Monday, December 27, 2004

The sun is shining and wishing you an eilat xmass :-)

Okay, we took the holiday weekend off and went to Eilat. It was a lot of fun and we had a blast. First off the hotel was Kosher, the hotel provided candles and we had all the food made for us, which was a rocking good deal. I liked Eilat, and I think that I could see spending some more time down there, the issue is it is a long drive and I did not enjoy the 775km in the car round trip.

I must say the diffrence between being in a beach town with tropical fish and coral, and boats and fun, vs being around the "Holiday Spirit" that you get in a big town in America is a big deal.

We only saw one Xmass tree and that was in a trendy mall. It was just a non event in Israel.

In someways losing the comercial crazyness of Xmass is just a great thing. I do not like it when Hallmark and Wallmart own a holiday.

Total money spent on gifts this year for this season 100 NIS, and that was for my kids. Total value in no crazy shopping and unlimited xmass music on at the stores priceless.

Got to love Israel.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Chocolate bread and Diet bread, Martha would be proud


I was going to talk about the shipping container that just got unloaded, but that is old news and no matter what happens I have no lack of books to read:-).

There are things in this life that must be experienced and Chocolate bread is one of them. There is this bakery that a friend (the one who sold me the Volvo) told me about and they make breads that you would go to heaven for. Now I am gaining weight in Israel, Partially because it so hard to eat right in a country where Pizza can be had in 20 minutes and did I mention Chocolate bread.

Now to describe this chocolate bread, all I can say is imagine a loaf of bread, with coco baked in and bits of chocolate chips mixed in. Dusted with a coat of powdered sugar. It is not really bread but a desert that is to die for.

Now I also bought diet bread as this chocolate bread is going to add even more weight to my overweight frame, and I walked a couple of miles to day as well. But I must say, some of the food here is just wonderful. Even the diet bread is not bad.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

The color green

Or is it blue, or yellow. We have this container that we are getting through customs and I must say it is starting to drive us crazy. The customs clerks are playing games with us on getting it done and frankly they are showing how unbusiness friendly this country is.

There is a form that we are supposed to have, but in the import regulations there is no mention of it, and it is called a certificate of origin. This Certificate has to be signed and stamped by a local Chamber of commerce, and did I mention that it has to be green. (I wish I was kidding). We went out and found this form on the Internet and downloaded it, I got a friend to go in and get it signed and we got it mailed here. It just is not green, so 2 weeks after they get it they tell us No go.

Frankly at this point I am looking at this and just starting to laugh. There is so much work in importing that the local prices when you take into account the complete pain in the ass bring stuff in is, are actually quite fair.

What is interesting is that we are going to beat this system, but I can imagine the number of startups that completely fail when presented with these b-lls-ht costs and barriers to doing business. Luckily Shosh is seeing red and will probably go and read line and verse to the bloody customs agents and get it through, but I can not imagine doing business here without a local partner.


Saturday, December 18, 2004

25 for dinner

In America, when we had 25 for dinner we had 3-6 kids and rarely kids the same age as Avi and Sam. Here we just had 25 for dinner and we had under the age of 4, 10 kids, and I must say that was a lot of noise. If you count all the kids we had 13 kids and 12 adults.

I am in a bit of hot water as Iris felt that I invited to many people at once, but I did do the cooking so I do get some ability to invite, but I also do agree that 20 is our maximum for our living room. It is nice having an flat where we can sit 20 for dinner and I intend to do it at least 2 times a month. Any more then that and I think I will go a bit crazy.

It was a lot of fun, next time we have the Jensens and that is two weeks away. Next week we are probably going south to spend Shabbos in Elat, as it is getting a bit cold here, I think it is going to hit 50 degrees f 10 C tonight and we are going to freeze.

Have a good week.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Israel, it is all about perspective

I must say that as I spend more and more time here, I am starting to understand what is to love and what is to hate, I am also starting to understand that coming from America I am spoiled. I had a conversation with someone from South America, and their response was there are problems in Israel, the country that they were from was way worse. They bless every day that they got here. I guess it depends on Perspective.



Monday, December 13, 2004

I hate (Love) cell phones


I got a cell phone, what a scary idea, and I am starting to carry it around. Frankly for the most part it is a dead weight, but tonight when I got the car back from the shop and it died 2 blocks away it was a saving grace.

Let me start from the beginning. I bought a Volvo, in the spirit of Avi I bought a 1987 (I know it is way new) 240 Wagon, and I have been using it for a couple of weeks. It has been having a few problems, one of which is that it was backfiring on shut down, the other is stalling and running rough at slow speeds.

I assumed that the fuel filter was clogged so I took it to the shop and had that replaces and they cleaned out the carburetor as well. On the net I assumed the problem was solved, and I walked to go get the car, and I took it for a drive and it died within 2 blocks. I managed to limp it back to the garage, and that is when the cell phone saved the day.

The Mechanic had left, and I called him and he came back. He took the car around the block, said it was getting to much gas and then parked it. He is a fairly smart and started to take apart the air filter system. He looked at the air filter and then finding that okay, went into the air filter system. This was all in the dark with a flashlight and a leatherman. Now he finds this part pulls it out, and says problem fixed. It turned out that there is a switch in the car system that is designed in cold cold weather to pull air from the tailpipe area so the car can breath. Now this was broken, and the solution was to disable this system. This would be a big problem if the Volvo was going to go outside of Israel, and like 4000 miles due north. As it is the car now runs.

Now the Cool thing was that if I was not pushed to get the bloody cell phone I could not have called the mechanic and I would still be dealing with this dead car, instead I am home and the car is home and all is well.

Okay not one of my best posts.


Saturday, December 11, 2004

Chocolate, we love chocolate


I am not going to write about Chocolate, in fact I am not sure what I am going to write about. But I am going to write and we will see what is going to come out of my brain. I guess I started on Chocolate as I have the lingering taste of 70% fine European chocolate in my mouth, and frankly I want more, the trick however is to eat a bar in a couple of three days or else your ability to love it goes down.

We bought our first DVD today, Shrek 2 in Hebrew. I must say that this is a good thing to do as watching animated movies you can do without understanding the words and it is a way to learn Hebrew. Avi is addicted to movies, and by pushing him to Hebrew movies he is forced to learn and work on his ear of the language. What is so funny is in a couple of years we are going to be using English movies for the same reason if we are still here.

Which gets me to my next point, Chocolate, no I am just kidding but I must say it is hard to get chocolate off of my mind when I am remembering the good stuff.

I think I invited 25 to dinner for next week. It will be reminiscent of Vermont Street dinners, but we will be doing it at our house. The big difference is that only 10 of these people are adults and over 15 of them are kids, and over 10 of the kids are under the age of 4. Some times I think I am a glutton for punishment, but then again I love to cook, and it will be fun hosting this many people. I am thinking about doing dinner here every 2 weeks and just doing big dinners as that is just way more fun then having small ones. Iris thinks I am crazy, but that is probably a good thing.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

The computer does not love me

I must say every time I write a blog that I really should not post as I am ranting to much my computer crashes and I lose it. If this did not happen repeatedly I would think it was funny, but on the whole I am happy about it.

I spent the last two days learning about Israeli customs, and I am so glad I have Shosh, at this point if I did not have a partner for this project who was Israeli I would be dead in the water. Customs here is some of the most complex stuff I have ever seen and the list of fees and taxes that they get on you for unloading a container very quickly helps explain the high prices in this country. I mean who can afford to pay almost as much to move a container 100 feet as we paid to move it 8000 miles.

On to other topics, it is amazing how much dirtier a house gets when you have cleaning help. We went 3 months without cleaning help and we lived with a level of grime, we just now went a week and the level of grime went up 4x. It seems that you xan forget to clean, but I must say I am starting to clean as I have a tollernce for this stuff.

We moved flats almost a month ago and I must say that when we moved it was the low point of moving to Israel. We were just fried, and frankly there was a point where I am amazed we stayed. Stress is a bad thing, and when the only color you are seeing is red, stress is just a really bad thing. Since I have dropped back to part time Ulpan, started to focus on other stuff like life, and work and frankly I am more balanced now.

Israel is a place where you can just get stressed and frankly that is not how I do my best work. So I have spent the last week just chilling and I must say it feels great. My next door neighboors are lighting a public Menorah at the front of the building and I must say it is worth being there for that, and other things are just working out.

All is well.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Holidays great and small

Israel is a place that celebrates the smallest things with new meaning. I am rather enjoying Chanukah in a completely new light. First off the whole country come dusk is doing the same thing. Secular or religious they are all lighting candles and that is amazing unity. The second thing is when you hear a Sabra tell about Chanukah they are telling it, like they personally were saved from the Greeks.

When we celebrate Passover, the point is stressed over and over again that each and every one of us was there for the miracles of going out of Egypt. It is very hard to image that, but to be in Israel on a day that celebrates one of Israelis victories you can image.

I love Israel, I love being here, and on days like Chanukah I can identify with the country.


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Dinner lunch and the park

When you choose where to live in a place like Ra'anana keep in mind how social you are and how much you have the energy to seek out people to talk to. For us we first moved to an apartment on Bar Ilan street and it was social vacuum. No one we were interested in getting to know lived within 2-3 block of us. The apartment building was fairly new and nice, but there were no kids no stroller, it was a mature building. In some ways we were lucky that the landlord sold it as it let us go to a place where we could be around people are own age. This is key to living in Israel.

What we did was move across the street from the big social park in Ra'anana. No matter what is happening we can always go out on Shabbos afternoon and spend time with people with young kids. This is just socially key to living here. It seems like a little silly thing, but that makes the apartment we got socially very good, it lets us get out of it and quickly find people to talk to.



Thursday, December 02, 2004

Coming Home

I am going home, Home is a weird concept, but for the first time I am looking at Israel as home. When I got on the plane this week to get home for Shabbat, home was Israel, home was Ra’anana and home was where my wife and kids are. I am coming home, I am coming to Israel, and I must say I missed it.

It takes on a whole new light the nice things about Israel when you spend some time in Europe. When you see the milkies have gone from 2 NIS to 59 Pence you feel like the price has normalized, but they have actually more then doubled. When you spend 6 pounds 40 pence on an all day travel card you start to understand how much stuff costs, for 52 NIS both me and my wife can eat dinner. The chicken at 1.49 per KG, works out to be 2.5x the cost in Israel. Most everything in London costs 2.5 times the cost of Israel.

The other thing that got me was I went to Tesco, and I could no longer eat everything. I had to pick and choose what I would eat and I had to pick and choose what I would buy. Food became an identifying mark for me again. I always thought I would have ballooned up in Israel with all the food options. Rarely do we eat at the same place 2 times, as there are just so many to choose from, but I got on a scale in London after my suit no longer fit me again (I was too skinny for it), and I found out that I was at 99 KG, or just over 221 pounds. This for me is amazing considering I am living in the land where land where low fat involves deep fryers and no one has the concept of high fiber.

I am getting back on the plane, I am sitting in Germany on my way home and I am understanding how much I miss my home land my country. The train station between the terminals has an open area that you could coceavably climb out and over onto the other side which I guess is the other side of the customs control. In most counties this would be guarded with a piece of decorative metal something that blocked but was aesthetically pleasing. In this airport it is a triple stack of rolled barbed wire. This did the job, it made climbing over impossible, but it also added to the caged feeling on the space. It just did not make me like the space, it make me feel like I was a criminal. I am sure that there are logical reasons for this triple stack of barbed wire, but I just did not like it.

I had a good week, I am starting to understand what I am giving up to live in the land of sunshine. I am not sure that I would be happy working from 7-7 every day to do some job that did not necessarily impact the world in any great way. I am not sure that I want a real job, but again, I am not sure that a real job would take me. What I am good at is doing research working out issues making sense of stuff, I am not sure I could fit slot a into plug b for the rest of my life.

I am going to shut down this computer and read the papers, but I should be home soon, and I cannot wait.