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


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.


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.

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.

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


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

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


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.  :-)


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

Uncommon beauty: Haifa’s Technion campus.


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:


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.)


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.


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. 

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


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. 

Haveil Havalim, the Vayeira Version


Welcome!  It’s well and truly Cheshvan now, “bitter” with the mixed blessing of wind and rain and all kinds of deliciously wild weather whooshing around me.  I’m going to reuse the banner I made last week for this post because I love it so much, and I made it, so I can do that.

If you’ve never been to the Haveil Havalim party before, you’re in for a treat.

What is HH?

imageThis is a weekly roundup of what’s new and great in the Jewish / Israel blogging world.  If you haven’t checked out these great blogs yet, you really should. 

As the host, I get to break the posts up into categories.  So much fun!

NOTE:  If post(s) of yours are included here, be friendly and visit 2-3 other blogs listed here.  I’ve done my best to make them all sound tempting and fun.  Leave a comment to let them know you were there.


If I forget thee (Jerusalem)

therealjerusalemstreets, in her usual poetic style, on Highs and Lows Felt in Jerusalem:  “Real Jerusalem Streets is not just about the good stuff, / but what is really happening. / On days like this it is hard to know where to start / and what to post, there is so much to say.”

Reading your bills, paying your bills: three simple steps for staying afloat in Israel.


Want to have a fun Monday evening? 

Curl up with a great big pile of bills.  Well, not curl up exactly, but when Nefesh b'Nefesh offered a workshop called “How to Read Your Bills,” I figured I should probably head into town for it.

This workshop should be standard issue for all new olim.  But if you pay attention in Ulpan and learn as much Hebrew as you can, you’ll be arming yourself with the most important tool for staying ahead of your bills.

Three simple steps

According to the speaker (a lawyer and longtime olah), the top three priorities for olim when receiving a bill are figuring out:

How to help Israel: share its stories – with kids.


Does your Judaism include Israel?

Are you sharing it with your kids?  If not, you should.

I’ve been Jewish for a while, but I’ll honestly admit: for most my life, being Jewish didn’t include Israel, at least, not all that much.  Israel was more of a presence in the background than a daily thing for me.

If you don’t live here, you probably have a million reasons not to spend much time thinking about Israel:

  • it’s so far away
  • its history is too complex to think about
  • its politics are too convoluted to have an opinion about
  • it’s a difficult and dangerous place to live
  • it’s boring
  • Hebrew is a hard language to learn
  • it’s full of religious people
  • it’s full of non-religious / anti-religious people
  • it has nothing to do with me

All of the above – I’ve learned, now that I live here – are both true and untrue, by the way, which is part of what makes this place most fascinating.

If you have kids, your attitudes about Israel will rub off.  But even if you’re still wrestling with it yourself, they can still receive a good, solid Israel education.  I sent my kids to a religious Zionist day school, which helped take care of some of the issues in  my own list.

Choosing books that share the realities of Israel and its history in an honest way is also essential.