Six More Things I Love About Israel

Israel

Way back when a friend challenged me to write an article about things I love about Israel. I thought it was a fair challenge on a number of levels. Obviously there are things about the country that bug me to no end. It’s only fair that I tell the other side as well.

There also needs to be some balance to my bitterness for what I’ve seen and been through. And even if it’s not there to counterbalance my feelings about Israel, it’s worthwhile to be there to counterbalance my soul. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking it would be great to be cynical today.

But I am a cynic. And I have plenty of reasons and ongoing support for my cynicism. But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. And credit should be given where credit’s due.

1) ProFit, My Beloved Gym

Gyms in Israel aren’t known for being very affordable. And even though I’m certainly spending more to go to Profit in Talpiot than I was spending in the States, I must say that a) it is the most affordable gym I’ve seen so far, and b) it’s worth each and every penny.

Not only has my gym been my greatest form of escape and has kept me strong and fit for some time now, but it is truly a break from some of the most stressful elements of Israeli society. There’s no Israeli vs. Arab in my gym. Everyone exercises side by side. Men exercise alongside women, religious folk on the machine next to someone completely secular. And all political opinions are left at home.

Everyone is just working hard to be healthy. A common goal that transcends all the garbage that chills me to the bone.

2) Walking the Mighty Mesila

And speaking of breaks from the world at large, nothing beats a walk down the Mesila (also known as Derech Harakevet or the Old Train Tracks).

A walk down this lengthy and gorgeous path is a trek through all elements of Israeli society. Some folk are jogging. Others are walking their dogs. And still others are just going from one place to another.

And some are just sitting and enjoying the crisp, clean air.

But they all have one thing in common: They’re at peace.

The Mesila isn’t just a break from all of the craziness of Israel. Anywhere in the world this would be considered a beautiful, relaxing place to spend your time.

3) Israel’s Objectively Better Wedding Experience

I’m going to say it, out loud and once and for all: Weddings in Israel are far better than weddings in the States.

Weddings in America are very formal and slow paced. Everyone is seated during the ceremony and everything progresses in an ultra-standard way. And there is a fashion show aspect that is hard to ignore.

At an Israeli wedding, formal dress is downplayed. It is not at all uncommon to see many a guest in sandals and an untucked white shirt. They pile around the ceremony. And this overly informal atmosphere goes hand in hand with the wild and pure fun about to come.

Sure, every wedding has the guy smoking at the side and the bozo who answers his cell phone. It’s all worth it to create the perfect environment for the crazy amounts of informal fun everyone is about to have.

Everyone’s about to sing and dance in utter joy, with few dull moments. An objectively fun and exciting experience!

4) Israel’s Uncanny Ability to Move On

Israelis have an uncanny ability to forgive and forget, so drastically different than the environment I grew up with in the States.

I feel like holding tightly to grudges is a part of being a true blue American. Someone wronged you, and there is no statute of limitations to when the ensuing feud will come to an end.

Not so the mighty Israeli. Anger in Israel is intense and frequent, but short lived and completely impersonal. Just because you were in a yelling match with the clerk from the Misrad Hapnim for twenty minutes yesterday, doesn’t mean they hold any ill will whatsoever. It’s more likely that if you were to see them on the street the next day you would get a nod and a semi-friendly “What’s up?”

5) Israel: A Different Kind of Pride

Admittedly, I waiver about my feelings on this one. Israeli pride can be funny sometimes. Folk here use the word “we” a whole lot. Oftentimes they’re referencing an accomplishment made by an individual or an organization (or even something that happened before they were born), and using it as a source of pride.

We invented the PillCam. Or Soda Stream. We won Eurovision! And the list of national achievements can go on and on.

I grew up in the States. I never once found myself bragging about the invention of dental floss or crash test dummies. Yet in Israel it’s entirely natural to have a national pride over all the “Israeli” accomplishments, regardless of your giant lack of actual connection.

6) Israel’s Doggie Culture

To be sure, there are plenty of stores and other locations where it is not permitted to bring my precious pooch. But it feels like they are the exceptions, not the rule.

The default is that you can bring your dog almost anywhere. I’ll never forget once walking through a strip of bars in Jerusalem. We contemplated sitting down at a place, but I was concerned that it wasn’t an option, since my trusted hound was with me. Not only did they encourage me to come in regardless, they offered to bring him a bowl of water!

Indeed, good ole Frankie gets to experience a whole lot of Israel.

***

Anyone watching knows I don’t love everything about Israel or its culture. I think it’s import to critique Israel, from top to bottom. I think it’s essential we all work together to create a better and more functional society. The society we deserve.

But I need to give credit where credit’s due. Israel is by no means devoid of its positives, and some of those are reason enough to cross the ocean and stay here for a while.

May we be blessed to fix the ever-present problems plaguing our everyday lives, and may my next list be about the top 100 things everyone loves about Israel!

***

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Aliyah: Getting the Help We Need, Part II: The Facebook Question

question

In my last post I wrote about organizations that boast of helping those who are trying to succeed in moving to Israel (aliyah), but are failing short. I don’t believe, ultimately, that the secret to success here lies in an organizations. However, there is a group that is absolutely essential: All of us.

We are in a remarkable generation. I can post a question on a group on Facebook (such as Secret Jerusalem and Keep Olim in Israel) and get answers from thousands of people in just minutes. We have a country of immigrants whose collective wisdom is more than enough to help everyone find the information they need.

For example, I once posted on the group Secret Jerusalem that I needed assistance speaking on the phone with an actual human at a specific government office. Someone told me a sequence of numbers that worked like a charm and got me exactly what I needed. I was floored. In the 70,000+ members of this group, someone lurked out there with exactly the information I needed.

The problem: I had to trek my way through tons of idiotic responses in order to obtain the information I required. There are a lot of great ways to answer people’s questions. But there are just as many awful ways.

I would like to propose:

10 Commandments for How to be Helpful on Facebook

1) Never say “Google It”

There are many equivalent things that are equally bad, but this of course takes the cake as the classic annoying response. I know you think you’re the first to discover this new and fresh oasis of knowledge known as Google. But, well, you’re not. Please assume that I’ve tried that. Please assume I’ve checked their website as well. Or perhaps I couldn’t find their site and a link might be amazingly helpful.

You have no obligation to respond. If your answer is “Google it”, your silence is truly appreciated.

2) Don’t Write “Following”

I’m glad you found the question interesting enough that you want to hear answers too. Problem is: No one cares. And there are ways to follow without telling everyone, and without giving the one who posted any unnecessary notifications.

If you didn’t know there were alternatives, you’re forgiven. But now try these instructions and never write “following” again.

3) Read the Question

I recently read a question on Facebook. It was one sentence, no more. It very explicitly said “Jerusalem” in the question. Yet, the first response asked what city they needed their answer for. Why are you bothering to try and help someone if you can’t even be bothered enough to read through their full, brief question?

Take the extra six seconds to look before you respond. Those six seconds are golden!

4) Scroll a Little

And while you’re troubling yourself to read the question, take a minute, just a quick minute, to make sure you’re not the 47th person to give the same answer. Is it the end of the world if you do? No. No real harm. But then again, there’s no real harm in not forcing someone to read the same answers over and over again either.

So be helpful. And while doing so, try not to be pesky and ultra-repetitive at the same time.

5) Keep the Stupid Jokes at Bay

My first exposure to the wonderful world of seeking help online I asked for assistance with a door handle that was broken. I feel like in ten or so responses, I was exposed to everything that bugs me about these types of forums.

I know you think your joke is amazing. Sadly, I have some news for you. Not only was your joke inane at best, but it was wildly unoriginal. Someone else just made it an hour ago. If you bothered to scroll up, you would have seen that (see #4).

But far worse: I get this cute little notification telling me someone has responded. When I enthusiastically check to see if someone has helped me solve a problem, and instead I’m greeted with what you must assume is wit, you do nothing but frustrate me. You have not made Israel better. You’re just slowing us down so you can get your three seconds of attention.

6) Don’t Sell Me Crap

While we’re speaking about my door handles… please note that a friend responded and solved my problem. Fairly quickly in fact. And I’m grateful.

I’m not grateful to the half dozen people who then tried to sell me door handles. First of all, I was renting a crappy dungeon in Nachlaot. I wasn’t about to invest hundreds of dollars in increasing their door value. Second of all, scouring these forums in order to try and sell people crap is just plain obnoxious.

I saw this in an exaggerated form when I was recently planning my wedding. I couldn’t post any question without someone trying to become my band. Listen: I need your help, not your sales presentation.

7) Answer the Damn Question

Third of all, you didn’t answer my question. I wasn’t looking to buy new door handles. I wanted to fix my existing ones. Please answer the question I asked, not the one you wish I had asked or the one that better suits your agenda.

I’m constantly seeing this. Someone asks for the best pizza in Talpiot. Someone responds by saying they don’t know, but there’s a great one in Har Nof. I’m sorry, but what part of my question was an invitation to just say random information you happen to know. You are under no obligation to respond. And if you don’t have an answer to my actual question, it’s never a problem to not respond.

8) Don’t Speculate

“I think I may have seen a store like that somewhere on Emek.” This is a really bad answer. It’s extremely non-specific and inspires zero confidence.

Remember: You are under no obligation to answer anyone’s questions. If you don’t have an answer, your silence will never be upsetting to anyone.

Speculation is cute and all. But I asked my question to find answers, not to watch you search the annals of your memory, nor to watch you philosophize about what may or may not be useful information.

9) Don’t Tell Me to Get Used to It Here

If I’m asking for a certain brand of whatever, because I really enjoyed it in my home country, this is not your opportunity to hop on your soap box and remind me I no longer live there. I get it. You moved to Israel. You sacrificed certain comforts to do something extremely meaningful for yourself. Stop patting yourself on the pack, and please leave everyone else alone.

If they miss a comfort from their past, and wish to see if it’s possible to still have it, that’s their prerogative. And it’s none of your business. Either answer the question, or don’t. But keep your self-aggrandizing monologue out of it.

10) Stop Being So Damn Mean

Finally, people on these forums can be just downright mean and insensitive. There’s no place for this. Everyone’s issues are their issues and deserve respect, not condescension. Not berating.

Remember: The time will come when something will upset you. You will be frustrated and seek assistance. Don’t set the precedent that it’s OK to crap on other people or their problems. Otherwise when your turn rolls around, your problem will be as meaningless to others as you’ve treated theirs.

But more than that, being mean is never the right choice. In pretty much anything in life. Even when you’re hiding behind your keyboard.

Conclusion

The basic rule of thumb is like this: You are under no obligation to answer! If you are going to answer, follow these ten guidelines, and you’ll be well on your way to making Israel a better place to live. For all of us.

Ignore these rules… and you’re likely a part of the problem.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, 0 comments

Aliyah: Getting the Help We Need, Part I

Aliyah

This post might upset some. But perhaps some people need to be upset. Because I feel everything I’m about to say is long overdue. And as much as there are plenty of individuals who will have fingers pointed at them, there is a communal responsibility that makes what I’m about to say relevant to countless individuals.

The Complexity of Aliyah

Moving to Israel (Aliyah) is not easy. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Yes, I’m sure when you move to Israel from Ethiopia or Russia, whereas you may still have challenges, you are nearly guaranteed an increase in your quality of life.

However, this is not the case for many if not most of us who move to Israel from North America. We have certain standards that we became used to in our previous lives. And yes, we are moving to another country, with its own unique culture. Israel has her own way, and its own situation, and no one should expect to be catered to.

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a challenge.

Those challenges can be enormous. And they also can be objectively puny. But they are still challenges, and need to be respected. They need to be comforted. And where possible, they should be accommodated. That’s the case even when you believe the individual should be learning to live without whatever comfort they are seeking.

Aliyah and Seeking Help

When I was moving back to Israel, I sought help from every direction I could think of. I was panicking about any number of issues. I didn’t know how to find a job and I needed advice on apartment hunting. And I had countless questions, and I certainly didn’t not want to go into such a daunting experience alone.

There were some organizations who said their main focus was to collect money. I thought it odd that I was explaining my fear of the system and my dread of not being able to find work… and I was hit up for a donation. I found this inappropriate on a number of levels. But at least they were fairly upfront…

There were two organizations whose attitudes to me I found so repellent, I would like to highlight them here: Nefesh B’nefesh and AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel).

Aliyah and Nefesh B’nefesh

Nefesh B’nefesh boasts of making the process of moving to Israel significantly easier. Their propoganda makes it seem like Aliyah is impossible without their assistance. And to some extent, that may be true. But, sadly, I made Aliyah before they came into existence. And even though it is not indicated on their site, there are those who they will not help. Ever.

Any attempt I’ve ever made to connect with Nefesh B’nefesh was met exclusively with an invitation to look at their website. Apparently, unless I’m one of their numbers, I’m dead to them.

Any organization claiming the way they do that they exist for the sake of immigrants (olim), cannot ignore olim. Any olim. I only know what I know, but I’ve also heard from others that as time went by, the organization has become less and less vital to so many. Sure, everyone who is able to will (and should) use their services. Any help is better than no help.

But how do you sleep at night knowing that ultimately your purpose is filling checkboxes to say how high your numbers are? You don’t pay crucial attention to what happens once the immigrant is already here, or the many reasons things don’t work out for so many people. And you’re blatantly ignoring the needs of some who could desperately use a little extra assistance.

Embarrassing.

Aliyah and AACI

Another organization who I turned to for aid and support was AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel). My primary concerns, like most people, were housing and work. I was told they could most certainly help me, but only if I pay them a membership fee. So I shelled out cash I didn’t have in the desperate hope they would be able to answer my many vital questions.

That’s when the magic began!

As far as housing was concerned, I was given a list of websites. Nothing more, nothing less. Just names and links. Some that even worked! No attempts to help me find the right neighborhood, or how to navigate the system. Just a page with links.

But that was far more impressive than the assistance I was given for finding employment. AACI offered for me to meet with their liaison, who had very limited office hours in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. She would not help through Skype or phone or email. She categorically refused to assist someone unless it was in person… and I was living in Kansas at the time.

So there I was. I shelled out cash I really needed in order to get a list and an impossible consultation. There wasn’t even a mild attempt to do a better job than woefully below par.

But, yet again, another organization was able to include me in their numbers. And endlessly pat themselves on the back for the quality assistance they offer to make new immigrants’ lives easier and better.

“Secret” to Successful Aliyah

Do these organizations do anything good? Do they make anyone’s transitions to Israel easier? I’m sure somewhere hidden behind a whole lot of garbage, they do good things. Personally, I haven’t seen a shred of evidence.

Ultimately, I found an apartment. On my own. And with the assistance of a couple of good friends who were living in Israel. I furiously networked and eventually found a job. I owe everything to hard work, perseverance, and a whole hefty load of good, old-fashioned luck.

Why did I succeed? Not because of some special organization that supposedly helps olim. I succeeded in spite of them. All they offered me was false hopes and a bit more financial difficulty.

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Would Israel be better off without them? Well, people have successfully transitioned into the country without their help, so they’re not strictly needed. If enough people’s stories are like my own, they might be doing as much harm as good. And if their influence is actually negative, I’m sure the massive amount of charity going their way could be better spent elsewhere.

If you’re going to help people, then help them. If you’re going to steal money and continue to do minimal for the greater good, why are you here?

Anyone Else?

But there lies in Israel a group of people that everyone actually does need.

Each other.

How do we take that responsibility as seriously as possible?

See you in my next post.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, 3 comments

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Sometimes being an adult can get quite frustrating. Life can lack the adventure and spontaneity that colored our youth. Or at least the amount of unplanned craziness we all expect to have when we’re younger.

Many years ago I was introduced to an author who would later become my favorite: Kurt Vonnegut. I was quickly attracted to his unique and entertaining style of writing. And I found concepts and ideas throughout his books becoming a part of who I was.

The Cursed Kurt Vonnegut

A great example is an idea in the book Hocus Pocus. The character spoke about his reason for never cursing. He believed it weakened the strength of his thoughts and opinions.

Now, I grew up a classic potty-mouthed New Yorker. But I also grew up wanting to make sure any point I make gets across as quickly and effectively as possible. So it was imperative I gave this idea some thought. I considered all the most famous quotes and speeches I had heard. And the people I knew who had the most influence on me and others around me.

And not a curse word to be found.

I took this to heart, stripped my vocabulary of the expletives, and watched as over time the words became somewhat repulsive to me. I also watched as the words became more powerful. Their infrequent use made them more intense when they were actually used.

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Vonnegut’s influence on me had no bounds. There was one phrase from his incredible novel Cat’s Cradle that has had more impact on me than any other: “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”

As you make your way through the twists and turns of life, every once in a while someone will suggest you do something you’ve never done before. You will have an opportunity to wander outside your comfort zone, and see things differently than yesterday.

Those moments aren’t just fun one-time breaks from your normal reality. They are the bread and butter of who you will later become! And so it has been for me, time and again. In my youth I was invited to a youth group meeting. It was something outside my realm. Something that I really did not understand or see the point of. But it was a peculiar travel suggestion, with potential galore for changing my life forever.

And it most certainly did!

That one decision was the starting point for a path I am still trekking down. For sure there have been other peculiar travel suggestions along the way. Many I’ve followed, and many have had their impact. The path hasn’t always been an easy one, but it certainly has always felt like there’s been some type of plan guiding the way.

Dancing Lessons from God

In more recent years I was invited to a friend’s home to hang out and play some games. I didn’t know my host very well, nor did I know any of the other guests. My instincts and inertia could have easily gotten the better of me. After all, it was exceedingly hot outside. I was better off just staying home, reading, and napping.

My host’s peculiar travel suggestion would be a key moment on the path eventually leading to our marriage.

And thus has been the pattern of my existence for as far back as I remember. When my days had too much of a pattern, and I was too rigid and unwilling to follow the ebbs and flow of life, or there were elements holding me back, little noteworthy happened.

And therefore when I told stories about myself, I noticed they were all old. Anything and everything that seemed interesting or noteworthy about me happened a long, long time ago.

In the Comfort Zone

And now here is where I stand. I find comfort in day-to-day routines. I like knowing what my day will look like and what’s coming up in the near future. Any break from my routine, even a small one, upsets my balance. Leaves me somewhat unnerved. That’s why they call it the “comfort zone”…

Yet at the same time there are changes that need to happen. There are improvements to myself as a person I so vehemently wish I could make happen. And if things continue on the same path they’ve been zooming down since I was a teenager, these changes won’t just happen on their own. Change happens when a peculiar travel suggestion enters my world, and I’m brave enough to follow the unknown path.

Shaking Things Up

And it seems this is the only true way meaning occurs in my life. It’s like a snow globe that settles into whatever it is, but the true beauty shines when things are shaken up.

But the shaking can’t happen by force. I can’t just shake my own snow globe or artificially insert my own peculiar travel suggestions. This disingenuous method of finding meaningful change is unlikely to produce any results.

Waiting for Peculiar Travel Suggestions

That’s not to say I have no control, nor that I lack an important role in inevitable and exciting changes that lay ahead. I must lay the foundation, and create the right atmosphere for change to naturally flow from what’s happening in my life.

There is so much I want to happen in the future, so many goals I wish to achieve. I want to see new levels of professional and financial success. I wake up daily yearning to return to levels of religiosity and Zionism I haven’t felt in what seems like ages. And I want joy in my days, the extent of which I could not have imagined.

I’m out there. God, I am wandering through life, each day awaiting Your peculiar travel suggestions. I patiently seek Your dancing lessons.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, personal story, religion, 0 comments

My 100th Post: Why a Blog in 2019?

Blog

Blog? You write a blog? What year is this!?

This is my 100th blog post (including guest posts). I work on the blog a little bit every day of my life. But… some days I wonder why I bother.

To date, I haven’t earned a penny. In fact, it costs me to maintain the blog.

I’m not famous. It hasn’t put me into the limelight or tossed me in the way of some prestigious writing position.

But I keep at it. Week in and week out, nearly two years now. Consistently publishing at least one post every week.

And here I stand. This is my 100th post. And I have no plans to stop. I love it. It’s really fun for me. And I hope to keep it up for quite a long time to come.

It’s 2019 and I’m still blogging. Here are five reasons why:

1) Writing is a Muscle

The people of the world don’t know how to write anymore. Sadly, those among us who love style and grammar and just common decent awareness of the English language, we can’t shut off. Not for a minute.

Each and every day I’m literally sickened by the lazy writing I see or the blatant and heartbreaking lack of attention to detail.

And I pledge to never be that guy. I want my sentences to flow from one to the other. I don’t want to toss important punctuation and grammar rules into the trash can. I’m perfectly happy being the last American alive who knows how to spell words, and values that correct spelling as well.

But one thing is for sure: Keeping the writing skills alive won’t happen by accident.

I treat writing like a muscle. If left unused long enough, it will atrophy. I want to write every day of my life to prevent this vital muscle from withering away. The muscle needs to constantly be developed and refined, and hopefully through my daily exercise it will grow and sharpen to the height of its potential.

2) Blog as Written Catharsis

As any loyal reader knows, the last 41 years haven’t always been easy. I’ve done a great deal to try and survive the many hardships that have popped up along the way. Writing for me is both a way of processing my thoughts and feelings, as well as an emotional release in and of itself.

For certain, there are many pains that I cannot process through writing. And for sure plenty of pain for which I haven’t even scratched the surface. Nevertheless, pockets of difficulties I’ve had, I have managed to get through just because of this blog.

We all know that feeling of release when a pain slowly but surely dissipates. I’ve had that feeling a few times. Whether it be contemplating the complications of returning to Israel or closure at the end of a decade’s worth of work as a Jewish Educator, this blog has consistently given me great emotional catharsis.

This alone would be reason enough to keep on going.

3) Collecting My Thoughts

I’m not a liberal or a conservative. I have no political affiliation. And I begrudge (almost) no opinion out there. Nevertheless, I’m a thinker and I do have strong opinions.

I am a work in progress, constantly listening to what others have to say and trying to piece the world together. I make mistakes. A whole lot of them.

But the goal is and always will be to understand as much as humanly possible. And the single best way for me to collect my thoughts is by trying to write them down. If I can clearly and concisely get my thoughts into the written word, and I can answer a handful of questions about what I’ve said, competently and confidently, I have successfully added another piece to what I think, feel, and know. My mind is just a little sharper than it was before.

Clarity. I write, and that’s how I achieve clarity.

4) Me, the Minor Celebrity

There’s a cute little psychological effect that comes with sharing so much of yourself in such a public forum. It’s fun when someone quotes you or has a little bit of knowledge of what’s going on in your life or has a deep understanding of your thoughts and opinions.

Obviously I’m more than aware of my relatively minor influence in the vast world out there. No delusions of grandeur over here. Only the pleasure of knowing somebody out there might be listening. Somebody out there might have a care or concern for what I can add to the conversation. It’s enough to keep writing. It feels great.

It’s a funny world. The words “rich and famous” often get lumped together, and whereas I would love to be rich one day, I can certainly live quite happily without fame. I appreciate my privacy. I love it, in fact.

And in my heart I see no contradiction between my adoration of solitude and the joy of having my thoughts out there for the world to read. When I need or want to be private, it’s always there for me. And it’s always great.

5) Keep Hope Alive

Maybe it’s online youthful innocence. Or maybe hope is the greatest motivator the world has ever seen.

But I still keep waiting and watching. I still keep hoping that at some point things will “take off”. And that can mean all sorts of things. My blog could all of a sudden become the cash cow I never imagined. Or my blog could travel far and wide and it or some portion could end up influencing the lives of thousands of people.

All I know is, as long as I keep on plugging, the chance exists of some sort of magic occurring. And those chances end the moment I close my laptop and throw in the towel.

So I keep on writing.

See you in Post #200.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, 1 comment

Five Easy Ways to be Healthier… I Just Can’t Manage to Do

healthier

I want to be healthier. I want to wake up everyday refreshed and strong, with a positive feeling when I look into the mirror.

And I do a lot of the things you’re supposed to do to get there. I eat relatively healthy and exercise a whole lot. But I’m never happy with the results, and certainly not happy with a whole slew of my health woes.

No one could ever 100% pinpoint the main reason or reasons they can’t achieve their goals. But sometimes the biggest complications are staring right at me, and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to improve.

What’s worse is these ways to be healthier are objectively easy. And after years of strategizing how to develop better habits, I still fall short. Every single day.

Who knows? Maybe airing my health-related “dirty laundry” will be my motivation to improve.

Any tips world?

1) Stretching is for the Birds

I love to workout. I love getting to the gym and attacking the weights with alacrity. Sometimes I have a problem getting out the front door, or motivating myself to actually get to the gym. But once I’m there, it’s a great workout almost 100% of the time.

I don’t love cardio. But there are a handful of cardio activities I do really enjoy, like hitting the heavy bag. And when I’m into it, I’m into it.

But the evil and daunting stretch? I hate it each and every time, and the thought of stretching bores me, before I ever find myself trying to touch that toe. Sometimes I want to keep working out just to avoid needing to stretch afterwards.

Most of the time I want some excuse to leave early so I don’t have a chance to stretch.

What is the secret to enjoying this miserable necessity?

2) Water, So Mighty, So Dull

There are few topics in the world of health and fitness that don’t inspire controversy. One source says red meat is the God of all healthful items. Another says it is the devil, waiting to destroy anything you’ve ever accomplished.

Whether it’s soy or coconut oil or whole wheat bread, there’s someone out there to sing its praise, and just as many others ready to burn the sucker to a crisp.

And when all the smoke clears, the only two items everyone seems to universally agree are still healthy are vegetables and water.

But how does one learn to enjoy water? It’s so dull. It’s so non-invigorating.

Sure, it’s quite refreshing to down a bunch of ice-cold water on a super hot day. But we all know we never seem to be getting enough. Why? Because we need to be drinking the stuff even when we don’t want to.

What’s the secret to enjoying this banal necessity?

3) The Elusive Sleep

I love sleeping… but I hate going to sleep. First, it’s not and has basically never been easy for me to fall asleep. And mornings are really tough for me. Sleep just seems like that thing I do before I have to deal with waking up.

Furthermore, I like to do a lot with my days. Besides my family and my job, there are a million other things that will easily fill up any given day. And it always feels that if I want to make it all happen, I need to sacrifice something.

And when something has to go, it’s almost always sleep. If I sleep two hours fewer, bam, like magic my day has an additional two hours.

The logic is highly flawed, but never feels flawed at the moment it’s being applied. How do I get the sleep I need in the puny few hours of the average day? How can I have my sleep and eat it too!?

4) Put Down that Damn Food

I’ve got a food problem. I love the damn stuff. And I just can’t get enough.

Literally. I find myself thinking about the next bite while eating the current one. And no matter how how much I eat, I never quite feel full.

It’s a real issue, and a real blemish on my health resume.

Not to mention, it can be embarrassing. And it can get expensive.

I know I have an unhealthy relationship with food. Sometimes I hear about people who get stressed, and they just can’t eat when they feel that way. They hate it… and I feel envious. Pretty much the only thing I can think of when the stress starts pouring on is to start shoveling in the food.

I just ate a beautiful, delicious hamburger. How come I feel like I need another? How come I want the fries too, and the never-ending plate never satiates?

Why can’t I just put the food down and walk away?

5) Just Relax Already!

There are few items in the health world with endless solutions. If one wishes to relax, there are recommendations galore. Everything from certain vitamin complexes to yoga to meditation to power naps.

And yet relaxation just never seems to be a part of my life. I mean, after all, who has time to relax!? Seriously. There are only so many hours in the day. Who has the time to just stop doing and creating in order to sit back and simply enjoy God’s green earth, in peace and harmony.

Fact is, I think I’m genetically predisposed to not relaxing. Or maybe circumstances in my life led me to feeling this way. Or some level of both.

But there’s no denying that I’d rather be writing this here blog than lying down staring at a ceiling, just paying attention to my breathing. What’s the secret for me to just relax already?

***

Healthier around the Corner

And there you have it. I’m well aware that I could inch closer to becoming the pinnacle of health I so desire. All I need to do to be healthier is stretch more, drink more water, sleep a little, stop shoveling in the food, and relax already.

No problem. Healthier is right around the corner…

***

Bonus: Like everyone, I’d probably be healthier if I were to just drop alcohol from the routine… But hey, let’s not get crazy now…

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Fitness, Health, 1 comment

The Teacher Itch: Five Things I Miss About Being a Teacher

teacher

Am I still a teacher?

It’s been over three years since I left education. It wasn’t even a mildly complicated decision at the time. Almost as if the field itself had chewed me up and spit me out. It was time to go. I was done.

But for my first year after I was done, I still had bits and pieces of teaching opportunities here and there. I was always able to find students who wanted tutoring. I taught a weekly class at my synagogue. And I even had the occasional moment to hone my public speaking skills.

All the Teaching is Gone

And upon moving to Israel, I was basically deprived of any and all opportunity to teach. And every once in a while it hurts, and makes me even a little sad.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t miss being a teacher. I really don’t.

The days are long and the profession follows you home. Expectations are extraordinarily high, with a hardly comparable compensation. And it very well might be the lowest wage job in America that still requires you to wear a tie.

A tie! Every single day.

Nevertheless, there’s something about the role that becomes a part of your soul. And without it, it’s like I have an itch somewhere in the middle of my back. I can grab at it all day long, and I can shimmy myself all over the wall, but the itch never properly gets scratched.

What do I miss about my former profession? Let’s explore five elements of being an educator I would love to have back in my life.

1) When Being a Teacher Actually Works

Every once in a while, there’s a click. A student looks up at you with understanding eyes. Or they master a concept that seemed out of their reach. Or you try something with an individual that you wouldn’t try with the other students, and the success is obvious and immediate.

If these moments happened all the time, you’d be a master teacher. But occasional occurrence is the norm. And when they happen, they are brilliant and, in many ways, life changing.

I miss the glorious moments of when teaching works. I miss seeing sparks of understanding, and knowing that I was a part of the process of getting there.

2) The Ultra-Creative Teacher Spirit

I love my job. But it’s an understatement to say that it affords me few opportunities for creativity.

During my decade as a teacher, I thrived under all circumstances where I was given room to be as creative as I wanted. When that happened I found myself creating Parsha PowerPoints, writing and producing student movies about Tanach, and covering rooms with beautiful and meaningful murals.

For certain there were those along the way who smothered my creativity. But at least I knew I was in an environment where I realized my creativity mattered. Every ounce of creative energy I expended made someone’s day better, and fostered a greater learning experience.

Life without that creative outlet is different. And lacking.

3) Delving into the Unexplored

Teaching for me was a wild adventure of trial and error. In my most glorious moments along the way, error was actually fairly common. But I was among supportive people who made my mistakes feel like they were just part of the natural process.

I had classes along the way that flopped, sometimes dramatically and embarrassingly. And every last one of them was part of the process of getting to a class that would be wildly successful. Perhaps even unforgettable.

And it was all worth it. The exploration was a reward in and of itself. Knowing that with a little work and perseverance, a gem is likely hidden waiting to be found. I miss that beautiful search for the known.

4) The Smiles and the Laughter

I was a bit of a silly teacher. Yes, of course among my goals was always to foster knowledge and skills acquisition. But if the kids weren’t laughing and smiling along the way, then what was the point?

Fact is, being a Jewish studies teacher can be quite thankless. And there can be a lot of forgotten information along the way. But the feelings you help create within your students, be they boredom or bliss, might stay with them for a lifetime. That’s a responsibility I didn’t take lightly.

I loved the smiles.

And I do miss brightening the day of a few good kids.

5) The Forever Teacher

I am proud to say that I have a connection that has stood the test of time with multiple students. I love watching as my students of all sorts have developed into young adults. Former students of mine are married. Many have children. They are professionals, philanthropists, and adventurers.

And I love every minute of it!

One of the best educators I met along the way once told me it takes a full decade before you can appreciate and really feel proud of having been a teacher. Basically, after all the hardships, over ten years later you can finally feel like it was all worth it.

Is it fair to have to wait that long to reap the rewards of all your hard work? Absolutely not. However, when the day comes and you are told by a student that you were their favorite teacher, or she rattles off things you taught her years earlier, you can sigh a breath of relief. It may have been grueling, but it truly was worth it.

I have many strong connections with former students. And I hope those connections stay with me for the rest of my life.

***

No, I don’t want to go back. My days of teaching are behind me forever. I am more than aware of the pain this peculiar profession caused me.

But sometimes I miss it. Sometimes I remember the days I woke up thrilled to go to work.

And sometimes I just need to scratch an itch.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in education, 0 comments

The Moshav, Help to Rise Once Again

The Moshav

Living in Israel isn’t always easy. You never know what to expect. And everything feels so close to home, so damn often.

And just when you think you’ve cried all of your tears, and felt every emotion there is, another surprise awaits. This past week, a pain went through my system I had not yet known.

The Moshav and the Fire

I was reading the news to find out information about the fires that were ripping across Israel, until I saw a name that means more to me than I could possibly convey in a single blog post, Moshav Mevo Modiin.

Or the Moshav, as so many of us call it.

I panicked, and went to Facebook for more information. And I texted some friends. And no matter what I read, I was in utter disbelief. This lovely village, representing endless memories for me, was devastated by fire. Essentially, it was gone.

Ashes. Nothing but ashes. And memories. And disbelief.

Moshav: A Second Home to the Masses

When I moved to Israel a couple of decades ago, Moshav Mevo Modiin became like a second home to me. I would spend Shabbat there once a month and worked at their amazing festivals. I was always warmed by the immense hospitality, virtually unmatched anywhere I’d ever been.

Countless people have passed through the Moshav, where they have sang gorgeous music, danced in complete joy, and relished in a welcoming atmosphere. They’ve enjoyed art and nature and meaningful conversations. And before they walked off for another adventurous week, they were dazzled by the loveliest havdallah service I’ve ever experienced.

I can go on and on about the Moshav. Memories galore! I can talk about the many fascinating people I’ve met there and the different things I learned. And I have so many stories to share.

However, when I think of the Moshav, nothing stands out to me more than their capacity to open their homes to others. But within all of the beautiful crazy, one story encapsulates so much about how I feel about the place. One story has stuck with me throughout all these years, and guides me every day of my life.

The Moshav and its Unmatched Hospitality

Many moons ago I was spending Shabbat with one of the Moshav’s many beautiful families. The plan was to go there with friends, a young, newly engaged couple. Just a day before Shabbat, one of the friends called me and asked if they could bring another couple of friends as well.

I now know it’s not the best plan to rely on engaged folk. They are often floaty, so focused on objectively more important matters, they drop the ball on other smaller items here and there. It was close to Shabbat, and I felt uncomfortable asking the family if they could accommodate any more guests. So I requested the bride call and ask. She said she would, and I forgot about the matter.

I was the first to arrive on Friday, and I saw the table set for the original number of guests. I assumed either the family couldn’t host more people, or my friend decided against asking. Both assumptions were wrong.

I watched from the window as the four guests just moseyed their way over to the house. She had forgotten to call, and brought the additional guests anyway.

And I got nervous.

And then magic ensued.

Magic of the Moshav

I watched as this beautiful family added extra seats to the table, and without hesitation or even the mildest frustration, they adjusted. The bride never knew she forgot to call. The additional guests never knew what occurred, and never for even a moment felt like they were last-minute stowaways to the experience.

The family transitioned with ease. Like being perfect hosts was a part of their DNA.

It was a beautiful Shabbat from start to finish. And I’ve been a better person ever since. Hosting guests is not just something you do. It’s a lifestyle. A mindset. It becomes a part of your soul. Some do it with such artistic perfection, they should be admired. And learned from.

My precious Moshav Mevo Modiin embodies the concept of welcoming guests.

The Moshav: Time to Give Back

The Moshav has been there for endless people since its creation. Now it’s time for all of us to give back. These tremendous, warm, and caring brothers and sisters of ours have opened their homes to us thousands of times. It’s time for us to open our hearts and do what we can to show our gratitude.

I have no doubt that the Moshav will return. It will be back, better and stronger than ever before. Homes will be rebuilt on the ashes, and the doors will again open wide for any and all visitors. Flowers and grass will bloom and beautify the Moshav once again.

But in the meantime, the undeserving are suffering and need our love and support. The time has come to give back, in whatever way we can.

Please contribute whatever you’re capable of giving, and spread the word as far and wide as possible.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, 0 comments

Jerusalem Community Theater, Hidden in Plain Sight

Jerusalem Community  Theater

Wait, what? There’s community theater in English in Jerusalem?

I found myself hanging out just on the very edge of a fascinating and beautiful community. One I didn’t even know existed. How did I find out? Well… I married an actress.

But if it weren’t for that, I may have never noticed it was there.

The community is thriving, with over ten companies and a wide variety of shows performed every year.

But like anything else in the world, there’s room for improvement. And certainly room for expansion.

Why Jerusalem Community Theater?

People get involved in Jerusalem’s community theater groups for all sorts of reasons. According to CB Davies, the founder of JET, “Some people were involved in theater at some point in their life and want to do it again. Some … love the show … and so want to be a part of that … [and] there are those who want to continue to do theater and use their skills.”

However, it’s the social aspect that intrigues me the most. According to Rivka Deray, JET’s Content Manager, “It’s an incredible way for people, especially new Olim [immigrants], to find a community and create a social circle in Jerusalem.” She adds that, “New people join all the time, and there are people who always welcome them in and make them feel at home.”

There are many great adjectives people use to describe this community. The community is welcoming, diverse, and extremely supportive. Davies says, “We’re very multicultural. People join from all parts of the world.” And Marty Weisel, founder of JET Venues and a member of JET’s content team, says, “The best thing about the community is the people … surrounding myself with friends who support me and care about me.”

Room for Improvement

But as with anything great, there’s always space to grow and develop. And there are those working tirelessly to take this hidden gem in Jerusalem and make it even better.

Some speak about taking the performances and bringing them to the next level of quality. Weisel says, “The productions given by the community are incredible, however … there is always room for improvement. There is so much talent in the community … and we need to find the way to raise the standards all the time.”

Davies wants to expand the community, a suggestion that means a lot to me personally. I love theater. And yet I lived in Jerusalem for over a year without even realizing there was community theater at all, let alone in English. Davies wants to see the theater community “marketing itself better, reaching out to bring more people into the community, giving more people a chance to perform or use their skills [and] training.”

Some ideas are simpler, just to add a little pizazz to what exists. Deray offered a novel suggestion. She would like to see annual award ceremonies to celebrate some of the most impressive accomplishments in the community.

Next-Level Integration

However, the most common sentiment was that despite everything amazing that’s happening, a certain level of unity is lacking. “I would love to see it better integrated,” says Deray. “I’d love if there was a more interconnected system where any company could receive supplies, funding, etc as needed.”

Davies would also like to see a stronger “connection between the different companies.” He states that “they all give something different to the community, but in the end we are all the same artistic community.”

They believe the community is made up of multiple disparate parts, each one great in its own way. However, when the groups can come together under one banner, the potential is limitless. The whole will be far greater than the sum of each of its parts.

JET (Jerusalem English Theater)

And that’s where JET comes in. JET (Jerusalem English Theater community) was created to foster unity, and give all of its members everything they could have ever hoped for. “JET’s goals are to create a single place for companies to lean on,” says Deray. “Whether that is by providing locations, or advertising for all upcoming performances and auditions, or helping companies coordinate show schedules to avoid event conflicts. We want our site to become the Google of Jerusalem community theater, where people who aren’t as familiar yet can go to one beautiful website and find out all they need to know about upcoming performances and how they can be a part.”

It would be “a website that brings all the community into one place”, according to Davies. Replete with “blog posts to let people see what happens behind the scenes, promote the community, and let people express themselves.”

And part of the greater overall vision is to not only have a website, but an actual physical location (JET Venues). “A space that is geared towards performing arts”, says Weisel. “By having classes and opportunities available all the time … actors can hone their craft … and do what [they] love all year round.” Davies sees JET Venues ultimately as “a place that the community can call home for its artistic endeavors. This hopefully will allow artists to emerge, create, and bring new material and stories to Jerusalem”

And, of course, for the overall benefit of the community, everyone would love to see more and more involvement from a wider array of people. “I would love to see the theater community circle expand ever greater,” says Deray, “becoming home to more and more people and talents.”

Jerusalem Community Theater… is a Potato Chip

Davies says about much of these changes and developments, “I think in a way it is happening already, but I’d like to see more of it.”

Jerusalem Community Theater is a gem, hidden in plain sight in Jerusalem. It’s growing and improving all the time. Nevertheless, some folk want and need more. And they’re working to make that a reality.

Ultimately, Jerusalem’s theater community is a joyous one. “The shows themselves are like potato chips”, says Deray. “Once you’ve experienced the incredible feeling of putting your all into a production, working with and getting close to friends, old and new, you just have to come back for more.”

Yup, a fantastic community. However, there are a handful of folk out there hoping the community sees days with more, even tastier chips.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Entertainment, Israel, opinion, 0 comments

Not the Game of Thrones I Remember

Game of Thrones

Warning: This article is loaded with Game of Thrones spoilers. Beware!

I love Game of Thrones. Yeah, I know, it’s me and the rest of the world. But it doesn’t change the fact that I love everything from the intense action to the riveting dialogue to the top notch acting.

But Game of Thrones, whereas I do love you… I just don’t like you sometimes.

I think it’s important to explore some elements about why I love the show… in order to understand why I’ve been disappointed so much lately.

Game of Thrones is Anti-Hollywood

I didn’t know anything about Game of Thrones when I began watching it. Then again, I come into almost everything I watch blind. But Hollywood consistently leaves me with little to keep me on the edge of my seat. The good guys win, some characters are untouchable, and the love interest will put cute smiles on all our faces. All wrapped up neatly by the end.

But Game of Thrones shocked me time and time again. I watched a child pushed out a window in the first episode and knew something was quite different about this show. And at the infamous Red Wedding, as I saw the “good guys” systematically and brutally decimated, in jaw dropping fashion, I knew I was hooked.

My emotions were entirely trapped in the show. And like in real life, I never knew what was coming next. And I’ve spent the last several years on the edge of my seat.

Game of Thrones, Surprisingly Unsafe

In conjunction with the element of surprise, I love the fact that no character is ever truly safe. We’ve seen our beloved decapitated. We’ve seen their pregnant wife stabbed in the belly. And we’ve spent seasons growing to adore certain characters, only to see the show yank on our emotional wellbeing and toss it to the trashcan. One moment we look at you with admiration; the next, you are permanently removed from our lives.

No one is invincible. Everyone can get everything taken away from them in a heartbeat. Even in an embarrassing and disrespectful manner. As un-Hollywood as it can get!

The Patient GoT

In addition, Game of Thrones is patient. If the most important thing needed to create a dramatic impact is time, then so be it.

My heart was pounding when Jon Snow and Sansa Stark were reunited. They said goodbye to each other in the first season, and not knowing anything about what the other had been through, saw each other again five seasons later. I felt chills when it happened. I have never known a show willing to wait even remotely that long to create a sensation so special.

We Love to Hate

Finally, many shows have great heroes. But no one has mastered the villain the way Game of Thrones has. It’s harder to understand why hate and anger are as important as love and respect. But it’s true. Yes, we all love Tyrion, Arya, and Daenerys. But we went to sleep at night dreaming of how Joffrey could finally be out of the picture. We were restless for weeks wanting to know if Ramsay Bolton would get what’s coming to him. And the Night King has cost many souls a night’s slumber.

Season 8, Episode 3…

I’m writing this post shortly after watching the epic third episode of the final season of Game of Thrones. The episode was a masterpiece that kept the world breathing heavy for 90 minutes.

I loved it.

And I’m also terribly disappointed. All of the principles I mentioned before were ignored. Hollywood inserted its venom into the episode, and even though it was extremely entertaining, regretfully I believe ignoring what makes the show great, will ultimately make its ending quite forgettable.

Game of Thrones, Predictably Safe

What do I mean? There was nothing surprising about the episode. Nothing at all. It was a pure Hollywood delight. Yes, some characters who we have gotten to know for several years now perished. But every last one of them was expendable.

Does anyone really care if Theon Greyjoy finally met his Creator? Or if Beric Dondarrion will not be around for the next three episodes? Frankly, I don’t. Yes, they’re significant in the show, but they’re really not our heroes, nor are they characters of consequence.

But they all die amazing, heroic deaths. No one was slaughtered with their guard down or in some incredibly unexpected way. Everyone died like a champion. Even little adorable Lyanna Mormont took out a giant as she met her fate.

But what about Jon Snow and Daenerys and Tyrion? Completely and totally untouchable. For eight seasons, we haven’t seen Daenerys touch a single weapon. And now, just when it’s convenient, she’s a master killer of the Night King’s army. When we know the good guys are going to win, and the heroes cannot be harmed, Game of Thrones ceases to be Game of Thrones. We’re not kept on the edge of our seats. We can calmly watch knowing everything will be OK.

A Path Already Traveled

Game of Thrones seems to be taking a path already traveled, returning from a multi-season adventure where we never knew what to expect. It’s a world where Theon Greyjoy can die but Arya Stark cannot. A world where Theon gets to die a heroic death, as a great and valiant warrior.

We’re no longer waiting for a buildup to a great moment. And we’re watching as villains are dying like flies. The dreaded Night King, who poured fear into our hearts for years, whose spear took a dragon right out of the air, can be conquered by a single knife wound from a young girl.

GoT, What Will Be?

I miss the days of not knowing what will be. The days where heroes and villains had ambiguities. When plot and depth of character intrigued us, rather than being pulled in by just action and excitement.

Television has progressively become more and more disappointing. Few shows can capture my attention for more than a few seasons. Game of Thrones, you have been my shining light in a dark, dark cave. You’ve got three episodes left. Please don’t disappoint.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Entertainment, opinion, 0 comments
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