A few people have asked me when or if we will be getting a car and if public transport is feasible in Israel.
We have been in Israel for just over a year now and other than two instances where we hired a car for a weekend, we have not driven at all. We would like to eventually buy a car, especially so we have transport for Saturdays/Shabbat when the public transport system is closed.
So far, relying on public transport has been pretty much okay. Having a well oiled (haha) public transport system is a huge help. Buses are plentiful and, mostly, run on time as do the trains. Its also quite a bit more cost effective than buying and maintaining a car. The downside of course is losing the convenience having a car gives you. Standing in rain that is coming in sideways while waiting for a bus is not fun. Taking children to friends and parties that are not within walking distance or on a bus route would also be a pleasure. But, I personally think at this point, not owning a car makes a lot more sense for us.
Recently, public transport was reformed to streamline costs of bulk (monthly) tickets and yesterday the pricing for public transport was dropped across the board by 17%. I now pay ₪299/month and this covers all my buses and trains between Modi’in and Tel Aviv. I worked out that on average I travel 1044km a month between home, work and ulpan. So if my calculations are correct (they very well might not be, I suck at math), then I am paying on average ₪0.28/km (R1.13/km).
According to Numbeo, the same distance traveled in a ‘Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car)’ with an average cost of ₪6.38/l of petrol, would average ₪333 in gas or ₪0.32/km (R1.30/km). Already more expensive and that’s just petrol, never mind insurance, drivers licence, car license and general upkeep (and the cost of the actual car!).
So yup, for now I will continue to take public transport.
*For complete accuracy I would really have to take into account Paul’s transport costs too. He also travels by train and bus. But, we would only buy 1 car, so one of us would most probably still take public transport to and from work while the other would use the car. In which case I think my above calculations are reasonable.
One of the benefits you receive as a new immigrant in Israel is free language classes (ulpan).
You have up to 18 months to make use of the benefit and if you don’t use it you would have to pay for any language classes you took after that time.
If we had not managed to find jobs almost straight away, both Paul and I would have attended full time ulpan. That consists of 5 hours a day, 5 days a week for 5 months. As it is we were both very lucky and were able to find jobs within a few weeks of arriving. The Ministry of Absorption makes a plan for those like us and there are ulpan schools that provide part time, after hours classes.
For the last 10 months, Paul has been attending these classes 2 nights a week for 3 hours a night. His classes come to an end at the end of this month and mine will start at the beginning of February.
This morning I hopped a train to Tel Aviv and went to the Ministry office to receive my voucher that needs to be given to the ulpan so that I don’t have to pay for the classes. On Sunday afternoon I will go to the ulpan to register and to be tested to see which level class I will be placed in.
While I can make myself understood on a very, very basic level and most of the children’s friends parents speak some degree of English, I’m actually very excited to be formally learning Hebrew, it will make my life that much easier are far more enriched to be able to understand what is being said around me.
I’m a bit nervous because I’ve never been very good at languages. Or classrooms. Or studying. But I saw the quote below (by a fellow Israeli!) and that pretty much describes me, so onward with the learning!
Last year this time, we were standing in the aliyah office at the airport officially becoming Israeli citizens. We had been on a plane for 9 hours. The kids had only slept for a bit. I had a hole in my eardrum and hadn’t slept at all. Paul had been an absolute champion with organising all of us on very little sleep himself.
A little while later, after collecting 8 of our 9 bags (one was delayed in Johannesburg and would only arrive a week or so later), we made our way outside to find a taxi to take us to our new apartment.
Arriving outside our apartment we were greeted by my sister from another mister, Roro, with a HUGE hug and the keys. Once we got all our bags inside we walked down the road to buy some really important stuff from the local store. A kettle and coffee! Okay, and a few other staples.
My brother arrived after work a bit later that afternoon to help Paul assemble our IKEA beds and we had pizza delivered for dinner, which we ate on the floor. Then our landlord came over to welcome us with a plate of homemade sufganyot (donuts) since it was the first night of chanukah.
That first day seems so long ago and yet it feels like yesterday too.
We’ve had difficult days and bad days between then and now but the majority of our days have been great days.
We have good jobs, a great apartment with a wonderful landlord and fantastic friends, our kids are happy and settled in school, they have awesome friends and speak fluent Hebrew. I’ve learned to navigate public transport and can speak just enough Hebrew to order things at the butcher. I start proper ulpan (Hebrew) classes in February and hopefully my Hebrew will improve enough for me to speak to the kids teachers and friends when we have play dates. In the mean time, Paul’s Hebrew is coming along in leaps and bounds and he can converse with taxi drivers, teachers and random strangers. We get to be close to my brother and his family and even though we don’t see each other nearly enough its great to finally be living in the same country again after over 10 years apart.
This last year has been amazing. I’ve learned so many new things. In particular how strong our family is. Moving to a new country is stressful and our family could have been torn apart but we have only become stronger and closer.
Mostly I am just happy to be home! Here’s to many many more happy years!
On Thursday afternoon, while on the way to a work fun evening, I received a message from our babysitter that she was ill and wouldn’t be able to fetch the kids. The problem was that, because it is Chanukah holidays, the kids finished their after school program earlier than usual and there was no way Paul or I could get to fetch them on time.
We panicked. Paul called a variety of our friends who have kids at school with ours but they were all unavailable. Aunty Roro (who has been my saving grace before in an emergency) was not at home either. In the mean time, I had hopped on a bus to get back to my office so I could catch my regular bus home and Paul was at the train station waiting for the next train.
The after care teacher had called me to see where we were as she needed to leave and a mom who was at the school waiting for her kid to finish an extramural said she could wait another 15 minutes with my kids. At this point I was at least 1 hour and 15 minutes away and Paul was an hour away.
That’s when Paul had a genius idea. He contacted our neighbour who has 3 children, 2 older boys and a girl Faith’s age. As it turns out, the oldest boy was able to run up the road and pick up Aaron and Faith and take them to their apartment.
When Paul got there about 45 minutes later they were all happy and playing and pretty much unaware of the crisis.
I’m not sure what we would have done without our amazing neighbours. We took them some yummy donuts as a thank you and from now on, Aaron will have a key to our apartment just in case they need to walk home from school. I’ve said before how hard it is not having immediate family close by but I can say that our neighbours and friends are a huge part of a village that is raising our children.
Back in South Africa, when our kids were sick they either stayed home with our nanny, Aletta or if they were ok to go to school and then didn’t feel well, Nana or Bobba could fetch them and take them to their house or back to our house to be with Aletta.
If If they needed to go to the doctor, both Paul and I worked close enough to home to be able to pop out and fetch them and then drop them back home and go back to work.
Having sick kids in Israel has been one of the steepest learning curves we have faced.
No Nana or Bobba.
We each work at least an hours bus and/or train ride away from home.
If the kids are so sick they cant go to school, one of us has to take a day off work to stay with them.
Luckily Paul can work from home if he has to and my boss and manager are very understanding about needing to take time off for sick kids.
Faith has been sick the last few days. Not enough to stay home (except for the first day) but sick enough that this is the third day the school has called us to fetch her just after lunch time because she is coughing (sometimes so much she vomits) and is just generally feeling yuck.
That means that I left work early the last two days and Paul left early today to fetch her.
Its hard without that immediate support system that we had before. But living in a country where a lot of people are in the same position we are in makes it easier. We also get to spend time with the kids when they are extra cuddly and clingy and just want mom or dad to be with them, which besides the sick part, is awesome.
Winter in Israel is rainy. And windy. And wet. And cold. And rainy.
We arrived in Israel in the middle of winter. A few weeks after the kids started school, the babysitter was fetching them and it was a really, really windy, stormy day. So windy that poor little Faith almost got blown away. Since then she has been scared of even the smallest gust of wind.
She is also terrified of storms, especially thunder. So winter is a problem.
We have explained to her that the rain, wind, thunder and lightning are outside and cant come in the house. We have explained that her bedroom is the safest room in the house since it is the shelter.
She still screams like she is being chased by an ax wielding maniac. She stands there, literally paralysed and shaking in fear. She has landed up in our bed a few times.
How do you get a child over this very real fear? Any ideas are welcome.