Salutations

One of the things I love about Israel and the Hebrew language is that there is a greeting for everything and everyone greets everyone (well mostly, remember the grumpy old men?)

There are regular, every day greetings, good morning (בוקר טוב – boker tov) and evening (ערב טוב – erev tov).

There are greetings for the beginning and end of the week, good week (שבוע טוב – shavua tov) said from the moment shabbat has ended to the end of Sunday and  shabbat shalom (שבת שלום) said anytime from Thursday through to the end of Saturday night.

Then there are greetings for High Holy days, usually happy holiday (חג שמח – chag same’ach) or the yiddish, gut yontiv (גוט יום־טובֿ – good yom tov). 

My favourite though, is an alternative to good morning. It is usually said as a response to someone who says good morning (boker tov) to you.

The greeting is בוקר אור (boker or) and literally translates to ‘morning light’.

It really does lighten up my day!

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We eat the food, then we do the things.

One of the things we decided when we made aliyah was that we were going to try live as Israelis as much as possible. In particular food. We decided to buy and eat Israeli products as much as we could. 

One, buying imported things is expensive. 

Two, support the local economy.

Three, the kids are growing up Israeli, they need to be comfortable eating foods we may not have eaten in South Africa.

All of this is not to say we don’t eat the same foods we used to eat in South Africa. I’m yet to see cottage pie on a restaurant menu but we often have it for dinner. 

Israelis also tend to eat larger, heavier meals at lunch and smaller, lighter meals at dinner time. We still eat a proper cooked meal for dinner, mostly, this summer we have tried eating lighter, smaller meals at night.

All this brings me to things that we don’t/cant buy here (there is one big store that imports food stuffs from SA and Australia and the UK, but it is hellishly expensive). Things that I miss. Things that I have asked people to bring me and that I hoard and cherish like a certain gold ring.

  • Anita mentioned on Facebook, samp, which I haven’t had in years and now have a hectic craving for. 
  • Along with samp, is a good stiff pap with tomato gravy. You can buy polenta here but its just not the same.
  • Boerewors. I’ve had locally prepared boeries but its just not the same. The meat here is very different to SA and you can tell.
  • Peppermint Crisp. Anybody who visits has to bring me at least 1 slab. 
  • Five Roses Tea. Israeli black tea is rather weak. At least that’s my opinion. I love a good cup of Five Roses. 
  • Biltong. I actually have a biltong maker, I just need to figure out what’s the best cut of meat to use so I can make some.
  • Mrs Ball’s Chutney. I dont even really like chutney but I use to use it for cooking. Maybe I should try make my own…

All in all I think we manage just fine using local products and ingredients. And I don’t really miss anything to point of agonising over not having it. But I wouldn’t say no, if someone gave me any of the above.

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Photo taken by Paul in 2005 (I cannot for the life of me remember which game reserve it was)

Home

Israel is home. It was from the very first time I stepped foot on her soil 20 years ago.

I came with my family to visit my uncle. We spent 2 weeks driving from north to south, east to west, seeing as much as we could in the short amount of time that we had. 2 years later at the age of 19, I came on my own and spent 8 months on a kibbutz as a volunteer. I made friends with some of the local girls on the kibbutz and we went traveling together with some of the other volunteers, spent time in the north and in hostels in Tel Aviv. Another 2 trips and I knew I would one day live here.

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Paul and I discussed moving to Israel for ages but it was never the right time. Also, Paul had never actually been to Israel so I think it was more of an abstract concept to him. Until he came for a visit and that was that.

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We have been here now for just under a year and a half and each day I fall more in love with our home.

This week marks Israels birthday, her independence, Yom Ha’atzmaut. The streets are filled with flags, cars are dressed up with flags, balconies have flags flying. The kids are learning the history of our home and come home every day excited about celebrating. 

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The day before Yom Ha’atzmaut is a day of mourning, Yom Ha’zikaron. A day where we remember all the fallen, the soldiers, the victims of terror, those that have given their lives for the freedom we now enjoy.

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This beautiful country, this proud people go from heartfelt mourning and deep grief to celebration and joy and I can say with absolute certainty that I am proud to be a part of it, proud to be Israeli.

**all photos taken by Paul

קרמבו/Crembo/Krembo

However you spell it, in whatever language, the result is just delicious.

crembo It also heralds the arrival of winter in Israel. Summer is just too hot for this amazing sweet to survive.

Basically a Crembo is a biscuit (cookie for my US/Israeli friends) base with a soft vanilla or mocha flavoured marshmallow fluff topping covered in chocolate. A bit like a Sweetie Pie in South Africa.

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Crembos are an Israeli institution and are pretty much the nation sweet. 

How you eat a Crembo is highly subjective. Do you eat them as is or do you freeze them first? I freeze them. Do you start at the top or with the biscuit or do you eat off all the chocolate first? I tend to start at the top and work my way down and I’m in good company, according to a study by Strauss (the makers of Crembo) 69% of people start at the top.

Crembo can be found in a lot of popular culture too. I’m waiting for Aaron to reach the part in Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone (Hebrew translation) where it’s said that Dumbledore’s favourite sweet is a Crembo (instead of a sherbet lemon).

And now I’m craving Crembo. I think I will pop into the store on my way home and stock up before summer arrives.

 

Living abroad. 

We all know that moving countries and living somewhere new is hard. Webjet SA asked me to give some of my thoughts on the tax and financial aspects of living in Israel. 

  
Pop on over to their blog to read all about it here.  

Shades of green

They say the grass is greener on the other side. They also say that’s because there is more bullshit. They also say the grass is greener where you water it.

I say there are shades of green.

One of the many* reasons we left South Africa was for a better life for our children. Better, in that they can walk to school and their friends on their own without me having to worry too much. Better in that there is a park on every corner and they have the freedom to play in those parks until the sun goes down and beyond. We don’t have to worry about being broken into and being held at gun point (something I have experienced myself). We can drive with our windows down and our doors unlocked (when we eventually get a car). All in all, on a daily basis our lives are much safer here.

That being said, Israel is subject to bouts of extreme violence and terror. Stabbings, rock throwing, run-over attacks, bus bombs, suicide bombers and the ever present rocket attacks.

The thing is, no where is perfect, no where is 100% safe. Yes, its terrifying, watching the news and seeing innocent civilians being attacked, parents dying and children being left orphaned. Its heartbreaking.

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But… Its amazing to see the people of this country pull together. Young students with ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ (Israel Lives) signs dancing and singing at the entrance to my city. Old and young talking to each other and hugging at bus stops. People collecting snack, sweets and food for our soldiers who are stationed away from their families and cant be with them on the weekends.

Basically, shades of green.

Life, no matter where you are, is what you make of it. I choose to be in the moment and to make the best of each moment as they come. I choose to love myself, my family and my country. 

*There are many, many reasons we came to Israel, in the context of this post I am choosing to only concentrate on safety.

Aircon Etiquette

Israel is a desert, summer is hot. Usually the heat gradually builds up so that by August you may be sweltering but you are used to it.

Not so the last few days. We jumped from mid 20’s to 41°C!!! In one day! The last two days have been in the low 40’s and today it is 30°C at midday.

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Image taken from Nasa

This is outside though. If you are in my office it is sitting at a chilly 23°C. I am freezing. My toes are turning blue. We try keep the air-con on 25°C but ‘somehow’ it keeps dropping to 23°C.

I get that it is Hot (with a capital H) outside but that doesn’t mean it has to be arctic inside.

I share an office with 3 men and one woman. The air-con unit we have is also shared between 3 other offices next to ours, the one has a single woman occupant, the other other has 5 women and 2 men and the last office is a spare office.  We are pretty much split evenly between those that love the cold and those of us that would rather keep our extremities from being frozen off.

Do you share an office? Do you fight over the temperature? What is the etiquette when using a communal air-con?

Somebody help me please, I cant feel my fingers!

Beanies and gloves and scarves. Oh my!

The majority of my Facebook and Twitter time lines are South Africans.  This means I’m seeing a lot of shorts, t-shirts, swimming pool and {braai} (BBQ/grill) pics.  I keep thinking to myself, sheesh, are they not cold? I’m freezing! Then remembering they are all in the Southern Hemisphere and experiencing the hottest summer in ages.

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Which means I am in winter. Cold, miserable, rainy winter (to be fair it hasn’t rained that much but when it does its nasty!).

If I hailed from Cape Town, maybe it wouldn’t be such a shock to my system.  Winter here is very similar to a Cape winter.  Lots of wind, days of rain, biting cold.  I’m not used to that.  {Jozi} winters are mild and sunny and dry.

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In 35 years I’ve never had to wear a down jacket (or a jacket of any kind!) or a beanie or a scarf and definitely not gloves and yet that is what I leave the house in most days. And I’m still cold to the bone and cannot wait for a steaming hot bath at the end of the day.

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Having had a bitch and a moan, at least I can say that winters in Israel are relatively short (also very green and pretty, see the rain I mentioned above). Spring lasts only a few weeks and then we are in for some super hot, dry weather.  Thank heavens for air conditioning!  I cant wait though, I’ve always loved Israel in summer.  I find it invigorating. I’m looking forward to longer day light hours and hot nights and braais on my balcony.

*Photos by {Paul Jacobson}

You say rude, I say cut the bullshit.

Israelis have a bad rep as being very rude and abrupt people.

While we have encountered a few genuinely rude people (of which every country has their fair share), in general we have found Israelis to be friendly and helpful and a fun loving bunch.

I think the problem is, that what people perceive as rude, is actually a dislike of bullshit.  Israelis are direct and to the point. Ask a question and you get an answer not a whole story to go with it.

Relaxing at the park on Saturday
Relaxing at the park on Saturday

As in any country where the language is not your own, if you immediately start gabbing on without at least trying to make an effort to speak the native tongue then sure, the person you are talking to is going to be a bit rude, you’re not speaking their language!  That being said, I always attempt to speak a bit of Hebrew first, followed up with the Hebrew for ‘I don’t speak Hebrew, do you speak English?’* and the vast majority of people will switch to English.  They usually apologise for their own lack of English and then we have a conversation. Some of these conversations have been the best ones I’ve had with Israelis.  People are naturally curious creatures, they want to know why I am in Israel, what made me decide to come here, how long have I been here, where do I live, can they help me in any way at all?  Yes, you read that right, can they help me in any way? Perfect strangers offering to help me beyond the small slice of time we are occupying at the moment. Rude? I think not.

Something that has taken me a while to get used to is getting on the bus. You all stand around waiting, the bus arrives, the driver randomly stops the bus a  few metres up or down the road from the stop, you jog to catch up to him and then everyone just piles into the bus, no line, no waiting for the lady with a half dozen packets or the soldier who looks dead on his feet. You just climb on board all willy nilly. So yup, there’s a little rudeness for you.  I no longer stand at the back waiting for my turn, I jump in just like everyone else.

Daddy's girl
Daddy’s girl

Something that has totally blown me away though is the utter acceptance by the parents of the kids Faith and Aaron go to school with.  I lost count of how many phone calls and text messages I received in the first few weeks the kids were at school.  Not only inviting the kids to play dates but just to say hello and offering any help they could give.  The parents are always happy to have the kids come over to them and to help us translate messages from the schools.  Aaron has a class trip this week and the parents need to get there by car (kids are going on the bus) and since we don’t have a car one of the parents has offered to take Paul with them.  The most amazing part is that nothing is expected in return.  When we mention that we have no furniture and the kids games and toys are not here yet they immediately reassure us that its OK, their kids will come play at us eventually and for now our kids are more than welcome at them.

In my experience Israelis are outgoing, friendly people, if a little rough around the edges.

*I am starting to change this phrase to the more accurate, ‘I only speak a little Hebrew, do you speak English?’

Here’s that post I promised about school in Israel

Since everyone is posting back to school photos and posts I thought it was time to tell you a bit about school in Israel.

*Please note that I may get some facts wrong.  I will try to make sure that everything posted here is as correct as possible.  Also note that a lot of what I am going to write is my own experience and that everyone will experience the school system differently.

The majority of schools in Israel are State Schools.  This means they are funded by the Department of Education and are therefore free.

For Aaron, who is in Kita Aleph/1st Grade, we still have to pay for his books and stationary.  We probably have to pay for a PTA type levy or a class fund but no one has asked us for anything like that yet, maybe because we started school in the middle of the year.

Faiths Gan (Pre-Kindergarten) also happens to be free (at least I hope so as they have only asked us for the PTA levy/class fund money and not anything else).

Children in Modi’in are assigned to schools according to their residential address, Aaron’s school is two blocks up the road from us. Faith’s is the same block as us, just on the road behind us (we can see the playground out our bedroom windows) and there is a nifty little path next to our apartment that cuts to the road behind us.

We drop the kids at school anytime between 7:30 and 8:00 and Aaron’s school day ends at 12:45 while Faith’s school day ends at 13:45.

Since we are working we have enrolled both children at aftercare.  This is a paid service and you have to register through the Education Department.  You can fetch the children no later than 16:45.  It is quite expensive but the children are given a hot lunch (yesterday they had chicken soup, hamburgers and salad), the older kids get homework supervision and they also have some kind of entertainment, either art class or drama or something sporty.

In Gan there is no uniform at all, kids wear what is comfortable for them.  In grade school the children wear a modified uniform.  They can wear any pants/skirts and shoes that they like.  T-shirts and sweaters/hoodies have to be plain (though can be any colour) and need to have the schools logo/badge printed on them.  The stores that sell the shirts also iron on the badges.

That’s the basics.

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Faith is loving Gan.  She is making friends and learning Hebrew.  She adores her teachers.

Aaron’s school is fantastic.  They are arranging for him to have additional Hebrew lessons so his vocab will increase and they also help him along during the day too.  He has made friends and is generally a very happy boy.

So far we are really really happy.

**It looks like a did get a fact or two wrong. Here is a comment that Dan left on Facebook for me:

You’ll have to pay for books every year. The school can charge an additional 1 time amount – depending on grade but with a cap set by the MoE – for extra activities (i.e. the annual trip.) The parent’s association may or may not ask for money at the start of the year but may ask for specific things – depends on the parents. The after-school is run by the municipality with no oversight from the MoE whatsoever. Education is from 3 and up in municipal schools although there are some schools in the city that are subsidized by the MoE and charge an extra fee and those any resident of the city can sign up for.

Go follow <Dan> on Twitter, he is funny and a font of information on Modi’in and living in Israel.  He also likes Star Wars so he gets extra points!