Week 1 Recap

Today at 2:30ish, Israel time, Adam and I officially have been in Israel for a week and what a week it has been. Everything has been overwhelming and crazy but productive. There of course were a number of meltdowns but that is to be expected.

As Adam wrote, we arrived and had about 24 hours before Yom Kippur began. I found the fast relatively easy, and I was amazingly focused during the various services. It was very meaningful but also emotional since it was the first holiday that we celebrated away from home.

After the fast ended and we had a bit of food, the bus ride to Jerusalem was peaceful. Once there we were taken in by Sarah and Yossi who like Elisha and Anat are a true blessing. They let us stay the night and gave us lots of advice, which was helpful.

Thursday morning was a roller coaster. We got up early and probably for the first time in many years arrived on time for an appointment. We met with our landlord and her son, got our keys to the apartment, finalized the contract, and toured the apartment to learn the quirks that will make it home. Despite how exciting it was to see the apartment and get our keys, it was stressful to learn all the details that have to be done like changing the electricity and water bills to our name, get a bank guarantee, etc. It definitely felt like we were on a downhill of the roller coaster, which is the part I don’t really like.

After grabbing some food and talking to parents, we went to the bank to set up a bank account and ask about the bank guarantee. The woman at the bank was wonderful, but I still found all the paperwork overwhelming. We won’t get our checks and bank cards until after the holiday is over next week, so that is a bit stressful. We also found out more clearly what a bank guarantee is. So here is a bit of a lesson we learned about how things are different in Israel. First of all credit cards don’t work the same. Credit cards are more like debit cards in that they are linked directly to your account and the money is automatically withdrawn, however the withdrawal is done once a month on a specific date. Because of this system and other reasons that remain unclear, there is no such thing as a credit score in Israel. So when a landlord wants to make sure that you are going to be good to your word about things, they can’t do a credit check like they do in the States. Here they expect you to get a bank guarantee and to have people you know act as guarantors. The bank guarantee is a sum of money specified by the landlord that is guaranteed by the bank, which means that we have to have this amount of money in the bank that is untouchable for the time that we are renting. It is like having a CD in the States except you can’t even touch it for a fee. To add to the stress of this idea, there is a commission you need to pay to create the bank guarantee. So as part of our contract, we will have money that is ours that we can’t use and we have to pay to have it be unusable. It is annoying but it is standard here to protect the owner of the apartment. The sum of money is rather large (and will remain nameless) so this added a bit of stress to our lives for a few hours before we both proceeded to have a meltdown during which we sat and worked things out and figured that everything will be okay. It just puts us out of our financial comfort zone for a little bit.

After we left the bank, we stopped at the mall to buy sheets for the beds that Adam expertly arranged to arrive that evening. The Barenaked Ladies are right, “everything is going to be all right, when we go shopping.” It was nice to pick out sheets and get pillows. Yay for going up a hill on the roller coaster.

After the mall we went back to Sarah and Yossi’s and dragged our suitcase  back to our apartment and unpacked a bit. We then fell asleep on the couch for about an hour. The beds arrived, we set them up and then had our meltdown described above. We met with Yafit’s mother-in-law Shifra to pay for the beds. Yafit is the person we were going to rent from in Neve Daniel before we learned that we weren’t allowed to live over the green line. Her mother-in-law Shifra was the sweetest person I have ever met. She was so helpful and wanted to take care of us. It was so nice!

After Shifra left, we got a meal with Sarah and Yossi. It was delicious, and we watched “Top Chief:Canada” which was interesting. It was an episode where they made everything repulsive and disgusting look like normal food. Don’t believe me? There was veal brains, lamb intestines, kidneys, tongues, and did you know that shortbread really means calf brains? It was actually relaxing. After the meal, we went home (for that is what it is now) and attempted to watch Star Wars: A New Hope on Adam’s laptop. We left his charger at Sarah and Yossi’s by mistake so that was a failure. At least we got to sleep in our beds.

Amazing to think that this was all ONE day. Crazy huh? Friday was a little less stressful because things are only open half dayish because of Shabbat. Adam and I went shopping again to buy things like silverware and a broom and sponges. We even went to the grocery store for the first time and bought food that can survive without a refrigerator. Don’t believe me? I was so excited I took a picture of what we bought. (The picture will be posted soon).

Once again shopping was fun. We had a late lunch of pizza and then we helped Sarah and Yossi build their first Sukkah. It was nice to help them. We rushed home and got ready for shabbat. We had a nice time at Yedidya, which is the synagogue we chose to visit first. It was very similar to Beth David in terms of the services. We had a wonderful Friday night dinner with Sarah and Yossi. Adam and Yossi being the awesome husbands that they are let Sarah and I talk about teaching. I miss it so much, so it was nice to relive some of the times with my students and talk about curriculum. We also got to meet the bunny who is so cute! Saturday we also ate with Sarah and Yossi and played one of the most intense games of Settlers of Catan ever! It was the seafarers version which was new to all of us. We really enjoyed it and look forward to many more games with Sarah and Yossi in the future.

Saturday night was a blast from the past. I was the only woman at mincha services and at the third meal. When that happened the first time at Beth David 5 years ago, I was so anxious about it. This time I was ready for the challenge. I find that women at the third meal is like “field of dreams” a little. “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t work exactly, but I find that if one woman starts coming then eventually others do too. I mean, our last Shabbat in West Hartford, there had to be at least 8 women at the third meal. I don’t mind being the first here too.

Saturday night somehow became stressful trying to make phone calls and figuring things out. Eventually Adam got to go for a run and we got to watch Star Wars. It was what we needed.

Sunday was crazy hectic again. It is interesting being in Israel for Sukkot. Everyone is rushing around buying Lulav and Etrog and trying to get their Sukkahs set up. We were rushing around trying to get our home set up. We found cheap dishes and glasses to supplement all the free stuff Sarah and Yossi are going to give us (did I tell you how wonderful they are?). We even bought what is referred to as a “bubbe cart” which makes us officially Jerusalem residents. A “bubbe cart” is what people use to make it easier to move their groceries and other purchases around the city.

More importantly, we made our biggest but most awesome purchases; our refrigerator and washing machine!!! Yay!!! You know your an adult when you are happy you dropped a load of cash so you can have milk for breakfast and you can start cooking dinner rather than wasting money on restaurant food. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that everything around us is available for purchase since it is Kosher, but after one or two meals it loses its appeal. I like to cook and am looking forward to doing it in the relatively near future.

While shopping we got a phone call from Sarah that the Sukkah collapsed so we stopped by to try and help. We got to meet Ephraim Wolfe and his son, who is one of the famous Wolfes that everyone in West Hartford wanted us to meet. They were also very nice people, and we look forward to getting to know them.

Seems like everything has been uphill yeah? Well, I’m a physics teacher, and I know very well that what goes up must come down. That would be the bus ride to the central bus station. After being yelled at in Hebrew by the bus driver, we had a long ride to the central bus station that was packed with everyone trying to get everywhere before the holiday began. It was stressful but Adam had already done this once when he visited earlier in the month so he knew exactly what to do. Then we were safely delivered to Ra’anana to our original point of arrival, Elisha and Anat. They have allowed us to stay with them for the holiday until after Shabbat. Here we will have internet and access to fluent Hebrew speakers so that we can get things done, such as set up internet for the apartment and figure out how our health insurance works and make sure that our mail will actually get delivered to our apartment.

The first say of Sukkot was very nice, relaxing, and interesting. Given the current length of this post however, I will leave my reflections on this for another time.

In review, this week was not that bad. The main struggle as Adam already mentioned is the difficulty with the language. It has been frustrating to feel like you don’t know what people are saying at you and around you. I have to admit though, I have really mastered the deer-caught-in-headlight look that my students know so well. This difficulty was compounded by the obscene number of bug-bites that I have gotten throughout the week. The count is currently up to 32 bites, some mosquitoes, some possibly a type of sand flea and I’m convinced that one is a spider bite. I know I’m sweet but this is ridiculous. We plan to rectify this situation this week.

I have started making a list of things that I want to do first, particularly once Adam starts going to the university on October 10th. Obviously learning Hebrew is the main goal, but I also want to start experimenting with new recipes since I have the time. I want to visit the American International School in Jerusalem to see if there are any work opportunities, and I want to explore a few other work options that have been mentioned by people throughout the week. I will obviously work on curriculum which I love to do, and I want to finish setting the apartment up. That should keep me busy and give me more to blog about soon.

Alright, if that isn’t enough for you all then too bad. It is late, and it is time for bed. Until next time…

Allison

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