16 July, 2009


The Jewish Agency had given me a list of things to do post haste. Today I completed the last two items on the list: signed up for my absorption basket monies to be deposited to my bank account, and signed up for my free five months of Ulpan - which will begin Monday.

Now, while taking Ulpan, I can start working on the items that were not important enough to make the Jewish Agency's list: finding a place to live, getting my foreign degrees evaluated and accepted, enrolling in the teacher retraining program (to get an Israeli teaching license), and getting a driver's license.

13 July, 2009

Life in a Battle Zone (aka More of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)

Don't be alarmed by the title of this post; Hezbollah has not attacked. And they might as well not bother; there is enough battling over land just between the Israelis. The issue isn't about whose land it is and who has the right to be there, but rather, whose land is better, and where new olim should settle.

I have met and/or talked electronically with people from Haifa proper, and people from the Qrayot (that group of suburbs across the bay - two of which, Haim and Shmuel, are actually part of Haifa, rather than separate townships). The good thing is that these people all are proud of their part of the world. The bad thing is that they have very little good to say about the neighborhoods across the bay. These people mean well when they tell new olim where they should settle; they are certain they know what is right for newcomers since they have found what is right for them. They, I am sure, are trying to save us new folk from the difficulties and mistakes they may have experienced.

Most conversations go something like this, "Even in this short time of talking to you, already I can tell that you will be happier if you chose to live in _____; it will be perfect for you. But whatever you do, don't let yoursef end up living in ______. I know it might sound like it would be alright, but it just isn't right for you. Trust me; I know what I am talking about."

Some people will even go so far as to make claims that aren't true. My hostess in my temporary abode told me there were no beaches in the Qrayot - just industrial areas by the water. (She wasn't lying to me; she really thought that was true.) I could be mistaken, but after growing up in Oregon, which is on the Pacific (that is the world's largest ocean, for anyone who is geographically challenged), and then living in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, I am thinking I probably know a beach when I see one, and I saw a gorgeous beach in Qiryat Haim.

To the chagrin of the Ahuzites (my word for people who live in the Ahuza neighborhood of Haifa) I am about 95% certain I am going to live in the Qrayot. If I do not live in the Qrayot, I will probably move out of the Haifa area entirely. Ahuza is the home of a very nice Masorti synagogue but I cannot handle the mountainous terrain of Haifa. It is lovely to look at, but if one is planning to go carless, it (excuse the expression) sucks! The 2.65 miles I walked to synagogue (one way) felt more like 8 miles due to all the steep streets. Over the course of Friday and Saturday services I made that walk three times. (I got a ride home on Friday.)

One good thing that came out of my recent hiking career, is that I finally understand those lyrics in country songs about grandparents who claim they walked long distances to school , uphill both ways. I always thought it was a joke, but now I know they lived in a pace like Haifa. I don't know how it ends up being uphill no matter where or which direction you are going, but it does. Trust me; I know what I'm talking about.

I said this would be more of the good, the bad, and the ugly, but really there is not any 'ugly' here. It is truly a beautiful area - no matter which side of the bay one is on. I just cannot fully enjoy the beauty when I am out of breath and panting as I try to make it to the top of the next ridge.

High Point of Week One

Being in Jerusalem on Sunday 12, July, was the high point of my week; I was so excited to finally do something special that I had been wanting to do for a long time.

You may be thinking that I was excited to pray at HaKotel, or to once again stroll through Ben Yehuda Mall or Mamilla Mall, or that I may have dropped in on people at the Conservative Yeshiva. While all those things would have been enjoyable, there was just no time. I was there to take care of business.

NBN had a set up whereby we could pick up our ID cards and get information from representatives of several companies all in one location. There were reps from various banks, healthplans, newspapers, magazines, and clubs/associations that might be of interest to new olim. So now you are thinking that while all that information in one place was probably helpful it doesn't really sound that exciting - and right you are.

My special treat came before I went to the NBN office; in fact it was the first thing I did after getting through the bus security at the Jerusalem CBS. I had a hamburger! Yes folks, you read correctly - I finally had a meat meal other than fish or Hebrew National. Baruch HaShem, it is great to be in a country with kosher meat.

11 July, 2009


The good: The people are good. I have met some very nice people who are eager to help me adjust to life in Israel. I attended Friday and Saturday services at a very nice synagogue with very nice people, one of whom invited me home for lunch after Saturday service. Lily is a nice dog who has not snarled or growled at me once. While the people are nice, I miss y'all so please email or call my skype number. If you ask me in an email, I will give you the skype number.

The bad: The internet service is bad. I have been trying unsuccessfully for two or three days now to upload video of my last day in the US and my first day in Israel. I give up. I am using the internet connection of the lady with whom I am staying in the Hadar area of Haifa. I am not sure if her internet service is typical, and I am not sure if the fact that she has been downloading several items has had an impact on my ability to upload, or indeed, even use other functions, but I am not having a good online experience.

Besides not being able to upload video, I also have to wait a long time for any page to load/open. This slowness has been consistent for the whole time I have been here. A new internet problem is that my Google chat has been disabled, with a message telling me to check with the network administrator.

So it is not that I have not wanted to keep in touch with people in the states, it is just that going online is very frustrating and sometimes fruitless.

The ugly: I am ugly (and smelly). Face and hair, wet with perspiration, is not attractive! I have been very exhausted and am not handling the heat well at all. It is surprisingly humid here - worse than Florida. There is no A.C. where I am staying so I am going to have to adjust. I do not mind walking, but I am finding walking in Haifa to be very difficult due to the fact it is built on a mountain. I am getting short of breath and having a bit of chest pain when walking long distances - and they are all long distances. It takes me about 70 minutes, moving as fast as I can, to walk to synagogue, and then I am exhausted and covered in perspiration.

This week: My tasks for this week are: get ID card, sign up for health plan, open a bank account, sign up for the government financial assistance, and try to register for Ulpan. I do not know yet, but I have heard there is a possibility that I will not be able to start Ulpan until September. If I understand correctly, I get 5 months or 500 hours (whichever comes first) for free.

After this week: Julia still does not know when she will get to go for her treatment. She will have three weeks of treatment, during which time I will have two jobs: take care of Lily and find a place to live.

L'hitraot (see you later)