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Sunday, September 2, 2018

Three things that are better in Israel since we came

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A few months ago I was interviewing longtime olim and they all talked about the different ways that Israel was different since they came 20, 30, or even 40 years ago.  Which is nice, to think that the general trend is onward and upward, but not always so encouraging for those of us who are coming now (for example, hearing that you don’t have to wait a year to get a phone line when we’re already used to it being practically instant back wherever we came from!).

But things aren’t just changing in the long term.  We’ve only been here for 5 years (Five?!  How did that happen??!?) and already there are things that I’m noticing that have changed in little ways, making life better and better still…

Here are 3 of my favourites.  If you’re here in Israel already, I’d love to hear yours in the Comments!

1) Fruit

Actually, I didn’t think the fruit situation here COULD get much better.  Except for the fact that a) fruit here is so seasonal, and b) we sometimes like frozen fruit for baking and smoothies.  In Toronto, we used to just keep a tub of blueberries, some strawberries, mangos, whatever, in the freezer to toss into things.  Here, we couldn’t really do that, creating the irony of a bounty of strawberries davka (exactly) during the chilly winter season when you really don’t feel like an icy smoothie.  Where were the strawberries during the summer when I desperately wanted them? I wondered.

And now, guess what?  FROZEN fruit has come along to solve some of our fruit problems including strawberries, blueberries (impossible to get fresh where we live), and more. 

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There are even these smoothie-oriented mixes, though they all have “weird” stuff in them like beets that my kids don’t fully trust…

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It’s still not available consistently and everywhere, but it’s definitely a start.

(Also, there are weirdnesses like nasty sour rock-hard cranberries in the “red fruits” mixtures, and still not many strawberries to be seen, though there are other brands…)

The only problem with all this bounty is our teeny-tiny Israeli-style fridge freezer, which is already full to bursting with delicious and high-quality frozen veggies, chicken, and whatnot.  But you know… one thing at a time, every day it’s getting better.

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(if our freezer was tidier, it could serve as an ad for Snaproast (for mind-blowing revelation see below), the main frozen-foods company, a division of dairy giant Tnuva.)

EDITED to add:  OMG, my mind has just been blown by Batya, a helpful commenter who points out below that this company name is actually SUNFROST:

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Without vowels, you could read the word either way, but according to Tnuva's website, this is the official pronunciation.

Oh, yeah.  Also, speaking of fruit.  Limes!

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I may have raved about these last year – apologies if I did.  But when we first came, limes were pretty much impossible.  Even now, when they seem to be abundantly available, they are so new that many stores refer to them as “Lemon Lime” as if they were a type of lemon.  Cashiers still sometimes assume they are green lemons.  And at a time of year when the oranges are green (because it’s really too early for the orange season), they can be easy to mix up with other fruit… which is why I love when they come in a clear, easy-to-read container like this. 

Oh, yeah, they’re also so new that they often come with a recipe, in this case for “lime”-onade, which is probably just what I’d call “limeade.”  I don’t really need recipes, however.  Lime juice is perfect in everything from my post-Yom Kippur lime pie to vegan coconut-lime ice cream… it’s also delicious in salads, on fish, wherever, really.  We use the juicer to squeeze and freeze the juice to have it year'-round.  This is still Israel, which means any produce you see is not going to stick around forever.

Oops – apparently I just raved about limes two posts in a row.  Forgive me.  Like all other Israeli produce, they really are THAT good.

2) Shade on Playgrounds

This is one of those things where you find yourself asking, “Didn’t somebody know when they built this playground that it would have full deadly sun exposure ten hours a day?”

Whatever the case, whatever the reason that nobody thought of it, the fact is that more and more playgrounds, school playing fields, and other outdoor areas are being covered.  Slowly but surely… and it can’t come soon enough (especially since many schools, like my son’s, were built without a gym, so the outdoors is their only option for gym class!).

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Here’s one of our favourite local parks, where we found ourselves last Thursday afternoon sitting on big comfy benches in the shade, enjoying a relatively cool breeze – such a rarity for our area in August! 

To be fair, this particular park also features a sprinkler area, and I’d gotten thoroughly soaked right before heading into the shade.  So there was no danger of being too hot.  But still – the dappled shade combination of trees plus shade cloth was amazing; it makes a 10 degree difference easily at the right time of day.

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3) Cars to Go (& Friends)

Back in Toronto, since we left, there have been a couple of companies offering quick and easy car rentals, where you just go and pick up a car whenever and wherever there’s one free.  They have these in other big cities as well… and the model has finally, FINALLY come to Israel.  In our area, the only company doing it is Car2go, but there are others in the centre of the country, such as AutoTel in Tel Aviv, which I believe is partially sponsored by the municipality and run in the same way that their quick n’ easy bike rentals are.

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With Car2Go, there’s a registration process, but it’s pretty simple – you send them your driver’s license and choose a plan.  One plan has a monthly flat rate but I believe the other is free if you don’t use it, but then you pay a little more per rental.  The app is very convenient and relatively easy to use, and it will help you locate a nearby car.  This lot has five cars and it’s less than a five minute walk from my house.

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The drawback is that you can’t reserve a car, so if they’re all taken, you’re out of luck.  The app will show you other parking areas nearby where you might have better luck, but obviously, without a car it’s going to be a hassle walking much more than 10 minutes.

Lack of availability kept me from trying it for a while, and then the one time I did use it, to take the kids Pesach shopping, it wound up being an extremely expensive experiment.  So I don’t think this is a solution for us, long-term, but clearly it’s popular, as the cars seem to be in nearly constant use.

Even if we’re not going to use it, I like having this as an option and a possibility for those who do since it’s so much more convenient (for spur-of-the-moment driving errands) than the formal rental process.  If you’re renting, by the way, I strongly recommend Noach Car Rental.  They’re honest, quick and friendly, and work with all the rental companies to get great prices.  I don’t get a kickback, I don’t mind sharing a good thing and we’ve had mostly good experiences with them.  (Tell them I sent you!)

This is just three small improvements that we’ve noticed since we got here.  None of them may be perfect just yet, but then again, as a country, Israel is still an infant.  As we wrap up this “turning-70” year, I have a sense that the Startup Nation is just getting started, and we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

So… like I said: those are three that are among my favourite wonderful things that have changed in Israel since we came.  What are yours???

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


6 comments:

  1. The brand of fruit might look like Snaproast, but it's really Sunfrost :-D. Reminds me of when i saw an ad for an apartment building and wondered why it included pantyhose. Turned out the be penthouse...

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    1. That's hilarious -- really??? According to the Tnuva website, you're absolutely right. I think Snaproast is a BETTER name, but whatever. Live and learn, right???
      http://en.tnuva.co.il/products/13

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  2. Nu, you didn't interview me?!
    When you go more Israeli with your food, you'll stop buying frozen vegetables, so you'll have room in the freezer for things you can't get otherwise. I also don't have a separate freezer, and the space logistics are complicated.

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    1. Nope, no interviews - sorry!
      But based on what I'm seeing in the grocery stores, and the sizes of fridges being delivered in our neighbourhood, even Israelis aren't "going Israeli" with their food choices anymore. I figured we'd be totally authentic by buying a smaller, Israeli-style fridge, but everyone who can is getting the bigger models and taking advantage of deals on frozen stuff. :-o

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  3. I made aliya in 1999 -- my top 2 are : 1-online grocery shopping (Rami Levi is particular is amazing!) 2-kupat cholim (Maccabi) online features (ask doctor for prescriptions, chat with your doctor online, book appointments) ....

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    1. Agreed! I do both of these and would also add -- online movie theatre ticket buying. You can even choose your seats! I don't know if Clalit lets you request a prescription yet, but the other features are very nice, and generally easy to use. Another score for Israel, since this level of service has yet to make it to Canada.

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