Home and Away: An American In Israel

Running The Shabbos Gauntlet

Special To The Jewish Week

The thing about Shabbat in Jerusalem is that it’s lousy with holiness. 

So holy, in fact, that the streets, normally bursting with honking drivers, on Shabbat becomes a sea of families pushing baby strollers and sauntering hither, thither and yon in their holiday finest.

Abigail Pickus

Gilad And Me

Special To The Jewish Week

News that Gilad Shalit would finally be going home after five long and cruel years in captivity had just reached Israel and the entire country was rejoicing.

Except for me. Because at that precise moment, I was oblivious, waiting for my aunt to join me at Ben Gurion Airport to board a flight to the States.

“Something’s going on!” my aunt clued me in once she found me. A longtime resident of the Galilee, she had taken the train to the airport where she had discovered the good news through osmosis. 

Abigail Pickus

A Sense Of Belonging

Special To The Jewish Week

There is nothing like waking up to the siren song of the shofar to remind me that I’m not in Chicago any more.

Which is another way of saying, if I had forgotten that I had up and moved to Jerusalem, suddenly, I remembered.

It could have something to do with the fact that my bedroom is so close to a synagogue that when they blew the shofar during morning minyan every day this month of Elul, I felt like my bed had catapulted out the window and flown straight into the middle of the sanctuary, hovering mid-air near the bima.

Abigail Pickus

Where The Ends Aren’t Meeting

Special To The Jewish Week

‘Did you know that people in Israel are out protesting because only a few families control the entire country?” asked someone who shall remain nameless.

Let’s just say, she’s related to me.

“Oh, she just read the Ethan Bronner article in The New York Times, so suddenly she’s discovered the protests in Israel,” said my girlfriend knowingly. Her relatives back home in America pull similar stunts.

Abigail Pickus

The Road Taken

Special To The Jewish Week

I was lost. 


If you want to know the truth, I’ve spent most of my life lost, and I’m not being profound.

Which explains why I got completely turned around somewhere in Afula.

Of course, I blamed the map. Where was that sneaky little Route 71 that the map had so magnanimously promised? And why, instead, was I stuck at a fork in the road with two other choices that eluded me?

Naturally, I turned to the gentleman in the car next to me for help.

Abigail Pickus

That’s No Ordinary Lemon In The Juicer

Special To The Jewish Week

What is sickness? asks the Etrog Man.

Unhappiness. Worries. Pressure.

That’s what ails us in the 21st century.

But the Etrog Man, whose real name is Uzi-Eli, wants to counteract all of that.

“I want people to live healthier lives,” he tells me. “I want to help people from the inside out.”

Abigail Pickus

Accent Marks

Special To The Jewish Week

All I wanted was a blessing from the rabbi so that I would finally find my husband.

But it wasn’t that simple. Nothing in Israel ever is.

Because to get to the rabbi, you had to go through his assistant, and by “going through” his assistant I mean, you had to repeatedly call some man who kept telling you to call back in an hour.

And by you, I mean me.

But this is a story about the Hebrew language. Or more specifically, about being a 30-something American who relocates later in life to the land of the Hebrew speakers.

Abigail Pickus

The Raw Truth About The Jewish State

Special To The Jewish Week

There I was on a kibbutz nestled in the lush greenery of the Galilee and all I could think about was food.

Maybe it’s because my idea of a good time is to go to a raw food spa. And when I say “raw food SPA” what I mean is, I was starving, people. Seriously.
I was so hungry, I was almost in tears.

I was so hungry that I was wasting away, on account of something dreadful called a “juice fast.”

“And you paid top shekel to starve to death?” asked my sympathetic friends.

Abigail Pickus

When The Bubble Bursts

Special To The Jewish Week

The 12-year-old girl was seated on the couch across from me, clinging to her mother, her posture helpless and afraid. She’s what they really mean when they say the words “Arab-Israeli conflict,” I thought to myself, trying to maintain a professional mien as I nodded authoritatively, jotted down a few notes, and pretended that I wasn’t about to burst into tears.

Abigail Pickus

Fame, Israel Style

Special To The Jewish Week

‘See that guy over there?” my friend asked, nodding towards the table behind us. “I think he’s famous.”

I turned to have myself a look, which wasn’t difficult considering the Jerusalem café we were packed into was about the size of the skirts sashaying around a Silvio Berlusconi party.

And lo and behold, the guy with the slightly Russell Crowe-esque face, deep in conversation with a table full of rough-and-tumble Israeli men, all of them smoking, did look familiar to me.

Abigail Pickus
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