization strikes a cord; I’ve heard local friends tell their tales of Jerusalem Anglo immigrants in their teen years. Someday my kids will become teenagers (you mean they aren’t now?!) and I’ll be thankful there’s an English-speaking team of social workers and therapists out there on hand to guide their peers…

I’ve pledged a modest $180; I’d love to reach it and I’d love to surpass it; the organization is looking to collectively reach $25,000. Thanks on behalf of Team Crossroads for any help/inspiration you can give!

Sponsor my 10k and help Crossroads continue!



FYI: Ways to help and donate to citizens of south Israel and IDF soldiers

Groups are starting to collect goods and supplies for both people stuck in bomb shelters in the south, and reserve soldiers stuck at the border of Gaza, waiting for the next move.

You can see the original Facebook event post here, and below.

Personally, I’m trying to collect in Tzur Hadassah (if you’re local and interested). There are several main points of collection across the country including parts of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and individuals collecting in their own areas.

If you’re not in Israel, you can still help.

Hebrew following the English:


– – – – – –

As I’m sure you’ve all felt in your own personal ways, these past 5 days have been pretty intense. Many of us have had loved ones go off to the army, and feeling helpless is the worst! With Natan (my husband) being an officer in the IDF, the truth is that I have no idea when I’ll see him again. However, I decided that praying for the best is not all that I can do… I have contacted everyone I know and I am asking you to do the same, so that we can gather as many supplies as possible, to bring to families as well as soldiers in the south.

I will be teaming up with the Lower Galilee Regional Council and heading to the south this coming Thursday to distribute what we’ve collected.

For families, I’m asking if each of you can bring something that you would want if you were stuck in a shelter for weeks. I recommend blankets, sleeping bags, pillows, small mattresses, kids’ toys and books, coffee, kumkumim, etc. Baked goods are also wonderful and always appreciated. For soldiers, socks and underwear are the most appreciated, as well as dry-fit clothing, gum, cigarettes, etc.

If you would like to donate, we will have several dropping spots around the country, including the the Lower Galilee Regional Council Office (in the North), North Tel Aviv, Central Tel Aviv Jerusalem (Rehavia), Hertzeliya, and Aminadav. Addresses are below. Please contact me and let me know if you’d like to donate! We really appreciate your help, and so will everyone in the south! These people need us and this is really where the heart of Israel shines… Thank you in advance!

–Stephanie and the Team


  • Jerusalem: Aza 46, Top Floor. There’s a sign both at the entrance to the building and on the door. Feel free to knock or to leave things at the door. (Rivka May)
  • North Tel Aviv: Dizengoff 338, near the namal, 2nd floor, left from stairs. If Sigal doesn’t answer, you can leave things at the door. (Sigal Abbatovi)
  • Central Tel Aviv: Bograshav 89, Apt. #2. Send Sarah Groner a FB message and let her know when you plan to come.
  • Ramat Aviv (Tel Aviv University Area)/IDC: Yehuda Bourla 54, Apt. 6. You can call Nofar if you need at 052-2939308.
  • Bar Ilan University Area (Givat Shmuel): Keren Hayisod 7, floor 2, apartment 8 (you can leave things at her door if she isn’t there) Inform Rachel Sarafraz by SMS that you’re coming — 050-2505076


Please visit this Google Doc to make a financial pledge. We will contact you with a Paypal account you can send money to so that we can buy supplies.

If you have additional questions about making a financial contribution, please contact:

Elan Mosbacher
Chicago, IL


כמו שאני בטוחה שכולכם הרגשת כל אחד בדרכו שלו חמשת הימים האחרונים היו די מתוחים. רבים מאיתנו מכירים אנשים שיצאו למילואים ואנחנו מרגישים בעיקר חסרי אונים החלטתי שלהתפלל שהכל יעבור במהרה ובשלום זה לא כל מה שאני יכולה לעשות. יצרתי קשר עם כל מי שאני מכירה ואני מבקשת שאתם תעשו אותו הדבר וככה נוכל לאסוף כמה שיותר אספקה וציוד לתת למשפחות בדרום הארץ

אני אסע לדרום באמצע השבוע (יחד עם כל מי שירצה ויוכל להצטרף( ואחלק את מה שנאסוף אני מבקשת אם כל אחד יוכל להביא משהו שאתם הייתם רוצים שיהיה לכם אם אתם הייתם תקועים במקלט זה יכול להיות שמיכות שקי שינה כריות מזרונים קטנים צעצועים לילדים קפה קומקומים וכו’ מאפים ועוגות הם גם דרך נפלאה לתמוך באחינו בדרום.

יהיו לנו מספר נקודות איסוף ברחבי הארץ – בצפון בתל אביב, רחביה, תלפיות ועמינדב.

בבקשה צרו איתי קשר ותגידו לי אם תרצו לתרום. אני מאוד מעריכה את העזרה וכך גם תושבי הדרום! האחים שלנו צריכים אותנו זה הזמן של עם ישראל להראות את הטוב שבו

תודה רבה לכולם!!

Updated volunteer info for helping African refugees in Israel.

I don’t live in Southern Tel Aviv. I  haven’t witnessed or heard personal stories about recent local violence associated with Sudanese and other African refugees/migrants who have made their way to Israel. So in that sense, it’s not a personal thing for me.

What becomes quite personal though, are the facts and stories behind how a lot of these men, women and children get to the border of Israel at the risk of everything. Where they’ve come from. Displacement, pain, threats, poverty, torture, rape, loss.

The biggest thing is the displacement. The homelessness. The fact that it seems worthwhile to risk everything in every step of the way to make it to the Israeli border and get in. Knowing that once you cross that border, you won’t be shot on demand. You have a chance to live through the next 15 minutes, the next hour, the next day, the next year.

Yes, it’s complicated. Israel is a tiny country. Absorbing half a million African refugees – with more inevitably on the way – is just not practical. The Israeli government needs to work with global partners to figure out what should be done with these displaced people.

Doesn’t that sound hauntingly familiar?

How dare ANY Jew ANYwhere make a hateful, inciteful, racist, unwelcome remark about a refugee from death, destruction, squalor and terror?

How dare we make life any more miserable for these Displaced Persons in our midst?

How dare we forget what we looked like – penniless, starving, sick, lifeless – only 70 years ago?

There is no excuse for the disgusting comments that have come from government officials’ mouths in recent weeks. Again, it sounds hauntingly familiar. The government should be working constructively with the global community to find a resolution to this refugee crisis.

We, on the ground, can also start at being merely kind to a demographic that could use some kindness.

For most of us in Israel, it’s probably not a close-to-home issue; I’m also one of those living way outside Tel Aviv and a lot of the other cities affected by incoming refugee populations. I do think at the very least, we can practice understanding and kindness as best we can. And if even that’s too hard, doing some introspection to understand why one is unable to curb racist, hypocritical sentiment in the face of familiar territory might be a good start.

For those among us who want to help on the ground – meaningful ways that might make this transitional period of the refugees’ lives that much easier – I’ve added updated info below.

Consider the idea that you might have a life skill or service to impart – learning to speak or read English, teaching some kind of trade, babysitting and playing with the children of refugees, etc.

ARDC Israel
Phone: +972 3 639 1416
Fax: +972 3 639 1415
Location: The office is in the Tel Aviv central bus station.

In addition, the organization runs a women’s shelter and other shelters in South Tel Aviv.

The Refugees’ Rights Forum
Listing of relevant organizations, facts and articles. Includes info in Tigrinya and Amharic. Includes a hotline for migrant workers.

Money donations can be made here.

Food donations:

In order to help reduce the immediate and daily trials and tribulations of many of the refugees and asylum seekers, we collect food donations (closed packages only) at our offices.

Food donations can be brought to the office any day from Sunday through Thursday, from 11:00 AM to 16:00 PM.

The Refugee Voice
A grassroots newspaper created and run by African asylum seekers along with Israelis in Israel.

Association of Civil Rights in Israel
There are offices in Jerusalem and Haifa as well as Tel Aviv, which might have info about local volunteering needs.

Refugee Right Clinic
Legal clinic run by lawyers and students from Tel Aviv University, providing “free legal aid to dozens of asylum seekers and refugees every year in a variety of issues. In addition, the Clinic advocates the implementation of a fair asylum policy in Israel.”
Contact Adv. Anat Ben-Dor: +972-54-8255264

Other info
If you know of others, please leave them in the comments. If you feel strongly about this issue, whichever way you lean, go ahead and leave your perspective in the comments, too. I think it’s important we actively discuss it across the country and worldwide. This is not just an Israeli issue, but a global issue.

Thank you to @sharagrif for providing the info she has gathered from personal volunteer experience.

Giving lone soldiers their post-army profession.

Lone soldiers.

I have no idea if that is just an Israeli concept, but what it means to us is the demographic of soldiers in the IDF who are immigrants and have no immediate family located in Israel to support them throughout their army service. They have no default place to go for weekends off or Shabbat and holiday meals. The family they have to visit is abroad somewhere – Brazil, England, France, Australia, the United States, etc.

They come to Israel and serve and then they leave the army but a lot of the time they don’t leave Israel; they’ve made aliyah, after all. So they need professions, skills, education – they need what we all needed, a first job to kick start a career in Israel.

Your company or organization could possibly help them with folks who’d like to mentor a lone soldier in their potential field.

The HESEG Foundation offers scholarships for lone soldiers and matches mentors with their scholarship recipients in the fields of computers and software, communications, law, business and accounting.

For more information, contact Itamar Shalev.

Here’s a bit more about the HESEG Foundation:

HESEG Foundation provides full academic scholarships and living expenses to former ” lone soldiers ” (חיילים בודדים) who have completed their services in the IDF and have chosen to make Israel their home. Lone soldiers are men and women from all over the world, who come to Israel to volunteer in the IDF. These remarkable individuals leave their families and friends behind, and are driven by their ideals and commitment to Israel’s security and future.

HESEG was established by Canadians Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman as a way to recognize and honor the contribution of the lone soldiers to Israel, by providing them with an opportunity, through education and career development, to start a life in Israel.

The HESEG scholarship program focuses on nurturing leadership and motivating achievement in the academic world, and in broader Israeli society. Scholars are required to meet a high academic level and contribute to their community through weekly volunteer work.

From discussions held by HESEG with its scholars HESEG identified a need for scholar counseling and guidance. As a result HESEG has launched the mentors program, a personal guidance program where professional specialists from different fields offer their guidance and expertise to our scholars and alumni.

There are currently 21 mentors participating in the program, three of which are advisory board members. Mentors are matched up with scholars based on shared interests and meet with their scholars in an informal setting to offer advice and guidance.

Giving blood for Yom Hazicaron + woman who needs platelets.

I figured I’d share this email I just sent to friends in the Jerusalem area, since the more people who can, the better:

Hey guys –

I meant to write this email to like two people and then I figured, why not let everyone know… I was thinking of donating blood in honor of Yom Hazicaron (thanks, Shira) and then my boss told me about a woman in Efrat who desperately needs a platelets donation from the right type (to battle her cancer)… Basically, at Hadassah Ein Karem in Jerusalem at the blood bank in the main building, they are collecting blood for testing for her; they will donate the blood anyway to those who need it, and then if you are the match, they will call you to take your platelets…

Her name is Paula Goldblum. You give her name so they know it’s for her testing (blood will be donated anyway, so you’re killing all kinds of birds with one stone). I want to go tomorrow or Wednesday, don’t necessarily need to go with someone, but I just thought if that sounds like something you’d want to do, go for it.

Have a wonderful Yom Haatzmaut.