Paula Mann
Hadassah Educators Council Steering Committee

Hadassah Mission Brings My First Experience Bantering B’Ivrit

Author Paula Mann and Jill Goldstone attended the Hadassah & Jewish National Fund Israel Family Tour. Photo courtesy of the author.
Author Paula Mann and Jill Goldstone attended the Hadassah & Jewish National Fund Israel Family Tour. Photo courtesy of the author.
Dead Sea photo courtesy of the author.
Entrance to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem courtesy of the author.
Author Paula Mann and Jill Goldstone at the JNF Indoor Playground in Southern Israel. Photo courtesy of the author.
Author Paula Mann with her Israeli cousin Ken Abrams. Photo courtesy of the author.

They say that laughter is the best medicine. Don’t we all love it when we are laughing so hard that tears are rolling down our faces, our stomachs starts cramping and, yet we just can’t stop laughing? So, how do you joke in Hebrew when, as an English speaker, you have only a scant knowledge of the language? Go on a Hadassah travel mission to Israel, live the language and life will provide the humor.

As a life member of Hadassah, I had always wanted to go on a Hadassah travel mission to Israel and 2019 granted me the perfect opportunity. I signed up for the Hadassah/Jewish National Fund Israel Family Mission. It was my third time visiting Israel. I met many wonderful participants who became new friends. We traveled the land, sharing a most enchanting experience!

Hadassah is a partner with The Jewish National Fund (JNF) in “greening” the desert of Israel with millions of trees and building thousands of parks across  Israel. JNF (known in Israel as Keren Kayemet LeYisrael) creates new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home. It is responsible for maintaining Israel’s water supply, supporting the development of  innovative desert agriculture and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.

From a jeep ride in the Hula Valley to a spa visit at the Dead Sea, it was an extraordinary trip. Another highlight was a visit to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, one of the Jerusalem hospitals of Israel’s Hadassah Medical Organization, where we learned about the latest invigorating advances in the medical world. Hadassah’s state-of-the-art research and exemplary patient care is known the world over.

We traveled to Masada, the ancient fortification built by King Herod the Great, we heard the call to prayer in Jerusalem and, finally, at the end of the week, we were told we would have “downtime,” beginning Friday through Shabbat.

As Shabbat was quickly approaching, I made plans to visit my family in Jerusalem. I wanted to bring something special to their Shabbat celebration. So, on leaving the hotel, I walked a few blocks and entered a small grocery store. Most of the people in the store were speaking Hebrew. I kept looking for the perfect “foodie” gift to bring to my family. Finally, I found the cake section. Oh, but there were so many cakes. I chose two. But I really wanted only one. I didn’t know what to do, and the Hebrew writing all over the packaging didn’t help me decide. The pictures looked good on both cake boxes. How could you go wrong with a chocolate cake or a vanilla cake with chocolate chips? Oh, the decision!

Finally, I got in line knowing I’d have to make my decision soon. I saw a man behind me looking at the cakes in my hands. Then I had an idea: I will ask him which cake he would choose. My level of spoken Hebrew was that of a 5-year-old, so I explained my dilemma in simple words. He looked at the two cakes and, pointing to one, he said in Hebrew, “This one.” It was the chocolate cake.

I thanked him, but then upon reaching the register, I still felt undecided. I caught the man’s eye and said, loud and clear, “Aval…” (“But…”) and proceeded to buy both cakes. The man laughed, and I laughed, too, knowing I had joked around in Hebrew for the first time. I was very proud of this simple experience, which displayed my sense of humor in my ever-developing grasp of the Hebrew language.

My family loved the chocolate cake. I shared the vanilla cake with my friends on the mission and they loved it too.  I’m so glad I made such a wise decision.

The mission ended after 10 days with a delicious dinner, speeches and Israeli dancing. Just a perfect evening to remember those I had met and shared this wonderful experience with. There is no “aval” about it — the Hadassah/Jewish National Fund Israeli Family Mission has forever been implanted in my heart.

Click here for more information on Hadassah’s Israel Travel offerings.

About the Author
Paula Mann, a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle, currently serves on the Steering Committee of Hadassah’s Educators Council. She has been active in Hadassah for many years, first as Membership Chair then President of the Newtown, PA Chapter where she also ran the program “Women Daring to Make a Difference.” Paula is also active on the regional level of Hadassah Greater Philadelphia where she co-chaired Membership and the Hadassah Initiative Leadership Training program and co-chaired an Advanced Leadership Training program. Previously, she was co-chair of Hadassah Greater Philadelphia’s Domestic Advocacy initiative. She recently planned "A Date with the State" where sixty Hadassah members traveled to Harrisburg, PA to advocate for legislation in line with Hadassah's priorities combatting antisemitism and all hate crimes, as well as advocating on behalf of women’s health. Paula is the recipient of the Hannah L. Goldberg Award on behalf of Hadassah Greater Philadelphia for the region's "Anti-Semitism in Your Backyard" joint event with Gratz College. She joined Hadassah in 1988 and was given a Life Membership as a birthday gift from her husband. Paula's children and grandchildren are also Life Members of Hadassah. Professionally, Paula is a retired New Jersey Public School special education teacher and reading specialist, having taught middle school students for thirty years. Today, Paula is a dyslexia therapist, currently tutoring private students. Paula lived in Israel for a year and recently visited Israel on a Hadassah Mission. As an advocate for Holocaust education in New Jersey, one of five states in the United States mandated to teach the Holocaust, Paula was inspired by a visit to Yad V’Shem, Israel’s largest Holocaust Memorial. In Paula’s spare time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, volunteering, playing Mahjong, and traveling. A recent visit to the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Building at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem confirmed Paula’s drive and commitment to Hadassah’s core mission: repairing the world and building a bridge to peace.
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