Reflections on Israel

So as promised, this post is dedicated to pointing out things that we have noticed that are different here in Israel than they are in the United States, particularly New England since that is where we have spent all of our lives (except those exciting three weeks in Park City, Utah!). These are our observations only and are not to be interpreted as judgements. These differences don’t make Israel better than America or vice versa. We just thought it would be interesting to share what we have noticed.

  • There are stray cats everywhere. Some are scrawny and some are well fed, depending on the kindness of the neighborhoods. Because of all the cats, there are no rats. We were told that the British introduced the cats to get rid of the rats. It worked! We seem to see the same cats around our apartment building (particularly near the garbage can). I decided to name them…there is Toby, Tweedledum and Tweedledee (they look similar), Oreo, Cookies and Cream, etc.
  • Israelis don’t wait in line. If a place wants you to wait in line, you are required to take a number. This is true at the meat counter in the grocery store, any government office, and the bank. You have to be on your toes though. Sometimes people will go in your place if you aren’t paying attention.
  • The municipality taxes (known as arnona) are typically paid by whoever is living in the apartment rather than the owner. Some times you can sublease and this in not the case, but more often the renter is in charge of these taxes. If you are a student, you can get a significant discount on them (yay for Adam!) and if you have made aliyah, you can get an even bigger discount for at least the first year.
  • Security is a priority here (obviously). Every time you go to the mall, it is almost like going to the airport in the United States without having to take your shoes off. When you go to the mall, you have to empty your pockets, let them inspect your bag(s), and you have to walk through a metal detector. If you are driving, they will stop you and ask you questions and/or inspect your trunk. At the Central Bus station you have to go through a metal detector and then your bags have to be X-rayed. This process is similar at many of the governmental buildings. Security guards and police officers are also allowed to profile here, and if they request ID you must show it to them. Very few people (if any) are bothered by this since it ensures everyone’s safety.
  • Winter is disliked here more than in New England. Since it is only cold here from December through the end of February, buildings are designed to deal with the heat more than the cold. At least in Jerusalem, the buildings are made out of stone and don’t have insulation. In most buildings, there is no central heating system; you use blankets and space heaters. I typically love the winter, but we will have to wait and see. It’s a good thing that I crochet…
  • They don’t have tomato sauce in a jar or can here. You can buy crushed tomatoes, whole tomatoes, and tomato paste, but not tomato sauce. That is, unless you want to buy the stuff imported from America.
  • Maple syrup is a New England product. Unless you buy imported maple syrup, which is really expensive, you get an imitation chemical syrup. They just don’t have maple trees in Israel.
  • Bagels are not a commonly found bread item. You can buy them at restaurants, such as Tal Bagels and Holy Bagel, but you don’t seem to find them in the grocery store. The Israeli replacement is pita. As we have recently figured out, pita makes wonderful mini pizzas just like bagels do back in America.
  • When you want to order red meat, you can use the beef map. If you don’t believe me here it is. You can just go up to the counter and ask for the number you want.
  • Pareve products are a common thing. As our friend Anat told us on our guided tour of the Mega in Raanana, if it can be made pareve, then it is pareve. This includes all sorts of cakes, cookies, and even Doritos. That’s right! Not only can you get Kosher Doritos, but they are pareve!
  • Keys are different here. Not only do you need them to unlock the door to get in to your apartment, but you also need them to unlock the door to get out of the apartment. Therefore, it is possible to lock yourself into your apartment. If you want more details, you can contact Adam directly since it happened to him. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • There is more than one type of mosquito here; one that flies fast and one that flies slow. Both types are amazingly adept at biting us. We can sometimes kill the ones that are slow flying although they often evade our deadly hands more then I would like. We have to rely on our bug zapper for the fast ones.ย  Some people are allergic to one kind while some are allergic to the other kind. We are so fortunate to be allergic to both, which means the bites tend to swell up. The annoyance of getting so many (I have four new ones since last night) was the motivation for the use of the bug spray that led to Adam’s reaction. We started eating more garlic, which may help as well.
  • Credit cards are a hybrid between credit cards and debit cards in the US. Your credit card is linked directly to your bank account, so you have to be careful not to spend more than you have. However, like a credit card in the US, the money is only taken out once a month. Because it is linked to your account, the credit card acts like a guarantee for the money. Therefore, you are allowed to request to pay for a purchase in multiple payments. For example, when we buy a couch at the end of the month, we can pay for it in 4 payments if we like, and there is no interest. The same thing can be done with the groceries that I want to get tomorrow.
  • Adam has found that details about road races (like a 5K or marathon) aren’t published until a month in advance. For those of you who are unfamiliar with races in the United States, in America they are usually advertised with current information at least 3-4 months in advance. This advanced notice is particularly important for those who want to train for the marathon. If it is an annual race in America, you may be able to find information about the race immediately after the last one is run. For example, the Manchester Road Race is run every Thanksgiving. As soon as this year’s is over, they will start planning and updating the website for next year’s race. The information provided in America is typically very stable. Details can change more readily here, which may be why they don’t advertise things as early.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it what we could think of thus far. We will probably post more of these reflections in the future. If there is anything in particular that you are interested in knowing about, please ask. We love to get comments! It helps us know that people are actually interested in this blog :).

Until next time…

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4 Responses to Reflections on Israel

  1. Pingback: A Collection of Blog Posts | Hebrew Is for Israel, Mommy

  2. Troy says:

    I love reading about your foreign adventures.

  3. agamzon says:

    Nice additions…I can’t believe we forgot to mention the weather! We didn’t want to do the medical system yet. We wanted to wait until we had a little more experience before we said anything so I think we’ll save that for later. Also, we’ll do separate post on environmental sustainability soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Anonymous says:

    I could have told you many of these when we moved to the states… You forgot to add the medical system, credit cards and checks being personally picked up from the bank, the availability of kosher ready made food, the predictability of the weather, and many more ๐Ÿ™‚

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