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Thursday, July 26, 2018

What’s cheaper??? Three things you’ll love paying less for in Israel

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We all love to kvetch.  Or maybe I’m just speaking for myself.  I definitely love to kvetch!  But sometimes, it’s worth stepping back and looking around at how much is truly wonderful about this unbelievable place we live.

Here are three that I’m really enjoying this week:

1. Public Transportation

This is my number one.  In fact, this was what caught my eye on Facebook today.  Someone was kvetching about the high cost of buying and renting a car—and they were right.

True, cars are expensive, but public transit is almost laughably cheap.   It’s even cheaper than when we arrived in 2013.  In an era when nothing goes down in price, fares were actually LOWERED around most of the country a couple of years ago!

Here’s what I’m talking about:

I took the kiddies to Jerusalem two days ago.  The three of us went from north of Haifa to Jerusalem and back, taking local buses in both cities, inter-city buses, and trains.  The train was an hour, a one-hour bus ride, then several local trips within Jerusalem.  Then, five hours later, an inter-city bus ride back to Haifa and one local trip to get home.

Total cost?  ₪60 per person. That’s under $20 (US).

Oh, and we could have traveled for another 12+ hours on the same fare, had we been so inclined, because it’s good for 24 hours from purchase.

Where, outside of Israel, can you get around cheaper than that?

(NOTE:  This isn’t what trains look like in Israel nowadays!  This is an authentic 1970s-era train on display in the Railway Museum here in Haifa.  Photo © Deror Avi via Wikimedia)

Two years ago, we were in Ottawa and I wanted to leave my family there and get back to Toronto by bus.  It’s a five-hour train ride, so farther than the distance from here to Beersheva (about 3 hours).  From here to Beersheva by train would cost maybe ₪80 round-trip, so 6 hours of travel (if I didn’t buy a 24-hour countrywide pass!).  Traveling from Ottawa to Toronto – one way! – is well over ₪200.

I’ve been to a few international cities over the last few years.  London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Toronto, Vancouver… I haven’t found anywhere you can get around cheaper.  Period.

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(Plus, our little neighbourhood train station just got a gorgeous new face lift this year – including huge new shaded areas to wait for trains without getting baked by the sun!  Photo credit © Nir Vadel via Wikimedia)

(Oh – and Haifa just got a long-overdue brand-new station at Merkazit Hamifratz (the north Haifa station) that will bring the bus, train, and mall together; before this, it was a 10-minute walk through a ratty parking lot from the bus to the mall & train…)

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Yes, many things can be challenging, and many prices are higher here, but it's definitely possible to live an affordable life.  And cheap, efficient transportation is one big reason for that.

2. Kosher Wine

imageThis next one might not loom as quite a large expense on a family’s budget, but it is still a very nice little perk.  Kosher wine is very, very cheap – relatively speaking.  And that goes for the good stuff along with the swill.

A typical wine we enjoyed back in Toronto was the Barkan Classic Cabernet Sauvignon.  I don’t know if it’s a “good” wine, but we like it.  And it sells for $18.90 Canadian, which at today’s rate of exchange is ₪52.71.

Checking over at Shufersol Online, where we do my online shopping (can I just say, I love buying groceries online?), the exact same wine is going for ₪27.90. 

And in case half price still doesn’t appeal to you, I just noticed they’re actually on sale:  choose two Barkan wines for ₪50.00 – that’s $13.73 (US) for BOTH, at today’s exchange rate.

3. Fruit

imageSome things are not only cheaper but better here. Fruits and veggies are often ridiculously cheap and delicious.  True, you can only get them in season, and sometimes, if you try to stretch the season, you end up with not-so-good produce (people go nuts over the first bitter green oranges of the year every fall!).

Actually, I am over the mooooooon right now because it’s LIME SEASON!

(lime photo © Galil – the company we bought all our limes from last summer!)

The first couple of years we were in Israel, there was no lime season, that I knew of.  And I really, REALLY started missing limes.  There is nothing like lime-flavoured things in the summer, absolutely nothing.  I thought it was such an incredible shame, because they grow such great citrus here (although, to be fair, mostly in the winter).

And then, last summer, something exploded (not literally) and suddenly, limes were everywhere.  We had lime juice, lime cake, lime pie, you name it.  And I was able to juice a whole bunch and freeze it into cubes to last through the long “dry” lime-less season in between.  As I write this, limes are starting to come back, so the cycle is beginning again. 

This cyclical thing is new to me, coming from Canada, a country that grows very little of its own fruit.

When a type of produce is new in season, it’s more expensive and generally less tasty, but people will pay more because they’re desperate.  The price usually gets lower and lower until the stuff is basically going begging in markets and stores around the country.  Rock bottom, dirt cheap.  Until suddenly, overnight—it’s gone.  You can’t have any more limes, mangoes, avocadoes, oranges, cantaloupes because they simply don’t exist.

Living in Canada, really the only things that were seasonal in our lives were strawberries and corn.  They do import both; you can get strawberries that are okay all year round, and even imported corn on the cob if you’re in a pinch.  But for both of those things, there is absolutely nothing like the fresh, local variety. 

imageHere in Israel, the same is true, except without the possibility of buying something in the off-season.  Which means that each of us has favourite produce that we look forward to. 

Last year, Naomi Rivka discovered persimmons and devoured them every chance she could get.  That was an exceptionally long season – maybe even five or six months.  But eventually it came to an end.  I’ve noticed that there are a couple of avocado seasons, for different types of avocadoes.  Right now, there’s some good guacamole going around—perfect with those lemons.  (I think avocadoes are gross, but the kids adore them.)

There are some fruits that are impossible to get fresh, like blueberries and raspberries (when I say impossible, yes, I know: if you have unlimited money and you’re in Jerusalem, you can probably find some).  Fortunately, there’s way more frozen fruit available now than there used to be—even more than when we first came in 2013, so homemade smoothies are getting even more delicious.

In case you’re wondering what’s in season when, here’s a handy list.

Bonus! #4. Cell phones

imageThis one’s a total bonus because honestly, I’ve already said so much that I’m full of pride and happiness to live in such a great place!  (And I hope you are, too—or planning to be!)

But then there’s cell phones.  I have a heart attack every time I go to Toronto and even think about what I need to pay for a SIM card there.

I just stopped in at the site of the provider I bought a SIM card from the last time I was there.  They’re asking ₪140 for one month, including 2Gb of data.  Golan Telecom, on the other hand, wants ₪29 per month for unlimited calling and 30Gb of data.  Sure, Israel is way smaller, so I’m sure it’s easier to provide better phone and data coverage… but that much easier?

The other day, the kids and I found this site about every day life in Israel (caution: the site is run by the Church of JC of Latter-Day Saints, aka Mormons) (and I honestly forget why were looking to begin with!).  Both kids were almost literally rolling on the floor with this paragraph:

Telephones in Israel are still a luxury. There is at least a one-year waiting list and installation charges run over $100.00 with a monthly charge based on each call made. Television came to Israel a little over three years ago, and, in spite of the high cost of sets, it is by far the best selling item on the appliance market today. Television programs start at five-thirty in the evening and seldom go beyond eleven o’clock. (source)

Clearly, this is an outdated article, and a wonderful reminder of how much things have changed here.  The idea of waiting a year to make a phone call is ludicrous when there are four phone stores within spitting distance who could have you hooked up inside of an hour.

I did explain to the kids that things WERE that bad here at one point, with Bezeq (government phone monopoly) controlling the telephone market—so the minute cell phones arrived, everybody bought one and Bezeq was forced to compete.  It’s a good lesson, really, in so many ways, and a great example of just one way that life in Israel is getting not only better but more affordable… you know, just in case you’re still tempted to look at the price of one item and declare that it’s way more expensive than the same item in a store in New York.  That may be true.  But you have to look at the big picture.

Oh – and by the way, with all these reasons you truly CAN live cheaper in Israel, I haven’t mentioned one of the biggest:  SCHOOL.  While school here is technically free, you do pay for your kids’ education.  The amount will vary depending on the kinds of schools you choose but regardless, it’s going to be WAY less than you’d pay for Jewish education in Canada, the U.S., or probably anywhere else in the world.  Like not-bankrupt-the-average-family less.

But that’s a topic for another post.  Meanwhile, I’ll be over here enjoying my buses, wine, fruit, and phones, and hoping you’ll be over here to join me sometime soon!



Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


7 comments:

  1. Education is far cheaper here in Israel as well, from gan up to university. Seeing what my friends pay for their kids' tuition in America, this is a biggie.

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    1. Knighted,
      Thanks for stopping by! You're 100% right, and in fact I actually did mention this in the next-to-last paragraph. Seeing what *I* used to pay for tuition in Canada, it makes me wonder why we didn't come sooner... (though we had good reasons)
      Shabbat Shalom!

      Delete
  2. I actually pay less for wine, but poitpis well taken

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  3. That LDS article has a timestamp (at the top) of May 1972.

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  4. As a senior citizen, I can get a monthly bus pass, NS150 which is good from Shiloh to Jerusalem to Mevaseret to Maale Adumim. If I'm not planning on traveling much or it's a short month, I can just buy daily passes NS13.50.
    It pays to be informed, since not everyone is aware of the special rates.

    ReplyDelete
  5. How did calculate your living expenses before you made Aliyah ? Were your figures fairly close to what you expected ? Iy’H , I will be coming within year or two as single senior -I was sixty five this July . Looking to be more central than you .







    A

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