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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Seven things you MUST know before renting an apartment in Israel: an essential guide for new olim.

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Before you think about signing a lease for your first apartment in Israel, here are seven essential questions you MUST ask.  Make sure you know the answers before you put pen to paper.

  1. Can a realtor help me?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  In some areas, a realtor for rentals may be hard (like outside the centre of the country).  If you do find one, they generally charge a fee of one month’s rent.  We couldn’t find a realtor, but in the end, I found our place easily on “Yad Shtayim,” one big website for secondhand goods and real estate.   I used Google Translate for terms and descriptions I didn’t understand and Google Maps to help me understand where each apartment was.
  2. Who owns the apartment?  Unlike in the U.S. and Canada, buildings aren't usually centrally owned, so each apartment in a building has a different owner.  Most buildings have a "Vaad HaBayit" (Building Committee) to make sure central expenses get paid and central issues (like painting and cleaning) are dealt with.  Ask, because this is extra on top of your rent.
  3. Are appliances included?  Usually not.  Unfurnished apartments don't include appliances like washer, fridge, stove.  You will probably need to buy these when you move into your first apartment in Israel (measure first!!!).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Aliyah: the easiest thing in the world

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Let me tell you a secret about making aliyah:  Pesach.

When we decided to make aliyah, everyone said “Mazel Tov,” and then they’d start to coo.  Ooh and awe in amazement.  “Good for you,” they’d say.  “You’re so brave.  That’s so difficult.  You must be so strong.”

It was embarrassing, really.  But I believed it, too.  I believed that we were doing something incredibly difficult.  I believed that someday, by the sweat of our brow, we would earn the praise.

And then, along came our first Pesach here in Israel.  Which was easy; almost unbelievably so.

Just about any yom tov here is easier.  I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise in the world’s only Jewish country, but there it is; it was a surprise to me.

Like before our first Rosh Hashanah, when, in the post office, the teller was selling holiday greeting cards.  In the grocery store, honey was on sale (regular and silan, the delicious local date honey).  Along the shoreline, we were far from the only family tipping out our pockets come Tashlich time.

Then came Sukkos, Simchas Torah, Chanukah, Purim… they were all so much easier than the same day anywhere else in the world.

Pesach without the monster

But Pesach.  Pesach.  Sweet, sweet, Pesach in Israel…

We have been here for two Pesachs now and each one has been a delicious, delicious surprise. 

Okay, I don’t mean buying foods free from kitniyos (legume products forbidden to us minority Ashkenazim), which was actually harder this year than last, for some reason.  But just… everything about the yom tov itself.

Here in Israel, there’s no Pesach Monster.

What’s the Pesach Monster?

In Toronto, at least, people treat Pesach like it’s a monster, coming to get them. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Things that are weird in Israel #16: Book covers

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Maybe it’s just me?  Or maybe you’ve wondered about this, too?

Read on and let me know in the comments.

I’ll start by saying I love a great book cover.  It’s almost the most important part of the book. 

Sure, we’d all like to think we don’t judge books by their covers, but really… we do.  Of course, the inside is MOST important, but you’re never going to get to the inside if the outside is lousy.

Am I right?

Which is why book covers in this country continue to perplex me.  Astonish me.  Surprise me with the depths of terribleness to which they are allowed to sink.

To give you a sense of how awful things are, here is a fairly random sampling of some books in translation, so you can compare them to their English equivalents.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Haveil Havalim, Parshat Shemini, the Fed-Up-To-Here with Matzah Edition

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Yes, I am, and so are you.  I totally haven’t blogged this week (okay, month), and few other Jewish bloggers have been taking their blogs as seriously as they should.  Here are a few of the good guys who have kept at it against all odds…

By the way, if you’ve never enjoyed Haveil Havalim before, it’s a fantastic Jewish way to end/start your week.  And/or year, if you hold by the Torah perspective that the year actually begins in the month of Nissan!

What is HH?

imageIt’s a weekly roundup of what’s new and great in the Jewish / Israel blogging world.  I host once a month to give you a taste of what other great blogs are out there that you might enjoy.  Hopefully, you’ll find some new favourites.

  • Last week’s was skipped due to Yom Tov timing.

  • Next week’s carnival host is still TBA.

  • For more details, a complete schedule of future issues or to host an upcoming issue, please join the HH facebook group.

Don’t forget – the point of social media is… SOCIAL.  Stop by and visit some of the other blogs listed here.  Leave a comment to let them know you came from HH!

Normally, I divide these posts up by theme, but this week, let’s sort them by blogger.  Why the heck not???

Who knows ONE??

One is… Batya of Me-ander and Shiloh Musings, pretty much the Number One driving force behind Jewish blogging today.

What’s she posting about this week, in between seder preparations?

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