Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Bid for Palestinian Statehood

Look at all that Jewish land! Oh wait, 60 percent of that is desert. 

Today is quite the important day for Israel. It's Kaf-Tet B'November. Kaf-Tet is the date, with kaf (כ) being 20 and tet (ט) being nine, you can deduce that it means it's November 29.

The significance of this date is that on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted on the Partition Plan for Palestine (also known as UN General Assembly Resolution 181). The plan was approved by a vote of 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions.

The plan would have partitioned the territory of British-Mandate Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with the greater Jerusalem area (including Beth Lechem) coming under international control. The Jewish contingency was not pleased with the amount of land allotted, but agreed for the sake of moving forward. The Jewish state comprised 5,500 square miles (60 percent of which was desert), and the Arab state comprised 4,500 square miles (of lush land). In both states, Jews and Arabs would live side by side.

Unfortunately, instead of seeing a dual state as a boon, the Arab nations attacked in May 1948 in an effort to destroy the nation, they lost, and Israel began to expand back to its natural and historic borders, which continued through the late 1960s.

Note: The historic/natural land of Israel was known as Judea until the 2nd century after the Bar Kochba revolt. After the revolt, Hadrian decided to punish the Israelites and named the land Philistia after the great enemies of the Israelites, the Philistines. The name evolved into Palestine with the British mandate, and suddenly an entire nation was born of people who called themselves Palestinians. The interesting question is this: If Hadrian hadn't punished the Israelites and the land's name remained Judea over these hundreds and hundreds of years, would those who identify as Palestinians today call themselves Jews as well? Would this be a battle fought of Jew vs. Jew?

Today November 29 is important because today is the day, 65 years to the date later, the United Nations is voting again. Today in New York, Palestinians plan to ask the U.N. General Assembly to recognize a non-member state of Palestine in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, as well as the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip. The Palestinian collective is confident, and it they're playing this off as if a declaration of acknowledgement will make "peace talks" a more viable option. Any idiot knows this isn't true, of course, and recognition by the United Nations of a terrorist-controlled land -- in my opinion -- proves once and for all the complete and utter failure and insignificance of the United Nations.

Luckily, the vote won't mean that much. According to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.N. vote "will not fulfill the goal of independent Palestinian and Israeli states living side by side in peace, which the U.S. strongly supports because that requires direct negotiations."

To show just how against the vote the U.S. is, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch filed an amendment to a defense bill Wednesday that would eliminate funding for the United Nations if the General Assembly changes Palestine's status. Hear hear, I say. 

After everything that has happened in recent weeks, I think this request is incredibly ballsy and a little bit out of bounds. The fact that Israel agreed to a ceasefire on the same day that Hamas terrorists blew up a bus in Tel Aviv says to me that Hamas and it's Palestinian puppets seem to think they have the world wrapped around their little finger. My hope, in the end, is that more countries abstain than vote, and that those who vote make a sensible choice. 

The Palestinian people are not ready for statehood. They haven't been for a long time. Abandoned by Arab nations who don't care about them or their plight and operated in Stockholm Syndrome-style by Hamas, the Palestinian people have a lot of growing up to do. You cannot change adults, so you have to start with children, and this requires a lot of education. A lot. Unfortunately, this isn't happening, thanks to Hamas. Someone -- a lot of someones -- need to rise to the challenge, to push out Hamas once and for all, to reclaim the peoplehood, to stop living in fear and confusion and hatred. It takes responsibility and leadership -- two things that are simply missing. 

Only then will I support a two-state solution. Only when Hamas is driven into the sea and the people teach their children the value of words, promises, and human rights.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ask Chaviva Anything!: Of Observance and Conversion

Now, for another installment of ...

Don't forget to ask your questions, too.

The first question is bold (and a little presumptuous).
Given your many changes, what would you say to prospective in-laws who were questioning your ability to stay frum?
Simple: "Hello. I'm Chaviva. I want to marry your son just as much as he wants to marry me." What else is there to say? I don't think there's anything to say about my "ability" to "stay frum." I am what I am, and the right man and his family will take me for who I am, no questions asked.

The next question is a toughie, but a question that comes up a lot.
What is the most difficult thing about being a convert? 
Honestly I don't know how to peg just one thing. I suppose the easiest one to pick out is the feeling of never being completely up to snuff. At a recent Shabbat meal, we were discussing some of the bizarre traditions that it takes a while to get the hang of (let alone to seek out the origins of such things), and I quipped how for converts it's a long and dusty trail to get all of these things down pat with full understanding and comprehension. Someone pointed out that it's just as difficult for people who grow up Jewish or even for ba'alei teshuvah (people who don't grow up religious but "return" to religious Judaism). It was a true enough point, but what it doesn't account for is the fact that someone born Jewish who isn't quite up to speed on certain customs or traditions won't be scoffed at for his lack of knowledge. He'll be embraced, educated, and come out all the better for it. Oftentimes a convert will be scoffed at or questioned as to where exactly they did their learning and conversion. It's just not the same. Kiruv (outreach) is Jews converting Jews; it doesn't go far in the world of helping converts or wannabe Jews in fulfilling the calling of their neshamot (souls).

This last question is just as tough, and it hits on a problem with which I think all converts struggle.
One of the things I didn't expect when I started off the conversion process was the loneliness. I have great friends and family, but sometimes its hard for people to "get" it. What tips do you have for getting through without burdening the people around you with your kvetching about Jew-issues? 
I think one thing you have to do is establish your Jewish "family" and find a few individuals who can and will be there for you to listen -- not necessarily to say "I understand," because no one really can -- to the ups and downs and everything in between. There's a reason I set up a support group for converts at all stages of the journey, but even still, all of our journeys are different and because we're all in the thick of it, we're not always the best listeners. When I was going through my Reform conversion, I had an amazing rabbi and congregation (not to mention online community even back then) that helped me deal with some of the loneliest of moments. When I was going through my Orthodox conversion, a family sort of "adopted" me and took me under their wing every Shabbat and Jewish holiday for nearly an entire year. They listened to me kvetch, they listened to me kvell, they were there through it all and to this day I consider them my mishpacha (family).

No one will ever full "get" what you're going through; we all have such individualized experiences with conversion that the best we can do is try to listen and offer encouragement. That's what I attempt to do when people send me emails or ask me questions. You just have to find a safe space with non-judgmental people who will truly listen without attempting to understand something that they really cannot.

I don't know if that helps. I hope it does!

Have a question? Just ask online!


This is completely unrelated to the post below, but I thought it was funny.
Spotted this at Max Stock (an EVERYTHING store) today. Party plates!

An article that came out today in the Times of Israel paints a contradictory picture of Israel.
The report finds woefully inadequate transportation infrastructures, low productivity in an Israeli work hour, an education system producing a generation of low-achieving students, and employment levels dramatically lower than in much of the industrialized West.
And further,
Based on OECD data that links GDP to the total working hours of the economy, Israel ranks 23rd out of 34 OECD states in terms of the productivity of an Israeli working hour. Worse, Israel has been falling ever farther behind the OECD average since the mid-1970s.
Everyone tells you when you move to Israel that there are particularly frustrating aspects about the country's infrastructure. 

The fax machine is still king here, but the bank likes to send you text messages updating you on activity. The army has a crazy active social media presence where you can find the most up-to-date information, but getting an appointment with your aliyah counselor might take a good month. And the list goes on and on. 

The most obnoxious case-in-point for me is the banking system here. It's not enough to send me screaming or taking up hard drugs, but it is pretty annoying. It's like they want you to have to come into the branch (and, on that note, you better go to the branch where you set up your account or else things just don't work right). In the U.S., when you set up a bank or credit account, you set up your PIN to access the ATM when you set up your banking account or by calling into a 1-800 number and choosing the PIN. In Israel? No dice. In Israel, you have to come to the bank (the right branch, remember) to get your PIN, but first you have to request it. And then wait a week. And if they never send it or something strange happens, it could be a month later and you still can't access your money through the ATM. Instead, you have to go to the branch to get your money whenever you want it. And the card not working at retail outlets? Yeah, that one is a mystery -- to you, your banker, and the shop owner. (Note: The you in all of this is, of course, me.)

You can't call a number, you can't choose your PIN, it's all pretty arse backward if you ask me for a nation that calls itself the Start-Up Nation. In a place where high tech abounds, lo-tech seems to be the norm in most places, and I find it particularly frustrating. There's one place in Jerusalem where you can find quality Apple products (resale!), and there are tons of places that just plain don't take credit cards. And yet we have some of the most amazing medical and military technologies in the world. If quality counts in only some things, I guess medicine and defense are it, but why is it so hard to find quality floss or Q-tips in this country?

Walk by any given shop in Jerusalem and you'll find the shopkeeper standing outside smoking or schmoozing with his fellow shop owners. So it doesn't surprise me that we rank so low in productivity. The busiest shops? Shoe stores. Israelis love shoes, did you know? It doesn't take much to be productive in a shoe store. 

If anything, I suppose knowing the slowness of the system gives me pause as I consider what going to the doctor is going to be like. I anticipate putting it off as long as humanly possible, at least until I'm in the midst of a good book that might keep me occupied for however long it takes. I don't mind waiting. It's just knowing that Israel has the potential to be such a magnificently First World country that drives me nuts. I find it difficult to accept the fax machine and a banking system that doesn't let me choose my own PIN and insists I wait a week to get it.

They say Israelis are prickly on the outside and soft on the inside, which is 100 percent true. I suppose that the country itself is quite the same, with the personality it projects as being one of technological advances and an internal struggle with old tech. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Where Have I Been?

IDF in the shuk handing out brochures from the Homefront 
Command about what to do in the instance of an attack [Nov. 21].

It's been more than a week since I updated the blog with substance about how exactly I'm doing. Since I blogged, there were days without sleep, more sirens in Jerusalem, a heightened attack by Hamas, a ceasefire, a calm in my life, an aron (closet) delivery, an utter annoyance with men, Thanksgiving, an amazing Shabbat in Ra'anana, and lots of sleep.

That's a week in a nutshell.

I meant all week to sit down and write how I was feeling, what I was thinking, what life in a "war" zone really feels like, but I was far too busy documenting it on Facebook for the sake of others, for the world to see how absolutely biased and ridiculous 99 percent of the news that goes out really is. Just today I had some guy try to tell me that Hamas dragging Gaza citizens through the street in a bloody display of retribution for supposed "spying for Israel" was fake and not real news. Google it. You'll find dozens, if not hundreds, of sources and images. It happened. Believe it didn't, but those are the kind of thugs that are running Gaza. And I pity the citizens of Gaza who are either brainwashed, suffering Stockholm Syndrome, or too scared to breathe a word of fleeing to a safer place like, oh, I don't know, Israel. The truth is, Muslim, Christian, or Jew, Israel is the safest place for anyone in the Middle East these days.

Sirens last week again in Jerusalem had me leaving some cooking in the oven, running out of my apartment in my frilly, girly apron, to the miklat (bomb shelter) across from my apartment. It was still padlocked up, so a neighbor with a crowbar hit the scene and an Israeli managed to get it open. After breaking a second lock downstairs, and after the sirens had subsided, we entered the miklat to discover a blast from the past in the form of an old office with tons of office equipment. It's rumored that some guy was using it as his office space, and there were other rumors it was rented out as a music school at some point. Chances are both are true, which just makes me laugh. This is how poorly prepared and ready Jerusalem is for an air strike -- this is how completely unlikely we thought the situation was.

After days of rockets and fear, rain swept the country. B"H.

When the ceasefire talks seemed like they were honest and serious, there were lots of mixed emotions from Israelis, myself included. Although I needed the break -- the 24/6 news cycle was creating a culture of no sleep and emotional exhaustion -- I was also willing to go months without sleep to ensure that once and for all Israel would stop allowing Hamas to terrorize Israel and Israelis, that Israel would wave its mighty fist of justice and truth and smash its enemies while showing the world its sincere commitment to human rights and life.

But it didn't happen. The ceasefire came, life has gone back to normal, and I'm finally sleeping. With one eye on Twitter and Facebook at all times, I'm waiting to see what will happen with Hezbollah in the north. When it comes to terrorism and the pursuit of murdering Jews and Israelis and destroying the state, Hezbollah wins. And they haven't even gotten started yet.

At last, it resembles a real apartment. Video forthcoming (maybe)!

Beyond war, of course, there is normal life. I went to a Thanksgiving event at Hineni on Thursday night with an e-friend turned real friend, which was a blast and a half. I'd share some pictures with you, but unfortunately the photographer for the night has failed to post them yet. Although I didn't eat much, my funds went to a good cause for those impacted by the conflict, and I got lots of my favorite Thanksgiving goodies on Friday night for "Shabbat Hodu" -- that's sort of like Indian Shabbat. I was elated and surprised when my friends in Ra'anana put together Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole for me. It felt like home, it felt like Thanksgiving, for the first time in years. My apartment has finally been filled appropriately with an aron (closet) and a table, so I am not living 24/7 on my bed. I have an oven and plenty of cooking items, so my kitchen is finally feeling like a real place to cook and bake and ease my mind on long days again.

Tonight I made Gluten-Free Oven-Baked Fish & Chips. 
Tilapia + Potato + Seasonings/Corn Meal = Roughly 23 shekels ($6)
Homecooked Meal = Priceless

And dating? Well, that world has continued to perplex me. Men who don't know what they want or can't see what's right in front of them seem to appear at my doorstep, which leaves me nowhere. I haven't had much luck with any of the guys I've encountered on JWed (formerly Frumster), and I just got one match on Saw You at Sinai that I'm contemplating. Meeting people in real life always seems to go well, until the point-blank shoot-down after what appears to be flirtations. I'm either horribly out of practice, or men have become women with their uncertainties, mixed signals, and inability to conjure an honest thought.

So that's life right now in Israel. I'm still happy as a clam here, and I can't imagine any other life for myself. I start ulpan -- intensive Hebrew language learning like I did back in Vermont -- in mid-January, and I'm incredibly eager to make it happen. I hold my own well here, arguing with the bank and bad delivery drivers over the phone without a second thought, but I want fluency and confidence, to fill the gaps, to be able to function fully in Hebrew. Everything's fallen into place with the greatest of ease, and every day that I breathe a little here in Jerusalem is another day I'm sure that I've made the best decision for me.

With that being said, when are you guys coming to visit already!?

A Nutty Giveaway

It's that time of year again, where I get a delicious sampling of my favorite nut and candy shop's tastiest Chanukah treats, which also means it's that time of year where you, my lovely readers -- in the United States and Israel -- get a chance to win your own Chanukah nosh from Oh!Nuts.

The Chanukah gift I received was the 3-Section Ceramic Gift Tray, although the truth is that it didn't come looking like this at all! The tray wasn't ceramic, and the treats given weren't exactly what's pictured either. (I'm guessing this is because in Israel the products cannot be as standardized as they are in the U.S. where Oh!Nuts is based.) However, I was pleased with what arrived. The chocolate was divine and creamy, the nuts were salty and hit the spot when I was in need of snacking.

So here's the rundown on instructions to win here on Just Call Me Chaviva.

  1. Visit the Oh!Nuts Chanukah gifts page, and choose your favorite gift.
  2. Come back here, and comment with your chosen's URL and name (and anything else you want to add).
  3. I wil pick a random winner on December 6 who will receive a $25 gift certificate to Oh!Nuts!

Here are some other ways to win free goodies, too.

  • Visit the Oh!Nuts Facebook page and post on their wall with the URL and name of your favorite Chanukah gift paired with "I am here via!"
  • Follow @OhNuts on Twitter and be sure to tweet: "Win a free Chanukah gift from @OhNuts! Follow and RT to enter!"

Also, head over and buy your own favorite Chanukah gift today (Monday, November 26, 2012) and use code APFS12 at checkout to receive free shipping on orders over $50!

Ready, set, enter to win!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Getting Back to Normal, Whatever That Is

Today I woke up sick. I had a migraine. My stomach felt fully ulcerous. I was exhausted emotionally and physically. I texted my co-volunteers (we're rocking out Stop the Rockets and @StopRockets) and told them I needed to take some time off.

So I took my agalah (that's a cart in Hebrew). I got an espresso, which I chugged, I went to the bank, and then I sat on a bench on Yafo for about 45 minutes, just watching the world pass me by. It was therapeutic, it was peaceful, it was exactly what I needed.

I went to the shuk (where the number of IDF soldiers at the entrances had tripled since yesterday) and picked up oodles of ingredients to make several different delicious things this week, came home, and then met up with a friend and her kids at the park and watched the sun slowly fall behind the buildings as the weather cooled to a brisk chill.

I went home and got to work cooking these delicious Spicy Indo-Chinese Noodles from Vegan News, which also was therapeutic. (And delicious.) (Recipe at the bottom.)

And then? I got back to work, doing what I do best, putting out quality, meaningful, and well-branded content. Facts, not memes. Content, not rhetoric.

My goal for this week is to focus on work, focus on eating healthy (I'm sticking to a strictly veggie diet -- I've been cheating because cheese here is so good, and I really have to stop because I'm feeling the effects), getting plenty of sleep and fluids, and being honest with myself about my limitations.

I can and should say no sometimes. It's hard for me, but I've come too far to let stress, anxiety, and living an unhealthy lifestyle destroy me.

Recipe for Spicy Indo-Chinese Noodles Modified from VegNews 

1 8-ounce package of  Vermicelli Rice Noodles, cooked, drained, and rinsed in cold water (these are hard to find kosher in the U.S. and here you can find them EVERYWHERE)
1 Tbls sesame oil
1 Tbls olive oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced thin
4 cups shredded cabbage (I did this the old fashioned way, but feel free to buy pre-shredded)
2 small green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp agave
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes (because I like it hot)
1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce (tamari)
1 tsp Sriracha
2 Tbls ketchup
2 Tbls rice vinegar
2 Tbls water
Options: carrots, broccoli, other Asian-y veggies

  1. In a large bowl, toss noodles and sesame oil and set aside. 
  2. In a large skillet over medium, heat the olive oil and add the onion, cabbage, bell pepper, garlic, and whatever other veggies you have on hand and saute for 3-4 minutes. 
  3. Add agave, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and saute another 3-5 minutes. 
  4. Add cooked noodles, tamari, ketchup, Sriracha, vinegar, and water, and saute for 3-5 minutes more until heated through.
  5. Serve hot! (Top it with more Sriracha, if you're like me!)

Aliyah: Looking for the Mikvah

I've had a lot of people ask me where the kelim mikvah (the place you take your new utensils, dishes, and cookware to be ritually immersed before using), so I decided to just make a Google Map! Why is this not listed online already? Nobody knows. But I'm all about making people's lives easier, so here you go.

View Nachlaot Mikvah in a larger map

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Aliyah: It Just Got Real.

Reasons to get married: I don't want to go through another air raid siren alone. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Israel Under Fire

I'm safe. I'm alive. I'm helping with a new type of diplomacy -- the one where social media tzars run the universe and information is only posted when it's confirmed and accurate. I'm part of an amazing team.

If you want to see the most up-to-date and accurate reports of what's happening, please watch my Twitter feed @TheChaviva, and be sure to "like" Stop the Rockets on Facebook.

Stay tuned. This is going to be a doozy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Aliyah: One Month Down

I was considering writing a blog post about how you should never ever rent a car in Israel because the gas here is too expensive and the fees are too expensive, and did I really forget in a single month how expensive owning a car was?

(I guess so. But seriously, the adventure to IKEA in Rishon Letziyon was pretty amazing. And the kosher nosh? Totally totally worth it. Even if I did break the bank.)

Yes, that's dijon salmon and crinkle french fries. With a soda.
I spoiled myself. Okay?! It was my one-month aliyahversary!

Instead, I wanted to pop in after a month in Israel (where oh where has the time gone) to say how inexplicably pleased I am with life. There have been a few giant lemons since arriving (in the form of men and mosquitoes and a hole in my wall with water pouring out of it), but by and large it's all bliss. I've made dozens of new friends, many who I see on a daily basis thanks to the close quarters of Nachlaot. There's something unbelievably special about walking a few seconds to the shuk for fresh produce and returning home and passing the park to see a friend with her kids playing there. I stop, I chat, I watch the Mayanot guys playing soccer, the cats sniffing around piles of food someone's left out, watch the clouds rolling fast overhead and the chill coming in, and I'm home. Home where I now have a gigantic toaster oven (thanks Amy and Miriam!), a nifty table from IKEA so that I can stop eating and working on my bed (thanks for the encouragement Lany!), and a space that I have made uniquely my own.

I was the girl on the No. 18 with her oven. It had its own seat, yes it did. 

I guess today for the first time, I really feel like I have a home. I've always felt at home, but now I have a space that is uniquely mine, filled with my things, my hard work (oh this furniture gave me blisters), scents of my cooking, the sites of my life. This place is mine at last.

Lunch today at Ben-Ami on Emek Refaim with besties Miriam and Amy.
Don't be fooled -- they don't actually serve gluten-free pasta. 

It feels insensitive to really enjoy feeling so at home, so happy, so at peace. Yes, I know what's going on in Israel, in the south, where I have friends living. Yes, the Iron Dome is a lifesaver. Yes, the news is biased and ignoring the reason for Israel's returned agression against Gaza militants and Syira. Yes, we're probably going to end up with another war (let's be honest, we're in one), but if I were going to be anywhere I would want to be here with Am Yisrael, standing firm and strong, staring hatred and death in the face. My people, my land, my home.

Every Sunday and Monday I go to At Home Cafe. Coffee. Friends.
Gluten-free baked goods. That scone wasn't, but I had biscotti. 
It's like I'm living in an amazing dream world where people
want to be part of your life and want you to be part of theirs. 

This is my life, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I've spent just about every night for the past week on roughly 4-5 hours of sleep. I've had days like that where I'm miserable, but here, I power through. I don't cancel on social activities. I embrace my life as it is and relish in these moments. I have friends, I have love, I have family, I have happiness. It's amazing.

Two doors down -- life imitates art. 

I'm spoiled. HaShem is spoiling me. If this is aliyah, I wouldn't want anything else. I'll take the leaks and my Bank Leumi card not working and missing exits on the highway ... I'll take the lines and bureaucracy and imminent danger. If this is what happiness and peace and internal calm feels like, then I'll take it. I'll take it all. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ask Chaviva Anything!: Of Aliyah and Marriage

Now? Another installment of Ask Chaviva Anything!
As an American who married an Israeli, I am bracing myself for the move to Israel in a few years. I feel paralyzed by fear sometimes and, just as quickly, guilt-ridden for not wanting to dive head-first into what I know is the right place for us as Jews. I am also a convert, and feel devastated that I'll be leaving my family here. Can you give me any advice or motivation on how to stay positive?
This is a tough one. A very tough one. And I'm not sure it's one I'm fully equipped or prepared to answer because I come from a pretty different place than you. I only saw my family so many times a year and relied largely on e-communications to keep in touch, I wasn't married, and the motivation to move to Israel was wholly my own. That being said, I think that having the time to plot and plan almost makes the entire waiting period worse -- you'll hyper-analyze every aspect of what could possibly go wrong on the move. It's an incredibly frustrating thing you're going through, I can only imagine. 

So I'm going to put this one out to my readers. Does anyone have advice? 

The next question?
Can you post more of your cute apartment?
Yes! But only after my closet shows up. Hopefully it will be here by November 21. Stay tuned!

Here comes another, closer to home. 
I thought you weren't looking to get married again or so you said on the blog multiple times awhile back. When did this change?
Late last year/early this year I had said I wasn't sure I wanted to get married again. But that's also when I was dating someone outside Judaism, was bitter and angry about a lot of things, and was still coping with divorce and family problems I was having. A lot of therapy later, making the decision to keep my happiness at Number 1 on my priorities, and making aliyah, marriage has been in the cards. The truth is, my desire not to get married was largely a result of the guy I was seeing not wanting to get married. I was doing my best to believe in the "marriage is a sham" bit. But I want very much to get married, to have kids, to do my part in growing Am Yisrael. Shockingly, it's not nearly as easy as I thought to meet people in Israel.  

And we'll end with an easy one. 
How long do you think you'll stay in Israel?
Forever? I made aliyah -- I moved here, permanently -- and my intent is for Israel to be my home indefinitely. I'm not naive enough to think that life hands us things we are most unprepared for, so who knows what is in store for me, but making aliyah means moving to the land, possessing it, making it my home. So that's what I'm doing!

Rainy Days and Sundays

Today it rained. It's actually still raining, a lot. And it's glorious. 

So days like today are meant for soup. Warm, spiced soup. 

Served in a coffee mug, of course. 

I woke up today not feeling very well. I'm guessing it's the abrupt change in weather, as it tends to do this to me. So I've got a sore throat and every last inch of my bod is aching and sore. 

My Shabbat in Neve Daniel was beyond outstanding, but it was incredibly cold and windy up there, which smacked me in the face because I was ill prepared. I looked at the weather, it said roughly 63 degrees F, so I assumed a scarf would do me. What I forgot is just how quickly the clouds move there and how windy it does get. I sleep best when it's cold, however, so you can only imagine how well I've slept the past few nights!

The beautiful thing about Neve Daniel is how tight-knit the community is. The shul was beautiful, and even the 99 (or was it 100) stair climb to get there wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. The friendship, the warmth, the children everywhere -- this is my Judaism. Perhaps someday, when I'm hitched, I'll end up in Neve Daniel with all of my amazing friends there. 

Until then, I'll warm myself up with homemade soup. 

I schlepped out in water-proof rain jacket and sneakers to pick up potatoes, apples, eggs, coconut milk, and other essentials for soup-making and weekday meal basics. I threw this together on the fly. Don't ask for specifics, because I can't provide them!

Cinnamon Apple Sweet Potato Spiced Soup
2 green apples, large dice
2 sweet potatoes, large dice
1 regular potato, large dice
1 yellow onion, small dice
1/2 can organic coconut milk
water (or vegetable broth)
olive oil
toasted walnuts
  1. Sautee the onion until translucent. 
  2. Add cinnamon. 
  3. Pour in the apples, potatoes, and enough water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook for about a half-hour or until everything is tender. 
  4. Pour in the coconut milk, dabble with the spice mixture, and puree. 
  5. Once you've gotten the flavor right -- to your liking, you'll figure it out -- top with toasted walnuts and enjoy. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

2002: Let's Do the Time Warp Again

I'm what we in the biz call "an early adopter." When it comes to new technologies, I just adapt to them. I download them, install them, explore them, learn them, become fluent in them, and then prepare as the target moves. That's the nature of the beast that is social media and the digital world.

It began way back when in the late 1990s when my family invested in a computer. I can't remember the exact year but I think it was 1998, because that was the same year that I started my first LiveJournal account. I also can't remember what my first account name was on LiveJournal, but I think it was "shakinbakin02," which still exists on the interwebs as a purged user on LiveJournal.

Yes, when I was in high school I went through many an over-emotional phase where I created and deleted accounts, some locked up tightly to write about someone I was dating or hating, others public. But that account was the big one up until college. I repeated the overly emotional antics in college, but the unique thing here is that there was one LiveJournal account that survived from 2002 up until the present, off and on, sometimes skipping entire chunks of years, but it's still there.

It gives me a sort of time capsule of 10 really strange and completely transformative years of my life.

It also shows me how incredibly ridiculously sentimental and quick to fall in love I've been in my life. I sometimes forget this fact, especially because since the year 2008, this hasn't been such an issue with me. But now that I'm single again, I'm finding myself in that quick-to-jump-in-and-get-hurt kind of headspace. I'm back to wanting romance and fireworks and that connection of what one friend recently called "profound understanding." If I could lead off every encounter with a potential zivug with requesting profound understanding, we might get there. Someday.

So where was my head at 10 years ago today? I posted six posts in one day on November 8, 2002. The benefit of LiveJournal was that you could post that many times a day and it was normative. They were more "this is what I'm doing today" and "this is how emo and cranky I am" than actual substantive and meaningful blog posts -- I transitioned to that arena in 2006.

I went from being unexplainably happy at 12:53 a.m. after a party in my dorm (the Honors Dorm, mind you) called "Bootie Grind," to being really depressed and crying at 1:48 a.m. Up at 7:54 a.m., I was poised to register for Spring 2003 classes, and by nearly 10 a.m. I was back to my happy cheerful self with this little gem.
today is the most beautiful day. more gorgeous than yesterday. the sun is hitting the leaves in all the right ways. the noise is enough, and the wind through the nearly bare trees is comforting. its beautiful, so very very beautiful.
(Note: I cringe at the day when I didn't use proper capitalization.) And then a little after 1 p.m. I was angry and depressed again, and by the end of the night I'd experienced my first visit to Knickerbockers for a show and a viewing of "8 Mile," yes, the classic Eminem film. 

Yes, I'm a personality of extremes. I've always been that way. I suppose I would have done well in the theater. The interesting thing is that LiveJournal was very much for me what Facebook and Twitter are today. I used LiveJournal as a microblogging platform, before "microblogging" was even a thing. I'd argue, as an early adapter, that LiveJournal was the first microblog -- people weren't using it as a means of collecting personal thoughts for private use, it was a sounding board for your friends. It was a broadcast medium. I don't think I know many people who wrote novellas on LiveJournal back in the day. 

So every so often, when I'm feeling curious, I'm going to adventure back to LiveJournal -- sorry folks, it's off limits to everyone and it's unsearchable on the web, so good luck finding it. And even if you did, so many of my posts are clouded in ridiculous mystery. I know -- even today -- what they're about. November 8, 2002, for example? I know exactly what was happening on that day and what was driving the emotional roller coaster. I was attempting to balance a complicated long-distance relationship while dealing with evolving emotions and a space full of new people and friends. When I think back to that period of my life, it was quite messy. One of the messiest. I ended up really hurting and destroying someone that I loved very much. 

I also was only 19 years old at that time. Those were some serious growing pains. Although I'm a person of emotional extremes, I don't think my life will ever compare to the emotional ups and downs I experienced over the past 10 years, especially in those early days. Why? I know myself a lot better these days. I know when I'm falling into an emotional up or down. The difficulty these days is finding the way out that came a lot easier when I was younger. 

Do I love having a 10-year catalog of my life? More than you can imagine. The 10 years before that, of course, are all in paper journals boxed up and packed away. Yes folks, as shocking as it may seem, I've been documenting my every move since at least 1992. 

For this, it seems, I was destined. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Soundtrack of My Life

Those of you know me know how important music is -- after all, I spent years going to shows and dated a musician for roughly four years (the great romance, they call it). In high school I did show choir and concert choir and appeared in musicals, and after that I became the girl with the band enjoying free drinks at bars in Chicago. I enjoyed being that girl, what can I say. Music is the soundtrack of our lives.

So living in Israel where the music of Rockland Kosher in Monsey, NY, is the standard in many shops and on many an iPod (that is if you're not listening to a shiur), I'm feeling the constraint.

I spend my days listening to Avett Brothers, Adele, Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons, Local Natives, Fun., Branches, and all sorts of other music in the genres of indie, folk, and alternative. (I overdid it during a couple of breakups on Weezer, Rilo Kiley, and Deathcab for Cutie.)

My Hebrew tunes are limited, because I just can't get into the classic stylings of the Rockland Kosher set. One musician who has very limited supplies of tunes is Erez Lev Ari, who I've been listening to for several years. I prefer the Hebrew tunes, because there's something about music and lyrics -- I memorize lyrics like you wouldn't believe. Just about every Hebrew prayer I know by heart I know because once upon a time, I was singing it aloud.

While doing some frustrated music-searching Googling today, I happened upon this blog post. I'm not really taken with any of the musicians listed. Indie, I guess, means something different here than it does in the U.S. Usually indie is affiliated with more of a ... I don't even know how to describe the vibe exactly, but electronica it is not. Then again, Israelis love their electronica. I also was surprised that these musicians seem to all be singing in English. What gives?! I guess it makes you more universally acceptable and viable to perform in English, but ... can I not get some awesome Avett Brothers-style sounds in Hebrew?

Anyway, here's one Israeli musician I was particularly taken with. The video is pretty amazing, even if he is singing in English.

So, give me some suggestions. Music for me is a life force, and if I can use it to learn Hebrew better, all the more awesome. 

Ask Chaviva Anything!: The Get

Here's a doozy of a question, around which this entire post will revolve,
Was getting a get difficult? 
I say doozy because it talks about the topic of divorce, which honestly is something I am so very much over I sort of wanted to ignore the question. It's not a painful topic, it's more like, meh. The truth is I don't think I ever talked about the literal process of getting a get, or Jewish divorce document. There are a lot of resources online that walk you through the process, but the actual experience itself was pretty painless for me. In fact, it had a sweet ending from the rabbi. But I'm a bit ahead of myself here.

I asked for a get on a Monday. By the following Wednesday, I had it. By and large, the giving of a get and the organization of the whole thing doesn't happen this fast; most people were surprised at how fast a beth din (rabbinical court of three men) was mustered up for us. I had a friend come with me, which turned out to be a huge blessing because a lot of Yiddish was tossed around and she helped me out when they were talking to each other over something about what to write in the get itself.

The truth is that the get is a very simple document, and it is very short. Although the origins of the term get seem to be clouded in rabbinic tales and historic assumptions (my favorite is that the Hebrew letters gimel and tet can't be used to form a word, so thus a couple whose marriage fails cannot come together to create anything), the biblical term comes from Deutoronomy 24 and is sefer keritut.

The requirements for the get itself -- we're talking what it's written on, who is writing it, how it's written, how carefully it's written -- are incredibly important. The validity of a get can be chucked out the window for the smallest thing. The most interesting thing about a get is that it can't be predated and has to be hand-written then and there. (For a full text of the get document, click here.)

So yes, you're sitting in the room with the beth din, your soon-to-be ex, and a sofer who is using as steady a hand as possible to make sure that he doesn't have to write and rewrite the document.

In my case, it was the beth din, the sofer, my ex, and my friend in a classroom at a Jewish school in New Jersey. It was a stale room with a big board-room style table and fairly comfortable chairs. I feel like the entire thing took about an hour, and most of the time was spent with me talking to my friend out of nervousness, listening to the rabbis discuss my name and where it came from (one had to pull out a sefer to explain something about it), watching the sofer carefully dip his quill into a dirty pot of overly used ink with such precision ... and then came the ritual.

It was a very odd, forced, choreographed bit that I don't know if I fully understand even now. The document is completed, the rabbis look it over, it's properly dated and signed by the present rabbis, and then? We were informed of the documents contents if I remember correctly, the most important aspect of which are the lines,
And now I do release, discharge, and divorce you [to be] on your own, so that you are permitted and have authority over yourself to go and marry any man you desire. No person may object against you from this day onward, and you are permitted to every man. This shall be for you from me a bill of dismissal, a letter of release, and a document of absolution, in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel.
The rabbi took the get and folded it up into small packet. My ex took the document and dropped it into my hands, which were cupped with my palms upward. I took the get and was directed to walk toward the door, as if I was leaving. I stopped and walked back, and the rabbi took the get from me. Corners were cut, and the document was put away until our civil divorce was complete -- only after that would we get our official copy of the certification of our Jewish, religious divorce. Nice insurance, right?

After the entire thing was said and done, one of the rabbis dismissed the sofer, the other rabbis, my ex-husband, and my friend who accompanied me and took me into his office. I was pleased because it gave me a chance to ask about hair covering (about which he gave me the blessing from Rav Feinstein that as a young woman without children to uncover), but there was something that meant a lot more to me.

"I want to speak with you briefly," he said.

I walked into his office, and he said,
"You know, if someone walked in here and told me a convert and a born Jew were getting divorced, I would have thought you were the born Jew.  
"The reason," he said, "is that you seemed so much more involved and interested in what was happening, you seem more knowledgeable."
Wow. I'm permitted to any man (well, not a kohein), and this rabbi clearly thought there was something special there for me, and in that moment, it meant so much to me.

So, in a nutshell, was getting a get difficult? No. It was a cakewalk. Would I wish the experience on anyone? Never in a million years.

Ask Chaviva Anything!: Of Loathing and Family

And now for another installment of ...

Questioner number one asks,
"Besides the shaving issue, what are you disliking about Israel? Do you have a strategy for meeting someone?"
The thing I probably dislike most about Israel is the amount of people who smoke, all the time, everywhere. Shopkeepers leave their cash registers unattended to stand in the doorways of their businesses and smoke. It's that excessive. I feel like I can't breathe half the time, and I'm not looking forward to when it's crazy hot outside and I actually can't breathe. The other thing is how there doesn't seem to be a cozy coffee shop scene like what I had in the U.S. You know, the small, crowded, indie, hipster coffee shops where everyone's working and blogging and writing their life's work. 

As for a strategy for meeting someone, that's a big huge no. I'm on the traditional sites like SawYouAtSinai (major fail) and JWed (formerly Frumster) and jDate (which actually has religious people on it here believe it or not), but so far I haven't had much luck. I've met a few creeps, some crazies, and had a lot of disappointing turn-downs. I honestly was hoping that once I got to Israel that my network of friends and acquaintances would go all shidduch on me and set me up with eligible folks they knew, but so far that traditional means of getting to know people hasn't panned out. I manage to spot cute religious guys all the time, but in this world you don't just go out on a limb and talk to someone. 

Seriously, I'm willing to take suggestions. Or, if you're a cute, religious blog reader out there, I'm also up for super fans. But as one friend said to me, "You sound desperate." So I'm trying to keep all of my dating adventures and experiences offline. It's hard. It's really, really, really hard. But guys don't dig chicks who come off as desperate, now do they?

Questioner number two asks,
How has your family reacted to such a big move? Any plans for them to visit?
Great question! My little brother seems to think it's pretty awesome, and he's been asking me lots of questions about where I am, what it's like, and such. We text quite a bit (thanks Google Voice), which is how we communicated before my move, so it's not like much has changed. In my perfect world, I'd save up the cash to bring him to Israel for his 21st birthday, which happens to come in 2013. 

My dad was really upset about it, because I'm daddy's little girl and I'm moving halfway around the world. He worries, no matter where I am, because that's the kind of mensch that my dad is. But we email regularly, I've called him a few times (also thanks Google Voice), although I seem to always miss him, so we email every other day or so. We keep in close contact, and he also reads the blog when he can (hi dad!) to keep up on things I forget to mention in emails. So we're solid. I also hope to save up to bring him over! Back in his Navy days, my dad floated around in this part of the world, even shuttling some soldiers into the Suez Canal back in the early 1970s. 

As for my older brother, that's kind of a question mark. He's checked in on me a few times, and I still haven't managed to get my adorable nephews on Skype, although that's something I need to pursue more hardcore. I wonder if they're talking yet? It's hard to be far away, and I see cute bobbles all the time that I want to buy for them and send home. Dear Brother, if you're reading this, what do you think of me moving, eh? 

When it comes to the rest of my family, I'm not so close. I don't know if all of my family even knows that I'm overseas, to be honest. I put up a good front working U.S. hours and all of that, don't I? I of course want to visit. The question is when and whether I can afford it. I thought I'd be back in March for SXSW Interactive, but it looks like that's a bust. So I'll probably shoot for the summer, when leaving Israel is actually a good thing to do because it's so blazingly toasty.

Don't forget to ask your question online!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Cohen Firewall

Bahahahahaha. Yes, this is a thing. I couldn't help but post this. I'm laughing so hard right now.

The Two Burner Superchef

A neighborhood doorway. 

There are many things that I cannot do in the meager kitchen that I have. Among those things is bake anything, or put anything under the broiler, or do anything that requires anything resembling an oven. I have no crockpot (but I'm okay with that because unless you're cooking meat, it tends to destroy the nutritional value in all veggies), no toaster (truth is I didn't use mine much except for late-night snacks), and no KitchenAid (which I only used for making my gluten-free challah).

I'm over all of these things. What really kills me, however, is not having a full-size fridge. Or, at that, a fridge with a working freezer. The college fridge is what I have, and all of us know that such fridges with freezers rarely "freeze" anything and keep it frozen. Add that that the door is broken, and it's serving as space to store more fridge-like things since, well, I have zero space in my fridge to begin with.

The benefit here is that I'm right next to the shuk, so I can go buy fruits and vegetables as I need them. The downside here is that I have a tendency toward laziness when it comes to cooking and because of my lack of fridge/freezer space, I can't really cook when leftovers are involved, making meal-planning a huge pain in my kitchen-loving tuches.

(May this be the worst of my problems.)

I'm considering starting a blog devoted to my ridiculous eating habits (yes, I spent one evening enjoying gluten-free crackers in dijon mustard), something along the lines of how I'm a Two-Burner, Kosher, Gluten-Free, Semi-Dairy-Free Ovo-Vegetarian Who is Willing to eat Chicken and Fish on Shabbat. I'm willing to take name ideas. Make it crafty, make it clever. Otherwise, it's going to be something along the lines of the The Two-Burner Superchef: Adventures of an Eclectic and Restricted Palette. Thoughts?

Anyhow, this is what I put together today. It included the leftover Breakfast Quinoa (golden raisins, cinnamon, coriander, walnuts) that I made over Shabbat, heated up in Almond Milk, topped with Flax Seeds, Walnuts, and Bananas served with some French Press Coffee.

I definitely feel like I'm in college again -- specifically graduate school, where I had one burner, a toaster oven, a few pots, and managed to eat lots of random nothingness. 

I suppose the upside is that there's a chance I might lose some weight, what with all the schlepping paired with all the eating of fruits and vegetables. I will admit that my fingernails seem to be very strong and thick these days, I'm sleeping well (when I'm actually sleeping), and I'm drinking a lot more than ever before, which is bueno for the dehydration. 

Know of any blogs or websites where I can find college-style super healthy, hippie-dippie recipes for someone like me? Share!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Shabbat in The Swamp

Men in The Swamp do not look like Swamp Thing.

I had quite the Shabbat this week. I round-tripped nearly 4.5 miles by my Google Maps calculations on Shabbat evening. In the morning, I traipsed a mere few feet across the park to the next street for my meal, which was an utter delight with a great family from Canada that's in town until next month experiencing all that Israel has to offer.

But Shabbat night. Where exactly did I go? Why did I schlep so far? And why do my knees hate me today? Well, I was invited down (literally, it was like a long downhill fall) to Shabbat davening at Yakar in Katamon, followed by a meal with seven other singles (seven women, one guy), followed by a Singles Game Night hosted in a local gan (that's like a preschool).

The unique thing about the locale of all of this is that it was in The Swamp. Yes, the illustrious Swamp featured in the hit Israeli TV show Srugim, which some have said is like the Religious Zionist version of Friends.

I realized the depth of the "meat market" that is The Swamp after leaving services at Yakar, because there were gobs, we're talking throngs of singles in their 20s and 30s just hanging around outside the shul. I can't imagine what it looks like on Shabbat day. And I'll admit -- I'm kind of wishing I lived down there. If anything, it would create a lot of fun blog fodder. On the other hand, it would probably result in a lot of frustration and annoyance at the show-stopping antics of single Jewish people. The nice thing about Yakar, however, is that the girls aren't dressed like they are at Mount Sinai in Washington Heights in NYC, so that was a relief for me. Although some gals had on more makeup than Honey Boo Boo at a million-dollar talent show. I felt pretty, oh so pretty. (No, really, I did.)

The davening itself was very much what I'm used to, except that the inside was either too toasty or too swamped, so the balcony outside the upstairs entrance was filled with women, making the entrance an awkward one for the menfolk. And menfolk there were. (Insert obnoxious and unnecessary drooling here.) There was a lot of singing, which took me back to my West Hartford days, but the girls around me were ... well ... let's just say they needed tuning.

Dinner was outstanding, and I was lucky enough to meet a whole new gaggle of awesome people as well as explore the possibility of the gluten-free diet/sourdough bread connection. Stay tuned for more about this. But it did feel like I was in a fun scene from Srugim ...

As for the game night aspect, well, it was a bit of a bust. It's hard to walk into a very crowded space where people have been set up and playing games for a while and interject yourself. There were quite a few attractive Frenchmen there, I will say, and it really makes me wish I had done a better job retaining my French from high school. There's always Hebrew, right? But I have to work on that, too. So I didn't meet anyone, but I did learn how to play Rummikub, and I won the first game. It did make me miss Othello, and Pandemic, and all the other games that I had back in the U.S. that I don't have here. I did bring, however, Bananagrams.

Overall? Worth the more than 4-mile schlep? Sure thing. The walk home was the rough part, but it gave me a lot of time for some personal dialogue, which is necessary when you're as internal-dialoguey as I am.

I'm also semi-happy to have discovered a blog about the scene down in Katamon, although the post from November 1 kind of really makes me sad for people who come with a puppies and roses view about Israel only to have it logically dashed within days or months of arrival.

So, do you live in The Swamp? Have experience in The Swamp? Perhaps you fell in lovveee in The Swamp? I want to hear about it!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ask Chaviva Anything!: Of Kippot and Aliyah

The first question I received was a cute and simple one, which I appreciate!
Are you the girl who made the Google Chrome Kippah? I just saw you on Facebook when I was checking someone else's friends, and I just saw you and I though about the video.
Why yes, that was me. In case some of you missed it, way back when I designed and created a Google Chrome kippah for a video contest. It was pretty awesome. 

The next question is also a fairly easy answer, I think. I'm guessing that my response might change the longer I'm here, however.
What is the weirdest thing you have experienced going from having visited Israel in the past, to now living there after living in the USA?
The weirdest thing is probably how completely normal and not strange or weird or out of place it feels to be here. I kind of feel like I just left my overly large apartment in Denver for an overly small one in Nachlaot (that I love, by the way). This is probably aided by the fact that my closest Denver friend -- who lived in the building across the parking lot from me now lives across Betzalel (a major street nearby) from me. So ... it's sort of like life didn't change. Save for the Hebrew, the cats, and the amount of kippot that I see. 

Here's a good question from David.
Is there anything about the aliya process with NBN that you would change or do differently if you could?
I'm probably the wrong person to ask, considering my process went as smoothly as the soles of a newborn's feet. From some of what I've seen, I think the one thing I would recommend/change is that everyone who wants to make aliyah comes on a group or charter flight -- I've heard some horror stories about things lost in translation or process from those who make aliyah on their own. The group and charter flights sort of guarantee that you get everything you need in the time that you need it; on your own you can miss out on a lot of the finer details and feel like the system is cheating you. 

Have a question? Be gentle, and ask away.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bad Decisions: A Response

I don't know where to begin this blog post.

I feel violated, torn, and like the institution that I've always taken such great pride in being a part of -- journalism -- really let me down. Someone I worked with ages ago at The Washington Post decided to write an article about me, my conversion, and the tumult I was in while I was dating a non-Jew during my out-of-body experience in late 2011/early 2012. After I broke up with said non-Jew and focused all of my energy on tons of teshuva and then aliyah, I found out the article was being updated and finally going to print. So there was updating, fact checking, and all of that jazz.

Then the article came out.

For the first time since my marriage collapsed, I'm heart broken. Truly heart broken.

So I'm not posting it here, and I'm going to ask that if you have read the article also not to post it here. In my opinion, it amounts to lashon hara, a lack of fact checking, and a tone that is bad for converts.

Also? It contains some of the most personal information about my life that I've never blogged about, for good reason. I don't know why I thought it was a good idea to share the intimate details of my upbringing. But one friend put it appropriately: The writer abused my intimacy.

There are a few blatant errors in this article that I want to correct. I'll post those portions here, because it's relevant. Here are the corrections.

I was not searching for a "new family." I was searching for a place to belong, like everyone does. I did not grow up in near-poverty. My family -- like all families -- have rough patches. I did not start working to loan my parents money. I started working so I could buy the things that I wanted to that my parents could no longer afford.
"So years later, when she learned in a Jewish history course at the University of Nebraska that every Jew is considered a son or daughter of Abraham and Sarah, the teachings spoke to her."

This is the cheesiest, most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, and I did not say this, nor is this an accurate assessment of why I came to Judaism. If you're curious how that happened, I can tell you. It's in my conversion essay.
She wanted, she wrote on her blog, "to throw myself into the tidy box of Orthodoxy—Get Married, Move to a Big Orthodox Community, Have Only Orthodox Friends, Dress the Part, Wear the Headcovering, Go to the Mikvah, Live and Breathe the Box of Orthodoxy." She wanted to show converts that they could be just as Orthodox as someone born in Teaneck.
Okay, this falls into the story's narrative of 2010, after I got married. The actual location of this? It came from December 2011 when I was recalling how these were all of the things that I was not comfortable doing. This was me reflecting back -- as a divorcee -- about what that period of my life was like. Mind you, I was recently divorced, and I was going through some crazy reflection and changing. Either way, misquote, wrong place in the narrative, oh dear writer.
Though Orthodox Judaism is officially governed by a handful of Israeli rabbis, their secrecy empowered Chaviva to pass judgment on what it means to be Jewish after just a few years in the faith.
Uh, this sounds very Elders of Zion, doesn't it? Factually incorrect. There is no master body of Orthodox Judaism.
She would watch TV or use the elevator on the Sabbath if Hibbs pressed the buttons.
FALSE. As I told the writer, and I reiterated to the fact checker a dozen times, I never, I repeat never, used the elevator on Shabbat with his assistance. The truth is that most Shabbats that he was around, I didn't leave my apartment. In fact, I didn't leave my apartment much at all on Shabbat -- I was on the seventh floor! The TV watching? I also happened to be in homes on Passover where people had the TV on (Jews, at that). Shocker!
Just under two years after her Orthodox conversion, she removed the word "Orthodox" from the header of her blog, relabeling herself "Underconstructionist."
Um. Let's see. I first blogged about feeling like this term best described me in 2008. In fact, in a blog post from 2009 in which I explain why I'm converting to Judaism, I cite that all Jews should be Underconstructionist.

Sigh. I'm anger and embarrassed and exhausted and frustrated all at once. I feel like this will impact my "sellability" as a wife, mother, and partner. I worry that it will anger family and friends. I worry that it makes me look like someone who is insincere. It brings tears to my heart and a pain to my stomach that I cannot describe in any understood lexicon. 

There are reasons that I don't share with the world what happened in my marriage or how I grew up. There are reasons that intimate details remain intimate. Some people seem to think my entire life is here on this blog, but it isn't. The secret dark and lonely places that I have experienced are not meant for this blog, they're not meant for your eyes and ears. They're mine. And, B"H, some of those things are and will always be quiet, private, my own. And those things, that you all will never know about me could fill libraries, ocean liners, islands. 

I allowed myself to be vulnerable after my divorce. I made some bad choices, and allowing myself to be interviewed for this article was one of them. My ultimate goal now and going forward is to live my life as intentionally as possible. And when I slip up, I evaluate, I do teshuva, and I move forward. It's the only way I can move. 

So judge me if you must. Question my conversion, my commitment, my actions, everything. Whatever you feel like saying or doing, you will. In the end, only HaShem has the right to judge me -- and you.

Ask Chaviva Anything!

I seem to be getting a lot of blog hits since making aliyah ... but so few comments! Someone suggested people might be worried about stepping on toes or making out-of-line remarks or generally ruffling the feathers of my readers or even me. So I've decided to bring back the much-loved and sometimes controversial series Ask Chaviva Anything!

All you have to do is click here, ask a question, and if I feel like it's a question I feel comfortable addressing, it'll get answered here on the blog. You ask anonymously, I answer honestly.

Ready? Go!

The Hairiest of Hurdles

My first major hurdle as an Israeli, that could be destined to ruin me?


Yes, it sounds trivial. Yes, I'm joking that it's a major hurdle and that it's going to ruin me. But it is a seriously difficult thing to get done in a small shower in a small bathroom with water that's not always warm enough to make for a comforting shaving experience. Also? The women's shaving cream in Israel costs somewhere around $8 a can, and the men's isn't much cheaper, so it's just not worth it. Lotion? Conditioner? I'm exploring my options.

In the U.S., this is the time of year where shaving falls to the wayside and women everywhere sport boots and long skirts (or pants if that's your flavor), so shaving is an unnecessary aspect of life. If only, Israel. If only.

Next? I tackle attempting to find someone to cut my hair in Israel. This will be a truly radical and probably catastrophic experience. It might just happen that I decide to grow my hair out, once and for all.

Can I get married soon so I can just cover it up again? Pretty please?

Here's to shaving wishes and haircutting dreams! (In the voice of Robin Leach.)