Sunday, September 28, 2008

Investing in the Current Market

This week at Shul the Rabbi passed on his weekly speaking spot to give a member of Lman Achai and opportunity to speak. They are a local organization that runs 25 different programs to help people out of poverty and prevent people from falling into poverty. One of the programs they offer is a loan gemach. They are looking to have people loan money to the Gemach.

As with Israel bond speaches part of his pitch is to establish the financial benefits from such an invetsment. He promissed that anyone who loans money to the gemach was 100% gaurenteed a 0% return on their investment. This was significantly higher than the return for keeping cash in US dollars over the last year.

It beats having to listen to an Israeli bond speach.

Shanah tova

Wishing everyone a Shanah Tova, a shanah shel bracha, v'parnasah (livelyhood), v'briute (health), v'haztlacha (good luck). A shanah shel brachah, v'shalom u'shalva (peace and tranquility) v'oshir v'ashir (wealth and happiness).

And most of all a year of kibutz galuiot (ingathering of the exiles) so we can see you! You always have a place at our place (even if it might get a little crowded).

We love you and miss you all,

Kol Tuv,
All of us

Yom Tov Plans

So, um, did anyone else not realize that Rosh Hashanah is tomorrow? Ok, I know I have been saying for weeks that I need to get things done by yom tov, but that did not actually mean it was comming soon did it?

Well, tonight I realized that I am out of time.

Ok, so tonight I worked out all our meals and and what not. The only meal we are home alone is Aunty Renee lunch (first day lunch). I am sure I will be slightly melecholy about not being with everyone, but at least for the other 3 meals we are either invited out or having company.

We have settled on a shul for yom tov. Having lived in the neighbourhood for all of three weeks and having been away for one of them, we have not exactly done a lot of shopping around! We settled on this one becuase we know a few other families who are going to be there.

The fact that it is only a staircase away is a nice bonus!

The picture below is taken from our mirpeset. That building is the shul. Just out of the frame on the right is a staircase that goes right down to the shul. It is literally a 30 second walk. THe longest part of the walk is having to go around the construction fence!

This was the "Welcome to the neighbourhood" basket the shul sent us. (I opened the door and the first thing through my head was "Oh, apparently here they give mishloach manot Rosh Hashanah time here"). It is roughly 250nis of snacks and alcohol.

Channah is growing like a weed! You would think in a country with no water kids would grow slower, but NOPE. I noticed on shabbat that NONE of her shabbat clothing is really tzanuah anymore. Tonight she and I ran down to the mercaz to go shopping for some new stuff. Each outfit worked out ot roughly $30 if we were getting it back home.

I figure I will treat you all to some really cute Channah-pics of her in her new yom tov clothes.

I'm confused. It's not sunny.

For the 3rd time in as many ays it is not sunny outside. We have had "early rain" twice. I use the quotation marks as we had maybe 3 drops each time. We have been told that we will know it is the "real" first rain becuase it is so hard and so sudden it sounds like gunfire.


I really need to find our umbrellas.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Our first Shulchan Orech l'shabbat

please pardon the clutter on the cabinet at the side. The shelves we bought to go above there are beign installed on Sunday and that will be clear.

On dust and dusting

Ok, so those who know me know that I am not really much of a duster. In act, I dust the bare minimum and go with "if I can't see it, it is not going to bother me".

Can't do that here.

The country is so dry and dusty that if you leave your windows open (and we generally do, especially now that even if we wanted to use the air conditioner we can't because the compressor needs to be replaced) everything gets covered with this film of very fine dust.

And it builds up FAST.

I have had the piano for almost 2 weeks now. I used it earlier this week. Last night I noticed a heavy layer of dust on the bench that looked like a film of flour over the whole thing.

Major ickyness.

Wow did I get carried away...

It has been a looooong time since I actually made real shabbos meals (6 weeks since we got here, and before that it was a number of weeks that we were not at home doing our "last shabbos visits" in Toronto). I actually sort of missed doing the whole shabbos thing. I love having company and by and large it has always been a regular part of our lives. We love having a full house.

Tonight is the first time we have company coming for shabbat. In total we are 6 adults and 3 children of which Channah is the oldest. We are not home or lunch tomorrow as we are going to new friends in the area.

I think I missed it more than I realized. I went a little overboard.

Seriously, for shabbat we have

Challah, grape juice and wine

Gefilte fish (brought by one of our guests)
Salad (brought by one of our guests)
Chumous, matbucha and purple cabbage (all store bought)

Carrot squash zuccinni soup

Onion chicken
schnitzle (I did not know for sure if we were out for lunch tomorrow or not so I made it just in case)
broccolli kugel
carrot kugel
bubbie rice (made with Israeli cous cous)
deli roll (see logic behind the schnitzle)

Apple crumble

Originally I was going to do roasted potatoes and carrots with the chicken, but seems to me I do not really need it.

Oh well, we are going to have soem great leftovers on Sunday (then I need to cook for yom tov). I can not really just freeze the extra stuff becuase we have a TINY freezer.

Ok, so some more things I need to get used to.
  • Bay leaves do not seem to exist here
  • ALL flour must be sifted before it can be used. Bugs are not just a random kashrut agency consiracy here. They really are hiding is loads of different things. It is seriously gross. Flour is sifted and kept in ziplock bags in the freezer.
  • you keep lods more things in the freezer than in North America. Flour, Bread (it just goes bad way to quickly otherwise). Lots of ice cubes...

A more structured day

Now that our lives are beginning to settle down a little and we have some more time on our hands (easy to say when you are both unemployed and only in school a half day) it is time to start getting things mroe formalized around here.

To that end, it was time to set Channah up with some things that are here responsibility to take care of. We made up two charts (one for her regularly nightly things and one for thigns I need her to do erev shabbat.

Each chart has columns with pictures at the top and place for checkmarks as they get done. They are written in Hebrew.

Basically, we are jsut hoping that if she knows what is expected of her, and has a way to help visualize it, we can avoid some of the temper tantrums that come from everything being new.

It looks like a long list, but in truth most of them are no brainers that she does most of the time anyway.

Weekdays she has to
  • put her schoolbag away by the front door
  • feed the fish
  • help when we ask herwe ask her two from the general apartment (ie, help with the duspan, dry the plastic dishes, etc)
  • taking her vitamin in the morning
  • putting all her laundry in the basket
  • put all her toys away
  • brush her teeth
  • help set the table
Erev Shabbat, in addition to all that, she has to
  • make sure her nightlight is on
  • make sure her bathroom (which is the main one) is ready for shabbat (light on, torn toilet paper, soap filled, clean towel, reading material)
  • have a bath
  • put all the shoes around the apartment away properly on the shoe rack or in the aron
  • get dressed for shabbos and have her hair brushed and put up

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get Ready

One thing that is really neat is that everyone is getting ready for Rosh Hashana. Coke bottles that say Chag Sameach are 1/4 litre larger than normal. Clerks in stores have well wishes for the New Year. The stores are well stocked with the simanim for Rosh Hashanah. Today I even saw prepackaged fish heads.

Ulpan is no exception. We have been learning the hebrew words for various customs and songs associated with Rosh Hashanah. Today was our last day before break. Next week we only have Ulpan on Thursday. We had an Ulpan party. Some Rabbi gave a dvar Torah before blow shofar. Geveret (my teacher) intervened and made him speak in English when she noticed that he was using lots of words we had not learned yet. Each class prepared something. There was singing, greetings and welll wishes for the new year, explanati0n of customs and a game of 20 questions. They had a keyboard player for entertainment. He started with the traditional Jewish songs which made the teachers and retirees happy. He then moved into some more modern Jewish music. There was food and drinks as well. It was kind of like something I would expect in grade school. It was still a nice idea to try to do something meaningful together.

We found out this morning that the principle wants to meet with our Ulpan class. This could be interesting as she only talks to us in Hebrew. Our class can be best described as a train. Students get on and off as they please, especially after the morning break and at noon. While there are always cases for people leaving (such as the girl who needs to leave 45 minutes early or she will not get home until after 6:00), we have a particularly high concentration in our class. It makes it hard for the class to move forward, especially when the travellers don't do their homework. I suspect part of the problem is there is no Aleph (beginner) class in Jerusalem or Bet Shemesh proper. This week class was moved from 5 days a week to 4 days so people had oppurunities to take care of errands. It has not helpped the attendance in our class. There is a rumour that there will be an even more beginner class after the Chagim. I am up for the challenge of a more advance class. I just hope I can keep my teacher.

6 week check in - Things I have learned thus far

  1. No matter what they tell you, your kid will not start speaking Hebrew instantaniously.
  2. Your start up costs in Israel will be at least twice what you budget. Maybe more.
  3. There is nothing in the world quite like an Israeli sunrise (although it can be annoying when you are awake to see them day after day after day!)
  4. Even if it looks like everything is on target for your stuff to arrive on time, it won't.
  5. Even if your apartment comes with random cool things like air conditioning and a convection oven, that does not mean they are going to work.
  6. Nothing says "home" like getting your stuff up on your walls.
  7. Skype and voip lines can not replace face to face conversations.
  8. Even if your family made you nuts when they lived within walking distance, you are going to miss them like crazy.
  9. You will have a new definition of what constitutes clean clothes. Crunchy is okay, so long as it is fresh from the line crunch.
  10. Soap and shampoo do not lather. Ever.
  11. Ants are just squishy carpeting.
  12. The fact flies can not hurt you does not make them any less annoying.
  13. Closets are overrated.
  14. When a service man says he will come in the afternoon, that does not necessarily mean this week. Or next. Or the one after that.
  15. Not everyone likes olim as much as aliya adds say they do.
  16. Bus stops are really just bus slows, and you never really know for what busses.
  17. Not having a car is a mixed blessing. There is something to be said for walking the neighbourhood and meeting the people in the community.
  18. Buying fruits and vegies fresh on a regular basis based on what is on sale makes your menu way more entertaining.
  19. Kids are kids are kids.
  20. Not packing any hangers is a really dumb idea. Those things are expensive here! Even what I thought of as the garbage wire ones are hard to find!
  21. Being able to grab lunch at the mall is as cool as it always looked when everyone else could do it.
  22. Trains can be a great place to make friends (and catch a minyan).
  23. Why spend money on roller coasters when busses are so much cheaper?
  24. Two strangers (neither of whom was me!) arguing in a supermarket can end a fight with sincere wishes for a new year.
  25. The harware store will carry kitchen supplies, the grocery store will carry furniture, the linen place will have toothbrushes and the clothing store will have appliances. All of them will have toys. And this is normal.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Seizing the moment

I woke up this morning to the news of last nights terror attack in Jerusalem. A group of soldiers were walking to the Kotel to say Selichos. A 19 year old Palestinian upset about being rejected from marrying his cousin decided it was a good idea to drive through the soldiers taking civilians down along the way. The commanding officer of the group, a 24 year old father of 2 assessed that this was a terrorist attack and shot the driver. The area was then cleared out of fear there was also a bomb in the car.

The Canadian news websites had not reported the attack. We decided since our parents knew we were not going to be in Jerusalem yesterday we decided not to wake them up in the middle of the night. In the last few weeks I have become really disgusted with CBC comment section on their website. Everytime they post any article having anythig to do with Israel, it is used as an excuse to debate the Palestinin situation and Israel's right to exist. Every Canadian news story doesn't have some commentary about the hundreds of unresolved land claims by the Aboriginals. I have also never seen a Canadian soldier's death in Afghanistan being identified as a legitimate target for the resistance because Canada is an occupying power.

Channah gets off of school at 1:00 on Tuesdays. So we decided to take one of our last oppurtunities to hit the beach. We took the train to Tel Aviv accompanied with Lorien, Chana 'Bet', and Seffi. The beach was a short bus ride from the train station.

The beach was amazing. The sand was soft. The weather was warm but not scorching hot. The beach was not overcrowded and the water was warm. At first we all went in to enjoy the water. The waves were really strong so I kept a close watch on the girls. Eventually everyone went back to our spot to stop for lunch. I took this as an oppurtunity to go out deeper and enjoy the water and the waves. I must have been out there by myself for at least 45 minutes. I eventually came in for some food and the kids played in the sand. I have always loved the water and I had a really great time. The only thing that could have made the afternoon better was access to a sailboat. I must say the kyte boarding did look like a lot of fun.

Eventually the sun was starting to go down and the kids needed to get to bed. There was a Maariv minyan on the train. When we got home Channah had a quick dinner, bath and then her normal bedtime routine. This really was the only chance to go before the weather starts to cool off. I am looking forward to going back next year.

The Beach

We had an awesome time. The water was amazing. The sand was sandy. Now so is my floor.

Monday, September 22, 2008


This afternoon we were at the 'Big' shopping plaza in Bet Shemesh. I didn't give a second thought to the armoured personal vehicle driving through the parking lot. Then I noticed the *learner's permit on the vehicle. I guess they were training a future Egged driver. I wonder if they have to practise parallel parking in one of those things.

*During driving lessons there is a small sign on the top of the vehicle with a 'lamed' on it. As driving schools do not advertise on their cars it is a good way to identify new drivers on the road.

The Salon

This is the normal set up of our living room dining room. The Main entrance to the apartment is in the bottom left. Top left leads to the rest of the apartment. Window is behind the couch. Opening on the bottom leads to the kitchen.

This is what it will look like when we have it set up to accommodate as many people as possible if need be. The green thing is the online representation of a folding table.

View of piano with associated artwork. Those boxes will get put away once we have all of the rest of them collapsed and ready to go at once.

View of dining area with associated artwork. That cabinet on the left holds all our shabbat china and crystal and stuff. There will be a shelpf on top of it to hold the trivets and benchers and stuff currently sitting on the top.

Living area minus the chair I was sitting in when I took this picture.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

weekend warriors

We went into Tel Aviv right after Channah got out of school. We were spending Shabbat at Meir and Ahuva's place in Ramat Gan and wanted to get in early enough to spend some time at the shuk haCarmelim and nachlat Binyamin in the afternoon. We actually had such a nice time we are planning to go back into Tel Aviv on Tuesday (Channah gets out early on Tuesdays) to run some errands I need to do as well as spend the later part of the afternoon at the beach.

We got off the bus at the Coca Cola factory stop as that is the one closest to where we were going for Shabbat. Wow was there are alot of warm coke sitting there. Seriously, there were pallettes stacked at least 50 cans wide at the base and about 10 feet high sitting in the sun. The plays offers tours that are supposedly really kitchy and fun (including such things as a ride in a bumpe up and down pod-elevator tihng with 3d glasses so you can "be a bubble" in a can of coke.) Sounds like something fun to do, but I think we will wait for someone touristy who we can drag along.

The shul and nachlat binyamin were fun. We got a bunch of Channah's favourite movies... In Hebrew. If she likes these and picks up words from them we will get more. We got Cinderella, Pocohantus, Dora and Lion King. We did not get anything else (other than drinks) but we did spend about 2 hours just wandering. Nachalat Binyamin is an artisan market that is there twice a week and some of the stuff was really stunning. Ok, some of it was the same old crap you see everywhere, but some was truly spectacular!

Shabbat was wonderful. It was like, well, like being with Meir and Ahuva again! Channah had a great time playing with Shoshanah (4 months younger and 4 inches taller!). It is really something to watch how Channah gets on so well with our friend's kids. There is something fun about knowing they are friends also.

We took the bus home this evening from Tel Aviv. Boy was that an adventure. First of all, the bus that was supposed to come at 8:30 did not show up until 9:55 and thus obviously it was PACKED. We got on at the last stop in Tel Aviv, so we do not know how it took so long, but we did learn very quickly that this was not a "normal" driver for that route, so he kept needing directions from people on the bus and got lost. Aside from that he was doing at least 60km/h over the limit (he took speed bumped at 85!). you need to understand that Bet shemesh has not traffic light and the whole traffic situations throughout the city are controlled by traffic circles. When you take them really fast, the whole city becomes a giant horror go cart track that you are stuck on for at least 40 minutes!

Oh, just for interest sake I should probably mention that as it is technically a B'nei Brak bus, it is one of the "mehadrin" busses where men sit in the front and women get Rosa Park-ed to the back of the bus. Yes Channah and I even used the back entrance.

I honestly thought I was going to be sick. Needless to say we were all quite thankful to finally get off the bus.

Jason just got home from selichot and as soon as I finish making channah's lunch for tomorrow (pasta with ketchup- EW) we are going to go to bed. It is almost 2am here and last night we were up with Meir and Ahuva until after 3!

The things you read

If you came to shul to talk, where to do you go to prey?

Sign at the shul in Remat Efal

Where can you drink it? In your home or on a picnic. At breakfast or dinner. With food or by itself.

On the label of a wine bottle.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

You're Moving Where?

When we first starting telling people of our Aliyah plans there were some objectors to our decision. The most common objection was that it was so dangerous to live in Israel.

For someone who only casually follows Israeli news I can see why they would form such an inaccurate impression. Iran has been calling for the destruction of Israel and there is always the possibility of terrorist attacks. The secuirty fence has gone a long way to preventing such attacks.

Israel is much more security conscious than North American security pretends to be. Metal detectors and bag inspections are a routine part of life when entering the airport, the Kotel, major transportation hubs and major shopping malls. Cars entering the parking lots of the airport and major shopping malls have to open their trunks for a security inspection. The kotel and large bags at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem are subject to being x-rayed. Police randomly pull over cars to make sure their documentation is in order. Schools have tall fences and a security gaurd. Channah's school doesn't qualify for a security gaurd due to a technicallity. They do have a giant padlock and the class room door is also kept locked when it is closed.

Following the Canadian news over the last month as casually as those objectors would leave anyone with the same impression that Canada is a dangerous place to live. This week there were 3 shootings on a single weekday. The victim of the "school shooting" has already been charged with armed robbery. Lockdown drills are standard parts of school curriculim. People are being murdered on the 401 tying up traffic for hours. There has been a massive food epidemic leaving at least 17 people dead. Uniformed police officers now have permanent offices in Toronto schools.
Then there was the beheading on a Greyhound bus and a propane factory blowing up in the middle of a residential area shortly before we left.

Every morning I wake up to the most beautiful mountain view. I continue to enjoy the view through out the day weather it is walking to Ulpan or the supermarket or just looking out our windows. The worst crime we have been exposed to is the occasional road closing because someone forgot their bag forcing the bomb squad to dispose of it. I also had a sub teacher who had her car stolen. The air is clean and the streets are safe. Anyone who claims that Israel is too dangerous should be afraid to walk the streets of any major city in North America.

Just an Ordinary Day

After Ulpan today I went to the Mercaz. I got to the bank just before they closed to pick up our checkbook. I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some items that could not be purchased at our regular supermarket.

I then went for a haircut. It was cheaper than Toronto and they did a pretty good job. It is a little short on the sides, which I think makes me look more Israeli. The most unusual part was that they washed my hair after the haircut. I guess it makes sense but I have never seen or heard of such a thing before. I then walked home before picking up Channah from school.

Rachel found really fresh bread, so we had sloppy joe's for dinner. It was really good. The landlord came over to fix or arrange to fix a number of minor problems.. It was then a quiet evening as we are both exhausted from unpacking. Beginning next week Ulpan switches to 4 days a week.

Random pictures from our going away party

that we have put on the digital frame. We miss everyone and love hearing from you.

Works in Progress

Ok, I am posting a few pictures to tide people over until we post the video walkthrough once a) other people's boxes are gone and b) the artwork is up. We are about 75% unpacked now and the rest is going to take a bit longer. Basically, I took this week off ulpan to make our apartment "livable" but I need to go back next week as I am worried about falling behind.

Here you have Channah's room. Lots of pink. Lots of princesses. What more could a 4 year old girl ask for?

This is the reverse. Pardon the mess in the corner. The landlord was just here and we needed to pull the dresser out to get to a non-working plug behind it.

Book cases in the living room. They look a whole lot better than they ever did back home. The books are in no semblence of order, the idea was just to get them out of boxes and on to shelves. Organization will come later. There is one more bookshelf on th opposite side of the room and we still need ot get one more.

And now, my home within my home, my studio. Yes this room still has a lot of boxes in it, but that is becuase it is where we are storing the not yet unpacked boxes right now.

Check out my funky new workbench!

One fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue fish

We told Channah that if she settled in to school nicely we would go out and get her a fish just like she had at home. So she did.

who says kids can't be bri- er, I mean persuaded to see reason.

In any case, here are the two newest additions to the swirsky Homestead.

In red we have the lovely Miss Arielle Mermaid Fish Swirsky and in Blue is the dashing Flouder Fish Fish Swirsky.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Today was a short school day. I only had one lunch!"

Channah commenting on the school day ending at 1:00 instead of 3:40.

Did you know Bet Shemesh has four lost children Gemachs?

We also have Gemachs for Chickpeas (1), Bris Millah Pillow (11), Vacuum Cleaner (3), Wigs (2), Fax (18), Lost Objects (2), Roof Rack (2), Eliyahu Chair (2), Stamps and Envelopes (5), Refridgerators (4).

Now you know!

Monday, September 15, 2008


Israel is pretty big on the environment. People are good at not wasting water or gas (as they are both really freakin' expensive!). Many people do not have cars and scooters and bicycles are a normal site (except in the roller coaster I now call home where superman would not have leg muscles good enough for bike riding). Although there is no pickup for paper recycling there are drop boxes every few blocks. Glass bottles can be returned to stores for a refund.

But plastic bottles? Now there is a horse of a different colour!

So, the story goes that once upon a time bet shemesh did have plastic bottle recycling. They had these huge containers that were stuck to the ground and you tossed the 1.5L plastic bottles into them, and then every so often someone would come and pick the stuff up and take it to where old bottles go to die.

Then one day a kid tried climbing the tower and brought it over on himself. No one was hurt and eventually the city put the tower back up.

A little while later another kid brought the tower over on himself and was hurt.

Now, rather than thinking to themselves "Hmmmm, how can we make these towers safe by, say, bolting them securely to the ground", instead the iriya of Bet shemesh decided that public safety should prevail and as such there would be no more plastic bottle recycling in Bet Shemesh.

So there are two options. One is to just throw your bottles into the garbage (which as a former Toronto resident just kills me). The other is to stack them up in a pile that takes on a life of its own somewhere in the apartment (which, as a relative of Bubbie's just kills me) and periodically when the pile is threatening to envelope your children drive it out (or if you do not have a car than ask someone else who is taking out their pile to drive it out for you) to a neighbouring moshav or kibutz that might have plastic bottle recycling.

Toronto-self be damned, we have taken to just throwing them out.


Lorien came over and we spent pretty much all morning unpacking. The vast majority of the kitchen stuff is away. The vast majority of the rest of stuff is not. The boxes were stacked so high and are so heavy we could not get them down. I am going to have ot get Jason to help me when he gets home.

Now that we have our couch and chair and book cases and everything else, it is finally starting to really feel more like "home". We were worried that the apartment would feel really cramped once we got all our stuff into it, but even with all the boxes it is still really light and airy. The "salon" has more than enough room for all our stuff, plus room to extend the table fully, and an open space for Channah to dance around.

Currently the mirpeset is a little cramped with other people's stuff, but once that is gone (later on this week and early next) there is a tonne of room out there. We plan to store our pessach stuff out there (we brought click tight rubbermaid containers with us and I have already repacked all the pessach stuff into them). We are hoping to buy a small shed for Jason's sports stuff. Even with that storage out there, and the required Israeli dying rack (we do not have a dryer) there is still loads of room for Channah's picnic table and tricycle. Those will need to move to one side for succot, but even then there should be more than enough space for our needs.

We have our guest room mostly set up. It is still full of all the packed boxes, but there is room in there to get to the bed (although we can not pull out the 2nd one as of yet) and to put things into the closet and drawers.

No progress has been made in the studio since last week. I juts keep piling in studio stuff, but none of it has been unpacked.

Other than the addition of a dresser, our room still looks pretty much the same. We were too tired last night to put all the clothing in piles in suitcases away so it is all still there. That is on this afternoon's "to do list".

The room that has changed most dramatically (other than the salon) is Channah's room. All her furniture is in there now (Except for her winnie the pooh toy baskets as we have not found them yet) and it looks like a real little princess room. We found her princess rocking chair, and put up the princess wall stickers we bought. Add the princess linens and the pink nightlight and you have a 4 year old's dream room!

Now we just need to unpack the toys and books and put them all where they go!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Shabbos #4 The Aliyah, Aliyah.

In context of the fanfare filled send off and the experiences our friends have had our Aliyah experience has been fairly anti-climatic. People make great efforts to attend the NBN landing ceremonies. As we didn't have a ceremony there was no one to greet anyone from our flight at the airport. The shul I have called home for the last 7 years was selected because of two particular interactions with the Rabbi. The first was my first time the there he came over to me to welcome me and learn my name. The clincher was when he came over to help paskun an issue with our Sukkah on Yom Tov morning. Here I am just another face in shul that goes unnoticed. This Shabbos was different. On an individual we have met people that were very excited and welcoming of us. We have also met some people who think Anglos are ruining the country.

We get a lot of people knocking on our door Thursday asking for food or money. We never had this experience in Toronto because the wealthier homes were only a few blocks away. On Friday afternoon we were still getting knocks on our door. Various neighbours had brought over food and games for Shabbos. It was a really nice welcome to the neighbourhood.

This Shabbos we wanted to stay in the neighbourhood. Friday night we ate at friends of friends. We got a long great and had a really nice meal. Shabbos lunch we at friends fo the friends of friends. They were really sweet people. They had the attitude of caring for others and not having blinders on that there is only one correct way for Avodah Hashem.

Shabbos morning I went to Ohr Shalom. The gabbi has promissed a special aliyah. He would be able to fit me in because they had a Levi Bar Mitzvah. As I was walking to shul there were no people to be seen anywhere. It turns out I had my times mixed up and I was 15 minutes late. As I walked in the Shul was packed. The gabbi had not mentioned the Bar Mitzvah was for the Rabbi's son. As I went looking for a Chumash the gabbi put his arm around me and told me to get my things and he would find me a seat up front. As there were about 3 open seats in the entire shul it was very much appreciated. I was called up for Revii. There was a short mishaberach for Olim. Then the entire shul started to sing "leshavu banim" (The children have returned). Everyone was shaking my hand and asking me all kinds of questions. It was a really special feeling.

Life always has ups and downs. It feels really special when people believe that the decision to move here was not only to benefit my family but a benefit to the Jewish people. With Rosh Hashanah 2 weeks away it is something to keep in mind.

I have a couch!!!!!!!!!!!

Ladies, and gentlemen, children of all ages, the Family Swirsky proudly presents...


Yes, this morning we got the call that our lift had finally cleared customs (while being hit with a 1300nis fee for the 39nis they assessed us as owing for things taxable on our lift) and as soon as we paid the fees (which would go up by a few hundred nis overnight if we waited, but as we did not have the cash on us and the bank was already closed for the day at 11:30am so we had to pay a 4% penalty for putting it on a credit card).

Oh, did I mentioned that the "inspection" was just someone cutting into random boxes with a knife so things were scratched and torn? Yeah, 600 nis for an "inspection" that ruined a bunch of stuff... plus the daily storage fees for the whole time it was in port...

Anyhow, that is all behind us now, and WE HAVE STUFF!!!

To be clear. I now have way more stuff than I know what to do with. After living with so little for so long, I am not really sure why I need roughly 100 various sized boxes of stuff, but I am sure once I get it all unpacked (and I do plan to do so in way less time than it is taking some other people I know whom shall remain nameless to protect their identities) I will once again understand how I could not live without it all.

I have to say though that it is awesome to be sitting on a couch typing this with my feet up on a footstool looking across the room at my piano, and having a drink out of a real cup! I have already put away most of my shabbos dishes (except the dinner plates and bowls that I have not found yet) and a bunch of my milchiks stuff.

If pessach were to start tomorrow unexpectedly, I would be ready! I have my milk, my meat, my parve- Heck, I even have my seder plate and afikoman cover! I have no idea how the packers decided what was going into each box, but for some reason all my pessach stuff managed to appear from a million different boxes tonight! Seriously, anyone want to come for a seder tomorrow?

I have arranged for a handy man to come in next week to help hang artwork and the medicine cabinet and stuff like that. I am going to ask my landlord if I can have him fix our door handles as most of our doors have some closing issues.

Picutres to follow once we are unpacked and the boxes are out of the way.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tooling Around Tel Aviv

Although I have now been working and building a jewelery business for over 3 years, I have never gone out and bought propper tools. Most of what I had was stuff I could "use to get by"- either it was a cheap version of the tool I needed that was mostly okay for what I needed, or it was 2nd hand , or it was a cobbled together solution that would work "well enough". I never bothered getting good power tools becuase we were aclready talking about aliya and knew that we could not really bring them with us (different current here. Although they would work if used with a converterm they would not maintain a consistant speed.)

So yesterday I took the bus to the train and the train into Tel Aviv. Have I mentioned before that Tel Aviv is grotesquely muggy way more Toronto-like weather-wise (although it is still waaaaay hotter than Toronto ever is!) than Bet Shemesh?

Anyhow, Ahua met me at the train station and together we went ot the store I chose to get my tools and stuff like that. We got there and the guy was wonderful! Not as pushy as the first place I had gone, not as stuffy as the second. Between his English, my Hebrew, and the fact that I had come prepared with pictures and drawings of what I was looking for, we managed to do really well. It was actually great becuase once we worked out what I wanted, he would give me the Hebrew terminology for it and wait so I could write it down next to the picture.

So for the first time ever I got the real deal. This was what we had been waiting for! I got a proper flexshaft rotary tool with minimal vibration. I got a propper jeweler's work bench that sits at the right height. I got real polishing motor (70,000 rpm!!!) and mill. It was so exciting! I may not have any of my hand tools, supplies, or books, but man does my studio look awesome!

Say Cheese (and other random things)

I mean good, tasty, fresh, non-standard-Israeli cheese! I went grocery shopping today and went to a place that actually had a kosher cheese counter... I mean, all kosher... made Sobey's look like a corner store! I got fresh mozerrella, cheddar and a garlic and dill infused mild cheese that smells incredible! The place is all the way on the other side of the world from us, but I can guarentee that I am going to go back!

It was not even all that expensive either. It is roughly what you would pay for fresh sliced cheese in Toronto, but it is really, really good!

I did most of my weekly shopping there. I could not get my fruits and vegies as everything they had was heter mechira, but I did get all my fish, dairy, dry goods and bread for the week. I also splurged on microwave popcorn. Channah has been asking for popcorn so when I saw it I decided to go for it.

I also went to town and bought all the spices I like to have on hand. Ok, not all, but a goor portion. I still need to get basil, oregeno and bay leaves (as we make all our own tomato sauce now as jarred tomato sauce is ridiculously expensive) but for some reason when I saw them today I could not figure out if I needed them or not so I did not bother. Sometimes I wonder if my brain thinks it is on a permenant vacation. Then I forget to keep wondering.

Other than that, this day was really productive. Lor helped me hit up two different harware stores and I picked up a whack of stuff we had needed.

  • 2 foot stools for channah (one for the kitchen, one for her bathroom or bedroom or whever she needs it)
  • 2 washing cups (we now have 1 in the kitchen and one in each bathroom. I should have gotten one more for the other sink in the kitchen, but for now they can share. I only ever really need two in the kitchen if we have a lot of company and we want ot use both sinks for washing at the same time, but as we do not yet have any furniture this is not likely to be a problem in the near future. If by some surprise the salvation army shows up for dinner I can just grab one from our bathroom).
  • 2 scrubby holders (one for each sink
  • 2 hangy bars for kitchen utensils (I love the fact my kitchen walls are tile so stuff like that sticks
  • a carrot peeler and a good knife. Carrots are cheap and plentiful and make a great snack- so logn as you can clean and cut them. I forgot that we had neither of those things when I bought a huge bag of carrots last week. Now we can use the large bag of carrots in our fridge.
  • a kettle (not a shabbos kettle. I am not getting one of those right now as we rarely have hot drinks on shabbat. If/when someone comes to visit who likes hot drinks, I will buy one- but as they start around 250 nis it is not on the short list of things to get.
  • a hot plate for warming food on shabbat.
  • ice cube trays that make ice cubes designed to fit into bottles. I am forever forgetting to fill and stick my water in the freezer the night before, so this way when I forget I can load in as many long thin ice cubes as will fit, add some water, and have mostly ice water for a good portion of the day!
  • a cover for stuff that goes in the microwave ot keep it from splashing
  • some plumbing putty to stop the leak in our shower (took care of that already- Go me!)
  • a key cover so we can tell which key is for the mirpeset amongst the myriad of identical looking keys that were left in our laundry niche
  • a key ring for our "Crap I locked myself out" key
  • Oven mitts and a trivet
See :) Random odds and ends- but all things we needed (ok, except maybe the cool ice cube trays, but those were just neat!)

I can not beleive all the silly little things that you just do not think oif needing until you do not have them. I mean, in many cases there are ways to get around the problems (ie, we did not have oven mitts so we used a dish towel to get things out of the oven), but there are some convieniences that you just do not even think about when you use them. Not having a kettle was a real pain in the tush!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yes, We know Harper called an election

Many people have asked us if we are going to be voting in the upcoming Canadian election. I have covered the topic on voting overseas and voter eligibility in my politics blog. I am following the election as carefully as I can from here and plan to keep the blog up and running. This will be a good litmus test to how the blog should be retooled for an overseas perspective.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Parlez-vous francais?

I have been warned by many people that all the second languages are stored in the same part of the brain. As I learn Hebrew my French will not only reimerge but be better than I ever thought it was. Today in Ulpan I had one of those moments.

We have been practising conjigating a new verb. We were given a handout. It had a list of the verb conjigated. The excerices had sentences in a question and answer format. Based on the question we had to fill in the blank on the answer with the proper pronoun and conjogation.

As I looked at the list my first reaction was why were there 10 pronouns instead of 8. French does not distinguish between masculine and femine for you (tu, vous). I was able to complete the assignment in 2 minutes. Most of the class struggled to identify the correct pronouns, never mind difficulty conjugating. I guess sticking with French through grade 10 had some benefits.

There are 3 Ulpan classes. The other two were dismissed at 11:00 because it was Tuesday. Our class continued on. Around noon someone who leaves early to go to their job came back to class. The doors to the upstairs classrooms had been locked and we couldn't get out. We sent our Shirut Liymi girl to fix the problem. A short time later she came back and the techer started making phone calls. A janitor unlocked the doors and the class carried on. At 12:30 the teacher phone rings. She then decides to dismiss the class 15 minutes early. She has gotten in trouble before for not strictly sticking to the schedule. I wonder if we will dismissed earlier next Tuesday.

A little truth in Advertising

I know there are a few people who read this blog because they are planning their own aliya and are watching closely to see how are progresses. This entry is mostly a note to them about some of the things that are really, really hard.

Well, we are starting to settle into a routine around here. We get up most mornings at 7, get ready for our day and make sure lunches are packed. We drop Channah at gan and walk over to ulpan where we sit bored out of our minds (although learning quite a lot) for the next (roughly) 5 hours.

We do whatever we need to in the afternoon, sometimes errands... sometimes fun stuff... whatever. We try to keep busy. Then comes dinner and maybe a movie on the computer and we are in bed around 10-10:30.

Sounds great no? But here comes the truth in advertising bit.

Not everything has gone as planned. Here we are almosta month after we landed. We are still mostly furniture-less. I am writting this using a crappy plastic chair as a table and sitting on a hard tile floor. Seriously, I tihnk I have grout lines on my tuchus at this point. Days are long and nights are longer.

I love the suburb/small town feeling of where we are, but after living in a city the size of Toronto it is a hard adjustment. Just to go grocery shopping is a 25 minute walk each way (and home is up a really big hill! There is a closer place, but it is more American and thus more expensive). If I forget something we can not just hop in the car and go back. It means time, money and effort. Yes it is good for me, but that does nto make it any easier.

Then there is just the issues pertaining to learning our way around. I need to check and double check bus routes every time I leave the house. I have no idea what goes where or where to catch it. If I manage ot get somewhere, there is no guarentee that there will be a bus to take me home! I never have any idea how much it is going to be and most of the time I end up getting lost even if I think I have memorized my route.

But most of all, I am lonely. I miss my family and I miss my friends. I miss having people I can call just to shmooze for a few minutes if I am bored.

I am living here in Israel, living my dream, and still I am not sure if I have done the right thing. There are so many wonderful things here that I love. I love waking up to a spectacular view. I love hearing Shabbat Shlom on Fridays and Shavua tov on Fridays. I love that Channah is davening as part of a regular, public school curriculum.

But I desperatly miss being able to call my mom to say "Hi, we are coming for shabbos". Here we have no one like that. We have no furniture, nothing with which to cook (and I refuse to buy anything as I know it is a waste of money becuase all my stuff is on the lift) and I do not have anyone I feel I can really call. Unfortunatly we have been without our stuff for so long we have sort of used up our invites.

It seemed we had so many more- well, I guess we did! Everyone here was so wonderful before we got here. Millions of invitations. Loads of people saying "we look forward to seeing you". Then we got here, and for the most part (with some incredible exceptions) we really are all alone. The difference from what I had been used to is astounding. The silence now is deafening.

I know, I know. I should have seen that coming. We need to stand on our own two feet- make new friends and all that. And I know that... just somehow it seemed different. I guess I just hoped that those who were so encouraging about the move- close friends who already made the move from Toronto- I just hoped they would at least pick up the phone (or the keyboard or whatever) periodically to say "ok, now you are here, we can talk more often. How are you doing?" I hoped I was coming to, at least, a small group of people I knew and could count on.

I think the hardest part of this move is losing that support structure.

I have no question in my mind that I love it here and I am glad we are choosing to make it home. I just wish I could have brought my family and friends with me.

Ok, andn ow back to your regularly schedualed happy days in the life of the Swirsky Clan updates.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What did you learn in school today?

,Here is the translation of a story we did in Ulpan today:

Daniel: Yitzchak, Where do you work?
Yitzchak: I don't have a job.
Daniel: Moshe and Yoseph have a job. They also have apartments.
Yitzchak: I don't. What can I do about it?
Daniel: Do you have a car?
Yitzchak: I don't have car.
Daniel: What do you have?
Yitzhak: I have patience, lots of patience. I also have one very good friend and that is you.
Daniel: I have to go. Until next time.
Yitzhak: Good Bye.

The eagle has landed

Our lift is In Israel. It is currently in Chaifa, and will take roughly 2 days to get to Ashdod. from there is can be 3-4 days for customs, then they will think about getting it to us.

Probably another week at least.

On top of that, sitting through 4.5 hours a day of ulpan is killing me. I had trouble making it through a 45 minute Ivrit class in high school, and ulpan is like Ivrit on steroids. With no excuses to get out of doing your homework. I am seriously not sure how long I am going to last. Being put into the highest class is more intense than I can deal with on a 5 days a week basis.

I am having an "I want to go home to Toronto" sort of day :(

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Shabbos -- Home at Last

This was the our Shabbos since moving into our apartment. On Friday night we went to cousins we were close with in Toronto. They made early Shabbos at 5:30. We davened in a basement near our house. We had an amazing time.

On Shabbos morning our cousins suggested davening where our host normally davens. He gave me directions with landmarks and a nearby street name. As I was walking suddenly I could see the building where Ulpan is and I knew that was too far. I had not seen anything that matched the landmarks. I think I may still have need to walk one more block. I found out after that there were 3 different minyanim in a block of Ganim. Even, if I had gone there I might not have ended up in the right place. I decided to turn around and daven at Ohr Shalom, the Shul I went to last time. At least I knew where it was.

I walked in for the middle of kiddusha. Problem was I had no idea if it was Shacharis or Mussaf. As Kiddusha finished the Gabay came over and guided me to a seat. After davening he came over to talk to me. He apologized for not giving me an Aliyah. He had been so busy worrying about the Bris that morning that he forgot to ask what my situation was. The open Aliyah went to "a new regular that had moved into the neighbourhood" I assured him not to worry as it was my friend that helped us find the neighbourhood. I have been promised that I will get a special Aliyah for new Olim next week. It is one of two shuls in contention as the place we want to make our shul. We have not been to the other one.

Lunch was at the home of the people we met our first Shabbos. They are super friendly and have a different sense of what they consider a 'normal' family. We get along really well. After lunch we went home for naps. Then we went to the park as before heading down the stairs to Ohr Shalom for Mincha. We had Shalei Sheudous at home. We are still hitting high of 35 C. We keep our bread in the freezer. After 5 minutes it is edible. Tonight has been a quiet night.

Tomorrow Rabbi Orlofsky is speaking at Ohr Shalom. I am very excited. It is also a much closer walk compared to the last time I saw him at the Forest Hill Jewish Centre.

Thank Uncle Brian!

My uncle pointed out to me that I never posted out "we look like hell but finally landed in Israel and are officially olim" pictures, so here they are. I will post our "leaving from Toronto" and "Good bye party" pictures in the next few days. Sorry about the oversight. Things were a little busy that week.

Dining Room Demo!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Kosher Internet- oxyMORON

So after being promised up and down that if we were on the lowest security level of the kosher internet we would still be able ot get into anything we wanted and that it would just filter out the automatic shmutz that pops up from time to time, we signed on.


I can not watch ANY streaming video. EVER.
I can only get into lj some of the time. And if I can get in chances are Jay can't and vice versa.
I can't get into my shop.
I can *generally* get in to my other blog, but not always.
We can get emails from facebook, so long as they do not contain any links. Not that it tells us they are not getting through, we just do not get them. Someone sent Jay a link to local davening times for shabbat and it was filtered out.

Sure the speed is good. That is like saying you have great picture quality on HDTV while not having cable. Who the hell cares??????

We are switching to bezeq as soon as we can, however as no one in this country works on Fridays (and only half of them work on Sundays) and everyone seems to close early on Tuesdays, this might take a while.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

More Paper Work

This morning was the second full day of Ulpan. I cannot believe how much information there is to pack into 4.5 hours. After Ulpan I came home and quick lunch. I then took the bus into Jerusalem. Applying my learning from the morning I was able to ask in Hebrew if the bus was going to where I needed to go. I was able to understand his answer, that he went near where I wanted to go, which was good enough for me. I also was able to go into a store ask for a digital photo frame (frame digitali), ask for the price and understand the answer all completely in Hebrew.

I went to Jerusalem to deal with the customs paperwork for our lift. Normally, I would have had to travel to Ashdod. They have a sales person in Jerusalem that is able to handle the paperwork. This was the only time that it is beneficial to fill out government paperwork in English. The authorities get suspicious if the Hebrew is too good, plus it allows for 'mistakes' when translating information into the government computer. We are hoping I don't have to pay duties on my hockey equipment.

We met in the coffee shop next to Mahane Yehudah. Apparently it is one of the few places that has fresh coffee beans not destined for Turkish coffee. Speaking of Turkish coffee. During the meeting I found out that due to the port strike our the boat with our lift had been diverted to Turkey. Fortunatly, the port in Turkey refused to unload the shipment. It was not clear if it was becuase Turkey didn't want another countries shipment or the strike ended just in time. Either way we don't have to pay the port and storage fees in Turkey.

Afterwards, I walked down to the Kotel for mincha. There was a bride and groom having their pictures done, which was kind of neat. I took the bus back to the bus station. I bought a digital picture frame and headed home. I got on the 420 bus. I had noted earlier that there it was one of the buses that stops near our apartment. The bus was getting emptier and emptier and the bus approached the road to the Rama and turned back to the city centre. The bus driver finally asked me where I was going. He immediately threw me off the bus. I have no idea how the bus route is supposed to work.

Fortunately the taxi service is great. I was able to hail a cab after 3 minutes. It was the friendly cab driver ever. He gave me an opportunity to try to make conversation in Hebrew. There was a lot of welcomes and best of luck. He told me that he had been to Toronto once for two days. He had gone to Niagara Falls & Mi nature Village. He also told me how great the beer was. There was some brand with a Captain or General on the packaging.

Tomorrow will be a low key day getting ready for Shabbos.

Photo Nogo

We finally bought a digital photo frame, and would you believe it? The darn thing is awful. We are going to take it back next week (bought it in J-lem so we are not going to be able to return it before Shabbat). The backlight on it is waaaay too strong giving all our pictures that "gee, I have a sunburn look". Nto to mention that it is soooo bright it hurts your eyes to look at.

Ah well, back to the drawing board. I will look when I am in Tel Aviv next week.

Please can I have my couch????

Meez 3D avatar avatars games

Currently not in the mood to Hodu* L'ashem

My lift is in Turkey!

Due to a work to rule in the Ashdod port (where our stuff was supposed to land, and that, coincidentally ended within HOURS of them detouring our stuff) nearly everything that we own is currently in a giant metal box in Turkey. I am not amused.

I do not generally consider myself to be particularly materialistic, but we have hit the point where I am pretty much willing to trade my kingdom (such as it is) for a couch (obviously a trade like that would leave me with a pretty !@#$%^ couch, but it would still be a place to flop at the end of the night.

* The Hebrew word for Turkey, animal, meat or country is Hodu, from the same root as "Thanksgiving".

Coming from ulpan

I figured I would give everyone a little bit of a look at our new surroundings, buy taking you on the walk home from ulpan with me. It is a 10-15 minute walk from our apartment to ulpan, but that does not include the 5-8 minutes to drop of Channah at school. She is sort of on the way, but if we did not have to take her we could go a slightly shorter route. There are actually two routes to take from the top of our street once we get there. One is shorter and hillier, the other slightly longer but flatter. We tend to take the short and hilly route.

Ok, so this what you see in front of you once you come out of the matnas and turn to go down the hill. I did not take a picture of the first part of the walk becuase I only decided to do this once I had gotten a few minutes into the walk and did not really feel like going back up the hill.

Next we have the view from the top of the pedestrian street that meets up with our street 2 block down. That blue thing on the right is a makolet (grocery store) called "Deal V'Zol" (Deal and cheap). It's not. It is actually a little more expensive than the stuff at the mercaz (central shopping district) but convienient. At the far left are benches so you can wiat for a bus or watch your kids play (or both). THere are loads of these little parks around. They are all sort of 1970's remnants and made of metal so you burn your butt if you try to use most of them.

There is a nice plastic park down the street from us, and another about half way between us and ulpan.

Ok, this is about the half way point of the midrachov. Pretty no?

Ok, we are now two blocks into the 5 block midrachov, but this is where we are turning off. That is my building just acroass the street on the left. Our living room is the very bottom left window. If you zoon in you can see have a nice sized ISraeli glad flutter in the non-breeze. Our mirpeset is on the other side of the building over the parking lot and with a fastastic view of the mountains.

We are now in our chatzer (courtyard. A couple of benches but that is about it. Nothing special.
This is the entrance from the chatzer to the actual building. If you go all the way through (to where you can see sunlight) that is the parking lot. We are actually a duplex building, so there are entrances on both the left and right sides (to get to us go left).

The door. In case anyone cares our mailbox is the top left.

The entrance way to our building. Behind the wall with the picture on it is the elevator, and the white door opposite that is the stairs (and bike storage for all the kids in the building). It is actually one of the nicest entrance ways we have seen so far.

Our elevator. It holds roughly 4 people at one time. It is clean and runs smoothly and is a shabbos elevator as well.

Home at last! This is a lovely picture of my front door as taken from the open elevator. Please come in, enjoy yourself. It is nice and cool...

Oh wait. That part of the tour will have to wait until we get some furniture.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Clearing up the murky waters of Kashrut

I spoke to my Rosh Yeshiva this evening. He helped clarify the confusion of the complications with Kashrut here. He made to sure to point out he is mekel. It should also be noted that he was poskening for our own set of circumstances. Others should ask their own shiloh.

Oven - He does not know why people are claiming the size of the oven should make a difference for kashering. He suggested kashering the oven (maximum heat 1 hour) to Parve. We could then keep it parve by covering everything we cook. Since we already have a large toaster oven, I think we will leave it fleish. We will kasher it if we are serving a large milchiks meal.

Shmita - We can rely on nochri or ozer beis din. According to minhag Yerushalyim nochri has no keduasha. Heter Machira is problematic. We should not worry since Shmita for vegetables is almost over.

Kashrut - In Toronto we had friends that we trust their Kashrut 100%. When they came to Israel they adopted Rabbanut for milchig and Mehadrin for fleishig. With the exception of shmita issues this would be perfectly acceptable for us to follow.

Learning Hebrew and Customer Service

The last two days have been a little bit of a rough ride. I have found myself in a number of stores trying to get by on my inadequate Hebrew. I found myself in a hardware store trying to return one item, keeping the stuff I thought I was going to return and paying for my new purchases. My guide had left me alone for a few moments. I had three employees speaking to me in Hebrew and it was clear that they had a slightly different understanding of the situation. I wasn't sure if we were in agreement of what was to happen, or if I had agreed not to return the broken item. My guide returned and we eventually left sorted everything else.

Today was the final move of our stuff from our host's home. I was taking a taxi back with all of our stuff to our apartment. The driver complained from the time he arrived that there was too much stuff. I wasn't sure how full I could stock the trunk, so I tossed the rest on the back seat. Instead of helping me, he complained to the hostess about the amount of stuff. As we left he called his dispatcher to complain about the stuff and comfirm a price. Normally the standard rate would be 19 NIS. The dispatcher would set a price then he would complain about the amount of stuff or the distance. Eventually she said the price should be 24NIS. "Ze Lo Daber Evrit" (He doesn't speak English), "28 NIS". He then called another dispatcher with the same complaint (without mentioning the language barrirer). They agreed to set the price at 30 NIS. I agreed before he hassled me some more and raised the price again. Charging a premium to Anglos is illeagal. Our hostess called the company to complaing and got the second dispatcher. He said the conversation about the language surcharge never happened. However, due to the number of bags they could have started at 50 - 60 NIS.

Ulpan started today. Apparently 5 hours/day 5 days/ week actually means 8:30 - 1:00 4 days a week. Who knew? I stopped taking French class after grade 10 because I could do what was required of me, but I couldn't understand the questions on the test or the instructions from the teachers. In Ulpan, they only speak Hebrew (although I believe they know English as well). I took the first placement. I had to write about my first day in Israel. It was tough considering my limited vocabulary. I managed to squeeze out over 1/4 of a page. The teacher looked at what I wrote and suggested taking the second test. I understood some of what was going on but I could not connect the reading with the questions to be able to provide answer. I find out tommorrow that I have been placed in the bottom class.

The day finished on an up note. Someone came highly recommended to take of setting up our phone line/VOIP/DSL. He wasn't making himself available to answer questions. I left a harsh message that I was upset with him for not letting me know what was going on. Today he called that he was upset and wanting to call off the deal. I manage to talk him down. Instead of having to go to Jerusalem, he would be over to our place in 45 minutes with a modem. He set everything up and we are very happy. We are on kosher internet (becuase it was cheaper) getting 54.0 Mbps with excellent signal strenght. It was a rough ride but I am happy with the end results.


For someone who plays with a blowtorch regularly, you would be amazed at how terrified I was to use a gas stove! Seriously, I managed to never use the one in my mom's house (since she moved... before that she always had electric).

Well, over here gas is the norm. It was trial by fire so to speak! Tonight I made dinner on on our gas stove. It was nothing fancy. Pasta with home made tomato sauce (jarred tomato sauce is insanely expensive here so you buy tomato paste and make it in to your own sauce). Two pots, two burners.

I also made hard boilled eggs for egg salad and for, well, hard boiled eggs.

On the other hand, Channah saw the fire and FREAKED! She screamed that the stove was on fire and we should put it out. Once we figured out what she meant we were amused (and explained it to her).

Now I just need to get rid of all the garbage from assembling everything today so I can do the dishes!

Happy Birthday Abba!


Once in every seven years there is a whole new set of laws that come into effect all over Israel. These laws affect every single fruit and vegetable grown in Eretz Yisrael, and is commonly reffered to as "shmitta" (although here you also here it reffered to as "kedushat shevii".

The laws all start from a biblical commandment that one year out of seven farmers should allow their fields to go fallow, and all of the fruits and vegetables that are produced are considered holy. This rule is, in effect, still in force today all over the state of Israel. This means that throughout the country, there is a special consideration given to how fruits and vegetables are planted, prepared, brought to consumers, used and then disposed of.

Shmitta applies to things grown in the seventh year both if they were picked durring the year or not. Therefore, fruit which grows durring the 7th year but may not be picked or used until the 8th year (think grapes for grape juice) is considered "holy" until midway through the 8th year (and sometimes longer).

There are a number of ways of getting access to fruits and vegetables durring this time. It can either be grown in hothouses where it is not directly connected to the ground (thus not technically on Israeli soil- talk about a loop hole!). It can be grown by non-Jews. It can come from countries outside of Israel. It can come from fields worked by jews but "sold" (on paper only) to a non Jew (like we do for chametz at Pessach time).

It can also come from farmers who obey the laws of shmitta and harvest only in permitted ways. when this is the case the fruit is "holy" and must only be used in "normal" ways (so, say, banana soup would be a no-no). It also can not be disposed of until it is revolting. Seriously, you have to let it compost in a bag on your counter for a couple of days until it is gross enough to throw away.

Oh, and like every other part of Jewish life, various people hold various oppinions. I am so not even going to try to get into who knows what. Jason and I are still not quite sure what we hold.

The upshot of all this is that fruits and veges are confusing ot the point of traumatic and incredibly expensive.

Oh snap!

Channah on her first day of school.

The view from our mirpeset

Our Fridge

Monday, September 1, 2008

And more updates on today

Took back the desk and the night tables. They helped us figure out why it was not working. upgraded the desk to a more expensive one (although one we liked less) for free. Also through in a mirpeset mountable Israeli flag for our trouble. We also managed to find a badly damaged medecine cabinet/mirror that suits our purposes perfectly and got it for 2/3 of the SALE price. Thanks Lor!

We got a great surprise later on tonight when they called ot say they were coming with our dining room table and chairs. I can not even begin to tell you how much I love my table! The whole thing is esspresso coloured wood with cream upholstery on the seats. One person call pull it out in under 30 seconds. Love.

We got two new shower heads and a new toilet seat. All is good now in bathroom land.

I went grocery shopping. I did good. I even managed to figure out the whole shmitta thing (more on that later in the week).

Ok, pictures tomorrow, sleep now.

Le sigh.

Ok, so today is not exactly going as planned.

The phone and fridge came no problem, but in order to get our internet, we need to go get the modem from Jerusalem. Ok, maybe tomorrow. Or the next day. Or maybe the one after that.

On top of that, the two night tables we bought from Ace were clearly faulty. The screws were not long enough to go through the wood to where the needed to go. One of the under sink counters we bought was broken.

Then the beds showed up. The mattresses are great, but the frames are of incredibly poor quality. The bed frames are so poorly constructed JASON bows them out when he sits down so they are going to crack. We are BOTH sleeping on our mattresses on the floor until we come up with some sort of solution. Ok, ok, I knew I might have a problem and that would be something we would need to deal with, but no way should Jason have trouble.

We did not even bother trying to assemble the desk as it was the same make and line as the night tables. Lor and Jason just went ot return it all.

On the other hand, the fridge is small enough that we can fit a pantry into the kitchen. This means that I think I now have enough space in my kitchen for it to work out well.

Channah got home from her firrst day of school and LOVED it. More details when she decides it is time to share.

Day 1. Again.

I am currently sitting on the floor in my almost completely empty apartment using someone else's wireless internet connection. B'h we have met our neighbours and they seem lovely! They loaned us a bed for Channah (so she does not need to use an air mattress until our stuff gets here). They coincidentally are getting new beds and closets today so they had what to lend.

I will post pictures on our blog later on today.

Channah got off to her first day with no real trouble. She was nervous this morning ("I AM NOT GOING TO SCHOOL. I AM VERY, VERY ANGRY!!!"), but once we got there she went running in. She asked where to put her tik and all was good. Meeting the teacher and some of the kids in advance was a great idea and I am pretty sure it made today a whole lot easier.

We also made a big deal about how cool her new school is because now she can take peanut butter to school. For lunch today she has a peanut butter sandwich, bamba (a peanut flavoured cheesy sort of thing that all the kids devour here) and an apple with peanut butter. Oh, and the ever-present water bottle! We put it all into her little snoopy tik (thanks Suzanne. She loves it and takes it everywhere! It is the perfect size for day to day use).

So, on tap for today.
  • Bed Delivery
  • Fridge Delivery (And the other guy who has to come over ot plug it in or it is not covered by the warentee!)
  • Night table, desk and other stuff from Ace delivery and then self assembly
  • Figure out where the heck the air conditioner panel is. Not that we need it right now, but I am way to anal to have a remote and have no idea how it works.
  • Get some basic groceries and palstic plates
  • Put away whatever we can
  • Find a table to borrow until we get ours
  • Call to set up electricity account
  • Remember to pick up Channah!
  • Figure out how to move an aron that seems to be too tall to slide through the door and to heavy to lift sideways.
  • Bring all our !@#%^ over from where we were staying
  • Possibly buy and install new shower heads as the ones we have are pretty gross and leaky
  • Possibly buy and install shelves into the holes in our kitchen wall that used to have some. Either that our buy a poster to cover the ugly anchors in the wall. We thought they were staying. Oh well.