Friday, 30 October 2009

Advice for Olim from a Native Israeli

If one looks at the history of the Jewish people, there are several times in which we became exiled from the Land of Israel, predominantly surrounding the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash (Temple). There were however some Jews who never left the Land.

Just recently while talking to an Israeli, (perhaps we should say native Israeli as in a jew born in Israel) the conversation turned to how many generations his family has been in Israel. It was wonderful to hear his family has always been in the Land of Israel.

When asked what advice he could give to Olim Chadashim so that they can be successful in settling in Israel and staying here, he had the following to share.

"Being able to live in Israel requires 3 things:
- Know that Israel is our home הארץ היא הבית שלנו - the land and home for Jews.
- Have Emunah (faith) that Hashem (G-d) will take care of you and depend only on Him
- Have patience (Savlanut - סבלנות) especially when you encounter difficulties, have patience that it will work out.

Later on he added another piece of advice, connected to the above. If things do get difficult, don't get tempted by the other nations or other countries. Just look to Hashem (G-d) and put in your effort to find a solution within Israel. If you are not tempted to leave, you are forced to find a solution here, in our Land.

Lastly he said it is important to find a rabbi who believes in the importance of settling the Land of Israel.

As they say in Israel, Hatzlachah הצלחה You should be successful and have an easy integration back into Israel.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

How To Write Checks (Cheques) in Israel

Writing Checks in Israel
A guest post by Hannah Katsman of AMotherInIsrael.Com and CookingManager.Com.
Israel is moving toward a paperless economy, but checks will be around for a while. Checks may look similar to checks from your native country, but there may be important differences in the way they are used.

Writing the check
Checks may be written in English or Hebrew. Pay attention to the following things:
  1. Date: Use the Hebrew month and date if you like, although the payees, or their accountants, may not appreciate it. If you use numbers remember to put the day of the month first: 3/7/09 or 3.7.09 is July 3, not March 7.
  2. "To" field (לפקודת) . You may be asked to leave this blank. It’s legal for someone to take your check, enter another name or business, and use it for a different purpose. They may also want to avoid reporting the income or paying VAT. Even if you have written the name of the recipient, a check can still be transferred or stolen. I have been told that Israeli banks are more lenient about misspelled names than in other countries. (Actually, Israelis are lenient about misspelled names in other contexts too, including the phone book.)
  3. Crossing Checks. To prevent the recipient from writing another name in the “to” field, “cross” your check by placing two parallel diagonal lines above the name of the recipient. Some printed checks already say lamutav beelvad למוטב בלבד, for the recipient only. Always cross checks that you mail or send to school with your kids. Always ask for a receipt, and hold on to it.
  4. Amount: Write the amounts in the two fields, once in digits and and once with text.
  5. Signature:The bank once called me because a clerk decided my signature wasn’t similar enough to the signature on the card on file at the bank. Your signature can be in English or Hebrew, just be consistent.
Other things to know:
  1. Write checks carefully. Banks return checks for minor things that would not be an issue elsewhere. If you make a mistake cross it out, write the correction, and sign underneath the correction. If you are a good customer the bank may call and offer to correct a mistake instead of returning it (for instance, if you write the previous year by mistake).
  2. Cashing checks: Endorse the check and include your account number. You can deposit your check at your bank’s ATM without an envelope. But check the date, because the bank may charge you for deposting a post-dated check.
  3. Your bank statement lists the date a check was cashed and for what amount, but not the recipient.
  4. For school fees, you may be asked to write the child’s name, ID number or class on the back. This is legal.
  5. Canceling checks is illegal. But if a check is stolen or a contract has been broken, provide written proof to the bank. You will need to sign a form and pay a fee.
  6. Postdating checks is legal. Rent, school fees, and courses are often paid by postdated checks according to a set schedule. More organizations allow use of debit cards instead,a cheaper and easier option.
  7. Israeli banks allow overdrafts, although the laws are stricter now. Many stores accept checks. As in the US, there is a hefty fee for bounced checks. If you bounce more than ten checks your account may be frozen.
  8. Instead of writing a check, you may transfer funds directly from your account to that of someone else.
  9. Ordering checkbooks: You order checkbooks through your bank via the teller, bank machine, or checkbox on the bank deposit envelope. You will be charged both for the checkbooks and again every time a check is cashed, as it is considered a “line” on your bank statement. That’s why many Israelis prefer debit card, which use only one line on the statement.
  10. Tashlumim. תשלומים When you have the option of dividing a fee into equal payments (tashlumim), divide the full amount by the number of payments and write a check for each one. For instance, if you need to pay NIS 2000 in four tashlumim, you could write out four checks of NIS 500 for the 1st day of the next four months or whatever schedule is specified. You could also have payments set up on your debit card.
  11. Checks are valid six months from the date they are written.
What experiences with checks have you had? Tell us in the comments.
Hannah grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and has lived in Petach Tikva, Israel for 19 years. She blogs at A Mother in Israel on parenting, women’s health issues, and life in Israel. In honor of this guest post, she compiled this list of useful posts for new olim. Her new project, CookingManager.Com, is devoted to kitchen tips that save time and money.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

National Insurance - Bituach Leumi Part II

National Insurance Part II

This post has been compiled for us by Tzvi Szajnbrum a lawyer who has some free services for Olim

Work Status

Sometimes a person changes his work status (for example, he may cease working as an employee and begin working as self-employed). Such a change has implications on the benefits he receives from the NII as well as on the rate of insurance contributions that he is obliged to pay to the NII. Types of changes in work status and benefits affected by the change vary from case to case.


Rates of insurance contributions for a person who has income and is neither an employee nor self-employed :

For the share of the income that is up to (60% of the average wage): % 4.61 (as of 07.01.2002) national insurance and % 5.00 (as of 01.01.2006) health insurance contributions, and for the share of the income that is above 60% of the average wage and up to the maximum income liable for insurance contribution: % 7.00 (as of 01.01.2008) national insurance and % 5.00 (as of 01.01.2006) health insurance contributions.

A student who does not work:

A student at an institute of higher learning who does not work pays the minimal rate of national and health insurance contribution - NIS 110 (as of 01.01.2009) , using the payment booklets sent to him/her once a year.

Domestic Worker and His / Her Rights:
· A domestic worker is a person employed in household work not for his employer’s business or occupation. Such work includes the care of children, cleaning stairways in apartment buildings and the like.

· A person employing a domestic worker must register him at the National Insurance Institute, must report on his wages, and must pay both national insurance and health insurance contributions for him.

· The employer may deduct the worker’s share of the insurance payment from the worker’s wages.

· When filling in a report of the employment of a domestic worker, all of the worker’s particulars must be accurately registered. Non-specification of the worker’s particulars in the report or specification of incorrect particulars may adversely affect the worker’s rights in national insurance.

· The penalty imposed on a person delaying payment of insurance contributions for a domestic worker is one year of imprisonment or payment of a fine. This person will also be required to pay insurance contributions based on the employee’s actual wage, but no less than half of the average wage during each month of the employment for which payment was delayed. Furthermore, the Institute is entitled to file a claim against a person who did not register a domestic worker on time, or did not pay insurance contributions on time, for the sum of the benefits to which the worker is entitled.

· The obligation to pay insurance contributions for a domestic worker applies also to a person who employs a foreign resident or a worker who is not an Israeli resident and resides in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip or in the territories of the Palestinian Authority. Insurance contributions for these workers are paid directly to the National Insurance Institute.

Ceasing work:

A person who ceases working and cannot return to the labor market may be eligible for NII benefits for limited periods as a substitute for his wages.

· There may be a number of reasons for ceasing work. The benefits related to these various reasons are listed below.

· A student at an institute of higher learning who does not work pays the minimal rate of national and health insurance contribution - NIS 110 (as of 01.01.2009) , using the payment booklets sent to him/her once a year.

Immigrating to Israel

· The NII provides a wide range of benefits to persons immigrating to Israel for the first time as well as to returning residents, in accordance with the different needs of these population groups.

· Some of the rights provided are contingent on payment of insurance contributions.


· The NII assists persons injured in various circumstances – and therefore unable to function at work or in daily life – in a number of ways.

Causes of the injury and the relevant benefits:

Hostile (terror) action, Vocational Rehabilitation (work or accident), Work Injury, or Attendance Allowance (work or accident).

Living Abroad

· For a NII beneficiary, living abroad may have implications on his right to receive NII benefits, and even lead to the ceasing of payments for the entire period of his stay abroad. The continuation or cessation of eligibility for benefits depends on the circumstances of the departure from Israel, as stipulated in the law.

· Circumstances of departure, and relevant benefits, vary from case to case.

Pregnancy, Birth and Adoption

The NII provides a wide range of benefits to women giving birth and their husbands, both during and after the pregnancy. Benefits are provided also to couples who adopt a child.

The circumstances entitling the couple to benefits and the list of relevant benefits vary from case to case such as: Maternity Allowance, Hospitalization and a Maternity Grant, A high- risk pregnancy, or Adopting a child.

Reaching Retirement Age/ Age of Entitlement to Old-Age Pension

· The NII will grant an old-age pension to persons reaching retirement age, on condition that they do not have high incomes. Persons who require assistance in daily activities may be eligible for such assistance from the NII.

· When you reach this age, you may be eligible for one or more of the following benefits: The age at which the insured person is eligible for old-age pension, conditional on means test. The age gradually rises until, at the end of the process, it will reach 67 for men and 64 for women.

If you need more information or clarification on any subject concerning the NII, please feel completely comfortable to contact Tzvi by email or phone, his contact details be found on his site: or

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Selecting Your Ulpan

In a previous post we mentioned the benefits of learning Hebrew. Actually, an area highlighted was on a personal side, in terms of relationships with future generations and enjoying everything Israel has to offer. In this post, we turn our attention to how to select your Ulpan.

The word Ulpan אולפן literally means studio. It comes from the word aleph or head, representing the place that you go to begin learning or improving your Hebrew.

When learning any new language, there are a number of factors that are important to keep in mind.

1) What is your level or knowledge of Hebrew at present. Do you know the Hebrew Alphabet. Do you know any phrases. Can you read, write, speak. It does not matter where you are beginning, just that you know where you are starting from.

2) What are your needs when learning Hebrew. Someone who spends his or her time learning Torah for example, will probably be able to read and translate Chumash Hebrew but modern and spoken Hebrew could be a big challenge. Someone who is a health professional, if they are going to practice their profession in Israel, will require a good level of Hebrew. Someone who will be studying at school, college, university also requires good Hebrew. Someone who will be working in sales will require a different kind of Hebrew.

3) Keep in mind that the Ulpan you select will have an impact on the kinds of vocabulary you will learn.

4) What kind of learner are you? Do you need a lot of repetition, high pressure of homework? Do you want a teacher who will take the time to mark extra work you do and give you feedback? Are you good with languages or do you need a lot of encouragement

5) For those who have a profession such as medicine, law, computers; once completing your 5 months of ulpan you have the opportunity for an additional אולפן מקצועי Professional Ulpan. Olim who are occupational therapists, physio therapists, nurses, doctors, speech therapists all benefit from a medical ulpan which lasts for 3 months. You will not necessarily be told about this, so ask your aliya counsellor. It is very well worth taking. Although you will not learn nearly enough, you will begin to gain and grasp the medical terminology, anatomy etc in Hebrew.

Many terms are a variation of English and it does take a bit of practice to read an English word written in Hebrew. So if you don't recognize a word, sound it out letter by letter. It could be the word is actually English or another language, written in Hebrew and incorporated into modern Hebrew.

With these few tips in mind, we can begin to select an Ulpan. There are ulpan programs for students, for religious Jews, for those wanting to focus on speaking, for those who want a combination. Do check out that the ulpan you are interested falls under those that the Misrad haKlita will subsidize for you. There are some programs that are private and will expect you to pay. These you can put aside for later if still needed. It is worthwhile to take an ulpan course with an ulpan that Misrad HaKlita will sponsor.

Mercaz Klita has an Ulpan program for the beginning levels. If the ulpan at the mercaz klita (absorption centre) is not suitable for you. You are permitted to change to another one. It just takes finding a more suitable one and bringing a letter from the absorption centre as to what level you are at. Speak to your aliya counselor as to what to do or you can send me a message through this blog. You do not have to get stuck in an ulpan that is not suitable for you.

Aside from the absorption centre, when deciding of other ulpan programs, the first question will be what level you are. If you need a high level, it will not help to attend an ulpan that only offers the first two levels. Likewise, if you do not yet have any Hebrew, start with basics and work your way up, don't try to enter at a level higher or lower than you are as it will only frustrate you and waste your precious time.

I would highly recommend sitting in on one or two classes or a weeks worth of classes at a few ulpanim to decide which one best suits you. This will give you the added advantage of knowing that the style of teaching, the level and the students will all be conducive to your learning as much as you can. Keep in mind the mix of countries that the other Olim are from. If the class if filled with Russian and you are the only English Speaker, you will hear a lot of Russian as the teacher translates for them. This can be confusing as you might not know whether the teacher is translating or it is something in Hebrew you need to learn. If you are good at languages you might pick up some Russian and benefit from this. If you get overwhelmed by hearing a language that is unrelated to Hebrew and your home language, try to find an ulpan where the other Olim are from countries that speak your home language.

In addition to this, there are certain teaching styles tailor made to different countries. Russian Olim need a lot more pressure and strictness. European or English Speaking countries might not enjoy this style.

For those who have selected an ulpan, I do recommend doing the homework and using your Hebrew as much as possible. In another post we will look at some tips to improve your Hebrew.

I hope this information has been useful. If you have more questions, please post to this blog or email Shoshanah directly.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Tonight and the Rambam

This is an image from the Wikimedia Commons. The description on its description page there is shown below. Commons is a freely licensed media file repository.

Tonight, 6 Mar Cheshvan which falls this year 5770 on Shabbat, is the anniversary of the Rambam arriving in Yerushalayim in the year 4926. He merited to pray in Yerushalayim, presumably at the Kotel and fixed this day as a Yom Tov for him.

Since Shabbat is fast approaching, we will have to leave writing an article about Rambam and Israel for another post.

However, it is an important day, so why not light a candle, prior to lighting Shabbat Candles, in the merit of the Rambam and his brief journey to Israel.

Who was the Rambam? The Rambam, Rav Moshe ben Maimon otherwise known as Maimonedes, was born in Spain. He and his family (his parents and brother) fled from Spain to North Africa and then came to Israel for a very brief time. From Acco, he went down to Egypt.

We will mention more about the Rambam in further posts. The Rambam is burried in Tiveria, this being a story in and of itself.

The Ramban and Israel

Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman Girondi, known as Nachmanides or the Ramban, lived most of his life in Girondi, Spain. He was one of a great rabbis who wrote a commentary on the Chumash and was also well versed in Kabbalah. The Ramban was also a medical doctor and a philosopher.

When the Ramban was 73 years old, he was asked to enter into a debate with a priest which was judged by the King. The King ruled in favour of the answers given by the Ramban, a decision that made the church very angry, resulting in the Ramban's life being at risk. Some advised that he leave and go to Toledo. The Ramban, however, decided to follow his heart and head for the Land of Israel.

He arrived initially to the port of Acco in the North of Israel. He was warmly received by the Jews of Acco but still needed to move on a bit. For the Ramban, he could not come to Israel and not go to Yerushalayim. So, despite the danger of the time, he journeyed from Acco to Yerushalayim. A trip that today will take a few hours by train, in those days took 2 weeks under much danger to ones life and property.

After 2 weeks, the Ramban arrived in Yerushalayim and, asking where the Jews were to be found, discovered two brothers living in the Old City. These were the only Jews who lived in the Old City of Yerushalayim at the time. They were joined on Shabbat by enough other Jews to make up a minyan for the prayers on Shabbat.

The Ramban found kind hospitality with these two brothers. However, still the Ramban was not satisfied. The Old City needed a Synagogue. So the Ramban found a building that was in a state of ruins and together with the brothers, set about cleaning it up to become what today is the Ramban Shul. The Ramban taught a regular shiur in this Synagogue. After some time, there was great excitement as an actual Torah was brought into the new Synagogue. So it is that the Ramban began an important trend and teaching. When returning to the land of Israel. It is not enough to just land at the shore and settle wherever you settle.

Our goal must always be two fold, Yerushalayim and being a part of rebuilding the country, for Torah, unity amongst Jews and mitzvos.

The Ramban was not able to remain in Yerushalayim, as a letter informing him of the passing of the Chief Rabbi of Acco called him back to be the leader of the Jewish Community in Acco.

The Ramban died at the age of 76 in 1270 in Eretz Yisrael. From what I have read, no one knows where he is burried. If anyone reads this post and does know, please do send a message to let us know where the grave of the Ramban is situated.

Two teachings from the Ramban regarding Israel include: "The Land of Israel is a Land that G-d's Eyes are constantly on, meaning to see what it needs and to determine how it will be judged. This was a great secret for this Land of Israel is sought by all, and it is all, and all the lands gain their sustenance from it" (Commentary on Devarim 11:12)

"It was the ideal of living in Eretz Yisrael that took me out of my house, out of my country and caused me to travel from my place. I left my house; I repudiated my inheritance, I was like a raven to my sons, cruel to my daughters. Why? Because I wished to travel to the bossom of my mother, Eretz Yisrael."

It is told that when he was recommended to go to Toledo, the Ramban had responded that he desired to travel to Israel for G-d and therefore put his trust in Him that He would lead his footsteps.

The Ramban left important and invaluable teachings for us to follow in his commentary on the Chumash and other work. However, the last few years of his life provide an example of how a Jew should think towards the Land Of Israel and what his role here should be.

May we enjoy and merit to dance with the Ramban, himself (ie after Techiyas HaMasim) with the coming of Moshiach in the re-built Yerushalayim.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

What's That Music? Where Is It Coming From?

Israel is an interesting place in so many ways. Yes, the title is accurate. What is that music? Which music you may well ask? The music that sounds like nursery rhymes, happy birthday and sometimes other songs not quite suitable to a Jewish Land.

Where does it come from?

No, I have not gone crazy. In various areas at certain times of the day, you will hear what is very literally the music of nursery rhymes, yes even happy birthday. Never the words, just the music.

At first I thought it was an ice cream van like I had seen near the parks in summer in London. But I could not find the van. After some time I figured out the music is instead of a bell at the schools to indicate some break time.

I don't know why that kind of music is used. Perhaps they want the Olim to feel a little at home. Often I wonder whether those who play the music realize what they are playing. The amusing part is that the more religious the area, the more secular the music is.

Takes someone having lived outside of Israel to recognize the music. Yes it is an adjustment. It seems to be the school bell. Why, I don't know. But I hope now you will understand what the strange music is that plays for a few seconds or minutes at regular intervals during the day.

Personally I look forward to hearing a Niggun or music appropriate to a Jewish State. For now, at times I find myself singing the words to an old nursery rhyme, wondering why I am singing this when I would not want to teach it to my kids.

There are times that good tunes are used, which is always a joy. Music like the start of "It's a world of laughter a world of..." then the music will stop and you are left to fill in the rest.

Welcome to Israel. There are many areas still to work on in building or re-building the real Israel. So if you know anything about music. Come and educate the Ministry of Education or schools or whoever puts out this music as to appropriate music to use.

In the meantime, may it somehow bring a smile to your heart as you go through your day.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Hebrew - Do I Need To Learn It?

When moving to a new country, it is always advisable to learn the language of the country. Israel is no different. Even though there are Jews here from all over and therefore many languages spoken, there is a national language and it is beneficial to learn Hebrew.

Can you get away without doing so. Yes, but with repercussions, here are two examples:

1) Some years ago I was working with a little girl in South Africa who had come from Israel for medical treatment. Many of her relatives had also come to offer support, amongst them were her two grannies. One of the grannies was a native Israeli, the other was South African and had made Aliya with her husband and children, when her children were teenagers. This granny managed to create a life for herself in Israel even without Hebrew. But, here was a powerful eye opener.

Her son had married an Israeli and Hebrew was the main language spoken in their house. Their children spoke almost only Hebrew and now came a problem. The granny had a language barrier with her own grandchild. She could read stories to her grandchild in English, but her grandchild wanted to hear Hebrew and granny did not manage to read in Hebrew. She could chat to her grandchild in English, thus providing another language for her, but her grandchild answered in Hebrew and granny sometimes needed a translator.

2) When I had been in Israel for about 18 months, I happened to be on a tiyul to certain Kivrei Tzaddikim and the woman sitting next to me had been in Israel for 26 or more years. She too had made Aliya from an English speaking country and had been too busy to do her ulpan. So in all the years she has been here, she just managed without Hebrew.

At a certain stage along the tiyul, the tour guide tapped on the microphone and made some comments about the area we were driving past. He did this in Hebrew and it was a joy to understand what he had said. Looking out the window at what he was describing, my thoughts were interrupted by a tap on my arm. It was my neighbour, the lady who had been here for 26 or more years. "Did you understand him? You look like you understood. Can you please translate for me?"

Being able to converse, read and write in Hebrew is very useful for banking, post office, shopping, talking to Bezek, setting up your internet, Iria, finding good work and more. The truth is, with many of these you can find an option to get around Hebrew. For me, one of the more crucial needs for knowing the language of the country is to feel completely at home. I can think of nothing worse than a language barrier with ones own grandchild, or wanting to understand a tour guide and having to ask someone who has been in Israel for a fraction of the time you have, to please translate.

On a different note, it is a wonderful feeling to take a course related to your profession in Hebrew. Or to walk down the road and have someone ask directions in Hebrew, understand and be able to rely correctly. These kinds of experiences help one to feel as though you belong, while also opening up more opportunities for you.

Misrad HaKlita does cover the cost of Ulpan for 5 months. In addition for those with a medical profession there is a medical Ulpan. I would highly recommend doing these. If you struggle with working out timing of how to fit in your Ulpan with all the things to do in the first few months, do discuss this with your Aliya counselor or you can contact Shoshanah Shear, Occupational Therapist for a consultation to work out how to pace your Aliya, including learning some planning and time management skills.

For those wanting to begin right now, learning a word a day, a sentence a day, join up with Ulpan La Inyan and you can receive an email daily with a word a day. It is fun and very beneficial to get to know new words and build up your vocabulary. They also have classes, you can find out about on their website.

Monday, 19 October 2009

National Insurance - Bituach Leumi Part I

This post has been compiled for us by Tzvi Szajnbrum a lawyer who has some free services for Olim.

National Insurance Part I

Different categories of those insured include:

Self Employed

Who is a Self-Employed worker?
A self-employed worker is one who meets one of the following conditions:

· He works in his occupation for an average of at least 20 hours a week.
· His average monthly income from his occupation is not more than 50% of the average wage.
· He works at his occupation for 12 hours a week and his income is over 15% of the average wage.

A self-employed person who is registered at the NII and who pays his insurance contributions regularly is covered in all insurance branches except unemployment and bankruptcy.

Who is a Self-Employed Person?
A self-employed person is defined as one of the following:

· A person who is engaged in his occupation for at least an average of 20 hours a week
· A person whose average monthly income from his occupation is more than NIS 3,964 (as of 01.01.2009) - 50% of the average wage.
· A person who is engaged in his/her occupation for at least an average of 12 hours a week, and his average income is more than NIS 1,189 (as of 01.01.2009) - 15% of the average wage.

The Self-Employed Person
A self-employed person with additional income from a source other than work must pay insurance contributions from this income as well, while it is equal to or higher than his/her income as a self-employed person, up to the maximum income liable for the payment of insurance contributions

Registration with National Insurance Institute
A self-employed person must register at the National Insurance Institute immediately upon opening his business. A self-employed person who was injured at work is entitled to work injury benefit only if he/she was registered at the National Insurance Institute as a self-employed person at the time of the injury and paid insurance contributions.

Who must register?
· A married woman who works as a self-employed person at her husband’s business must register herself at the National Insurance Institute and pay insurance contributions.

· A married couple working together in a joint business can divide up the income from their business between themselves and pay insurance contributions according to each one's share, on condition that the division is between 1/3 and 2/3 of the overall income. If one of the spouses has income that does not originate from their joint business, this spouse can be credited with only 1/3 of their income from the joint business.

· A self-employed person who also has an income from work as an employee must pay health insurance at both workplaces, up to the maximum income on which insurance is payable.

· A self-employed person with additional income from a source other than work must pay insurance contributions from this income as well, while it is equal to or higher than his/her income as a self-employed person, up to the maximum income liable for the payment of insurance contributions.

· The maximum income on which contributions are paid. No payments are made on income above this amount. The amount is five times the average wage, as published in December 2005, and updated each January by the change in the consumer price index.

· A person who does not meet the definition of self-employed person as specified above is not considered a self-employed person and the regulations applicable are as specified (see below).
· A farmer who meets the definition of a self-employed person is required to register at the National Insurance Institute and pay insurance contributions on his/her income.

· The wife of a farmer in a cooperative settlement (moshav) is also considered a self-employed person and is required to register and pay insurance contributions for herself.

· If the farmer or his wife do not work in their farm, for example, if they work as employees outside the farm and only reside at the farm they must contact the National Insurance Institute and submit ratifying documents

The rates of insurance contributions paid by a self-employed person:

A self-employed person aged between 18 and retirement age pays:

· For the share of the income that is up to 60% of the average wage NIS 4,757 (as of 01.01.2009) - % 6.72 (as of 07.01.2002) national insurance and % 3.10 (as of 01.01.1995) health insurance contributions.

· For the share of the income that is over 60% of the average wage and up to the maximum income liable for insurance contributions: % 11.23 (as of 01.01.2006) national insurance and % 5.00 (as of 01.01.2006) health insurance contributions.

Who is exempted?
· An unemployed new immigrant within 12 months following the date of immigration to Israel;
· A person aged 18 who has not yet been drafted and is unemployed, is exempt from payment for a period of up to 12 months provided that he/she is drafted to the army no later than age 21;
· A high school student (11th and 12th grades) who has reached the age of 18 is exempt from payment for the period of his/her studies provided that he/she is drafted up to age 21;
· A prisoner or detainee in prison for longer than 12 months.

· A soldier in regular service receives healthcare services from the IDF and is not insured under the National Health Insurance Law, and therefore is not obligated to pay health insurance contributions.

· A career-service soldier is obligated to pay health insurance contributions.
A person whose military service is postponed due to academic studies ("atudai") has to pay national and health insurance contributions himself during the period of studies. The National Insurance Institute will send him the payment booklets and he must pay the insurance contributions quarterly.

· A student enrolled at a "Yeshivat hesder": beginning January 2002 the Ministry of Defence pays national and health insurance contributions for him, from the date of drafting and up to the date of demobilization, including the periods of study at the Yeshiva.

How to pay?
· Self-employed non-workers students and yeshiva students:

You may pay by means of: a pay-book; credit card; standing order at the bank; debt settlement by checks

· Employers – on behalf of their employees and pensioners:
You may report and pay on form 102 by means of: the NII payment site; a bank; the “representatives” computer system; a hand-written report

· Self-employed non-workers students and yeshiva students:
You may pay by means of: a pay-book; credit card; standing order at the bank; debt settlement by checks

Differences between Employee and Self-Employed:
· Employee the employer must report on his/her wages and pay insurance contributions for him/her.

· Self-employed must register at the National Insurance Institute and pay insurance contributions himself.

· Employee is insured both under unemployment insurance and under insurance for employees’ rights in cases of bankruptcy or corporate liquidation.

· Self-employed is not insured under unemployment insurance or under insurance for employees’ rights in cases of bankruptcy or corporate liquidation.

· Employee rights are not affected due to delayed payment of insurance contributions by his/her employer.

· Self-employed rights may be affected if he/she does not register himself or is late in payment of insurance contributions.

If you need more information or clarification on any subject concerning the NII, please feel completely comfortable to contact Tzvi by email or phone, his contact information can be found on his website: or

Eretz Yisrael - "I want to be a Jew"

In various discussions with Jews who are in Israel, coming to Israel and have been in Israel, a certain fact crops up from time to time. There are those who think or believe that returning to live in the Land of Israel is a new idea, a new trend, something Zionistic.

The truth is, returning to or living in the Land of Israel began with Avraham Avinu, our father in the Parsha of Lech Lecha where G-d tells Avraham to leave his land, the place of his birth and journey to the land that G-d will show him. G-d promises Avraham that the land, at that time known as Eretz Canaan will be given to the descendants of Avraham through Yitzhak and Yaakov. In fact, when Avraham Avinu came to settle in Eretz Canaan, it could have ended there.

For reasons I do not understand, when a famine began in the land, Avraham and Sarah, his wife, journeyed down to Egypt to obtain what they needed and wait out the famine. This action was not favorable to G-d and as a result the children of Yaakov repeated their grandfathers actions in journeying down to Egypt at the time of famine.

Of course, G-d is Infinite and could have sustained us in Israel, but for reasons known to G-d, the events described in the Torah transpired.

We are taught of two other significant times that Jews came to Israel. The first was Yaakov our father who returned to the land of his father and grandfather after spending years with Lavan. Now he returned with wives, children, livestock and wealth. The second time is the famous time of the Exodus from Egypt when we were lead by Moshe Rabeinu and later Yehoshua in our return to the land of our fathers.

In further posts we will look at our great rabbis, sages and Tzaddikim who returned to live in the Land of Israel, including their reasoning, messages to Am Yisrael and other lessons to learn from them.

For now, let us return to our father Yaakov. As we are taught in the Chumash, Yaakov had a struggle with the angel of Eisav his brother. This struggle took place through the night and at dawn, when Yaakov was deemed victorious, he received a name change to Yisrael.

It is this name Yisrael that we take on when coming to live in this special land. The name Eretz Yisrael ארץ ישראל means I want to be Yisrael. We get this from the following. Ratz or רץ is from the language of Ratzon meaning to want or desire. When we put an aleph in front of a word, (verb) it becomes a future tense for I, therefore becoming I will want or I will desire Yisrael.

What is this Yisrael that I will desire? There are two ways to translate this. As we see from the above scenario, Yaakov was given this name when overcoming adversity, when being victorious over the darkness. So it is that most Jews when returning to Israel, go through a period of struggle and darkness. However, if we remember our goal, Eretz Yisrael, I will desire Yisrael, we can maintain our focus and come through victorious just as Yaakov Avinu was. After this we become worthy of settling in and living in the Land of Yisrael, the Land that G-d promised to the descendants of Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov or Yisrael.

The second way to understand this is that Eretz Yisrael means "I want to be a Jew". In other words I desire to do those things that a Jew should do in this world.

This is Eretz Yisrael - the true desire of every Jew. The Jew wishes to be Yisrael (as opposed to Yaakov) and he/she wishes to be a good Jew, studying the Torah and fulfilling the Mitzvot, the ultimate place for this being in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

What is National Health Insurance?

This post has been compiled for us by Tzvi Szajnbrum a lawyer who has some free services for Olim

What is National Health Insurance (“Bituach Briut”)?

The National Health Insurance Law came into effect in January 1995. The purpose of the law was to assure that every resident of Israel, including every new immigrant and temporary resident, is entitled to health insurance under the National Health Insurance Law. This insurance entitles you to membership in one of the four health funds (“Kupat Cholim”): Clalit, Maccabi, Meuchedit, and Leumit.

This law allows every citizen equal healthcare for all regardless of ones health or economic condition. This is one of the most comprehensive and liberal laws in the world. Despite any preexisting medical condition, you will be accepted without conditions.

The National Health Insurance Law allows you to receive medical care in several areas, including: preventive care, diagnostic care, mental care, medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychiatric care and hospitalization, some dental care for children, first aid including some ambulance transportation, medical care at work, and even some medical equipment.

You should be aware that this law does not include everything. There are exceptions, and not every existing medication is available through this law. Every year the parliament weighs and decides what new medication or service will be included. Unfortunately there are not enough national resources for every person to receive potentially life-saving treatment, so difficult choices are made every year.

Insurance premiums are paid to the NII, in the same manner in which National Health Insurance payments are made, either by you individually or by your employer.

The payment for the National Health Insurance (Kupat Cholim), is made through the NII.

In short, the health insurance system in Israel is very “socialist”. We are all insured and we all have rights by the National Insurance Law. You will always receive fair medical treatment, including hospitalization.

If you need more information or clarification on any subject concerning the NII, please feel completely comfortable to contact Tzvi. His contact details can be found on his web site: or

Bituach Leumi - National Insurance Institute - Introduction

This post has been compiled for us by Tzvi Szajnbrum a lawyer who has some free services for Olim

National Insurance Institute (NII)– “Bituach Leumi

What is “Bituah Leumi”?

The NII, known in Hebrew as HaMosad LeBituach Leumi , is the government body responsible for social security. It dispenses various insurance benefits and collects insurance premiums.

Its main purposes are to assure a means of subsistence for residents of Israel, for reasons beyond their control are temporarily or permanently unable to support themselves, and to provide allowances and benefits for eligible, insured persons who have accumulated rights.

This is not a private insurance or an eligible insurance but a Compulsory National Insurance and Health Insurance – you must pay (except those exempt by law, as noted below) whether you like it or not, or need it or not.

Booklets in English free of charge can be found in any branch of the NII. These booklets provide most of the needed information on rights and benefits.

Who must pay?

· Every resident of Israel aged 18 and over is obliged under law to be insured by National Insurance and to pay the National Insurance contributions, except for a housewife (a married woman who is not employed outside the household) and for a person who first became an Israeli resident over the age determined by law (the age increases gradually from 60 to 62).

· A person whose life is centered in Israel. Among the criteria for determining residence in this context: permanent place of residence, place at which the family is staying, place of the children's education, main place of work, place of learning.

· Every resident of Israel aged 18 and over is also obliged to be covered by Health Insurance and to pay the health insurance contributions to the National Insurance Institute together with the national insurance contributions.

· A housewife is exempt from payment of health insurance, with the exception of a housewife who is an old-age pension recipient or whose spouse receives a supplement to his old-age pension. Every insured person must be registered in one of the sick funds and is entitled to the health services defined by law.

· Payment rates of national insurance and health insurance are calculated according to the insured’s earned and unearned income, and according to his work status (employee, self-employed, unemployed, student, etc.). Payments will not be less than the minimum specified by law and will not be more than the maximum income ceiling for insurance contributions.

· A person who does not work and has no income will pay the minimum insurance contribution of NIS 147 (as of 01.01.2009) per month.

· An insured person is obligated to pay insurance contributions for any period he/she is temporarily absent from Israel.

Insurance for New Immigrants

New Immigrants are exempt from NII payments during your first year in Israel, unless your income exceeds a set minimum. Different forms of benefits are available for the new immigrant, but you must consult with the NII (or me) if you are eligible during your first year in Israel.

If you need more information or clarification on any subject concerning the NII, please feel completely comfortable to contact Tzvi by email or www.voleh.or

Chodesh Tov!

Chodesh Tov and Shavuah Tov to everyone. Since it is a new month and still the beginning of the year, it is a good time to chat about another adjustment to make when coming to Israel. Calendars and Diaries.

Sounds simple. At the end of the year or towards the end of the year, one purchases a new diary, new calendar, wall calendar etc and that's that - right? When making Aliya it is not quite so simple.

Yes, at the end of the year you need to obtain a new diary or calendar, but the new diary now will be different. The focus of the diaries and calendars all go according to the Jewish Calendar. Sounds good, now things come in keeping with the seasons, months, special days etc that we follow anyway.

Still it can be a little bit of an adjustment. Suddenly a new diary begins in September or October. The truth is the diary begins on 1st Tishrei. It might be an adjustment but in a very good way. It forces us to shift our focus to the yearly cycle that is in keeping with the Torah and Jewish festivals.

Yes, you can find diaries that have the Hebrew date with the equivalent secular date as well.

For those making Aliya, some banks give a diary as a gift to new Olim when opening a bank account, if you open it close to the beginning of the new year. They don't always offer this, so ask. The worst that can happen is they will say the diaries are all given out or this year we are only giving to our staff. But, the good side is you just might get a lovely new diary - as a welcome gift.

Misrad HaKlita also has a diary they compile that they offer to Olim around the start of the new year. If it is not easily visible when you are at the reception desk, again ask if they have any. The diary from Misrad HaKlita also gives you the option of having Hebrew and the Language of origin. English, Russian, French Spanish.

If you are new to Hebrew, here are a few new words for you:
Chodesh חודש is month
Tov טוב is new
Luach Shanah לוח שנה is a calendar
Yoman יומן is a diary

Speaking of Hebrew, the diary will obviously operate from right to left, the opposite to how you read or open your books and diaries in English.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Good Shabbos - Shabbat Shalom

When one lives outside of Israel, we often hear statements / questions like -
"When is it Friday?"
" Is it Friday yet?"
"How long till the weekend?"
"TGIF - or Thank G-d it's Friday!"

Of course, these questions and statements are all related to longing for the 2 day weekend to enjoy doing what you want to do. Whether it is a braai / barbeque; or a hike or a camping trip or a visit to the movies or...... the list is endless but the meaning is the same. I don't want to be here working, I want to do what I want to do. I want time to enjoy my friends, family, nature, other interests.

Of course, in recent times, there are actually jobs that take place in weekend hours, crafters who sell at craft markets, those who work in shops or stores, some take work home for the weekend to either catch up or prepare. But the concept is there are 2 days for ... "me!"

In amongst these comments and questions, there are times you might hear "Shabbat Shalom!" but often that might be a sign of your level of observance of Shabbat. Certainly there will be a select few people who you feel comfortable enough to wish "Good Shabbos or Shabbat Shalom" and one often expects to only hear it when attending Shul or Synagogue.

In Israel, the week is very different and there is something very special about this. In Israel, preparation for the end of the week begins already on Tuesday or Wednesday and the preparation is all towards 1 day - Shabbat.

On a Thursday afternoon and into the evening, shops or stores become busy with Shabbos Shoppers and there is a definite change in certain items one can find. There are even certain stores specifically open on Fridays only for all your Shabbat needs from Challah to cakes, chocolates and other tasty treats for this special day.

On Friday's, those who frequent the Shook or market, will find a hub and buzz as shoppers hurriedly purchase the last minute items for their Shabbat guests and family.

One fact that is particularly special is the greeting. No longer is it have a good weekend but Good Shabbos! or Shabbat Shalom! This can come from a taxi driver, bus driver, bank clerk, someone in the post office, a Jew dressed in a manner that let's you know s/he is observant of Torah and mitzvos or a Jew who is dressed in a casual fashion with or without a head covering. It can come even from those you would never dream even know the concept of Shabbat.

It is a very special feeling to be free to greet one another as every Jew should, with Good Shabbos or Shabbat Shalom! It is very special to have one's naming of the days of the week, all related to this one day, and an important reminder that this day is not for "me" but for "G-d and me" together. It is an opportunity to remember what it is to be a Jew. To put aside time to remember our Creator and to spend time either with one's immediate family, with guests, with both of these and / or with reading books that give us inspiration and joy.

We have many more ideas for further articles, stories, experiences to share, but for now, it is time to prepare for Shabbat. So we wish you all a wonderful Friday and a very special and restful Shabbat

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Kupat Cholim in Israel

Let us take a look at the National Health Insurance, known in Israel as Kupat Cholim. Israel has four options for Kupat Cholim: Meuhedet, Maccabi, Leumit and Clalit. It used to be that there were major difference within these four Kupat Cholim, I have been told by some Israelis that their differences are no longer as clear.

I can not say that I am an expert of the Kupat Cholim but can share some information that I have experienced and then open up for other Olim to share or clarify and of course for potential Olim or Olim Chadashim to pose questions.

During the first 6 months after making Aliya, an Oleh enjoys free basic Kupat Cholim and Bituach Leumi. The Kupat Cholim provide 3 different levels: basic, Adif and C. There are certain services that are available more readily if one has Adif or C, however, I am still unclear as to what one gets by paying the extra.

In order to qualify or begin receiving your 6 months free or sponsored Health Care, an Oleh has to take a form to the Post Office on which s/he indicates which of the Four Kupat Cholim s/he is choosing. When I made Aliya, the Mercaz Klita (Absorption Centre) told me to do this within the first week. Probably you can take a little longer, I would check that out with your Aliya Counsellor and or Shaliach.

How do you decide which Kupat Cholim to choose? Some make a decision based on convenience, meaning, they find themselves to be perhaps in a certain Absorption Centre and the closest Kupat Cholim is X, therefore they go with X. Others select their Kupat Cholim as they already know a certain doctor and wish to go to that doctor. Others will use the Kupat Cholim that most of their friends or family are using.

If you can, do a little research before coming. Write out for yourself what your priorities and needs are in terms of Health Insurance. The Kupat Cholim do have websites, however, all the information is in Hebrew. If you are already fluent in Hebrew or at least read Hebrew well and can understand most of what you read, it is worth taking a look at the sites.

If you have compiled your list of your own needs in a Health Insurance, that will make it easier to ask specific questions when checking out which Kupat Cholim is best suited for you. This is a very good exercise to do prior to coming on a Pilot Tour. If you have some time, on your Pilot Tour, try to visit the different Kupat Cholim and ask your questions. Or when meeting Israelis, other Olim, organizations in Israel, you can pose your questions and gather the information prior to coming to Israel.

One feature that is important to mention is the policy of staying with a specific doctor or group of doctors for a 3 month period. The 3 month period is a set time span set out by the Kupat Cholim and not from the beginning of your first appointment with a given doctor. That means, if you need to see a specialist e.g. Opthalmologist, Neurologist, Orthopoedic Surgeon or other specialist, you pay the nominal fee of ILS 18 - 20 for that 3 month period. If you are lucky enough to go for your first appointment at the beginning of the set 3 month span, you can return however many times you need within that 3 month period and not have to pay again.

The down side is that if you go to a doctor, Family Doctor or Specialist and find they are not suitable for your needs for whatever reason, you have to wait out the 3 months period in order to change doctors. If you have a good reason to move and really need medical attention, there is a way to request permission to change from the main branch of the Kupat Cholim. From what I can work out, there is a Rofe Minhal (I hope I have transliterated that correctly), this is a doctor who acts as case manager in the main branch who can grant you permission to change doctors or advise a better or more suitable doctor for you. It is worth finding out the details of how to contact this person when signing up, just in case you ever need to go this route.

Another important piece of information is use of an ambulance. I think this information is relevant to the Adif level, but stand to be corrected. If you require going to hospital or emergency unit by ambulance, if the doctor has ordered the ambulance, your Kupat Cholim covers the fee, where as if you or a relative call the ambulance from your home, Kupat Cholim will pay half. However, you will be required to pay the full fee, send in the receipt for payment and then will be credited the half by Kupat Cholim, usually into your bank account.

I hope this has provided some information about Kupat Cholim in Israel. In another post we will try to cover some information regarding the Bituach Leumi. If you have specific questions, please do send them in and we will do our best to answer them, or to find a specialist who can assist you.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Networking Opportunity for South Africans in Israel

If you are South African and are considering Aliya, have made Aliya, are in the process of making Aliya, do join this exciting Yahoo Group. It has been set up specifically to increase networking amongst South Africans in Israel.

The group is South Africans in Israel Job Exchange - SAIJE
The idea behind the group is to strengthen and assist South Africans making Aliya to be successful in Israel. How?

If, for example, you have the need for a plumber, you of course have many options of plumbers to use. By posting on SAIJE and responding to posts on this group, you can give work to a South African plumber, thus helping him to have the opportunity to be financially independent in Israel. In addition the SA plumber is enabled to continue working in the profession or trade he is skilled in and accustomed to.

The same is true if you need a secretary, tutor, doctor, lawyer, therapist, editor or indeed any other kind of service.

In addition to this, the latest trend in becoming successful in business is networking. How can we do this? By connecting with like-minded people, hence fellow South Africans in Israel. In this way, even if you dont need a service provider right now, perhaps you will in the future. Or perhaps you will be chatting to a friend and discover that they need exactly the service you just happened to see posted today, yesterday, the day before, even last week.

We are told that living in Israel is difficult. Let us make it easier by uniting and helping fellow Olim from South Africa.

We look forward to hearing from you and to welcoming your interaction on this great Yahoo Group. Together we can ease the process of making Aliya.

A Pilot Tour - Part 1

Many Olim, prior to making Aliya, will come on a Pilot trip or tour. This can be a private visit to Israel to gather information or it can be on an organized tour. What are some things you will look for on such a trip?

An obvious big decision is housing and location. When talking to fellow Olim, I often ask, how did they choose the particular area of Israel that they are living in. Some will say that they moved there because there was an offer for cheap housing.

This is something that is advisable to look into further. For Olim from different areas, there are different areas of Israel that the various organizations offer perks for them to move. For example, you might be told by your Shaliach, in the country you are coming from ,that if you move to a certain area that you will be given better mortgage rates, increased rental subsidy and more. The Shluchim do a very good marketting job, trying their best to get Olim from their area to go to those particular parts of Israel. For some, this is a great option. However, it does not suit all Olim.

If you are being "pushed" into a given area, check out the marketting strategies. If you are told the area is only 10 or 15 minutes from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, when you come on your Pilot tour, check that out. Is it really 10 or 15 minutes on a watch or does it just feel like 10 / 15 minutes to the shaliach. Is that 10 or 15 minutes by bus or train or car. If it is so close by train, how long would it take you to get to the train station and from the train station at the other end.

This information helps you to get an idea of real traveling time.

Look at other factors too. What is the population like in the area they are advising that you go to. Does the population meet the age group you are looking for, religious background, types of stores that would be beneficial, kupat cholim you are considering using, hours of kupat cholim, schools.

What is the housing like, are there only apartments or are there also houses or caravans. Are there good buses to wherever you might need to go to. Are there parks and beautiful views. This is important to some. If you like the city, dont get pushed into moving to the country and visa versa.

In short, it is beneficial to work out for yourselves what is important to you. Do you need the mountains or the sea, inland any where as long as it is Israel or somewhere specific. Green or desert. Are there other Olim or is it more established and predominantly Israeli area?

If you have friends and or family already living in Israel, do you wish to live in the area they live in. If not, are there times of the year that you will be able to get together to visit. Keep in mind that Israel has for the most part a 6 day week and Shabbat, there is no Sunday as an extra day to go visiting family. If your family is religious and you are not yet, how will you feel spending Shabbat with them? What will you do if the reverse occurs. If you observe Shabbat and only have Shabbat free, what arrangements can you make for visiting family. Will they come to you, will you stay with others in the area and walk to them on Shabbat.

We have given you some ideas to think about. Obviously there are many more when deciding whether to make Aliya and if so, where to move to.

One thing to remember when coming on your Pilot Trip, this trip is rather like the tour that the Spies made when scouting out the Land of Israel prior to Am Yisrael entering the Land. We learn from them a powerful message. When gathering your facts and looking for your needs, be careful as to how you formulate your conclusion and what you look at and for. As we know, the Spies gave a certain report that was true but sent the Nation of Israel complaining. There were 2 spies who did not fall into this trap.

In another post we will look at these two who did not formulate a negative opinion and what we can learn from how they conducted their trip differently to the other 10 Spies.

If you have other thoughts or questions on this topic, please do send them in and we will try to address them.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

Just as there are many decisions to make when considering making Aliya and, indeed, once you have arrived in Israel, so we too face decisions. Many of them.

Thank G-d these are nice decisions. We have so many ideas of articles and posts to put up on this blog that we would love to hear from you what you would like to read. What kind of information or advice do you need to know.

I know what I went through, I know what some other Olim went through. At present, this is what I am drawing from to put various articles together.

If you have a need regarding your Aliya, that you would like addressed on this blog, please do let us know.

We look forward to this blog being more interactive. So, please do send in your comments, thoughts, opinions and needs.

Kashrut in Israel

An important factor to keep in mind and work on daily, is that of Kashrut when coming to Israel. For those who have come from South Africa, Kashrut is much easier, the Kashrut is all supervised by the Beth Din and there is only one Beth Din. In South Africa, certain items such as meat or dairy might be either Beth Din or Mehadrin. Mehadrin in South Africa means the Chabad Shechting.

If you are from America, I understand there are a few Kashrut certifications, however, they are still not as many as in Israel.

When one comes to Israel, it is easy to think that since you have come to Israel, that all the food items will be Kosher and if a sign says Kosher or Mehadrin or Glatt, it means just that. Not so simple.

The Heksherim here are rather complex and it takes quite a lot of study to understand which certificates or Heksherim to follow and which ones to rule out. In addition to this, it is important to know whether a certificate is still valid, meaning has it expired or is it still within the time frame issued. Is the certificate valid at all. Is the certificate for a different address.

One can sit on the bus and drive past a restaurant, cafe or other food place and see a banner that has the word Kosher written there and find that the word Kosher sadly is only an advertising tool, and yet the place is not Kosher at all. Mehadrin and Glatt are terms that often are quite misleading.

One also has to take into consideration Orla, Maaserot, Terumot, Shmita etc, all relevant specifically in the Land of Israel.

To make your life very much easier, I highly recommended visiting the website Jerusalem Kosher News. Visit it regularly or even receive updates which occur very frequently. This information is very thorough and will explain everything you need to know in order to ensure that what you eat is really Kosher.

For those who wish to learn more about Kashrut, from the basics or more advanced, you can sign up for personalized shiurim with Reb Eliyahu. You can learn either via the internet, on the telephone, in person either in small groups or individually. For more about his Torah Teaching visit his website and blog

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Isru Chag - An Adjustment

We showed the beautiful images of Sukkot, now to turn to a different adjustment for our Isru Chag falls on a different day to those outside of Israel.

I dont remember being aware of Isru Chag outside of Israel, even though it does occur. However, using a diary that includes all the days, Chagim etc, suddenly I became aware of Isru Chag. As "Ask Moses" defines it; Isru Chag is the day after a chag (holiday). Isru means to bind. The day after the chag enjoys an afterglow of the chag and is therefore "bound" in some sense to the chag.

The term comes from a verse in Psalms 118 which refers to the festival offering as a chag and mentions that it was bound to the altar. The words that are used in that verse are Isru Chag.

We have just completed the Yom Tov of Sukkot, finishing with Shmini Atzeret and Simchas Torah. That is for those of us in Israel. For those outside of Israel, today is still a Yom Tov, Simchas Torah.

For many it takes some getting used to that the 8 day festivals shorten by a day. Therefore Pesach and Sukkot are 7 days in Israel. Some enjoy this, other miss that extra day of Chag.

For some who make aliya and then visit their family outside of Israel during Yom Tov, the question arises as to what to do on the day that is Chag in Chul and regular day in Israel. On the other hand, for those whose family comes to visit them, what does one do to accommodate the extra day of Chag that they need to observe.

There are different customs as to how to handle those in Israel on "Isru Chag" and Olim - now Israelis, outside of Israel during the extra day of Yom Tov. I would recommend talking to your rabbi about this.

For those who talk, skype, Face Book or Twitter to / with family in Chul, another consideration comes into play. Although Israel now enjoys Isru Chag and those in Australia probably are too by now, for those in South Africa, America, England Europe and other parts of the diaspora, they still have Yom Tov and we need to respect this. It takes a little getting used to and a bit of discipline to refrain from making Havdala and reaching for the phone to greet ones family. Whether or not they observe the mitzvos, we still have a responsibility not to cause them to stumble, and it is therefore advisable to use the international clocks to make sure when their Chag comes out.

Aside from this, the question arises as to what one does on Isru Chag. Do we return to work? Do we clean our home and get everything back in order and then return to work the following day? Again there are differences. Some places of work have a half day work on Isru Chag. Schools typically return the following day. For some places of work, Isru Chag is work as usual.

For all of us, both in Israel and outside of it, an important change occurs during the Musaf prayers of yesterday. We now change our focus to praying for rain in the right season, as we turn from summer to autumn and winter. This focus one will come across often, for the Land of Israel, rain is very much intertwined with our prayers.

Enjoy your day of Isru Chag and remember to pray hard for a winter with plenty of rain.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Sukkot in Israel

One of the first phrases or sayings you will learn in ulpan is "All beginnings are hard." People in Israel love to tell you this and almost use it as an excuse as to why not to help you. As we stand now, at the beginning of the new year, 5770, here are some images to help to give you strength.

When things get tough, as they do in life, hold onto times such as this one. It is currently Sukkot, and the Chagim in Israel are exceptionally special. Just take a look at these few images. Just a few out of very many, of Sukkot in Israel.

Whether the Sukkah is way up high...

Tucked away in a corner...

Behind a tree...

Under a cloud...

Or when looking at a scene from far, you will see all the many many Sukkot...

Beautified and with its own window...

Or down the street.

All over there are Sukkot. Big ones, Little ones, Wooden ones, material ones. Simple ones, elaborate ones. All over Jews build their Sukkot and here is a scene to give you comfort.

In the diaspora there are places where it is dangerous to sleep in ones Sukkah or even to build one. Here you are part of one BIG family, all celebrating Sukkot together.


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