City in China Designates ‘Phone Lane’ for Text-Obsessed Pedestrians

Photo: Barcroft Media

Photo: Barcroft Media

Though we’ve all had annoying experiences with people texting and walking—maybe some of us have even been the ones doing so—few have thought to solve the problem by designating an actual lane for phone use. But that’s exactly what a city in China has decided to do.

A neighborhood in Chongqing China has decided to solve its texting while walking issue with a 30 meter long strip of sidewalk that has designated lanes which read, “cell phones, walk in this lane at your own risk” and “no cell phones.” While in the area, pedestrians can choose whichever lane suits them best.

The sidewalks feature printed warnings on the street itself, and the city has also posted large signs in the area that read, “First mobile phone sidewalks in China.”

Are they for real?

Though it remains to be seen if these sidewalks will become a mainstream thing in China, they have appeared before in the United States on two occasions. For an April Fool’s joke in 2012, the city of Philadelphia announced what it called an “e-lane” for smartphone users. The city claimed that the prank was designed in order to raise what they considered a serious public safety issue.

The sidewalks in China are said to resemble—or look almost like an exact replica—of a sidewalk that was painted on 18th Street in Washington DC for an experiment on crowd behavior, which was featured on the National Geographic channel in July of this year.

Whether the sidewalks were created for whimsy or for real, we will just have to see. But until then, they’re proving to be quite the conversation piece.

Aliyah 101

Perhaps you’ve been contemplating making Aliyah for some time, maybe you’ve only thought about it once or twice, or maybe you’re not even vaguely familiar with the process. No matter how much information you’re interested in, even if Aliyah is not a thought or option for you and you’re just curious about what it means, I’m about to shed some light on the process. This may also be useful for those who are about to make Aliyah and are looking for a great way to explain it to their family and friends.😉

What is “Aliyah?” Well, in Hebrew the word “Aliyah,” or “עֲלִיָּה” means ascent; the act of going up. In this context, it is used to refer to the act of progressing towards Jerusalem. The aspiration for Jewish people to make Aliyah, or return home, was developed during the Jewish diaspora. Large scale immigration to Israel began in 1882, when the territory was known as “Palestine.” Since Israel was established as a state in 1948 more than 3,000,000 Jews have “made Aliyah.”

Aliyah is an important concept for Jewish culture and the reason behind Israel’s Law of Return, which states any Jewish person (deemed as such by halakha or Israeli secular law) has the right to assisted immigration and Israeli citizenship. A person who “makes aliyah” is called an oleh (m) or olah (f); the plural for both is olim.

When a person makes Aliyah, they join a global community of Jewish People with similar ideologies. It’s like being adopted into a new family, and gaining thousands of brothers and sisters. It doesn’t matter what language everyone speaks, whether it is English, French, German, Hungarian, Russian, or Italian, you all speak the language of “coming home.”

From my experience, there’s a few things one must do to have a successful Aliyah…


1. Take a pilot trip.

Though I have met a few people who, just followed the pulling of their heartstrings, hopped on a plane to make Aliyah without ever having previously been to Israel, I would recommend what they call a “pilot trip.” Take as much time as you can, preferably, and travel the country. See the North, the South, the Sea, and the Dead Sea. Hike in the desert, swim under a waterfall in the Kineret (sea of Galilee), see the “shuk” (market) in Jerusalem on a Friday, and see the intersection of Ben Gurion / Dizengoff in Tel Aviv on a Tuesday. Go into towns that are hidden gems, where not many Olim end up, like Rishon Lezion.

Many diaspora Jews have the opportunity to visit Israel prior to the thought of Aliyah and many times that visit is even the reason or inspiration behind the commitment to become an Israeli citizen (such as it was in my case). However, if you’ve never had the pleasure plan a trip—and try to incorporate leisure days that don’t include tourist activities, where you can really take things in and observe / appreciate the culture and all that Israel has to offer.


2. Be Informed.

Preparing to make Aliyah can be overwhelming sometimes, and even stressful. This of course is natural, considering you’re relocating your entire life to a new country. I found that having a great support system and asking lots of questions made the process nothing but joyful. If you’re planning to emigrate from North America I would suggest going through an agency called Nefesh B’Nefesh. They have a great staff that will walk you through the entire process, are there when you have questions, and will even help you find a job/relocate your company (if you are self-employed). They also hold a lot of information session, both in the US and in Israel, where you can meet other people who are in the process of making Aliyah, network, and learn about everything that is available to aid you on your journey. Make sure to inquire about all components of your move including financial preparedness, work options, Army service, school options for either yourself or your children, and your pet’s travel accommodations.

If you have family or friends in Israel and know where you would like to settle, great! Check that off of your list. If not, that’s okay too. The Jewish Agency offers quite a few absorption programs that can help you get settled during your first few months in Israel. You will receive 5 months of subsidized Hebrew lesson no matter where you end up. All of the absorption programs that are available include the 5 months of intensive Ulpan (Hebrew lessons). If you choose to go that route, there are a variety of programs; there is everything from University/dorm living, to Kibbutz living and working (available for both young singles and families). If you decide that a program is not for you, there are still plenty of options for where to take your Ulpan lessons. I chose not to do an absorption program, but I wound up finding a wonderful community of people through taking classes at Ulpan Gordon in Tel Aviv.

No matter what path you choose after you make Aliyah, you can’t go wrong. Just remember to research all of your options so you are fully aware of how many things are available for you to take advantage of.


3. Don’t get discouraged

As I mentioned, the Aliyah process can be overwhelming at times. It’s not a matter of if you will feel overwhelmed but, rather, a matter of when you will feel overwhelmed. It may be when you’re filling out all of your application paperwork, it may be when you’re being interviewed by the Jewish Agency, or it may be 2 days after you land when you’re sitting in an office in Israel with a woman who speaks more Russian than Hebrew and less English than both (this was the case for me).

The important thing is to expect a lot of bumps in the road, understand the process that takes place after you land in your new home, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. For as many things that happen to you in Israel to drive you crazy, there are 10 experiences that will really make you smile and be grateful that you decided to make Aliyah.


Fun fact: The name “Palestine” had been given to what is now the State of Israel after the Roman’s conquered it and took the land from the Jewish People in 135 CE. The Roman’s traditionally named their conquered territories after the greatest enemies of those whom they had conquered. At the time the Romans conquered Israel, the largest enemy that the Jewish People had were the Philistines. Thus was born the territory known as “Palestine” (or Syria Palæstina). Therefore, the original “Palestinians” were in fact the Jews.

Arous Elbahar

A little while after I arrived in Israel I began my work volunteering at an NGO dedicated to empowering the women of Tel Aviv-Yafo. It is run by both Jewish and Arab women, and strives to give underprivileged women of Yafo a place where they can have a support system, feel safe, come to learn, and be part of a close community. Women go there for any number of the services offered including mentoring, entrepreneurial guidance, job placement, support groups, computer classes, Arabic classes, and now English classes. In addition to offering a support system and classes, the center teamed up with an Israeli designer and created a unique line of plush dolls called “Jaffa Dolls.” A group of women who attend the center make the dolls and when they are sold the women receive a portion of the profit. The dolls have become tremendously successful and at the launch that was held at the end of last year they sold out of their entire stock. As a side project in addition to my teaching efforts, I have begun helping to find stores that will sell the dolls Internationally and am working to create a network for sales in the US.

A couple of months ago when I first met with the women who wished to take an English class, I asked them why they wanted to learn English and what they wanted to use it for. Their answers ranged from wanting to start a small business, to having the desire to be able to give people directions in English when asked. The women had all different backgrounds and were at all different levels in their English speaking abilities. I found a middle ground, and began teaching the women using topics that were of interest to them. First conversational skills, then foods, restaurant topics, menus and ordering, travel, and directions. They are very excited to begin geography next week.

The women who attend classes at Arous Elbahar come from difficult backgrounds and have not led easy lives. It is wonderful for them to have this place that they can go for support and to learn, but as I have worked with them I often see the leftover effects from the difficult lives they have. One of my students is often absent from class and her face is full of sadness… she refuses to talk about her home life, and the women often console her when she declines to mention what is wrong. Some women bring their children to class with them, because they cannot afford daycare or a babysitter… they always apologize because they feel as though they are disrupting the lesson, but I always tell them that it’s great to have the children in the room with us. Sometimes I worry that if they feel the children are not welcome in class they will stop coming. In actuality, I think that when the kids are in the room everyone smiles and laughs a little more, and it brightens the day.

I have one student who’s dream is to teach English in a school in Yafo. She never misses a class, and shows up excited to learn every week. She was moving at a faster pace than the rest of the class, and had completed a higher level in English while in University, so I have begun tutoring her on the side… we meet after class and I give her additional homework assignments that focus on separate topics than what I teach in the classes. The more I give her and teach her, the more empowered she seems.

The experience that I have had teaching English has been so rewarding over these past few months, that I have begun seeking addition volunteer placements in this field.


The Sound of the Siren

Today was one of those days where I hit the “snooze” button on my alarm more than once, or twice… I often find myself with a case of the Mondays, which here in Israel is actually a case of the Sundays.

As I reached over to hit “snooze” on my alarm clock for the third time this morning, the air raid siren began to sound. It’s blaring tone promptly drowned out my alarm. I grabbed my phone, still chiming away with it’s little wake up tune, my bird’s cage, and my laptop, and headed for the safe room. After my room mates and I sat there while the customary 90 seconds ran out, we heard the faint “boom” as the Iron Dome shot down another rocket–one of two fired out of Gaza this morning, heading for Tel Aviv.

Today’s faint “boom” was far more pleasant than feeling the reverberations in Tel Aviv on Thursday when the first (and unexpected) rocket was launched from Gaza. It was the first time that there had been a targeted attack on Tel Aviv since 1991. My friends and I were walking around Ha’Tachana—the old train station in Tel Aviv-Jaffa—wandering in and out of the shops and galleries, when the faint sound of the air raid siren began. It became louder and louder, and that’s when I realized what it actually was—I saw people scattering about running into shops and trying to find one another. After spotting a couple of people I knew, I ducked into the closest non-glass front shop I came upon… which was ironically a toy store.

The shop was no more than 10’ X 10’ square, and there were about 15 of us crammed inside.  A couple of Israelis argued whether or not to close the door, and eventually decided that if the roof collapsed it would be better to have it open… so there we stood, listening to the siren with the door open, just waiting. The first 30 seconds had passed before I was inside, and the remaining 90 seconds that followed seemed like forever. I glanced around the shop, with its board games and colorful wooden toys displayed, the wood floors painted a sea foam green… the siren finally stopped and then there was a loud “boom.” I could feel it, which made me slightly uncomfortable for the first time since the ordeal had began. After that we all stood there for a moment—no one moved. Once we were sure that it was over, people began taking out their phones and frantically texting, emailing, and calling family. A man standing behind me shouted for the shopkeeper to turn on the radio. As she turned the nob and the volume increased, all that was heard was the sound of calm music as it trickled across the room.

A couple of days later a friend of mine returned from a Shabbaton…. He told me that he had been on a bus when the first rocket hit Tel Aviv, and the only way people knew was because one by one everyone began to receive text messages from relatives and friends. A young Israeli man spoke about how difficult it was to explain to his younger brother, who was only 7, what was going on. “I began to explain to him,” the young man described, “There are some people who don’t like us and are trying to hurt us, but its okay because we won’t let them…”

This afternoon I will go to my volunteer site, as usual, and lead an art class… as if it were any other Sunday. However, when I arrive I will be with 20+ children who, like me, have experienced this only for the first time in their lives.

Repair the World, But First the People

Three days after our arrival in Yafo, my volunteer group was warmly welcomed to the neighborhood by having all of our apartments broken into and every electronic item we owned stolen… they even took my hair dryer and power adapter. It wasn’t exactly an experience that makes a person feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and it caused not only a serious technological disconnect for many of us, but terrible financial, emotional, and mental strife. After a second break-in just 6 weeks later, the program finally put bars on the windows and had alarms installed… I have mixed feelings about the whole situation, but will leave it at that.

Positive experiences during the past 2 months would include…

  • Meeting new, interesting people
  • Beginning to learn / grasp Hebrew
  • Some nice intellectual stimuli and classes delving into controversial topics and discussions regarding Jewish people, Israel, etc.
  • Experiencing some Kibbutz life
  • Being in Israel for the high holidays, and being able to learn about them– actually learn about them for the first time in my life
  • Exploring bits of Tel Aviv, Yafo, Rishon Lezion, and Jerusalem
  • Getting through my first bout with being homesick

After a very long process, I have chosen my volunteer placements and begun volunteering. So far I am really enjoying the places that I chose. My first choice was a center for Arab women who want to positively advance their lives, become financially independent, and / or become entrepreneurs. I am helping with the marketing of their Jaffa Dolls, and assisting in an English course. They are surveying the women to see if they would like to learn some art, and I may begin teaching a class for that as well. I’m excited to be attending their launch tonight in Yafo for the Jaffa dolls, and am in contact with some stores in the U.S. who may agree to sell the dolls. In addition to this, I am teaching art to at-risk youth through an after school program in Tel Aviv-Yafo, and volunteering as an English tutor for Ethiopian youth in Rishon Lezion through a program called Homework at Home.

It is nice to finally have some sort of schedule, and once again have a computer… and I am beginning to feel a little safer in my home now that some precautions for the safe keeping of me and my possessions are in place. I am looking forward to what these next 8 months will have in store for me, and eagerly awaiting letters and care packages. *hint* *hint*😛

Until next time…

Love and Kindness

The past week has been the perfect send off, and for that I am so thankful. I was invited to attend Shabbat service at the Flemington Jewish Community Center last weekend, and was called up for an aliyah and given a blessing/send off for safe travels to the home land. The warmth and kindness of the entire congregation was overwhelming. They treated my family and myself as if we were old friends– and invited my mother to begin attending Saturday services… which was a great gift to me, because I want so much for her to have some connectivity and a Jewish community.

The following day I attended the Maitreya Festival at the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center (TBLC). This is a long-time tradition for my family, and a festival I have had the pleasure of attending every year for most of my life. It was so great to have such warmth following a day that had previously been filled with such munificence. The essence of Maitreya as an overall theme is quite applicable to the work I will be doing once I am in Israel, so it was also great to clear my head in such a beautiful place as the TBLC and take in some mantras before I depart.

I spent this past week in NYC, taking care of errands during the week and relaxing and spending time with family and friends over the weekend. I was in the Met wandering through the newly installed Iranian art exhibit when I stumbled upon a map of the Middle East that was probably about 20′ X 30’… I stood there staring at it for a moment, and finally realized that I am moving to Israel. In the words of my friend whom I told of my experience, it was like a bomb. I felt like I was the subject in a dolly zoom, just like in Jaws. I spent a long time standing there after that, with everything that has taken place in the last few months spinning through my head. I am glad, however, that the realization finally hit me and that it was before I was getting off the plane.

Following my excursion to the Met, I had a lovely evening with my brother, where we hit up our usual spots such as Gueros and The Crown Inn, then topped off the evening by watching Godzilla atop the roof of his building. The weekend was filled with brunches with the brother and his girlfriend, a party, and on Sunday evening my Aunt and Uncle cooked the best “leaving America” dinner I could have ever asked for. Meatloaf (and we’re talking the snazzy kind that puts any other meatloaf to shame, with bacon strips on top, cooked by a true chef) and my favorite mashed potatoes ever. Then I took one last stroll in my city, gazing at all my usual haunts from where I get my coffee to where I buy sunflowers to brighten my day, and headed to NJ to spend the next few days putting all of my belongings into storage. Only 5 days left, I’m nearly there! I just hope I can get everything done in time. Cross your fingers for me😉

“Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.”
-Henry Miller

Creative Thinking

Hitting the home stretch! I am two weeks from departure, finished my last day at my job, half sorted about 1/4 of my life and boxed/given it away, and am suddenly realizing that I’m leaving the country. Wow!

I received the list of possible volunteer opportunities that I will be choosing from during my first couple of weeks in Israel. There are so many wonderful projects and assignments that I will surely find it difficult to choose. One that really stood out had been previously mentioned to me by the director of admissions for Tikkun Olam during my initial phone interview, when I was applying for the program. It is at Muzot High School, which is in Old City, Yafo (or Jaffa, depending on which you prefer). The high school was founded in 2005 and caters to teens at risk and teens who have experienced crisis. If I were to be assigned to volunteer at Muzot High School it would be a wonderful opportunity to combine my teaching experience and my previous experience working with at risk youth and victims of domestic violence. This type of work truly speaks to me, and I am very excited to have this opportunity in the mix right now.

I read an article recently, published by the Science Network in Western Australia, that touches on the subject of implementing art and utilizing it as a facilitator and catalyst in the learning process. The article focused on a study at Murdoch University that showed art helps in the development of critical thinking in young children. There was a similar article published in the New York Times, focusing on a study being conducted through the Guggenheim Museum that is currently in its second year. I have found through my own experience and through other research that this is not only true in young children, but in teens, young adults, and adults.

In addition to the volunteer opportunity at Muzot High School, I found a few others that had possibilities of incorporating a creative element such as art. I am glad to have the list now, so that I may keep thinking about these great options for the next two weeks as I near the beginning of my journey.

To Fear or Not to Fear

With only three days left at my job, pre-departure “crunch time” is rapidly approaching… I’ve spent the last two weeks at numerous doctor appointments making sure everything is up to date, from my eye glass prescription to my tetanus vaccination. All the while my search for additional funding / grants continues… though I should probably fear moving to the Middle East with 1/4 of the amount of money I should have to live off of, I feel oddly unafraid. However, I have 3 weeks left, and who knows what that could bring!

The tone among my friends, family, and strangers who I tell of my upcoming journey is growing darker with each encounter… the fear of strangers is even trickling into my life.. during a conversation with my mother this morning she me that someone instructed her to tell me not to let them put a stamp on my passport when I arrive is Israel if I planned on visiting any Arab countries while in the Middle East, or terrible things could happen. I’m sorry, but this seems a bit silly to me. This does not go to say that I am uninformed of the current political, religious, and sociological situation in the Middle East, but I just refuse to live my life in fear.

The fact that I am moving to Israel does, of course mean that the turbulent era that the Middle East is currently in the throws of is becoming my reality as well, and is already close to home for me… After the suicide bombing in Bulgaria I found out that one of the people killed was a woman who lived on the same street as a friend of mine, who’s home I will be staying at the first week I am in Israel. A few days later I read an article regarding the Israeli / Syrian border, which spoke of a kibbutz founded in 1967 after Israel conquered the Golan Heights and whether or not the kibbutzim should fear for their safety or not… the cafe mentioned in the article serves wonderful coffee– I’ve been there and looked out over the landscape in Syria as I drank my coffee. In Tel Aviv, there are social protests which are becoming increasingly heated. Recently, a man set himself on fire in the middle of the street… this is the town next to where I will be living.

These things are reality, but no… I am not going to refuse to have my passport stamped, be paranoid to tread near the borders of Arab countries, avoid public transportation, or practice any of the other “precautionary” measures that have been suggested to me…  I don’t plan on doing anything overtly dangerous or “stupid” (stupid being an subjective term, but don’t get me started on that) of course… I’m just going to go volunteer and experience this journey. If you let fear make your decisions for you, you’ll never truly experience life… and I would prefer to experience every minute of it.

“We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.”
― Marilyn Monroe

Falafel Quest

Though I have always been a falafel fiend, after my visit to Israel I began a quest to actually make excellent falafel. Though falafel itself is a very simple food, the amount of recipes, ways of making it, and countries that it is a culinary staple in are vast. During my search for a yum-tastic recipe I learned quite a lot about those joyous little balls of deliciousness.

My love for falafel began curbside, at a food truck in NYC…where else! Every New Yorker has a food truck phase sooner or later.  My love for falafel deepened after a 3:00 AM visit to Cheep’s, where I discovered the glorious $2.50 falafel that one can purchase nearly 24 hours a day (honestly, who really wants falafel between 5:30 and 10:30 in the morning anyway). Once in Israel, I found myself packed into a crowd of falafel-craving pedestrians in a hole-in-the-wall shop, standing shoulder to shoulder with cooks yelling back and forth at each other and dishing out falafel. Whole new level, epic falafel. Naturally, after returning to the states I wanted an option outside of food trucks and Cheep’s, and thus began my falafel quest.

My first go was sub-par, and for some strange reason the recipe I found had parsley instead of cilantro.  Totally counterproductive for taste. Round two wasn’t much bettter…

The makings of yummy falafel

However, as of a couple of days ago after tackling my third attempt I believe I may be headed in the right direction! As soon as I was done melding all of the ingredients in a food processor I had hope… the green hue was looking more proper this time.

I still need to perfect the consistency and frying process, and tweek the measurements for fully epic taste, but the finish product wasn’t bad! I give you falafel with salad…

For those of you looking to venture into the land of home-made falafel, I suggest starting with this great recipe from Haaretz. Not only are they a great Israeli news publication, but they have an epic food and wine section. Try the following recipe…

1 lbs. chickpeas (dried, not cooked)
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
2 bunches of cilantro
1-2 teaspoons chili pepper flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (optional)
2 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
Canola or corn oil for frying
1.Soak the chickpeas in water overnight. Drain.
2. Grind the chickpeas, onions, garlic and cilantro in a meat grinder. Add the chili, cumin, paprika, coriander, ginger, salt, flour and baking soda and mix well.
3. Heat the oil in a deep fryer or a frying pan to a medium heat.
4. Form 1” round balls using a special falafel tool (or simply using a spoon or wet hands) and fry until the falafel are golden brown and are cooked through.
5. Serve in a pita bread with tahini sauce and Israeli salad.


If you’ve enjoyed this post, and or recipe, I ask you to please donate to my journey back to Israel. I will be volunteering in communities and living off of only the funds I am able to raise before my departure. Please support🙂

Follow the link: GoFundMe, or for offline/anonymous donations please feel free to email me at

Thanks for reading!

No Turning Back

So today I purchased my ticket– it’s official, no turning back! I spent nearly every last cent to my name (leaving a total of $9.68 in my bank account) on a one way ticket to the Middle East. I don’t think that it has fully hit me yet.. my friend at Starbucks said to me as I was getting my afternoon burst of caffeine today, “You probably won’t realize it until you get on the plane.” She may be right! I may very well have a Home Alone moment 2,000 feet in the air.

It’s funny to see and hear people’s reactions when I tell them of my upcoming journey… they either freak out, or.. well… mostly they just freak out. Sometimes enthusiastically with an, “Oh my gosh that’s wonderful,” or “I’m so jealous!,” but more so with snide remarks and caustic jokes such as “I hope you like hummus,” “Are you ready to live on chicken for a year?,” or my personal favorite to date, “Don’t get killed by a hummuside bomber!” ….so witty. My parents are taking it pretty well, though I can tell my father is a little nervous.. yesterday he inquired about the latest goings on in the Middle East, as we hadn’t spoken about it in a while and I usually impart current events whenever we chat. I hesitated to tell him about some of the latest social issues and turbulence, which is par for the course, but no one likes to hear about people setting themselves on fire in the town next to where their daughter is about to move.

On the bright side, a midst all of the little pockets of chaos and turbulent social matters, there is still fun, sun, and Haaretz’s top 5 falafel joints in Tel Aviv, and I was informed today by a friend that there are 3 billiards within 10 minutes of his home… all n’ all, I’d say “l.i.g.” :)