Dear readers,
I know I haven’t been posting much recently as over the past few months I have not been sure what was going on myself, let alone sure enough to actually write about it. BUT, I have not abandoned my plan! just changed it slightly. For one reason or another, garin tzabar didn’t work out for me. At this point I was wondering what I would do. And today, after weeks of indecision I finally “think” I know what my plan is.

Later this morning I have an interview with the Jewish Agency For Israel in manhattan! To finally get my Aliyah approved and to fine tune many aspects of my plan. I will let you guys know just as soon as I know.


Garin Weekend: Aftermath.

This weekend was an amazing success!! I met most of the rest of my Garin, and I really get along well with all of them.

This weekend I volunteered together with another Garin member to put together a few icebreakers. Thankfully, they went well enough that nobody wanted to shoot me.

This weekend we were speaking a lot more Hebrew than we did at the last seminar, and I did do somewhat better than I did last time.

However, I cannot stress how important it is to be able to speak Hebrew fluently before you make Aliyah. My Hebrew skills are rudimentary at best, and I’m trying. But as it seems now, I am considering making Aliyah 2 months early to attend an early Ulpan program. This is a 7 week course to prepare new Olim for life in Israel in the absorption center in ra’anana.

Also this weekend, we were interviewed by Garin Tzabar and army officials- in Hebrew, which went rather well actually. Considering I haven’t been asked to leave the program that is.

Also, they brought in a bunch of Garin Tzabar alumni who explained several incredibly important things to us.
1- just because you feel that you can do a certain job in the army, does not mean you will be able to do it.
2- it’s not all fun and games. This is above all still an army. As such, there are rules, officials, and red tape.
3- when Garin Tzabar says “mishpacha lekol hachaim” “family for life” it’s really true. Two of the alumni who visited were from the same group and they told us that they trust each other with their lives.

From this weekend, I learnt a lot. How the draft process works, how I can improve my Hebrew, what I will be reaching for, who’s giving me money…. All the fun stuff.

This is not a decision to be taken lightly. This is likely going to define my life. I congratulate all the Garin Tzabar members who have made this choice and all those who even seriously considered this decision. You are Israel’s future.
You should be proud of yourselves.

On a side note, one of the Garin members mentioned something to me this morning that made my day. He told me that a while back he read my blog and thought to himself “hey, sounds like a good idea”. And to see him sitting in our circle and know that at some point before we met he read advice I wrote, for people like us, was honestly very satisfying for me.

But back to the message, I hope that all of you Olim succeed way beyond your wildest dreams. This year on Passover when I say the words “leshana haba be’yerushalayim” I will know I will be a hell of a lot closer to our nations holy city than I am now.

New Developments

Hello readers!

I know it’s been a while since you’ve all heard from me, whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you to decide….

But a lot has happened since I last wrote. I have started my nefesh b’nefesh application to make aliyah, and there have been many phone calls to many people getting all the papers in order. I had a meeting with nefesh b’nefesh earlier this week to discuss employment opportunities in Israel, which went well, and dispelled many myths I have been hearing about aliyah.

On the preparation front, all is well. I just purchased an unlocked iPhone which I will be able to use in Israel, with the phone plan I posted about earlier.

My next garin tzabar weekend is coming up in a few weeks, and I can’t wait! Partially because I sort of volunteered myself to help out planning an activity…. Unfortunately the Hilton frowns upon the use of paintball guns in the halls, so that’s out.

Also, my garin, (formerly dati east coast) and the former dati west coast have merged, so now we have one big family called “North American religious garin”. I can only hope this weekend is as great as the last one, especially seeing as this coming weekend seminar will be featuring representatives from the IDF.

For now, Shabbat shalom, and live long and prosper,


Caution: Big Year Ahead

It’s 2013!2013-Wallpaper-HD-10

Well, 2013 is finally here, and boy is my schedule packed with things to look forward to! At the top of the list is making the 6000 mile move from Spring Valley, New York to Israel, my people’s homeland. It’s pretty scary to think that in just eight short months I’ll be moving away from all that I grew up with, and moving to the land where my ancestors and their ancestors called home.

The Garin Tzabar Program, through whom I will be making Aliyah, has a series of seminars to help prepare young olim for life in Israel and in the army. The first seminar is only a few weeks away, and I can’t wait to meet my fellow crazy young adults who have decided to become my second family (whether they know it / like it or not).

For anybody interested in the program, please visit Garin Tzabar. Tell them I sent you. Or don’t. Your choice.

In addition to all these exciting events, I have been doing some research into cell phones in Israel. I have already found a decent cell phone plan, and I plan on buying an unlocked iPhone before I ship out. The plan is from Golan Telecom, a relatively new player in the cell market, and they have a plan for 99 NIS per month that includes:

  • Unlimited calls
  • Unlimited sms/mms
  • Unlimited internet browsing 3G+
  • Unlimited calls (53 Countries)

In addition, they will ship the SIM card to your house, and they let you pick your number for no added cost. Check this plan out at GOLAN TELECOM.

By this time next year, I’ll be a proud member of the Israeli Defense Force. What will YOU accomplish within this next year?

Aliyah Update

I am moving forward in my application process. I have certified that I’m healthy, that I’m not too crazy, that I want to join the army, that I have read and agreed to the terms and conditions, and whatever else was on those forms I have to fill out.

So, pile number one of the paperwork is almost done. I have been assured that there will be very many more forms to fill out, but that is the price you have to pay in this day and age of bureaucracy. At least I can send them in online rather than mailing them in. Thank you to whoever set that up.

I have been getting a lot of feedback about this blog, and I am glad that people are finding the information useful. I am also extremely appreciative of all the support, good wishes, and offers to do my laundry. Gotta love dem Jewish families.

Thanks for reading!

My Story

You are the sum of all your experiences. At least, that’s what my mom tells me. To some of you who are reading my blog I am probably a friend or a son of a friend, or maybe to you I’m just a 17 year old kid who’s got a story to tell. Well, I’ve decided to tell a story. The story about how I got to this point. It’s not like I just showed up one day as a 17 year old, I had some sort of a childhood.

Those of you who are great at math probably figured out I was born in 1995. For those who didn’t know, consider yourself informed. I was born in Montreal, Canada and I stayed there for quite a while. To be honest, I didn’t have such an interesting childhood, but it had its moments. At the age of 3 I started attending Yeshiva X in Montreal, and I was there until 9th grade. I had an interesting time there, to say the least; it was a very right wing school. They never called it Israel; it was always “Eretz Yisrael”. I was raised by my mother to be a Zionist, and Zionist I was, Zionist I am, and Zionist I will be. Therefore, every Yom Haazmaut I wore kachol velavan (blue and white, the state colors of Israel) and I suppose my peers thought that a bit strange. But then again, I don’t think I was Mr. Popular in elementary school.

I was ten years old when my parents told my siblings and I that they were separating and were going to get a divorce. Thankfully, my parents always have worked together in their children’s best interests. But being that I was a child I didn’t see it that way all the time, and there are some things that I still either don’t know about or don’t understand.

In 6th grade, when I was preparing to graduate elementary school as a valedictorian (the school system is different in Montreal, elementary ends in sixth grade, and high school ends in eleventh) I wanted to switch schools. I was getting tired of the feeling of being brainwashed all day, and I wanted to switch somewhere a bit more modern and relaxed, where they might better suit my academic needs. But for whatever reason, this request was denied and I was stuck in that place for 3 more years. After seventh grade I pretty much just gave up on the school. I had been “learning gemara” for about three years by then, but truth is I never really learnt how to learn. I never liked learning – it’s just something I did to make them happy. But I pretty much gave up on that afterwards. I struggled to keep my calm for the next two years, when my mom married my stepdad and my brothers and I moved to Monsey, New York.

Monsey was great for me. I had a new beginning, new school, new friends, new house – same old problems. I loved my new school, Yeshiva Y of Monsey. Well, most of the time. My first year there was tenth grade and I started to learn again and I enjoyed it once in a while. Being that it was a small school, almost every decision made by the hanhala (leadership) affected us students directly. Midway through my second year, the schools changed direction of sorts, with which I was not so comfortable, so I looked elsewhere for academic opportunity.

This brings us to the present. This year I am getting my high school diploma and preparing to move to Israel (I’m sure you knew the Israel part by now). I suppose if this was Hollywood they would call it “an adventure 17 years in the making”. But that’s true. Everything in my life so far has just been preparation for my big adventure. Leaving home. Being independent. Joining the army. Honestly, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. But I’m not going to say that. Because I’m plenty scared – but I am doing this anyhow. Why? You may ask. I’ll answer right now: because I believe it’s the right thing for me to do.

Done With My Interview

Sometimes in life, we worry way too much. We get nervous about certain things that turn out to not have required much worrying about in the first place. This being said, I have no idea why I was nervous about my phone interview with the people from Garin Tzabar. I’m writing this just minutes after getting off the phone with the interviewer, and I’m ready to move on to the next stage of my aliyah process- more forms.

During this interview, I found out a lot more about the Garin Tzabar program. There are three phases of the program. Phase one is mostly informational. There are three weekend-long seminars, where there will be presentations and discussions with Garin Tzabar personnel and alumni, as well as people who have served with the Israeli Defense Force. During these seminars, I will be meeting the group with whom I am going to make the biggest trip of my life with. Together, we will fly to our new home, our nation’s homeland, in mid-August.

This brings us to phase two: the absorption process. Our group will all be going together to a kibbutz chosen by the powers that be. We will attend an ulpan program to help us build our Hebrew skills. We will all have adopted families on kibbutz (any volunteers?) and we’re going to work on the kibbutz as well. Best part of all this? FIELD TRIPS!!!

After all this “fun and games”, we move on to phase three. We go to our first draft and we enlist in the army of the State of Israel. Based on differing personal limitations, we will serve for between 2-3 years, in whatever unit we get into.

That, my friends, is the Garin Tzabar program in a nutshell. For more information on the program and for applications, go to GARIN TZABAR.

On a slightly different note, this blog has barely been up for 48 hours and already there have been over 1000 views, and a significant amount of congratulations and wishes of luck, good fortune, and places to stay. I can’t even begin to say how much this means to me, so thank you so much everyone, thank you for supporting me in my journey towards the next three years of my life. It means so much to me that not everybody out there thinks I’m crazy! Stick around, ok?

Am Yisrael Chai!