Tuesday, January 31, 2012


We have spent the alst two days unwrapping. I am not making this up.  We have unwrapped furniture, china, lamps, sheets, clothes, linens - you name it, it was wrapped in Baltimore and unwrapped in Modiin.  We even had a little action figure who has become a family joke (don't ask), and he was double/triple/quadruple wrapped as well. 

But "wrapping" just doesn't describe how this packing was done.  If the ship our lift was on had been through a hurricane, earthquake, and volcano I am certain that everything would have arrived safely.  We are stymied by how the packers labeled things - a box with three books and a tray was labeled "hallway accessories."  And a box with candlesticks was labeled "china."  I mean, candlesticks are the same in any culture, right?  But it's the layers upon layers of paper that astound us - we have taken out about 15 bags of paper so far.  Save what forests?

And although I know you are all relieved that we discovered what was in the sewing machine box, thus far we have not found our Shabbos dishes - not that we plan to spend Shabbos there yet.

You see, as of today we have no electricity and there are no...um...plumbing fixtures.  Let's just leave it at that.  We HOPE to get electricity tomorrow.  Which would be good because, believe it or not it is freezing cold in that apartment.

I know, I know, it's Israel, how cold can it be?  Well, try staying in an unheated apartment in Israel once the sun goes down and you'll find out.  It's bone chilling.  Probably because everything is constructed with concrete and stone.  Now that is great in the summer when you want to preserve the cool inside, but terrible for winter if your heat is not working yet.  Yesterday it took my hands and feet two hours to come back to normal temperature after a day of unpacking.

So we head over to our new place every morning with a gleam in our eyes and hope in our hearts, ready for a day of unpacking.  We arrive around 9 and it feels just fine in there.  "It's not cold," we say, "what were we thinking yesterday?"  Then, after about 1 or 2 pm the you notice you keep rubbing your hands together and putting your hand over your nose to warm it up.  Then you start dreaming of getting under about 15 blankets in your bed, then you realize you are shivering.  Then it's time to go home.

But every day brings a new adventure.  Today Bern went to the city office to show them our contract and our Teudat Oleh (new immigrant document) so that they charge us only ten gazillion and not a hundred gazillion shekel for our arnona (property tax) and - they were closed. Of course!  It was after 1 pm.  So he called me and asked me to write down the office hours as he read them to me so we'd have it for posterity.

So here's the schedule:
Wednesday - electricity
Thursday - plumbing
Friday - car shopping!

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Living in Israel and having to deal with contractors, repairmen, salesmen, etc., one learns quickly that "service" has quite a different meaning here than in the US.

You're sort of on your own.  Here are some examples of what they say and what they mean:

"I'll call you when it's ready" = I will not call you when it's ready.  You call me and if I'm around I may tell you if it's ready or not.

"I'll be there at 1:00 pm on Monday" = "I'll be there when I get there.  It may be 9:00 am.  It may be the next day. Or the next week."

And you are not, as in the US, in the position to complain to the Better Business Bureau - they don't have one here.  And even if they did (they may, frankly I didn't research that last statement), not only would the company not care what you said, but no one else would care either. So, you just shake your head or laugh and move on. 

ON THE OTHER HAND, some things are really nice:

You can pay in installments, without interest, for quite a long period of time.  Everyone understands that money is tight and getting paid in installments is better than not getting paid at all.

Everything is tied to your bank account - so you really can't buy what you can't afford because it's going to come out of your own money right away.  Smart.

Medical care - for all the inconvenience of the lab not being in the same building as the doctor, I could check my strep test results online.  And all of one's medical records are online nationally.

And ON THE OTHER OTHER HAND, some things are awesome, like:

The shofar-like "alarm" that you hear in some cities when Shabbos starts - I absolutely love that. 

Living on a street named Sarah Imeinu, which is parallel to a street named Rachel Imeinu. Cooler than other streets we've lived on: Garrison, Summerson, Gardenwick....not to mention West 111th and Bennett Avenue.....

Going to a government office building and noticing that they all have mezuzos on their doors.

This week we are trying to get our apartment in order - it's dusty and a bit dirty, and our stuff is piled on top of the dust and dirt, and we won't have electricity for a few days, but it's ours.  We sat on our couch today and looked out at the most awesome view and could not really fathom that this is our home. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Driving Test

First of all since I know many of you stayed home from work today so you could find out what happened on our driving test, I'm going to put you out of your misery and tell you that......hahahahaha, you have to read all the way to the bottom to find out and no cheating!

We spent the morning worrying and fretting - and also practice-driving.  We looked at yield signs, stop signs, walkway signs, left turns, right turns, until we felt a bit more confident.  Then it was time to mosey on over to our apartment and try to make some sense out of the mass of boxes.

We made progress and met our new neighbors, a lovely couple with 3 high school kids.  They came over to introduce themselves and between their mangled English and my mangled Hebrew we understood each other. The husband had given us a couple of celebratory chocolate candies yesterday when he got his keys.  Anyone who celebrates with chocolate is my kind of guy.

And...we opened the "sewing machine" box.  In which we found a small sewing kit and a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff.  No idea why the packer dude decided to write that on the box, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he was giggling as he walked out of our apartment that day.

OK, OK, to the driving test.  We drove to meet the tester (behind a gas station where there are trailers for government offices - both gas stations and trailers are a theme here - many restaurants are located next to gas stations).  Our instructor wished us luck.  We had decided that I'd go first so Bern could relax a bit and watch what the tester was asking me to do. 

The tester took me on the exact route that our instructor had and I thought I'd done well.  Then he suddenly said, pull over.  I thought "Oh no!  I've failed!"  but he just wanted Bern to take over.  Bern did very well and made one error, at which point I thought the tester would say, "that's it, you've failed, it's over."  But he didn't, in fact Bern drove at least 5 minutes longer than I did.  Bern is completely convinced he failed and resigned himself to it.  AND he was a little irritated that since I went first - and on the exact route that our instructor took us on, and HE went on a  different route, maybe he should have gone first!

So we get back to the gas station place and get out and our instructor Meir says he'll call us with the results.

We do some food and cleaning-supply shopping and wait for the call.  We are nervous wrecks.  A lot rides on this.  The phone rings about an hour later and it is Meir.  "Mazal tov!" he says, "you BOTH passed."  We are utterly amazed.  He said the tester noted the one mistake but let Bern drive longer to make sure he didn't make the mistake again.

So yes, folks, in 3 weeks we have done MOST of the stuff we need to.  NEXT we buy a car!  That should be fun too!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Our Stuff Arrives - Inlcuding Our Sewing Machine

Well, like good Israelis we were at our new apartment for the 9:00 arrival of our container.  Which arrived at 11:00.

But not to worry - we are very patient.  It was very comforting to once again see the yellow bashed up container that we last saw on November 29 in Baltimore.  Wow, all our stuff has arrived. It made it through the summer in the warehouse and at the port in Baltimore and across the ocean and at the port in Ashdod and now it's here. 

The mover guys were great - between their Russian and Hebrew and my English and broken Hebrew we made ourselves understood.  I owe a lot to an app I got for my phone which translates what you speak into it (or type into it, but speaking is way cooler).  I found out the Hebrew translation for truck, sofa (it's "sofa"), bookcase, and many other things.  I also realized that if you want something placed "here" you use "po" not "kan."  I also explained how our foam mattress topper goes on top of our foam mattress - they were stymied by that one - they kept looking at each other like, "How much foam does one person need?"

After about 4 hours everything was in the apartment (I mean these guys had to walk everything up two flights of stairs, including a VERY heavy couch, an oven, and a piano), and then they began unwrapping the big stuff, putting things together, etc.  By 5:00 we were done.

It was very comforting to see OUR things in OUR home. Even though it is currently MOSTLY a museum of paper and boxes and tape, some of our stuff did get unwrapped.  I almost wept when I saw my piano which has really been through a lot (mostly neglect from me and the piano tuner).

Oh, and the "sewing machine."  Well, when the nice men packed up our stuff in Baltimore, we were not watching their every move, so one box got packed and labeled "sewing machine."  Now, that's great if we had a sewing machine but we do not.  I am not a sewing person. I will not regale you with my tale of 7th grade Sudbrook Junior High Home Ecnomics class when we had to use a sewing machine to make our own clothes and - are you ready for this one - wear them to school!  Let's just say I would be the last person you'd expect to own more than a random needle and a couple of spools of thread.

When we went to the port, Port Lady interrogated us about said sewing machine which is considered an electrical appliance for which we'd have to be charged customs.  We swore up and down that we don't own a sewing machine, and she was skeptical but in the end she believed us.

So today here comes the box labeled "sewing machine."  But it's under a box which is under a box which is under a box.  When we get to it we'll solve the mystery.

Over the past two days we have also made arrangements for phone, homeowner's insurance, and electricity. 

Tomorow, however (cue the doom and gloom music) is the DRIVING TEST.  Very nervous about that.  We'll let you know what happens.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Document 4

Well, folks, today we have the keys to our apartment.  Here's how it went - yesterday the builder guy said we'd "probably" have the keys today.  At this point we were planning to have our stuff delivered tomorrow, Wednesday.

Today we played phone tag with the builder guy until we finally heard that the papers went through (it is literally called "Tofes Arba" - Document 4) and that we were to meet at the apartment to have the final walkthrough and sign the papers, and....get the keys! 

We were jolly and happy until we realized that even though we could bring our "stuff" into the apartment, there would be no electricity until sometime next week. So our stuff could live there but we couldn't. Well, I hope our stuff is happy. It'll probably be partying without us bothering it by sleeping and sitting on it. And I'm sure it'll be very happy to be out of the container which most of it has been living in since sometime in July.

Then we called back the port people who'd been hounding us all day: "Listen, we need to know if we're delivering tomorrow!  If you wait too long you can't have your things and you'll have to pay millions of shekel!"  So we called them and said ok, you can come tomorrow. And they say, "Well, it may be too late - we'll call you back." 

I think I've become the poster girl for "shpilkes."

But they called back and confirmed - delivery tomorrow at 9 am.  And then we informed them, with great nervousness, "Um, the elevator is not working yet."  I was waiting for the Angry Port Lady to respond with screams and threats.  But she said, no problem, as long as it's no more than 2 flights it's fine.  Whew!

So tomorrow is delivery day and Thursday is driving test day.  Is it Shabbos yet? Please?

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Driving Lesson

Today Meir the Driving Teacher picked us up for our one and only driving lesson.  Our test is on Thursday.

Now I've been driving for approximately 41 years or so (stop doing the math in your heads - I'm 57) so it was a little weird to be in a car with a driving instructor again. 

Meir is a very nice man and was great about teaching us what the signs mean, how, when you make a left onto a one way road you have to turn into the left hand lane and THEN signal to go to the right hand lane (you'll get a headache figuring that one out in your head)

But there are a couple of things that were kind of amusing.  First if all, every once in a while, he would grab the steering wheel and turn it in the direction he wanted me to drive.  Now I don't know about you but I am not a fan of having the steering wheel jerked out of my hand while I'm trying to control a moving vehicle. 

Secondly, he kept telling us to show down.  He's right, the driving tester will probably be watching our speed very carefully but after 4 decades of driving I know how to control a car at say, 5 miles over the speed limit.  I felt like I was 15 again when he said, "Slow down, it's not a race." 

Then, he kept comparing US driving regulations to Israeli ones.  Um, in case you can't guess the Israelis came out as winners every time.  "HA!," he said, "in Israel we have stop signs at all of the traffic lights in case the traffic light is out.  You don't have that in the US do you?  Of course not, becasue if a traffic light goes out in America, it magically gets fixed immediately!  We don't have such money here to do that."  

And he was very proud (rightly so, I might add - the US could learn a thing or two) about the Israeli traffic circles, which seem to be on every other corner.  He kept admiring them and asking us if America has such things.

He also wanted to know about the Jewish communities in Baltimore and Philadelphia - as a dati man, he was interested in the religious communities and how many people lived in them.  He also thought the Liberty Bell was in Baltimore, but hey, he was teaching someone who can only barely get from one neighborhood in Modiin to another without getting hopelessly lost, so I can't fault him there.

In the end, he taught us well and now we only have to pass the test.  Hahahaha!  ONLY is the wrong word.  From what I've heard about the testers, they can be extremely tough.  We plan to do a lot of driving around the area in the next two days to prepare for our test.  Wish us luck.

On the apartment front, apparently the bank has yet to issue some release which the builder than takes to Jerusalem (I'm sure by the very slowest road possible - better yet, maybe the regulation is that he has to walk it there - backwards) and does something with it and THEN, ONLY THEN we MIGHT get our keys.  Right now we have told the port to deliver our stuff on Wednesday, but we'll see if that happens.

In the meantime we are living with our kids and it is not easy on anyone.  We love them and they love us, but no one needs to have live-in guests for going on 3 weeks.  But I have to say that they have been more than gracious, and we love them for it.  And we do get to hug grandchildren any time we want.

One side benefit is that Nadav, our youngest grandson, who is about 20 months old, no longer runs away screaming when he sees us.  He has gotten used to us hanging around, he probably figures that we are fixtures now since for some reason we took his room away from him and are not giving it back, and has even allowed us to play with him.  When we do move, he'll probably walk around looking for us.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Baruch Hashem"

Today we were at the bank - again.  Here is our brief history of banking:

1. We open a bank account and receive instructions about accessing our account online.
2. We attempt to access our account online.  It works!  Of course it's all in Hebrew, but we figure out with some help.
3. We return to the bank to deposit dollars into our account - we are charged a fee for this.
4. We attempt to go online and change dollars to shekel.  We fail.
5.  We return to the bank for help - oh, you sillies, they say, just because you gave us cash US dollars doesn't mean we automatically let you access that - you have to wait 3 days.  We leave.
6. The nice bank lady calls us and says, Oh since you wanted so much to transfer your dollars to shekel, I did it for you even though you can't do it yet.  Hmmmm we think, we actually didn't want to transfer ALL of those dollars but the lady was so nice we said thank you.
7. We go to pick up our credit cards and checks (this took almost 2 weeks)
8. We try to use our ATM card right outside the bank and the ATM machine eats our card.
9. Another nice lady in the bank yanks the card out of the mouth of the ATM after a bit of a struggle.
10. We fix the ATM card problem.
11. We try to transfer dollars from our US bank account to our Israeli one.  Failure even though we have all of the necessary codes.
12. Leezy gives us a work around for the transfer and we do it and it works!
13.  A week later (see, we know now that we have to wait) we try to transfer dollars to shekel.  We fail.
14. Which brings us to today - we return to the bank and our failure stumps even the nice bank lady.
She says she'll keep trying and call us with an answer.
15. She calls us!  the answer?  You can't transfer money on a Sunday. Whoa.

And as to the title of this blog - here's another Israel moment that I loved - the totally nonreligious bank lady was asked by a customer how she was and she answered, "Baruch Hashem." 

Somehow that made me feel great.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fridays and CAN I HELP YOU??????

So this is the first Friday that was sort of normal.  When you witness Fridays in Israel you feel like it's an explosion of energy that has been pent up for five days and finally, "YIPPEEEEEEEEEEE!"

We went to the mall and were blown away by the sight of hundreds of people walking around (during the rest of the week it's kind of quiet) and in every possible space people were selling cooked food for Shabbos.  In a fancy shmancy downtown mall. 

Then we went to shop. I don't know why (some psychologist could probably answer thsi) but I don't like being harassed by salespeople.  I mean, "don't like" in the way of "it makes me cringe."  Maybe it's that they get into my space, or they assume I don't know that that item I'm holding up is a skirt, and they feel the need to explain that fact to me.

Anyway, the Israeli salespeople seem very much to need to be needed.  Especially the ladies at the makeup counters.

I went into the Mashbir today (think "K Mart") to just find some face powder.  Mine is somewhere, but heck if I can find it.  There must have been 10 salespeople per type of makeup and all of them looked at me like fresh meat - ooooooh, she might buy something!

After 3 of them harassed me I walked out.  I knew that there was a pharmacy in the same mall and thought no one there would bother me because when I was there two days ago the makeup section was empty of helpful people.

So I marched on down to Super Pharm and walked to the aisle with the makeup.  And guess what?  FULL of salesladies.  Apparently they only show up on Fridays, when Israel comes to life as that is its only day to get anything done.  I went from aisle to aisle and everywhere I turned, there was a saleslady asking if she could help me. And "asking" is not exactly what it is.  It's more like demanding that I accept their help.  And they become personally offended if you don't .

It felt like one of those nightmares where you can't get away from the bad guy. 

Anyway, Shabbat Shalom to everyone.....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We Are Closed & the Port Saga Continues

We had a semi-normal day today, considering the fact that we don't have an apartment, are totally in limbo, and are stressed out of our heads about everything.

We worked a bit in the morning and went out for lunch with friends from Baltimore (hahaha, now we are the Israelis who have people visit them, so weird).

Then we went to pick up our dry cleaning.  It was about 2:45 pm.  And - they were closed.  Now OK I understand that this is basically a desert nation and in the spring and summer months it is extremely hot.  And YEARS AGO they used to close up in the middle of the day becasue it was too hot for people to go out and too hot to work.

But, let's think about this.  It is winter, it is cold, rainy, and dreary.  And even in the summer, every place is air conditioned.  So why do some businesses hold onto this old system?  It's fascinating and we keep seeing it everywhere.  I'm sure there are deep cultural reasons, right?

OK, so the port lady has finished fighting with our shipper in the states - and has reduced our astronomical bill which she sent us earlier in the week.  But I still don't trust it.  So I want the guy in the US to confirm that we are being treated fairly.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Nothing comes easy.

Tomorrow we are due to purchase a washer and dryer. And we are still waiting for Driving Instructor Meir to call us back and schedule lessons.  He told me, "You have to be patient in Israel.  Everyone always needs patience - no one has it, but we all need it."

Nuf said.....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Good Stuff

Well, I figured since I've been kvetching for two weeks it's time for me to think about the good stuff - the things that make you stop and think how great it is to live in Israel.

So here are a few things - I'm sure you've all heard others saying the same things, but now it's my turn:

  • Every government office has a mezuza on its doors
  • Non-religious people say Shabbat Shalom to you on Friday
  • You see highway signs of cities and towns mentioned in Chumash and Navi
  • Listening to my grandchildren speaking beautiful Hebrew like natives
  • You look at the rocky hills and mountains and (I really do this) imagine groups of Jews in ancient times walking there
  • Explaining to someone that you are a new immigrant and that is why your Hebrew isn't good, and having them smile and say "Welcome home!"
  • Having random people like the driving instructor wish you success on your absorption
In addition to the Israel part of all of this, it is so nice being near two of my kids - doing little things like homework together (Ariella and Zeydie are now learning Gemara together, on Ariella's insistence), babysitting after school, etc. 

That's it for now but there's more - we just have to move out of the panic stage to appreciate more of it.

Two Weeks! & Mr. Shower Door

Well, we've been here two weeks today.

Today we met with Mr. Shower Doors.  You see, our bathrooms do not come with any shower enclosures.  So Mr. Shower Door has to come and measure and ask you what you want.  Fine.  So happens this guy also installs mirrors, which we need in our bathrooms.

It all was going so nicely.  Then, Mr. SD told us that we were facing a catastrophe.  Yes, that is the word he used.  I understood enough of his Hebrew to get that and see the terrified look on his face. It seems that the way we want our mirror, it will cause THE MIRROR TO CRACK!  It will be a catastrophe!

Gila and I tried to calm him down and told him, "Never mind!  Don't worry!" We felt so bad for the guy!

Then, later in the day, we got an email from the Misrad HaKlita.  These are the people who give us money during our first year, just for coming here.  The lady tells us that our bank account number is not working - and we need to send her something that proves we have a bank account, what the number is, and that we have money in it (i.e., the account "works.")

This we figure out too.

And there are continuing tiny issues with the apartment - outlets in the wrong place, things a bit askew, etc. We are now realizing how many millions of details Gila and Donny have been handling for us during the two years of construction - it's pretty amazing and we are very grateful.

So send along your positive vibes, folks - we need to get the keys and have our stuff delivered (still fighting about the port bill as well). 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Port Story and Rechov HaSmood

The port story was a little traumatic - this took place last week.

We received an email from the lady at the port saying that we had to come to Haifa to sign the papers accepting our shipment.  Of course, just our luck, it had arrived a week early and our apartment is...well, let's just say more than a week late.  We were going to go to Haifa via train. 

So I called the lady and asked her how to get to her office from the train station.  She tells me that it's on Rechov Hasmood.  I write down the address and that evening Gila, Donny and I try to find Rechov HaSmood on the map of Haifa.  We cannot find it.  "Are you sure, Momz," asks Gila, "that you got the name of the street right?"  "Of course, I wrote it down just howshe said it," I reply.

Anyway, then I receive an email from her that the office is on the same street as the train station, Rechov HaAtzmaut.

Well, why didn't she say that in the first place, I wonder.

So, we get on the train in Modiin and as we near Haifa it begins to rain.  Rather, it begins to pour.  We, of course, did not bring an umbrella.  Funny thing about Israel - the country needs rain desperately, so you'd think they'd have an outstanding drainage system to capture as much as possible.  But the streets flood after about 100 drops have fallen and it just becomes a muddy, rocky, sloppy mess.  The drainage system as far as we've seen is pretty awful.

Anyway, we get into a cab, getting drenched in the process, and find the building.  It is a creaky old building with other offices and when we get out of the very scary elevator we are staring into the apartment of a family with several children.  They look at us as if to say, "What are you doing in our home?" and I begin to panic a bit until we turn slightly and see the office of the shipper.

The lady is not so nice to us because our apartment is not yet ready.  It seems this is the very first time ever in the history of the country that someone arrived in Israel, their lift came to the port, and their apartment was not ready.  We tell her that we are very frustrated with the situation and she starts telling us how expensive it will be if she can't deliver.  No matter how many times we explain our own frustration, she keeps looking at us angrily and acting personally offended by our apartment situation.

She advises us to get a lawyer and sue the kablan for thousands and thousands of dollars.  This lady is getting on my nerves.  We sign the papers, promise to chase the kablan down, wrestle him to the ground, put him in a half nelson, and stay there torturing him with bamboo shoots until we get the keys.

As we are walking back to the train station it dawns on me that in her quick and deep Hebrew accent, "haatzmaut" can easily sound like "hasmood."  Israel's Independence Day will forever, in my mind, be "Yom HaSmood."

Today we managed to do everyday type errands by ourselves, only get lost a little (now we are at the point where we say, "We know where we are!  We are on the street we always get lost on!")

We met with the nice people at the Misrad HaKlitah in Modiin who explained some stuff to us in English. The office is in a complex of trailers. I think the trailers have been there since 1948.  I feel bad for the people working there. 

I will begin Ulpan on February 15, which I am looking forward to - not only to learn but to meet people who are also new olim.

Tomorrow - we meet with the shower door guy!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Bag of Life.....and Meir

Let me tell you about our PAPERS. Ever since we started the aliyah process last May we have had a file of papers that have become extrenely important to us - these includes our original birth certificates, our marriage certificate, our application to immigrate, etc.  We had kept these papers in a very special place in our apartment in Baltimore which we called the BLUE BAG OF LIFE, which was a Seven Mile Market bag that hung in our coat closet.  Every few weeks we'd review it and see what was missing, what we still needed to do, etc.

THEN, since the day we got here we have had more and more papers which we had been told we must keep with us at all times.   Gila gave us a pink Rami Levi bag for this purpose, which was completely fitting since we are now shoppping in Israeli supermarkets (thought I do miss the new 7MM, I gotta say) - so now we have a PINK BAG OF LIFE (hereafter known as PBOL).

OK, so we have shlepped the PBOL to every office we have visited - even taking the papers we didn't think anyone would ask for.  After all, who's to say that the Maccabi office won't want to see the letter about your Jewishness or your birth certificate?  Or the bank - they may want to see that we have a tofes yarok! 

Now to today - frankly, we are traumatized and may need some kind of Maccabi help.  Why?  Because we called the famous driving instructor who Gila used - Meir.  Meir came by and met us in the parking lot of Gila's building.  He asked to see our tofes yarok and.....HE TOOK IT FROM US!  Woe is us, someone took something from our PBOL!  We felt violated.  We're still getting over it.  In exchange he handed us (not a fair trade if you ask me) a small piece of paper that we now have to hand to soemone in the post office and pay a fee for the driving test.

That will be an adventure for another day.  Gila has warned us to do drive-bys of the post office and if there is a line coming out of the door, we should just keep a'drivin.

Also today we got our Israeli credit cards and checks (hebrew word for checks - checkim).  In our zeal we walked out of the bank and tried to use the ATM machine.  DUMB.  Of course the machine ate the card.  Why?  Because the sweet lady at the bank who has really been wonderful and helpful gave us the wrong PINs.  Another thing we did - found a dry cleaner and dropped off clothes.  How.....residential of us.  Did we ever think that a stop at the dry cleaner would make us feel victorious?

Tomorrow we meet with the olim-helper lady in Modiin who speaks English.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

One More Adventure

Today was the day we went to the Licensing Bureau in Jerusalem to get someone to sign the form that allows us to take driving lessons so that we can get an Israeli driver's license so that we can buy a car.

First we were supposed to wake up at 6:00 to catch the 6:45 train to Jerusalem.  That would have worked out so well if the time on my phone had been correct when I set it.  

So....we took the 7:46 train to Jerusalem.  Arrived fine, got a cab to Talipyot, cabbie knew where he was going, and lo and behold the building said "Misrad HaRishui" on it (in Hebrew)!  Yay, we are in the right place!

Go inside, figure out which office to go into and how to take a number (for you Baltimoreans, every time we go into one of these government offices, it feels like Goldman's on Friday morning).  Our number is 689.  The sign that shows which number they are waiting on says.....55.  Please, I think, tell me the numbers don't go in consecutive order.....

We sit down and think, "OH, this ticket must mean that our number is 89, not 689!  hahahahaha!  we figured that one out, didn't we?"  So with this myth in our heads we sit down and prepare for a very long wait.  


The electricity goes out.  Everything goes dark.  Computers don't work.

Several important looking men finally come into the waiting room and open a cabinet where presumably the electrical panels are hidden.  They look and look, they flick things, but nothing.  We wait more - more men, more flicking, more nothing.

Then an older gent with a very angry countenance storms out of a back office and walks purposefully to the same cabinet.  He flings the door open and shouts, "EE Efshar! [IMPOSSIBLE!"] and then proceeds to say that if there is no electricity, there is no service, all of these people can go home.

NO, I think, PLEASE don't let this happen - pretty please fix it, Mr. Angry Man.  He closes the cabinet and walks away and then.....THE LIGHTS GO ON!  YAY!!

OK, crisis averted.  Now we wonder how the numbering system works and whether we are 68 or 689 and whether we will have to wait for over 500 people to be waited on before it's our turn.  If that's so, where the heck are these people?

Once the electricity is back on, the little sign with the electronic numbers goes back on and suddenly someone realizes that for the entire morning the numbers have been wrong.  ALL of the numbers begin with a 6 (hundred), so we are indeed 689 and they are now helping 660.  Not so bad.

We are called!  It's our turn!  Wheee!  We go to the lady and explain that we are olim chadashim (new immigrants) and ask if we can speak English and she looks perturbed and says something about us having to learn Hebrew, and proceeds to speak LOUD and SLOW.   I almost cracked up in her face because that is just what I used to do when I was speaking to my Bubby who only spoke Yiddish.  It don't help, people.  Not knowing the words is not knowing the words.

Anyway, we show her our holy "green" form and she takes it and asks for our US drivers' licenses.  She looks at Bern's and says - is this the first driver's license you ever had?  No, he says, I've had one for over 30 years.  Well, she says, how am I to know that.  You need to get a letter from the Maryland Motor Vehicles people that states how long you've had a license.  Oh no, we both look distraught.  She then looks at my license and says, "You're ok."  Then she looks at our immigration document and says, "Wow, you just arrived!" and we said, yes, less than two weeks ago.  She gets up to ask someone something.

Then, miracle of miracles, she comes back and says, "You're both OK, we want to make things easier for you as new immigrants."

So, she signed the papers and told us what we had to do next (you get two tries to pass the driving test and then.....oh let's not think about that.)

After this, we went to the mall and had a celebratory breakfast, visited Bern's client who works nearby, returned to the mall and bought Bern some cool new clothes, and came back to Leezy's.  Tomorrow I meet with the driving instructor and we take care of some other things.

Our last aliyah-related tasks are to get the driver's license, get into the apartment, and meet with the Ministry of Absorption rep who speaks English and can answer some questions for us.

Stay tuned.......

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Love for the Immigrants

Today we returned to Ramla to meet with someone in the Ministry of Absorption (Misrad haKlitah).  We needed to hand her the form from the bank which proves that we have a bank account, that it is real, so that - wait for it, immigrant-hating countries - the Israeli government can GIVE US MONEY to help us through our first year.

That's pretty darn amazing.  Not only that, but as new immigrants we have all kinds of freebies, tax deals, and discounts on things like buying a car.

This is something I always knew about but has more meaning since my friend from Hopkins told me the saga of getting his 80 something year old father in law a green card.  The unabashed animosity of the US government toward foreigners is nothing new but compare it to the (at least official) attitude of this country (and, I'm sure, others) toward people who want to live here.

Instead of "why do you want to live here? to mooch off of us?"  you get a welcome packet and cash at the airport.

Anyway, the experience in Ramla was interesting. And now we are very confident in driving there, although I doubt we'll ever go there again.

Next on the list is getting cell phones.  

Then on Sunday we go to Jerusalem (forget Holon) and get the referral to take driving lessons.

Then we sign up for driving lessons.

Then we take the lessons.

Then we take the driving test.

Then, if we get a license, we can buy a car.

Oh, and our apartment is not ready yet.

But today we had a brief taste of real life here - we moseyed on over to Leezy's house, brought her lunch, hung out and helped her get ready for Tani's birthday party.  Just something most grandparents who live near their kids do but we've never done.  To prove my point - last year I attended the party via Skype.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We Tour Holon

So today was the day to go to Holon and visit the Misrad HaRishui (Licensing office) to get the approval to take driving lessons to get our license.  Lost yet?  no?  Wait, you will be.

In order to get a license in Israel, you have to:
  1. Get an eye exam at an optician's office after which you get a form to carry around with you for days until you can do step 2 which is....
  2. Get a physical exam by a doctor
  3. [BUT WAIT - in order to do #2 you have to be part of a health plan - go back and you lose one turn]
  4. Go to the Licensing Office but FIRST make sure you know their hours and days of operation and WHICH office you can go to - you find this out by going on the internet, writing to the community list serve, asking around, and then just guessing and hoping for the best.
  5. Find out you have to go to Holon to do this.
  6. Find out how to get to Holon.
  7. Find out that your Israeli GPS which you paid lots of money for does not recognize the street name you put in for the office in Holon.
  8. Decide to use Google maps directions instead.
  9. Drive to Holon.
  10. Park 10 blocks away from the right building.
  11. Walk 10 blocks
  12. Get in!
  13. Wait in line to get a number!
  14. Now you're number 1 in line!
  15. Walk up to the window practicing the Hebrew sentence you've memorized to tell the man what you need.
  16. And? And?
  17. He says, yes, this is the correct office (YAY)
  18. He says, yes, you have the correct day and time to come (YAY)
  19. He says but....
  20. You start to wish you were one of those guys who carries a rifle around
  21. He says but THIS WEEK we are not doing driving licenses.
  22. So come back next week.
  23. You stare at him in disbelief.
  24. You walk the 10 blocks back to your car and drive away
So, my darling Gila, feeling badly for us, says, "Hey, let's get your cellphones today!  Let's go to the Orange office in Yishpru and we shall have success!"

So we meet her there and wait for over an hour.  Then the nice (and adorable - are you seeing a pattern here - many Israeli men are swarthy and handsome) man explains the various plans to us and Gila translates for us (I did understand 'smartphone' in Hebrew though because it sounds like 'smartphone.')

When we get all of the information, we call Donny who tells us WAIT WAIT we MAY have a better option!

So we walk out.

Now tomorrow we have an appoitnment with the nice lady in the Misrad HaKlita (Absorption Office, and no I don't mean paper towels) to give her our bank account information so that the Israeli government can give us money all year.  Let's hope for success.

Oh, and on the apartment front we found the very handsome Nachum (again with the handsome) yesterday, he of kablan fame, who we hope will help hurry along the process so we can get our &*(&*(* keys and get into our ^&*(^(*&(* apartment already.  Not that we aren't having fun living with our kids.  It is actually kind of nice - I mean they are cooking for us and we are using their internet bandwidth and they are entertaining us.  But really, we all need our own space.  Soon, soon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We get things done

Well, we've been here 7 days.  In that time we've gotten a bank account, signed up for a health plan, started the process of getting a driver's license, received our teudat zehut (Israeli identity card), gotten lost a couple of times, tried unsuccessfully to bank online, even worked a little bit.

I would say we now feel like ..... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. It's not that it's overwhelming, it's that your head can't handle it.  Every once in a while I say to myself, "we are NOT on vacation, we are NOT visiting, we LIVE HERE."  And then my head starts thinking about something else becuase it cannot manage that right now.

I mean for 57 years I've basically lived in the same city, speaking English, knowing where things are, getting the lingo, etc.  Now it's all new.  They say that a change like this at this time in your life is a good thing as it strengthens your brain.  So in a few months we'll be able to do research in particle physics.

All in all, we've done OK - tomorrow we do the next step in thd driver's license process, the next day we do something with the Ministry of Absorption, on Sunday we meet with someone who handles olim, and oh I forgot tomorrow we have to get cell phones.

Do I sound confused?  I keep making lists and then changing them, and have taken to using a google calendar to keep track of my life.

Time for sleep.........



Now I know how the deer feels.

Somehow we met, got married, had 3 children and a short time later we are living in Israel with 5 of our grandchildren and our two daughters/sons in law. What the....?

There is now way I can process this, I think, for a very long time.

But far be it from me not to at least write about it. I have had a diet blog for a while, http://diettalk.blogspot.com and have regaled oh, about 6 people with my eating issues. So why not foist more of my paranoia, fear, and fret-a-holic ways on my reading public?

So here goes - the first blog after aliyah.

It is 4:00 am and of course I am awake. Even though I dutifully changed my watch before we landed somehow that did not magically change my body's rhythms. But then again we haven't slept well for months in anticipation of all of this.

For your amusement, here are some of the things I've been fretting about:
  1. It will snow and the flight will be cancelled.
  2. Our luggage will be lost - even our carry ons will be lost from the overhead bins, which hold all of our VERY IMPORTANT PAPERS that we MUST BRING WITH US.
  3. I will get a massive headache on the flight and take too many excedrin and get sick.
  4. We will get to israel and no one will ever have heard of us and our visas will turn out to be fake.
  5. They will ask us for paperwork that we never heard of ("And WHERE is your form stating that you are NOT bringing a pet to the country? Don't have it? Back you go!")
  6. oh, there is so much more.

So our day of aliyah went nicely, all things considered:
  1. There was not a historic snowstorm in Baltimore OR Philadelphia
  2. We were able to upgrade to Business class on our flight, so we were more rested and less traumatized by the flight itself.
  3. Our luggage made it and no one ransacked the overhead bins while we were sleeping (haha! I have their 'we're jewish' letter! let's go!)
  4. The nice people from AACI met us on the ramp going towards Passport Control and led us through the process of getting our first round of papers.
  5. We were met by screaming, smiling, and crying children and grandchildren and our reunion was fantastic.
Now we need to do many things that new immigrants really must do right away, and thank goodness our kids are helping us with that.

But all in all, I'm in a complete and utter fog. I don't know what I feel and am happy to go through the motions and let people take me by the hand for a bit. And I miss our kids in Chicago and wish they were with us so that our joy could be perfect. I have a mother's guilt about "leaving" Aaron and Ayelet and those gorgeous, sweet, funny boys and have an incredible urge to hug all of them and know that I can't because we're too far away. But then again that's how I've been feeling about Leezy and Gila for 3 years. Oy, this parenting thing doesn't get easier, does it.

And then I can't stop thinking about our adjustment. I keep looking at my kids doing things and thinking, I'm going to have to know how to drive here and drive there and do this and do that and how am I going to learn all of that? I'm terrified and excited and exhausted, but right now mostly terrified. I know this will ease as I do each thing but still. And having Bern leave in less than 6 weeks doesn't help because it puts a weird urgency into everything. After 37 years you'd think being separated for a couple of months would not be a big deal, but you'd be wrong.

And the eating. Back to that. Looking at the photos online I'm thinking, "UGH you still look hideous." So that continues and I will find a way to make that work too. Mostly I need to exercise and I have "waited" until I got here to think about that, because there is nothing so wonderful as an excuse to put off exercise. Gotta think of another one now. Ideas please.
Talk to you tomorrow.....