Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Some Stuff ...

Are we moved in ...??? We'll I guess the answer to that question would have to be yes. We have all our stuff here and we also have the new refrigerator here, we have our bed and the little furniture that we own right now. So yes, I guess we are moved in. We still have quite a few touches to add to this place before it feels like home, but that's what it is right now all the same, this is our home.

Yesterday was interesting. Late last night while we were still at Miri and Shlomo's Tafat called me downstairs in her mischievous little voice because she said she wanted to tell me something. She looked at me and happily asked me if I knew what day it was.

"Monday?" I said.

"It's Christmas," she said enthusiastically. "I had no idea, isn't that great!"

If you aren't aware, my wife is somewhat of a grinch. I had actually noticed what day it was and also it's conspicuous absence from the television, stores and basically every other aspect of life. Christmas eve and Christmas day passed almost invisibly through this country.

It's raining. I'm supposed to be happy about it cause it's good for the country and the farms and the Kineret and all that stuff. But its really been pouring out. I was running around out there looking for an ATM to get some cash to pay for our new fridge. I got completely drenched, I mean soaked. We keep saying we need umbrellas but it starting to get ridiculous.

Random Israeli Politics Posting:

PM Olmert has just approved a plan to improve the lives of the Palestinians in the West Bank. Apparently this plan is aimed at helping PA President Abbas gain some popularity. Personally, I think if Israel declared war on him, that would be the best way to hero status on the Arab street.

One of the main features of the plan, as noted by Ha'aretz, is the removal of several checkpoints from throughout the West Bank.

Olmert approved the plan Monday, which, among other gestures, includes the removal of 27 roadblocks across the West Bank.

Following a meeting between the prime minister, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and several other senior defense officials, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said the prime minister accepted all of Peretz's proposals for easing restrictions.

"The prime minister directed that restrictions be eased immediately for the Palestinian population in order to strengthen moderate elements and implement the agreements and understandings that were achieved [at his meeting with Abbas]," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

Normally, I wouldn't pay to much attention to this story. It's not that I don't care, its just that these types of "goodwill" gestures never produce any goodwill whatsoever. But this time the situation is very different because I'm here in Israel. Those roadblocks are supposed to help protect me. But now whoever might want to do me harm has 27 fewer roadblocks to worry about. Well, maybe it will work, this time.

Friday, December 15, 2006

We Did a Little Dance When ...

... we found an apartment in Tel Aviv!!!!

After watching Shlomo have a long discussion about the contract and the apartment in Hebrew, with me standing there understanding none of it, the owners went upstairs and printed new versions of the contract for us to sign. We did the deal and we'll be moving in next week.

The apartment seems great. Its in a great location, on a quite street, but close to the center of the city. It's a renovated apartment in a beautiful building. It's a little pricey but I think its worth it.

When Tafat and I got back to Haifa we did an idiotic little celebratory dance and started thinking about all the details we have to iron out before we can move in.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Official "We're in Israel Post"

I guess since we've been here almost two and a half weeks its time to confirm that Tafat and I are here in Israel. I'll try and run through the last two and a half weeks as best I can to let everyone know what the experience has been like.

After a long flight to London, and a very pleasant extended lay over spent walking around in the city, and then another shorter flight to Tel Aviv, we finally landed at the new terminal in Ben-Gurion Airport. The name of the project to build the new terminal was "Ben-Gurion 2000" which is unfortunate since it didn't open until the end of 2004. At any rate it's really impressive, it's beautiful, clean and very modern looking. It's certainly far more impressive than the terminal was the last time I came here. It's also fairly big. Tafat and I walked for quite a while before we got from our gate to passport control. It's not Minneapolis or Detroit big, but for such a small country to have such a big airport strikes me as some form of compensation.

We were met warmly at the airport by our surrogate Israeli mother Miri. She has been taking extremely good care of us and has kept us well fed. In the states the stereotype of the Jewish mother is someone who is constantly feeding you and taking care of you. In Israel, a country full of Jewish mothers, that stereotype is reserved for Polish mothers. Miri is the quintessential Polish mother. When we got to Haifa Tafat met Miri's husband Shlomo who has been extremely busy with his business the whole time we've been here. Shlomo is also in many ways a good example of the eccentric Israeli some people have pictured in their minds. His favorite pastime is to lament all the foods he can't eat because of the special diet he's on to lower his blood-pressure.

Tafat and I spent our first week in the country slowly recuperating from lingering jet-lag, running a few errands here and there with Miri and getting a feel for Haifa where we've been staying. We also took a very short trip to Tel Aviv to get a feel for the city in which we'll be living. Tel Aviv is everything I thought it would be. That is to say, its a very eclectic, very urban, somewhat run-down and dirty, yet completely appealing city. Being in Tel Aviv is frustrating because it's really not a pretty city yet it has the potential to be a beautiful city. Its a city badly in need of some paint and plaster, but where the architecture is at times stunning and also stunningly bad. Tafat and I are excited to be living there because in many ways it is the antithesis of LA - you can walk almost everywhere and many people don't even own a car.

Our first weekend here was wonderful since it featured a guest appearance by Miri's grandson. Her son and daughter-in-law were also here but the rule, as it is at my parents house as well, is that the grandchild is the star.

With our second week here we began our apartment search, and its been keeping us busy since then. Finding an apartment in Tel Aviv is tricky because you have to keep track of several factors including price, the apartment itself, the location, the noise ... Ok, maybe it's just as tricky here as everywhere else but where you're right in the thick of it it seems really hard. Maybe it's so difficult because really nice apartment seem so few and far between.

We took a break from apartment hunting last week to go to Jerusalem to visit Tafat's aunt Nadine. She is a fascinating woman and her mannerisms really reminded me of Tafat's mother. She also showed me how to make real Turkish coffee and I can see this quickly becoming a new hobby for me. Nadine took Tafat and I (well it was really for me) on a tour of the city. She took us to Tafat's old neighborhood and Tafat gave me a tour of where she grew up. It was really nice to see where she spent her childhood because it can really tell you a lot about a person.

Since then it's been a lot if trips to Tel Aviv on the train, mixed in with a little bit of shopping here and there. We also both got a kick out of going to a kosher hamburger joint in the mall in Tel Aviv. This should seem perfectly obvious that in a Jewish country it will be a lot easier to find kosher food, but all the same it made us both smile.

I would love to show you pictures of where we've been. Unfortunately my digital camera had a bit of an accident and it is no longer working. I'm not going to describe exactly how it happened but suffice it to say that is was a very "Jonah" moment, or in other words - stupid. But fortunately a replacement should be here in about a month, hopefully.

And ... well ... that's about it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Where We're At ... Haifa

Just so you know ......

You Know You're in a Jewish Country When ...

... the Supermarkets are filled with Kosher meat and products but you have to go looking for a speciality store to find shrimp, lobster or pork.

... the weekend starts on Friday and ends on Saturday. Sunday is the first day of the work week.

... the cute, sentimental add for the cellphone company features an adorable little boy, whose Sufganyot (doughnuts served during Hanuka) stand isn't drawing any customers, until his mother snaps a picture of him on her cell phone and send it out as a text message to all her friends.

... all of the stores in the mall have Mezuzahs on the door.

... you walk past a trendy shoe store on the street and look inside to find a giant picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

... the graffiti is meant to help bring the Messiah.

... there's a Synagogue at the bus station.