The Big Felafel

Ode to Merkaz Hamagshimim


A few months ago I heard that Merkaz Hamagshimim was sold and moving to another location. All because of scumbag Madoff who lost $90 million of Hadassah’s money. I started reminiscing with others about what a wonderful “soft landing pad” The Merkaz was and how chaval (a shame) that it won’t be there in the same format for the next olim or would-be olim who come to Israel. The Merkaz was a combination of absorption center and community center located in the German Colony of Jeusalem. A place where you could live for a year on the cheap after making aliyah or while figuring out what to do in Israel and seeing if you want to move here for good.

If it hadn’t been for Merkaz Hamagshimim, I don’t know that I’d still be in Israel. It was while living in The Merkaz that I got to go to ulpan, work at an internship-turned-job, do Jewish learning, meet my would-be husband,  meet co-blogger Molly and other friends, and the list goes on. In order to get a real sense of coming to Israel through a newcomers eye, I dug into group emails I had sent and found hilarious observations from my first year in Israel in 2004-05 while living at The Merkaz.  Enjoy!

Merkaz Hamagshimim


I’ve arrived!!!!!!!  Merkaz Hamagshimim is unbelievable. I love my room but am still slightly nauseous from the ride from the airport. Replace ride with crazy israeli driver. i think he thought it was six flags great adventure and that we were on a roller coaster. he was the only one that went weee. oy.

Walking to town

We timed the walk to town today, and with our new carefully planned route it takes about 20 minutes to the Conservative Yeshiva and 30 minutes to town. I know the time, not because I have a watch, which I don’t, but because I’ve been carryng around my clock. Every time I want to check the time I pull out a clock from my bag. Maybe I should tie it around my neck. Or get a watch. We’ll see.

My Room

My room is really cute, airy, breezy, and right across from a camp (I hope) where Abba’s “dancing queen” has been playing since 9AM. Sometimes they listened to it in hebrew for variety and sang along. To say the least, its been in my head all day. My room also has a stove top and a fridge. the stove top was SOOOO nasty, so i bought some cleaning spray, only to find out later it was really to polish wooden furniture. yeah for hebrew and the english i failed to pay attention to. way to go. but actually it cleaned the grime nicely and also turned it into wood, which was an added bonus.

Only two computers at The Merkaz

Thank you for your emails, i read them over and over (you know who you are who have been emailing) because i miss you and because i love staring at this computer screen, i have been at it for (gasp) the past 2 hours almost. i am hogging the computer at the merkaz (there’s more than 1) because i am far too tired to be social  So last night after scrubbing my stove for 3 hours (or so it felt) i tried to fall asleep to the beautiful sounds of cats meowing. oh jerusalem, you will never cease to live up to your reputation of being infestd with stray cats, even for me.

The no-shake internship

This morning I met with the people that I will be interning for. It took me less than 20 minutes to walk there, which is great. The walk to work is so nice, with lots of flowers, and cute stores, and fruit stands,  and i’m sure i won’t be able to resist the little bakery with fresh, warm, baked goods (my biggest weakness) so i’m really looking forward to it. The guys that I’m working for are really laid back and seem very nice. They are religious so there was no handshake (in case that was on your mind, now you know)

Awkward Change

Speaking of hands, I am sooo awkward, well in general, but more specifically at the supermarket, I extend my hand for the change but they always place it on the plastic counter. next time i will remember. woooops.

Supermarket Shopping

I went to the supermarket and pretty much bought everything in sight. How could I resist those sesame pretzels, and ‘vaflim’, and nutella, and cucumbers that I thought were zucchini. Woops.

Hebrew and Japanese

Ya caught me- i got nothin on japanese, but my hebrew is improving drastically. I love the people in my ulpan- i went to lunch with them and spoke hebrew for an hour. it was ‘fantasti’ .

Israel. week 25? Maybe. whos going to check.. honestly

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been here for a while and am still very unsure of the future.

Discovering sabich

one more thing- food item called sabeech— amazing! ‘madheem’ wowsers. i hate eggplant but not sabeech eggplant, so fried and delicious and the pita and the hardboiled egg and wow. come visit and i’ll show you the best place.

Going on tiyulim

so i’m going on a Merkaz  tiyul this weekend with hiking and biking and raking and caking and poking and soaking (?)

The Lingo

Rak Rega. (insert hand motion here which makes me want to curse out Israelis every chance I get)

Returning after a trip to the States

here i am. back in israel. as an israeli. more agressive? don’t think so. better hebrew? yes. better than an israeli? ehhh…

Making Aliyah

so i’ve gone and i’ve done it. the big A word. not the curse word, the other one. aliya. or aliyah. depending on how much you like silent letters.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. Such a great post! Hilarious, and it also shows what a positive attitude you had about Israel. In Israel, a person can either see things as amusing/sweet/nice or horrible, i.e. it’s about the half-full/half-empty cup. You definitely saw and still see the cup as half full (or more), which is amazing and one of the reasons you have succeeded here.

    | Reply Posted 13 years, 5 months ago
    • * Rebecca says:

      Miriam, Thank you for saying that. There may be a few more people and factors for me staying here and being positive. (hint…)

      | Reply Posted 13 years, 5 months ago
  2. * Harry says:

    The Merkaz was my first stop when I made aliyah in 1997. I spent the first month sleeping in a closet (in the bayit in the first building) until a room was available. I eventually scored a bigger room and then finally one of the coveted studios in the back building. I ended up living there for most of my army service. Met some good people in those days and many who I am still in touch with. Though I have to admit the musical production rehearsals drove me crazy.

    | Reply Posted 13 years, 5 months ago
    • * Rebecca says:

      Harry, Oh the guest rooms. Those were quite depressing with the ceilings and walls covered with carpet with no window, as far as I remember and won’t be missed.

      | Reply Posted 13 years, 5 months ago
  3. * Fun Joel says:

    Great post! I love it. Never knew you were so funny! 🙂

    I have not lived at the Merkaz, but have spent many good times there and even rented space there to teach. I’ll miss it very much. Such a shame.

    | Reply Posted 13 years, 5 months ago
    • * Rebecca says:

      Joel, yeah, I used to be funnier before blogging. Also, everything used to be so new and fascinating. I guess I stopped noticing things after a while 😦 Although I still take pictures of the busses that say Happy Chanukah or Shana Tova and get weird looks.

      | Reply Posted 13 years, 5 months ago
  4. * Harry says:

    They started calling that a guest room? Ha! The guys who were living in the Bayit wouldn’t allow me to store my luggage outside my “room.” I slept every night with two big duffels hanging over my head and my two guitars under my legs. It was horrible. I recall having a tiny window though…

    | Reply Posted 13 years, 5 months ago
  5. * Joel Katz says:

    Really enjoyed the post Rebecca!

    I remember when the Merkaz opened in ’96 – had lots of friends who lived there and used to go to many of the events. I always said that the location was “too good to be true”.

    BTW. The article you linked to about Hadassah & Madoff is from Dec. 2008 when the ‘news hit the fan’. The $90 million “loss” was a figure quoted by Hadassah at the time. It turns out that this figure was the “assumed” amount – on paper that is.

    As mentioned here in Bloomberg News, Madoff Liquidator May ‘Claw Back’ Charities’ Profits Hadassah is believed to have “invested $40 million with Madoff and took out $130 million in profits”.

    | Reply Posted 13 years, 5 months ago

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: