Thursday, December 31, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Job Search 2.0

On Sunday I went back to my old office for my hearing. This hearing is required by law any time an employee is dismissed. Supposedly it is suppose to be some kind of an appeal process. For me it was in the same meeting room with the exact same people as the previous Sunday. I had an opportunity to ask anything I wanted. I requested to skip the hearing and move on with the information I needed for unemployment insurance and finding a new job. After the meeting I went to my old demoralized department to answer any training questions they had. It was more of a chance to say good bye and answer the absolute basics of what I was working on.

I am not unemployed yet. I am technically employed until January 19th even though I am staying home. It is kind of like being a senator. Basically they give 1 month notice and there is no concept of pay in lieu of notice. As I started work in March I have not worked long enough to qualify for full employment. Instead I qualify for 'half benefits' which I am still trying to figure out what that means. I cannot discuss my case with Bituach Leumi until I am unemployed. The best I can tell it is 60% of salary for 3 months. People get one month severance for every year worked. Having extra children is always a bonus when receiving any kind of benefits. Plus the 6 year savings fund gets paid out when employment ends. Not having all these extra cushions is leaving me more panicked then most my former co-workers who in general have been there between 2 - 4 years and have a bunch of kids.

In many ways I am in a lot better position than I was on the search last year. I finally have a job title to apply to my personality and skill set to. I have almost a year experience under my belt and I have proven I am good at QA. The problem is I have no formal training in QA or computers. I don't have 3 years experience. While my Hebrew has improved tremendously it is no where on level to cope in a Hebrew business environment.

At some point down the line I know I will be looking back and thinking that this was a good move. The comptroller of the company told me this week, told me now that I have some experience I should be looking at a 25% raise. I am nervous about how long it will take for things to full into place.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"THE" Moshav

We had rented a car from Tuesday until the end of my inlaws visit for our trip to Eilat. Since Jason had some... er... time on his hands, we decided to make use of it on the Tuesday and go somewhere we might not have otherwise gone. So we packed off and after running a errand in Tel Aviv made our way to the Carlebach Moshav.

The day sort of how you would expect things to go in hippie commune. First we got horribly lost trying to find the place. Yes it should have been easy, but it wasn't. We did however find a tiyul for next chanukah in the hashmonean village. Looks interesting!

Then, once we got there Channah had missed the part of the tour she had been really excited to do. She had been saying all morning that she wanted to milk a goat, and by the time we got there the kids had all moved on to other things. Fortunately the woman in charge was really nice and said we could come back and milk a goat after the rest of the day's activities so Channah was pretty happy about the whole thing. Of course, by the time we got back to the goats she had realized that you need to *touch& them in order to milk them, so she chickened out (although, speaking of chickens, I must admit I did not realize how pretty some of them can be! They really can look like the rockette chickens on the muppet show.

She got to make a picture on wax paper using crayon shavings and flowers, card and spin wool, and make a mobile from various colours of clay found around the country. We never did get to make the cheese, but were given instructions as to how we can do so at home.

Channah carding wool

Channah doing the wax picture

Then came twenty minutes of discussion as to whether we should go on the tour first, or have lunch first. It was decided tour. Then lunch. Ok. Other than the fact that Channah was getting hungry and we knew we could tide her over, we were okay.

Once the kids activities were done we went to the ancient olive oil press for a short history lesson about the area we were in. I do have to admit that the thing that surprised me most about the ruins was the fact you could not smell them from a mile away... The man giving the talk had a few archeological pieces he had collected including some thought to be from the time period of the Chanukah story (hey, we were in the right area so why not?). The kids on the trip were ecstatic about the idea. From there we headed down to lunch.

Channah examining some local finds

playing in the ruins

Lunch was not ready as apparently the oven was not working right. Ok, no problem, they took orders for felafel and drove off to go get them, leaving us to wander around a gorgeous area of the country on our own. We had a woman show us "THE" house on "THE" Moshav.

"THE" house

Channah was excited to show off her budding botanical skills. Get it? Budding...

We sat around outside on some rocks until lunch showed, up, than ate in the park before going into the shul for a short Moshav Band concert.

Concert in the shul

Sign of a day well spent

That night, even my father in law went a little hippie on me...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Next Day

This morning I helped get Channah and my parents out the door. I got them into the taxi with instructions to the driver to get them to the train. They were off to the zoo. Channah was a little upset because she thought I was coming with. I had my own plans for a mental health day.

I walked down to the Mircaz to get some money from the bank machine. Grabbed an ice coffee and a caramel sufgamiya and headed to the bus stop. It was only a short wait to catch the 417 to Jerusalem. Got off at Benei HaMenua and headed towards Yaffo.

Crossing the bridge towards the train station I saw one of the most ammussing sights of the day. I was surprised to see how much of the train tracks have been completed. In this particular spot there were train tracks laid leading up to a rocky ditch that looked like the beginning of an excatvation project. There were a bunch of construction workers. Each had a tiny shovel and pitch axe. They looked like they were working on a delicate archeological dig rather than a major construction project. No wonder they are so far behind schedule.

I continued my walk down Yaffo, wondered around Machane Yehuda before continuing to the Old City. I had a lot of time to think, while getting reports as the axe continued to fall for those that were away yesterday. My boss had his boss come to his house personally last night to deliver the bad news. The final tally was my department went from 8 employees to 2. Both managers are gone. That does not include the 4 temps who left when their contract expired a few weeks ago. Looking back the hints that this would happen have been around for a few months. While noting them as unusual events I choose to stay positive. There were also some decoys to make it seem that things were Ok.

Wondered through the Old City. The 'Mashiach Time Clock' (Hurva Shul) is coming along really nicely. On a spur of the moment I went to the museum commemoraty the fall of the Jewish Quarter in 1948. It was one room with about a dozen pictures plus a video. It was interesting that there were two major tactical mistakes that may have cost the city and significantly changed the type of issues the government is dealing with today. The first was giving up important tactical positions due to political repercutions. The second was abandoning military accomplishments out of a lack of desire to finish the job. These IDF still has problems with these types of discussions.

I then headed for the Kotel. Coming down the stairs I was stopped by a beggar who I said no to. I then moved to the side to tear Kriyah. At one point I had wished I had requested one of the extra company shirts. That thought passes quickly as I don't have any ill will towards the company. The beggar decided to follow me and start with his sob story. I turned to him very firmly said "I lost my job yesterday. NO" He quickly disappeared.

I then davened mincha at the kotel. I got so used to davening Hazi Kaddish at work that I almost forgot to start my Shmonei Esrei. A few moments at the wall and I headed to take the bus to take me to the bus going home. The walking and quiet time were what I needed.

In the afternoon, I got well wishes from former co-workers via phone and Skype. It really meant a lot. Channah decided she wanted Chinese food, so we all went out and didn't have to worry about cooking. Tomorrow is our quick detour into Tel Aviv on our way to the Carlebach Moshav. Wednesday morning we head down to Eilat. I can relax for a couple of days before having to jump head first into deal with the reality of unemployment. Hopefully things will rebound quickly.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Picture pages

I have a bit of catching up to do I guess...

From Mom and Bubbie's recent visit

Orly and Gibby's engagement party

Channah's Chanukah party at school

Long time no see...

Dear Blogg,

I know it has been a long time since I have written, but things have been busy. I will try to bring you up to date on what has been going on around here, but to be honest, if you really want to know everything you should give me a call sometime and we can do coffee.

First off all, I want to apologize for not being around so much. My computer took a bit of a dive off the coffee table and it is pretty much only as of last night I have both a well working hard drive and a working keyboard. I even heard from a friend helping out with my old hard drive that it looks like we should be able to get off most of the data that I had on there. Thank goodness, I was not looking forward ot losing all my pictures from the last 18 months- never mind my client sketches, business files, and of course, a whole heck of a lot of movies and music.

Not sure where I left off, but in a nutshell we have had a busy few months. My mom and Bubbie were here a few weeks ago. I have to say that I was terrified of their visit before they got here (lord knows that getting our place "Bubbie-ready" was a terrifying proposition!) but it was actually a really nice visit. We did a little bit of touring, saw some friends and family who I do not normally get to see, and had a few 2 am tea parties.

After that, I got really busy with pre-chanukah stuff. Thank goodness business was good- I spent most of November and December filling online orders and jumping from local show to show. I actually got to play with some really fun ideas that had been in my head for a while but never made it out of my sketchbook. Hopefully as business grows it is something I will be able to do more and more.

And now my inlaws are here to visit. It has been a nice visit so far. Channah is off school all week so there is lots of time for her to spend visiting with her Bubbie and Zaidy. Unfortunately, as of yesterday Jason also has the whole week to spend with them. He really loved that job and losing it is obviously one of the hardest things that has happened to our family since we landed. B'h it is sort of the best of the worst though. We are in an okay position. The company is going to do everything they can to help him, and have told him he can get a glowing reference. At least when you are let go as one of more than two dozen people you know it was nothing personal.

And that brings us to now. Not sure how we will fare in the long run, but for right now we are only in a slightly leaky boat- but it is floating and keeping us from going under.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Unexpected Changes

Today was a really tough day. As a start up company keeping the company a float while waiting to hit the point of profitability is always a challenge. Although we have a few great products on the market the revenue did not come in soon enough. This morning 40% of our Israeli office got the axe.

This morning felt different but I did not suspect anything was wrong. Being the week of Chanukah lots of people are away. I was having problems getting the Blackberry Storm (touch screen) to work. The first version compatible with our software had just been released. My boss was away on vacation. Unknown to us our Asisstant Manager was not supposed to be in for the day. The manager from another department I work closely with was also away. The entire IT department was away. I think they had been working late with some recent server upgrades.

Around 10:30 one of the IT managers came around to fix a coworkers computer and say goodbye. A short time later word came about another very senior worker had also been let go. Another department had their door closed. I had never even noticed that there was a door to the department. Another person came to our department to provide two more names. Shock set in as we realized what was going on. One person in our department could not log onto the server with the new passwords that had been set over the weekend. He took it as a sign that he was finished. As he was called into the meeting, I realized I would be next if there were more cuts in our department. When he was finished I got the Skype to report to my boss's boss office.

I knew what was coming before I left my desk. I went into the meeting and just sat down speachless. They told me why the company was restructuring and they had to let me go. I just sat and watched the meeting happen around me. There would be a hearing next week where my employer would receive government approval of the move. As the meeting wound down, I gathered up the courage to ask if I was to go home right away or if I had to stay for the one month going home.

I returned to my desk devastated. My boss creates all kinds of Unix shortcuts to make our jobs easier. As I have no formal UNIX training, I wanted the translation file. I couldn't figure out how to use the computer to get the file. I had to ask a coworker to do it for me. The rumour we heard is it was 22 people plus a few who will be losing their jobs tomorrow in our American office. Everyone was walking around like zombies. There was a short meeting to explain the changes had to be done and those remaining will have a tough road ahead. The office was closed early in the afternoon because nobody was able to get any work done.

My boss phoned me at 6:00 to offer his sympathy. As he was on vacation he had no idea what had happened until he got home. He was unable to reach his boss and he didn't know if that meant is job was in trouble.

I think I am going to go to the Kotel tomorrow for a spiritual uplift. I will also take advantage of the time off to spend more time with my parents. Someone from our shul is having a meeting tomorrow to try to scoop up some of the laid off employees. QA is at the bottom of the priority list of what he is looking for. It does show that they are trying to help out. Today was a very down day. I am hoping to enjoy the extra time with my family and hope something better works out before our savings are stretched too far.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Making a Living in Israel

When I told my Rosh Yeshiva that we were making Aliyah his first reaction was "How are you going to pay the bills?" This is probably the #1 concern that people have when deciding to make Aliyah. For many the fear of the unknown is enough to shelve possible plans for the big move.

For us we had approached this problem from a different angle. Rachel's growing jewellery business success was not tied down to geographic location. I was miserable my career was not heading in the direction I wanted. There was some glimmer of hope as I had made it through a bunch of huge hurdles with CBSA. There was still a long way to go with that selection process. Aliyah without a saftey net was scary but not as scary as continuing to spin our wheels in the rut we just couldn't seem to break.

The way I found my job was the perfect foreshadow for how happy I would be. I met the right people at precisely the right time. My last day of Ulplan was on a Thursday and I started work on the Sunday.

My job involves QA software testing on cell phones. AT&T Social Net and Social Beat on the Verizon network are two projects I have been working on. They involve putting Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, RSS Feeds, GTalk and Gmail into one easy to use application. I need to make sure it works properly. Both products are free and already on the market.

The working conditions are great. The company is located in Har Tuv (just outside of Beit Shemesh) There is a Hassa that takes me to and from work everyday. There are snacks in the kitchen. For Rosh Chodesh there is a company lunch where we find out how the business end of the company is doing. Each meeting starts with a Dvar Torah which really throws off some of the visitors from our California office.

My boss is well respected for the work he accomplishes and the quality of the people he hires. When I have to call in sick, I get wishes to feel better and that is it for the day. I also know I will not be called while on vacation. When overtime is needed my home life is taken into consideration. Erev Sukkot, the company paid for a cab so that I could come back to the office after buying my lulav and putting Channah to bed.

Over the last 3 months I have enjoyed the oppurtunity for extra responsibilities. The regulars were broken up onto different projects while temps were hired to help meet some critical deadlines. It was myself with two temps working on the Blackberry project. As a matter of practicality I got to be pretend to be the team leader. I would help direct what tasks were being worked. I was even called in to participate in some of the important development meetings. It was on my recommendation that convinced my boss that they were ready to be allowed to help out with more complicated tasks. I feel that I performed well in the situation and hope that similar (more formal) opportunities will come my way in the future.

Last night was Channah's Chanukah mesibah. We realized in the afternoon that it was called for an hour before I normally get home. Channah had her heart set on being there. It was extra important because the original date was set for when my parents would be there. I sent out a company e-mail looking for a ride. My boss offered if a bunch of other factors worked out. Another co-worker would not let me miss the party. It meant leaving early in order to drive me there which was not even close to being on her route home. This is typical for the type of people I work with.

I can only hope that the business will continue to be successful and I have more oppurtunities to continue to grow with the company. In the mean time, I am loving having a job I enjoy with an employer who values their employees.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Going Postal

The Israeli postal system is not known for their quality customer service. In regular Bet Shemesh there are 4 branches to choose from. There is only one branch to server both RBS A & B. The customer service there is lousy and has gotten worse since a change in ownership during the summer. The bad service problems are compounded by the fact that many people in the local community use the post office for all of their banking needs.

I had to go to the post office on Friday to pick up a package, some shipping and buy supplies. I completed messed up my schedule and arrive around 11:00. To help increase service during such a busy time there was only one teller working. This branch relies on the honour system for holding places in line. It allows the elderly to sit on the few chairs in the waiting area and have people fill out documents without losing their place in line. It also allows people to reserve their spots in line while they go and run their own errands. This makes it incredibly difficult to figure how long the line actually is.

First a woman who was not in the post office comes to the entrance and asks if anyone has seen their baby. She continues her path towards the direction of the main street. She finds her toddler and returns to the post office finding her way to the front of the line a short time later. She tries to do whatever she was doing with just her Teudat Zehut number. The teller insists she cannot help without the proper forms. A shouting match ensues. All I got from the shouting was failure to process the transaction was the reason there was no gas in the car. Eventualy some pieces of paper were exchanged and the woman went away. It is very difficult for a teller to do her job while yelling at an other customer.

12:00 closing time arrives and I am still in line. The teller finds the last people in line and makes him in charge of keep the door locked and letting out customers. 10 minutes later someone walks into the branch. He is told that the branch is closed but insists that someone was holding his spot in line and refuses to leave.

The teller calls the police. He pulls out his address book and phones the branch manager. He puts the manager on the phone with the teller who let's him know that he will not be served. Some how the guy still thinks he has a chance of receiving service. A little while later the police call back and ask if the man is still there. At that point the man decides it is a good idea to leave. A police officer shows up a short time later. I don't know what kind of gun he was carrying but it was larger than what the soliders normally carry. He is also holding it directly in front of him. Considering they normally just hold pistols I guess the were taking the situation very seriuosly.

With all of the excitment and pressure of a long line, my Hebrew failed me for the purchases I needed to make. The person behind me in line was kind enough to feed me the Hebrew words since the teller did not speak any English. Unfortunatly neither did the person behind me. The teller ended up yelling at me for asking for the wrong thing. I am hoping to get a ride to Sheinfeld this week to take care of the rest of the mailing.

RBS A really needs a post office. It is the only solution to stopping the misery of going to RBS B for postal needs.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Singing in the Rain

The awareness of the implications of the weather is very strong here. The summers are hot and dry and the winter we hope for rain. Year after year of drought has lead to the water levels to drastically drop in the Kineret, Israel's main source of water. Things have gotten so bad that they have had to redraw the red line indicating that the water level has hit critical levels. Of course there is variations in different regions.

There is a constant awareness of water levels. This summer a cap went in on water usages with a huge penalty for going over the limit. The number of people living in a home had to be reported to the water authority to make sure the cap levels are applied correctly. Channah is well aware that wasting water brings down the water level in the Kineret. Some days (especially in the summer) she will fill up the bath tub half way in order to minimize her water use.

The rainy season started early this year with the first Shofar blast on Rosh Hashanah. We had more rain in October than in any other October since they started keeping records in Israel. Over the last 5 days it has been raining a lot and hopefully it will continue.

With the amount of rain we have been having people are going to find themselves caught in the rain. Getting home wet and cold from a terenchal down pour or having things wet from an open window is unpleasant. Anytime someone has a complaint of discomfort they have due to the weather always includes a disclaimer that they are not saying we shouldn't have the rain. Plus people are generally happy watching the rain fall from the sky. We sure need it. Just another example of the connection of the people to the land.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Succot is totally made for Israel. It was always my favourite holiday, but since moving here it has gone from nice, to extraordinary.

Apart from the fact that we have a great shul with a ton of ruach and no need for alcohl to get everyone involved in the simchat trah atmosphere, and apart from the fact there was dancing and shiurim for women (I gave one of the talks on stones and gems in the Torah and got great feedback) and apart from the fact that there was so much to do that even someone who does not like crowds like me could spend all of succot having an awesome time- the fact of the matter is, the weather is perfectly suited to having succot now. My 5 year old was able to comfortably sleep outside in regular pj's and a sheet. Eating outside really felt joyful and relaxing rater than total PITA.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chagim, chol hamoed and random other stuff

I know it has been pretty much forever since I put up real update. Frankly, the more we settle into life the less it feels like anyone would be particularly interested in what we are up to!

We have hit the point where we are doing things again- I knew to expect the silly "gan meeting" tot take at least 3 times as long as one would think. I knew to anticipate the rediculous arguments and to just sit down, shut my mouth, and wait for them to pass. I knew we were going to be hit with a few hundred shekel of random fees- to just write the checks and turn them over and have no idea where my money was going.

But in all seriousness, school has started again and Channah is so far ahead of where she was last year it is amazing. She is super helpful to the new olah in her class, but just can not understand why she does not want ot participate in things or colour or any of the other "fun" stuff. She refuses to believe Jason and I when we try to explain that it is exactly what she was like at this point last year. Funny the thigns we forget...

The artwork and worksheets she is bringing home are adorable. I love looking out into my succah and seeing so many hand made decorations :) Maybe if y'all are nice to me I will post some pictures of some of it.

We switched ballet locations and the new class is so much better and more disciplined than where we were last year. She has a few friends from the street and from gan in her class so it is nice for her. One of the girls is also in her English class (her mom is the teacher). We are looking forward to her being able to read some of her own books... English classes start tomorrow morning so we will see how that goes.

We knew what to expect from shul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We got pretty much what we expected (with the exception to a humongous temper tantrum YK afternoon that resulted in shorty being put out onto the mirpeset until she remembered how to behave in my house! After 2 1/2 hours of shrieking she finally calmed down and came inside and collapsed into a desperately needed 1 1/2 long nap!) We spent some of RH with friends and some here on our own. We got to meet some new neighbours and spent a lot of time at the local parks. It was good.

Succot has truly got to be the best thing about living in this country. Our new apartment has a succah frame on the mirpeset so putting up our succah took roughly 20 minutes (including the time it took to find the tarp hiding in a box in the machzan). We put the tarp up using plastic cable ties, rolled the schach out across the already in place poles and then put up the school-work decorations. We bought a grand total of 10 shekel's worth of tinsel and crepe paper decorations at the local "succah shuk" and added a set of arba minim and were all set.

For the first day (not plural :)) of yom tov we went to friends in Kiryat Sefer (very chareidi community and the largest settlement block over the green line). We took a bus to a mall nearish to them, then after doing a bunch of small errands at the mall took a cab the rest of the way. As usual when we go to there place we have a really nice time- not somewhere I would ever want to live, but worth the trek out there for he friends. There is only one bus there and one bus home on the Saturday night, so we waited for the only bus option and made it home) with a very, very sleepy Channah) by 11.

Today Lor called asking if we were interested in joining them on a trip to a local national park that was having a circus festival. After waffling over it for a few minutes I decided to take her up on it. Great decision :)

These were some of the grounds. It was a gorgeous park. People were making mini bbq's everywhere- the place smelled incredible! There was a succah for those who wanted ot make use of it, and a play park where kids could let off steam. There were also lots and lots of rocks for climbing.

We went in and explred the 3 rooms in the "castle"

There was a circus set up- ran for about 40 minutes every few hours, and in between there were roughly 200 sets of juggling toys out for the kids to play with- and preformers to give them tips and show them tricks.

Look at my little circus performer spinning plates

and playing with elasticked juggling balls (video below)

Of course n tiyul is omplete without the requisite nestle drumstick. Seriously- I think it might be illegal to forbid a kid their ice cream on tiyuling days...

Friday, September 25, 2009


Growing up, the only difference between play dough and plastacine was that one would dry out if you forgot to put the top on it, and the other wouldn't. On the other hand, I did always find plastacine left my hands feeling kind of icky.

Here they are two totally different things. Play dough is a toy. Plastacine is an art medium. Below is what they do with "plastalina"

Monday, September 21, 2009

What a tefillah

Withe the first blasts of the shofar the heaven opened up into huge raindrops. Im yertze Hashem this is a siman that the next year will not be as dry as this one was. At the other end- cohanim got up to do their thing and the whole neighbourhood lost power! What is the world does that symbolize?

All I know is that I think we shuld keep the same baal tokeah- maybe rent him out to other communities...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Radio Interview

You can listen to my radio interview at - find the episode "Building book in Judea" and fast forward to around the 25 minute mark. I sound like I'm 12.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shanah Tova

Unbelievable as it may seem just over a year has flow by since Jason and I got here. It has been a year of many adjustments, and many, many emotions from one end of the scale to the other. But taken as a whole it was the best year of our lives. It was a year of new beginnings and of happiness beyond our wildest dreams.

May the coming year bring everyone a year full of health and happiness, a sweet year filled with simcha and nachat and and peace and prosperity for you, your family and the rest of the world.

Best wishes and happy new year,
Jason, Rachel and Channah

How to Celebrate Rosh HaShanah in Israel

Shanah tova

There is a longer post coming later, but I just wanted to take 2 minutes to wish everyone who reads this and even those who don't a shanah tova umetuka- a good and sweet year filled with health and happiness, maybe a little travel.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Can I gloat? Just for a minute. Just saw our old apartment listed *for exactly what we paid for it* now _including_ the nicely sized storage room. So all he got out of this was not getting rent for at least a month (and still needing to pay the equivalent of condo fees on it) and losing his use of the storage space. I am amused.

Strike- again

The ganim are on strike. Again.
It is the assistants who are on strike. Again.
They called in parent volunteers to assist the ganenet. Again.

Remember what I said about how it is so much easier now that we are going the same things again? Yeah. some get annoying.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

meat numbers explained

Anyone who lives here will explain to you that buying beef is essentially akin to playing the lotto. You go into a store, pick random numbers, and hope for the best.

Someone just posted a list that (gasp!) explains what each number is and in many cases what you should use it for.

Evolution of Simcha - The Beginning

Yes, these are our friends. Yes, the first time this was performed was in our living room. Yes, this is a reminder of how insane our friends our. Yes, so is this country. We wouldn't trade it for anything.


Monday, September 7, 2009

It's time to say Good Bye

Today has been a day dealing with good byes. Ariel Mermaid Fish Fish passed away over night. For the past few weeks she has been struggling with old age and managed to hang on a lot longer than anyone expected.

Last night the car we have been borrowing was taken off to be sold. It had been a real pleasure to once again have a car whenever we wanted. After much painful deliberation we have decided for the time being we are not going to pursue car ownership at this time. Sorry Uncle Rob and Aunt Julie, you will have to make arrangements to come and visit us. For those coming to visit there are many local car rental places. I am more than happy to drive with my Israeli license for anyone who would prefer not to drive on Israeli roads.

The right decision is not always the easiest decision. This is what is best for us right now.
On the left, last winter. On the right, last week.

and a gratuitious pictures of a 5 year old who really enjoyed her ice cream cone. Guess what flavour?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Verdict is in, Landlord Gambles and Loses

I have mentioned before the difficulties in trying to negotiate renewal terms on our old apartment. Back in April he was willing to offer a formula that would have set the rate in NIS for the year, based on the rate the US dollar closed at today. At the time the exchange rate approaching $1US = 4.2 NIS with no end in sight of how high it would go. We made a counter offer stright up in NIS of what we thought was a generous rent increase. Every counteroffer was met with a new condition making staying more and more unpalatable. We made the smart decision and walked away. He insisted he would have not problem renting the apartment.

The markets are now closed and the verdict is in. His formula worked out to 18 NIS/month ($4.71 US/ $5.20 Cdn) more than our last counter offer. The landlord has been out of town so we are returning the keys tomorrow. To the best of my knowledge the apartment has not been rented. The macshan that was supposed to be included for a new tenant (we got slapped with an additional condition when we requested it) is still full of the landlord's stuff.

Given the extraordinary cost in moving, we would have never made the decision to leave without our hand being forced. We are really happy in the new apartment. In the long run we are better off. When we decided to move, we felt that we were being put in a difficult situation to allow for better things down the road. It is still really weird to be living in a place where this type of logic actually works. Israel has been a good fit for us. Everyday I am greatful that we decided to move here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Full Circle

We have come full circle since we landed. Not only has a whole year come and gone, but we have actually hit the point where we have started doing random things again. Shortly after we got here we spent a freakishly hot afternoon at a local water play area called yeladudis (you can see the old entry with a picture from a year ago here).

Well we went back this week. Channah no longer hangs out on the kiddie slide- oh no! She went on the ginormous, 15 foot tall, spongy air filled water thing. And she LOVED it!

Did I mention she also did kiddie rock wall climbing?

Monday, August 24, 2009

A time to reflect

There are many events on the calendar this time of year that make it a good time to reflect. Last year our Rabbi gave the "what changes have you made in your life recently" speech. Having only being in the country for 7 weeks it was not the most inspirational speech. Living in Toronto we always felt that we were not where we were supposed to be.

Channah is thriving. We have been able to give her oppurtunities that we could not give her in Toronto. She speaks hebrew beautifully and has tons of friends. She has a deep connection to Jewish history as she can literally trip over it, different places we go. She has a level of self-confidence by being able to give her a level of independence that would make set off alarms at any Child Services office in North America.

Rachel has been able to be succesful doing her dream job in the luxury of our home. Her hebrew is very advanced allowing her to be comfortable in most situations. We have developed close friendships in a very short period of time. We took the first half of the year, before I started work to explore the country. She still takes advantage of oppurtunities to see and learn about other parts of the country.

I have found a job that I am good at. I have a great employer and business is growing. I have a regular learning schedule and a close relationship with our Rabbi. I have adjusted to accept the difficulties of how hard it make the 10 hour commute for 2 hours of ice. On the other hand playing in the ice hockey tournament was one of the highlights of the year.

My bitachon and emunah have been restored. Even when it has looked like we received a tough break, I have seen it as been guided to a better oppurtunity. In general that is how things have turned out.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More apartment pictures

New shower curtain (picture for Naomi ;) )

living room/dining room. taken post play date so there are some toys around. bookshelves still need to be organized, but all the artwork is up and things are taking shape well.

During the week we only need 3 seats at the table so it is pushed against the wall to have more room for Channah to play. When we have guests we pull it out and can extend it fully and walk around it no trouble.

kitchen. sorry about the stuff all over the counters. it is all clean and drying- need to either find my drying racks or get new ones. I figured it was better to snap while there was clean stuff than after I start cooking for shabbat.

Beachy Kean

Earlier this week a number of local eemas boarded a bus to the separate beach in Tel Aviv. Yes, believe it or not Tel Aviv does have a separate beach, and it is really rather nice. The driver was clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer and maanged to get lost both coming and going, but other than that it was a great day and I am really glad that we chose to go.

We all rented umbrellas and once we had them set up we have a largish area of shade kids could cool off in. The two babies hung out on a sheet under the umbrellas and the rest of the kids were off playing in the sand. We all took turns taking groups into the water, sitting in the shade with the babies, and playing in the sand in between.

We ended the afternoon with ice cream and a bus ride home.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Happy (Gregorian) 1 year Aliyaversary to us!

Oh my gosh we have made it a whole year. It has been a year since we last saw most f our family and friends. A year since we said good bye to everything that was familiar and expected and packed ourselves off for, what was to us, the adventure of a lifetime. A year since we got on the plane not knowing if we were making the right decision and just hoping and praying that God would be with us in our endeavors. A year since I was a crying sobbing mess who just wanted to get through a day and collapse into a bed and sleep for 100 years.

As we come to the end of of our first year as "olim chadashim" there are a number of things that, along with linking to our original list of things we had learned at the 6 week mark.

1) Never leaves clothes on the drying rack in direct sunlight. Parts will fade to a washed out pastel and you will look like someone who tried to tie dye and sucked at it

2) It is entirely possible to wash a kitchen full of dishes using only a thimble-full of water. Being aware of water levels (and when it is time to draw a new coloured line somewhere) is a part of life.

3) It was not just the Bait Hamikdash that miraculously explaind as needed- any Israeli home has the miraculous ability to expand to fit as many people as it needs, and all their stuff, for however long they need to stay, no matter how little notice you get.

4) In an over saturated market opening a new venue will not split the current clientele so neither store can survive, rather it will just bring new people out of the woodwork.

5) Throwing a bucket of water on your floor and using a squeegy to toss it out the door is a perfectly acceptable method of cleaning your house.

6) Giving tzedakah (within reason) will positively affect your bottom line.

7) ANYTHING can be sold door to door (and you will continue to recieve it indefinitly even if you have not paid for it). Perishables will be left at your front door even if you might be away for a month.

8) When your kid does start speaking Hebrew, it will be better than yours within 15 minutes.

9) Skype and voip lines can sometimes be better than face to face conversation becuase you can do all sorts of things you would never get away with in real life.

10) The only place to buy ant poison is the grocery store.

11) Being able to bring tanach to life and watching your kid connect to thousands of years of history without realizing that for most people ruins and archeology are not a daily event is deeply satisfying on a soul level.

12) A thirsty person can drink more than a thirsty camel.

13) After breaking your teeth and fighting your way through a contract negotiation in Hebrew, you will discover the other party speaks fluent English- and be thrilled you never knew.

14) If you are used to Canadian maps where 2 inches = 200 km, you are going to miss a lot of turn offs.

15) A 5 minute walk really can be too far at some times of day- like say, any time of day between May and October.

16) Rain can be much colder than snow. But it is still nice knowing you are not going to slide down the hill or need to shovel it. You can still go tobagonning though- it just involves a broken box and a muddy hill.

17) Checkpoints make you feel safer- even when when the only guy there is paying more attention to his banana than to the cars. Always watch for tire spikes even when going in the right direction!

18) When your close family is on another landmass, your friends and neighbours become your family. In a country full of immigrants, no one is really alone.

19) Any Anglos without an English accet are "American"

20) If you go to a movie it will have an intermission. Apparently natural born Israeli's have smaller bladders and need to eat more often.

21) Your friends include "crazy settlers", "meshuganah charidim" and "meshuganah crazy charaidi settlers", and yet it is the "normal ones" who are "anti-peace" because they are thinking about closing in their balcony.

22) Setting your air conditioner to 25 degrees for 20 minutes is staying cool.

23) Children can do anything- for between 130-140 shekel a month. Yes there really is a plastacine chug.

24) There are many really cool things that are worth doing once for 10 minutes- conversely there are many once in a lifetime things you will do repeatedly with anyone who comes to visit.

25) "Made in Israel" signs are not necessarily an incentive to look at bad artwork/handcrafts/random product.

26) Test driving a car will turn into an incredible touring experience with a fantastic guide and amazing views.