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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Israel’s cheap coffee obsession: 5 shekels, fixed price!

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Do you know how much 5 shekels is worth these days?

Not much.  About $1.46 Canadian; $1.29 US.

Which probably explains why this is Israel’s favourite new price tag for coffee and other edibles.

Five-shekel obsession started in the centre of the country, but it’s spreading out, propelled by chains like cofix – the original five-shekel fixed-price coffee joint.

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Before cofix, Israel’s reigning coffee-bar champ was probably Aroma.  I like the idea of Aroma more than I like the place itself, and I don’t love their icekaffe, the basic coffee slushie that every coffee chain carries.

The one thing you must know about Aroma is that it’s expensive.  You’ll pay maybe 15-20nis for an icekaffe, and any of their other chilly or warm delicacies (served with their signature mini chocolate bar on the side).

Then, along came cofix.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Wanna see something cool? (hint: it's a book, but it's not by me)

Welcome Home:  My First Six Months Living in Israel, by Akiva Teddy MacLeod

Know what this is?

It’s a book.  But more importantly, it’s OUR book.  Well… I will actually bow out here and admit that it’s my husband’s book.  All I did was edit the thing and write an intro. 

It’s like the difference between being a midwife and actually giving birth yourself.  The lines get blurred a little; you’re both exhausted and covered in goop by the end of the process, but ultimately, I must hand the credit back to him.

Here’s the book description:

How do you write a book about something as momentous as moving to Israel? One Facebook post, one bus ride, one limonana at a time.
In this remarkable journal of one family's transition to a new land, you'll see the daily side of the holy land revealed for all its laughter and tears.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

9 mind-blowing quotes you’ve never heard about Israel and aliyah.

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What is the world saying about Israel??  Those who are brave enough to admit the truth are saying exactly what they’ve said all along. 

Here are 9  quotes, arranged from oldest to newest.

  1. “The Jew - is the symbol of eternity. ... He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear.” – Leo Tolstoy, 1908 (read the full quote here)
  2. "The road to national rebirth is a hard one, but there is no other.” – Aaron David (A.D.) Gordon, 1920 (read more quotes here)
  3. “I had faith in Israel before it was established; I have faith in it now.” – Harry Truman, 1948

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What You Must Know: Purchasing And Selling Real Estate In Israel

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I get asked about real estate surprisingly often given that I know nothing.  So I’m sharing this guest post by a lawyer who knows all the ins and outs of Israeli real estate market.

Since laws change quickly, please don’t take this as legal advice.  Check everything you’re not sure about with your own lawyer before you make any major decisions.  Except the decision to read this article, of course.  You have my permission to do that without consulting a lawyer.  :-)

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This article is the first of two that will cover the various aspects of buying real estate in Israel. The first article will provide a general overview of the Israeli real estate system, the major differences between transactions in Israel and the United States, and the most important considerations in such a transaction. The second article will cover special issues when the property is new and being bought from the contractor, and also taxation associated with purchasing and selling property in Israel.

 

What type of property are you buying?

“each type of land involves a slightly different purchase process”

There are two types of property in Israel: privately-owned (private land) and state-owned property administered by the Israel Lands Administration ("Minhal"). Private real property, like in the U.S., is owned by the buyer with title vesting in him. Land is registered in the land registry (Tabu) under the name of the buyer. On the other hand, title to Minhal property does not pass to the purchaser. Instead, the buyer gets a long-term lease to the property which is usually for 49 years with an option for an additional 49 years. Over 80% of the land in Israel is Minhal land, so the buyer should not be deterred from buying it. However, private land is often viewed as preferable. As each type of land involves a slightly different purchase process, one of the first things to check is whether the property is private or Minhal.

 

Choosing an agent

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Uncommon beauty: Haifa’s Technion campus.

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Sometimes, asking “where’s the most beautiful place in Israel?” feels a bit like asking, “what’s the most beautiful callus on your feet?”  The answer’s obvious:  there isn’t one.

Call me a snob, but I’m Canadian.  I can’t help it:  Canada is breathtaking.  Just driving down the highway from Toronto to Ottawa, nowhere special, you pass through forests so primordially green that they can make you weep.  Not to mention British Columbia and the Rocky mountains (oops, I just mentioned them).

Israel, by contrast, has some nice bits.  I don’t mean to suggest that it doesn’t.  But it also has a heck of a lot of stretches that look pretty much like this:

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The bleakness is not awe-inspiring.  For the most part, it’s just kind of scruffy and, well… dull.

So when I find beauty, even a scrap of it – by which I mean the slightest expanse of green – I fall in love.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote in his book Cat’s Cradle, “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”  (Click here to view/share this graphic via Facebook.)

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Today’s travel suggestion came in the form of a meeting at the Technion, Israel’s premier university of technology.  It’s also the country’s oldest university (founded in 1912, though they didn’t start actually having classes until over a decade later, so I’m not sure it counts).

And my “dancing lesson” came in the form of discovering a jewel in the middle of Haifa’s occasionally “meh” landscape.  (Okay, yes, Haifa is built on a very steep mountain range and that in itself is cool and kind of awesome to look at.  But many parts of the city are scruffy at best, even if it is starting to grow on me, a little.)

Picking an Israel-friendly name for your Jewish baby.

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Quick!  Think of the first three Hebrew names that come to mind.

Maybe Sara?  Rivka?  Or, for a boy, Aharon or Daniel?  Uri or Riva?

Lots of Jews outside of Israel are looking for either an edgier or more contemporary Israeli name, like Eitan or Ma’ayan, Alon or Ariel (for a girl or boy), Gil or Carmi.

Having had a lot of Jewish kids (okay, four) of my own, I thought I knew a lot about Hebrew and Jewish names.  And I was pleased that we had picked names that would “fit in,” Naomi (NR) and Gavriel (GZ), both slightly traditional but modern enough (I thought).

Turns out I know nothing.

Nothing in North America could have prepared me for the deluge of real, modern Israeli names.

The most popular name in GZ’s class is “Nehorai” (נְהוֹרַאי) a name I had never, ever heard before. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Am I bilingual yet? Kind of. Sort of. A little.

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How’s your Hebrew?

Are you  hoping to become bilingual once you get to Israel?  You might… but it might not be what you expect, once you get there.

Being bilingual has, frankly, been a bit of a letdown.

Before we came, I wondered how long it would take to become “fully bilingual” in Hebrew.  People even say “fully bilingual,” like there’s some kind of test for bilinguality.  Like only 100% will do.

Having been here for a year, having done well in ulpan, I have to confess:  I don’t believe in “being” bilingual anymore. 

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