Thursday, November 24, 2011


Other than the enormous amount of rain that has fallen this week, which is unusual for November; this week has just been one of those ordinary weeks. At home things are getting back to normal and the children, (all 4 of them…) are settling back in to some sort of routine. We are just about to sign the final papers for us to buy the land that we applied for and in a in the next few months we hope to start building. It is all very exciting, a bit stressful too, but none the less exciting. This week too, my closest friend, Uri, was doing his national army reserve service in the yeshuv where I live, just near my house. One evening I got a pizza and went over to see him where he was on-duty at the check-point between my yeshuv and the Palestinian village next door. While we were talking, I suddenly got the urge to see things from the ‘other side’. It is true, in life that we tend to see things only from our own point of view and just once, I wanted to be able to see things from the other point of view; to see my house the way that the inhabitants of the Palestinian village see it and to see their life how they see it. As I said there is a check-point just next to where I live and people come from as far as Bethlehem to work in Israel. They do a 240km round trip every day and spend as much as 2 hours, twice a day crossing the check-point in order to come in to Israel to work. Four hours a day that I am sure they would rather be spending in their homes with their families; I know I would. Of course, Uri refused to take me over the check-point for security reasons, but I hope that one day that it will be possible. Maybe I should explain that whilst all of my friends and class mates where doing their national service in the army, I was given a medical discharge due to my Chron’s disease, and so as Uri was showing me around the dormitories and the barracks, it was as if I was walking around somewhere totally unknown. Whereas the vast majority of the people that I know would feel completely at home in this environment it was so outside of my own experience and brought home the feeling once more, that I had missed out on something that is such a fundamental part of our daily, national life here in Israel. It was like being a complete stranger in my own yeshuv, only a few meters from my own home. Very bizarre!
Anyway, on that philosophical note I must get back to preparing for my Ulpan students, but wish you a pleasant end to the week and Shabbat shalom!
Gil Pentzak
Ulpan Aviv- Director

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shalom le kulam. Ma shlomchem?

Shalom le kulam. Ma shlomchem?
Doesn't time go by so quickly? I feel like I have only just finished writing the other blog and it is time to write another. I am thankful to say that things have really been getting back to normal this week. Little Ori recovered well after his circumcision, although he is a bit 'gripey' now which leads to fun nights! The whole family is settling down and finding their new places within the family and I am glad to say that our little 20 month old daughter hasn't managed to inflict any serious damage on Ori yet, although she really gave him a good whack when he was only a few days old!! This week was another family event; it was my cousin's wedding. He is only 22 yrs old and there was much talk of how young he is to be getting married. In our culture it is obligatory to find something to talk about…. The wedding was great and everyone seemed to really get in to the spirit of things. The Shabbat after a wedding the whole family and all the friends get together for the Shabbat to be with the newly married couple. It is always a crazy but fun time and I am really looking forward to it. The project up north is going really, really well and as one of the directors here at the Ulpan, I went up to see that everything was going alright. There were glowing reports of Efat and Saray, (of course I would have never doubted for a moment that there would be…) and the students seem to be progressing well.
Well, writing this from a rainy and cold Tel Aviv hope that you all have a good end to the week and I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!
Gil Pentzak
Ulpan Aviv-Director

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shalom le-kulam

This week I hardly know whether I am coming or going! I normally start with what is going on here in Israel, but today, I want to start with what is going on with me! As I said last week, my wife gave birth to our 4th child, (3rd son). When a boy is born, there is always so much to do and for me it was no exception. Trying to get the Brit Milah arranged, the Sandak (godfather), the Mohel (the circumciser) and all the family in the same place at the same time and all on the 8th day of his life, whilst making sure that all is going smoothly at the Ulpan, and that all of our students and potential students are taken care of. Eventually, it all came together beautifully yesterday. The weather was fantastic and all of our closest friends and family were there as well as all of my colleagues from both the Tel Aviv branch and the Jerusalem branch along with a few of my long term students. There was a real mixture of people, backgrounds and languages. It would have been an anthropologist's dream! As the Parashat ha Shavua was "Lech Lecha", this week where G-d told then Abram to leave his country, home and father's house, I spoke a little bit of Abram's character and the importance of what he actually did, becoming the first Ivri (the first 'Hebrew' from the root 'To pass over'), also about his heart to take everyone with him. It was important for us to choose a name which reflected firstly, what our new little son meant to us and secondly, what we hoped he would be and become and so we chose the name 'Ori Avraham'. (Ori meaning 'my light' and Avraham after Avraham, Avinu.) We look forward to the next many years that we have together; getting to know him and seeing our little Ori Avraham grow in to what we hope and pray will be an exceptional man and especially a man of G-d.

Other than that, there were a few significant days this week; there were the memorial days for Rachel, emenu and for Yitzak Rabin, after his assassination, 16 years ago.

Shabbat Shalom le kulam!

Gil Pentzak

Ulpan Aviv-Director

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ulpan Aviv

Well as you know, things are rarely dull here in Israel and this week was no exception… Two days ago, there was the vote at UNESCO (United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization) concerning the request from the Palestinian Authority to be admitted. Despite them meeting none of the educational and cultural criteria for admission, the result of the vote was still positive. We are waiting with baited breath to hear the results of the UN Security Council vote on the 11th of November…. In the meantime Mahmoud Abbas has been encouraging Palestinians to kidnap Israeli soldiers with North Sudan giving people the added incentive of offering 1 million USD to the person who successfully captures an Israeli soldier. The first known attempt was made to kidnap a young female soldier yesterday evening in Pisgat Ze'ev (one of Jerusalem's neighbourhoods). In the Gaza region, rockets and mortars have been coming in thick and fast to the Israeli towns of Beersheva, Sderot and Shaar Negev, killing one man, causing a lot of damage and resulting in all the local schools being temporarily closed down in order to prevent any harm to the local children. It really feels as if it is 'open season' on Israeli citizens at the moment. Not a very comfortable time…

On a personal note, I haven't been in to the Ulpan at all this week although I have been overseeing things from home. No! I haven't been ill this week….. On Monday evening, my wife gave birth to our fourth child, a little boy. We are absolutely delighted and thank G-d for his safe arrival. The labour was a long one, but both mum and baby are doing well. The Brit Mila (circumcision) will be on Tuesday next week (we go according to the 8th Hebrew days) and so at the moment all my time is taken up with arranging that and the special Shabbat that we have on the first Shabbat after the birth. I'll let you know how things went next week!
I wish you all Shabbat Shalom and a peaceful and blessed end of the week.