Tag Archive | Jerusalem

A Trip to the Consulate – Continued

The first section of this very interesting story of travel and bureaucracy can be found here.

Part Four: Going to the Consulate

I called Egged at 7:30; the call center wasn’t open yet.  I called again at 8:30, and was told that there was a bus at 8:45, and a bus at 9:45.  My appointment was at 10:30, and the bus ride was supposed to take 50 minutes.  Meaning, from 9:45 to 10:35.  If you remember that there is a line outside the consulate (so that you can prove that you have an appointment, receive a pass, and go through security), you will understand that arriving at 10:35 meant entering the consulate at about 10:45, 15 minutes after my scheduled appointment.  I got up and ran to the bus, calling Yitzchak on the way to bring me the money.

I felt bad about running so quickly, because my cousin had just asked me to watch her two youngest (she has a Shlomo-aged kid, a Tova-aged kid, a two-year old, and four older kids) while she took her Shlomo-aged kid to gan, but we both realized that there really wasn’t an option.  So I went.

I made the bus; Yitzchak missed it, and me, by 3 minutes.  I figured that there would be an ATM somewhere around the consulate; I figured wrong.  I got to the consulate 70 minutes early, because the bus had only taken 40 minutes, and discovered that I couldn’t go in until half an hour before my appointment.  I found a bench under some trees and finished nursing.

united states consulate, jerusalem consulate, american consulate

The oustide of the consulate.

Yitzchak ended up taking the 9:45 bus and arriving at 10:27 to hand me the money.  Of course, since Yitzchak couldn’t prove that he had an appointment, I needed to walk out of the consulate.  Because I had told the security guard, when I first went in, that my husband was bringing me the money, I was able to skip most of security and the guard told the inner security workers to let me through easily.  Therefore, I walked back into the actual consulate at 10:33, and they gave me a number with no problems.  It would have been smarter to take the number and then go out to meet Yitzchak, but I didn’t think of that at the time.

Obviously, in order to find out where Yitzchak was, I needed my phone, so I had to go through the cell phone security bogus.  But my phone was Yitzchak’s phone, and his was mine, so it made sense to switch them instead of just waiting for him to appear.  After Yitzchak had given me the money and I was waiting to go back inside, I saw that the person next to me was holding a passport issued by the Palestinian Authority.  Ha, I didn’t know they issued passports.  Is that kind of like a little girl pretending to serve tea to her friends?  It was actually kind of funny, and I said something to myself (or to Tova) and chuckled.

Finally, money in hand, diaper-and-clothes-changed (I had forgotten the diapers on the bed, and had to borrow a 4+ from another family; I told Tova not to poop in it because it was too big on her and would leak, and she actually listened until we were off the return bus and walking back), I had time to sit for a few minutes.

Part Five: The Catch

Then my number was called.  The lady at the window was very efficient, asked for all my documents, and I gave them to her; answered my questions about the social security cards; asked for Shlomo’s passport so that he could get his, and seemed surprised when I handed it to her; and sent me to pay.

She asked if I was still married to Tova’s father.  Yes, I am.  And in my head, I think that it’s a funny question to ask.  Can she have the marriage certificate?  I gave it to her.  She asked if I was going to pick up the report or if I wanted it sent to me.  I wasn’t sure I had enough to have it sent, and kicked myself for not asking Yitzchak for another twenty shekels when I had met him earlier.

I went to the shipping-and-number-giving desk, where I waited beside a guy with a thick accent who wanted to know where to go.  I tried to help him, until I heard his accent and saw his manner.  What does he need?  He wants to go to America. Does he need a visa?  Yes, he says.  Is he a citizen?  He doesn’t know what that means.  Where is he from?  “Palestine!”  Ha ha.  I laughed at that one.  The number-giving guy called for another guy and told the other guy to “help this gentleman”.  No one can tell me what the exchange rate is, and they are annoyed at me for asking and ‘being angry’, when I am not angry, just kind of frustrated at having to explain such a simple question over and over.

I go to the paying-desk, now that there is no line, and say, “Mah ha’shaar (what’s the exchange rate)?”  He thinks I said, “Mah hasha’a (what’s the time)?” looks at his watch, and tells me 10:45.  It took me a second to figure out what had happened, and then I repeated my question.  This time, he understood, and told me “4”.  I gave him the receipt from the lady who had handled my documents (and was waiting for my return) and gave him 400 shekels.

When I get back, the lady tells me that I can’t get a social security card for Tova because she doesn’t have a passport.  Huh?  I didn’t see that written anywhere.  As it turns out, it doesn’t have to be an American passport, but if we have never applied for any passport, from any country, for Tova, then she cannot get a social security card.  And she hands me back the form, apologetically.  Okay, fine.  At least Shlomo can get one.  She tells me to wait and that the consular officer will call me.  He will give back the documents.  If I want to apply for a passport, then my husband will have to accompany me.  Yep, don’t I know it.

I sit and wait for the consular officer.  While I wait, I see someone holding a credit card.  Hm, I think, can I pay for shipping with a credit card?  The shipping-girl isn’t at the desk, and while I wait for her to return, the consular officer calls our name.  We don’t usually use credit, even though our debit cards are really credit cards.  But sometimes, it’s a good option to have.  Although, we have been known to say that we don’t have an option for credit.  I suppose you could say it’s lying, but the truth is that it’s not usually an option, financially and budget-wise.

I ask the consular officer if I can still have the documents shipped to me, provided that shipping-girl will take a credit card (and I saw a machine for it on the desk).  He doesn’t know if she will take it, but says that it’s not a problem for me to get them shipped, even at this late stage.  Then he asks for Shlomo’s birth certificate.  I need proof that we are his parents asking for his social security card.  I don’t have the beautiful Report of Birth Abroad, nor do I have his Israeli birth certificate.  I thought the passport would be enough, and the consulate site didn’t say otherwise.  In fact, I thought the consulate site said a passport was enough.  And the lady didn’t say anything . . .  So, we can’t get a social security card for Shlomo, either.

Part Six: The “Solution”, or, Making the Most of An Aggravating Trip

However, Tova’s Report of Birth Abroad should be ready in a week and a half to two weeks.  I can drop off the social security forms at the same time as I pick up the Report of Birth Abroad, no appointment necessary.  I guess that’s what I’ll have to do; I don’t have a cell phone to ask Yitzchak his opinion (because, if you remember, it was taken when I came in), so I decide to make the trip to pick up the report and drop off the forms.  The consular officer is nice and makes sure every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘i’ is dotted so that I will have an easy, fast, trip next time.  I appreciate it.  And I am frustrated that every trip to Jerusalem seems to leave loose ends that need to be tied up by another trip.  Another 80 shekels; another wasted day.  Arg.  We will not be able to get the social security cards by the 15th of June, but we can file for an extension.  Better yet, we can talk to a CPA and get him to help us out.

But, maybe we should get Tova an Israeli passport in the meantime, and then apply for both social security cards when we pick up the report of birth.  Hmm.  Sounds like it could work.

And that’s where we stand now.

I also didn’t get to buy what I wanted for myself when I was in Jerusalem.  Yitzchak said he’s going to check some places here and ask if they can order it in; if not, then I guess I will have another chance in two weeks.  Maybe we will plan it for a Friday that we are in Jerusalem.  But we are not pulling another stunt like this one; it was too difficult.

Part Seven: The Israeli Passport

We debated whether or not to get Tova an Israeli passport.  On the one hand, we aren’t planning on going anywhere.  On the other hand, we need it for a social security number, which could potentially save us, or give us, a lot of money, and the passport is good for five years.  Plus, it would be kind of funny to see two “baby” passports and compare the pictures.  We decided to get the passport.  From what I saw on the internet, it would cost between 125 and 140 shekels, which is not too bad.  Much, much, less than $105 (which right now is 420 shekels).  Plus, we probably wouldn’t have to wait in line.  Not too bad . . . so we went for it.

Tuesday morning, Yitzchak went to sell the chametz with the city’s rav, at the city’s commercial center.  At the same time, he took Tova to get passport photos taken, and parted with 25 shekel.  He went into the Ministry of Interior and asked for a passport application, only to be told that they don’t give them out, and we had to come in.

From what I had read on the internet, I knew that both of us needed to sign the application.  My plan had been for Yitzchak to pick up the application and sign it, and then I would fill it out, sign it, and take Tova in to the Ministry of Interior to apply.  Now, this plan got changed.  So, at 4:15, we all got on a bus and went to the commercial center, where they asked if we wanted a regular passport or a biometric passport (regular, thanks), and told us that since we’re married, only one of us has to sign the form.  The passport cost us 140 shekels.  Sigh.

On the bright side, they also said that the passport would be put in the mail either that day or the next morning, and we should have it within ten business days.  Sounds good to me.

And so, we now wait for Tova’s Israeli passport to arrive; hopefully before Pesach vacation ends and I have to go back to work.

Update: About an hour and a half before this post was published (I had scheduled it to post, ahead of time), we had a knock on the door: The passport had arrived, through registered mail, a day and a half after we applied for it.

A Trip to the Consulate

Part of being an expat is deciding if you want your kids to be registered as citizens of your birth country.  Sometimes you want the tax benefits; sometimes you think that it is better for the kid in the future; and sometimes you think that it is worthwhile, or necessary, of the present.

We never really debated the subject; it was just kind of obvious that since Yitzchak and I are both American, and we have family in the States, that we would register our kids as American citizens.  When Shlomo was born, and we realized the expense involved (admittedly a pittance in comparison to expats who are not married to other expats, or who did not spend any time actually in America), we thought about just getting him a visa for his Israeli passport whenever we wanted to travel.  Not only did this turn out to be against the rules, it wasn’t even worthwhile financially.  We spent about a thousand shekels on getting him a Report of Birth Abroad and an American passport, and then we still had to get him an Israeli passport (because we were planning to travel).  Now, we had to register Tova.  Having no immediate travel plans, we pushed it off and pushed it off and finally decided to get it over and done with, for the sake of taxes.

Here is the story, for those who are interested in life in Israel and life as an American expat.

Part One: Making the Appointment

There is a U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and there is a U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.  Because we used to live in Jerusalem, we went to the consulate to register Shlomo.  Because I hate Tel Aviv, and know where the consulate is (since I’ve been there before), I emailed the consulate and asked if we could still come to Jerusalem, even though technically the consulate is only for the residents of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.  The response I got was that we could go to the consulate and did not have to go to Tel Aviv.

Throughout this narrative, I write, “I,” because while we weren’t sure if Yitzchak would end up coming, it was pretty obvious that I had to go, since I am nursing Tova, and was still on maternity leave.

Then, I had to make an appointment with the consulate.  There were a few issues with this:

1. It is, at minimum, a two and a half hour trip into Jerusalem, not including the bus that goes from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station to the consulate.  Two and a half hours, multiplied by two trips (there and back) is already five hours minimum.  From the Central Bus Station to the consulate is about an hour each way, by bus.  Taxi might be faster, but costs a lot – maybe 100 shekel, or more, per trip.  The taxi may not save us time, either, because Jerusalem has awful traffic jams.  So far, we have a seven hour trip at minimum – and that’s not even counting the time we would spend at the consulate, which is calculated to be about an hour and a half, on average.  Total amount of time to travel from home to the consulate and back: 8.5 hrs.  Or, in other words, an entire [work] day.

2. We needed to get Tova a Consular Report of Birth Abroad.  Let it be known that this is an absolutely gorgeous document.  We also wanted to get her, and Shlomo, social security numbers.  When Shlomo was a baby, I sent in an application for a social security card, but we never got the card.  I don’t know if the application was rejected or if the card never reached us.  At any rate, because we wanted their social security numbers for taxes, we wanted to make the appointments in enough time to send in the forms at least before the June 15th expat tax date.  Looking back, I realize that my calculation was foolish, since it can take up to six months to get the social security cards.  But no matter.  We need to do it, and the sooner the better.

We debated whether to get Tova a passport at the same time.

The pros: No need to worry or race if we end up traveling, or if we decide to move back for whatever reason.

The cons: An extra $105 (about 420 shekel), and it expires in 5 years; Yitzchak would need to waste an entire day so that both of us would be present, or we would have to waste money on a notarized consent form that he allows his child to get a passport when he is not physically present; if both Yitzchak and I are at the consulate, where is Shlomo?

Which leads us to #3:

3. Only the people who are absolutely necessary for the appointment are allowed into the consulate.  In other words, if you are applying for a Report of Birth Abroad, one parent accompanies the child.  If you are applying for a passport, both parents.  But – if you have another child who has nothing to do with the appointment – he will not be allowed into the consulate.  Hmmm . . .  I considered making a fake appointment for Shlomo (because, after all, he did need a social security card, even if I didn’t need a separate appointment for it), but Yitzchak reminded me that Shlomo coming with us meant Shlomo running laps in the consulate, for about an hour.  We decided to that it was worth trying to avoid having to discipine him.  After all, what’s wrong with running laps?  (Answer: Nothing.  It’s just that the consulate isn’t really the place to do it.)

4. We are always loath to part with such large sums of money.  The trip to Jerusalem is about 80 shekels round trip.  The Report of Birth Abroad is $100 (400 shekel).  That’s a LOT of money.  But we have no choice; we are required to file taxes and we want to be able to write down all exemptions possible, just in case, somehow, it may in some fashion look like we earn enough to actually owe something.  Plus, we probably qualify for $1000 a year, per child, in tax returns.  With Shlomo we were too lazy, and stingy, to get an accountant to deal with it, and we didn’t know how to file ourselves.  But things have changed since then (mostly expat tax laws), and it looks like, lazy or not, we need to file this year.  Which means, why not do it all at once?

5. The appointments are made online.  You can only make one appointment per child.  I cheated the system, not knowing which day I wanted to go, and wanting to make sure I had an appointment that worked for me.  The system allows you to make appointments only for the next three weeks or so, and they get taken very quickly, leaving only 8 or 8:30am appointments, and even then, only on one or two days out of the month.  You need to really keep on top of the appointment site in order to get one that works.  I made two appointments for Tova, and got past the system’s block by changing a letter in her name.

Part Two: The Stupid Rules

American security is infinitely stupider than Israeli security, for the simple reason that they do not know what they are doing.  One example is what I wrote above – only the people pertinent to the appointment are allowed entry.  Here are a few others:

– If you come more than half an hour early for your appointment, you may be denied entry and your appointment will be rescheduled.  Gee, it’s nice you wrote that on your website and not just on the window outside the consulate, for folks like me who are dependent on buses, live a few hours away, and called Egged, only to be told that the only bus that goes to the consulate leaves once an hour, at a quarter to the hour, and takes 50 minutes to get there.  It’s a shame I didn’t schedule my appointment differently.  On second thought, maybe I couldn’t have scheduled it so that it worked with the bus schedule.

– If you have a stroller, you need to leave it at the gate.  Oh, and they aren’t responsible if it gets taken.  Make sure you bring a sling, if you have a baby, or your arms will get exhausted.

– In order to be allowed entry, you first need to prove you have an appointment.  This you do by handing them the printout of your appointment details and the documents and forms that you brought with you.  The guy you proved it to gives you a pass.  Then, pass in hand, you go to the security guy, who asks you more questions, gives you a basket to put your phone and charger in, and asks if you have other electronics that need to be in the basket.  Basket in hand, you go through the doors, to pass through the metal detector and put your bag through the x-ray machine.  If, like me, you have forgotten about an electronic device that you happen to have in your bag (I forgot that I had the camera), they get very angry at you and treat you like you are a bigger threat than Iran.  The contents of the basket are put into a “cell” and you are given a card with the cell’s number, which you present in order to get your belongings back when you are done.  By the way, they are not responsible for any electronics put in the “cell”.

– Let’s say you need to make a phone call.  You go back to security, show your card, get your belongings (all of them), walk outside, make your phone call, and need to be readmitted by the guard.  Let’s say you need to get a document or whatever, and you walk out for a second.  Same deal.

– They take checks, written for the exact amount, according to that day’s exchange rate.  No credit cards.  They take cash, but do not give change.

– No one is allowed to wait outside the consulate.

– No sealed envelopes are allowed in.

For more stupid rules please see here.

Part Three: The Debate 

I had a Thursday appointment and a Friday appointment.

Advantages of Thursday:

– If only I go, and I am on vacation, it is just a waste of a day (and not a waste of two peoples’ days and double the money).

– It leaves me all of Friday to prepare for Shabbat.  Therefore, it is less stressful.

– I can also do some clothes shopping while I am there (I hate clothes shopping, but sometimes there is no choice); on Friday the stores close early and I probably won’t have time to shop.

Advantages of Friday:

– If we are not home for Shabbat, it is not a wasted trip.

– Yitzchak has books to pick up in Jerusalem; if we go as a family and are not home for Shabbat, we “kill” two birds with one stone.

– We do not want to be home for Shabbat anyways, since it is the Shabbat before Pesach.

– If I go on Friday by myself, I can meet my friend, who I haven’t seen in ages.

In the end, my cousin saved the day.  We went on Thursday afternoon to Jerusalem, I did some shopping, we stayed at my cousin’s overnight, and early in the morning I went to the consulate, and Yitzchak went to pick up his books.  Then, we all traveled to Kfar Chabad for Shabbat, and after Shabbat went home.  On Thursday night we changed the clocks, which meant an hour less of sleep for everyone, but more time to get things done.  It was tough, because we were exhausted from all the running around, but we made it.  My cousin was also traveling for Shabbat, so we helped them get out, as well.

Total time spent going to and from the consulate: 4 hours.  Not bad, considering that if we had traveled to Jerusalem just for the consulate, it would have taken an entire day.

Oh, and I forgot – Friday was our fifth anniversary.  And we spent it traveling.  To and from the consulate, from Jerusalem to Kfar Chabad.  We had thought to do something else, less for the anniversary than because it was an excuse to get a babysitter and take a breather.  But in the end, like every year, we forgot the date until afterwards.

Stay tuned for the next section of this riveting narrative . . .

To Bibi Netanyahu: A Message from Israeli Nationlists

Do not think that we voted for you, and gave you such a huge margin over Hertzog, because we like you.

We do not necessarily like the way you lead.

But we voted you in, because the thought of Hertzog leading a leftist government, that possibly included Arabs, sounded like the beginning of Israel’s demise.

And we love Israel.  We love our country, and would like to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) knowing that unless someone nukes us, or the sun blows up, we will probably still be around to celebrate next year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut.  We do not want to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, in about two months, knowing that by next year, Israel will be no more, because half will be given away and the other half will be so bombarded with rockets that normal life will become completely impossible.

And therefore, Bibi, we voted you in, to lead a right wing government that gives us a chance at a future; a government that does not mean complete suicide by giving in to terrorists, murderers, by pretending to be their friends.

Bibi, you owe the religious, and nationalists, a lot.  Because so many of us wanted to keep you strong, to ensure that you would lead the government and not Hertzog; because of this, you lead the biggest party by far, and the rest of us are small in comparison.

You would not be this powerful without it.  We gave you our votes, and we did it happily, because we love our country – and not because we love you.

Bibi, if you prove that you love our country less than we love it, you will be out of office.  We ask that you stick to your word and keep a two-state suicidal solution off the table.  Stand tall, let us defend ourselves, stick up for what we, as nationalists, know is right.  And do not give in to world pressure.

Because otherwise, you will soon find yourself with no coalition, headed for primaries that you will not win, and another election that you will definitely not win – because we helped you out, in our communal time of need – we helped you, because you were the one who had the power to help us – and you cheated us, by going back on your word and becoming a leftist, and by compromising our integrity, our identity as a Jewish State, and our security.

Stick to your word, and do not cheat us, the nationalists, millions of whom are religious nationalists, who voted you in.

Election 2015 – Preliminary Results

We won – and we lost.

Likud came out six mandates ahead of Avoda ((Labor;) or rather, Hahitachdut HaTzionit (Zionist Union)).

Hertzog, unless Kulanu (“Together”, headed by Moshe Kachlon) will sit with the Arabs, will not be able to form a coalition.

In order to form a coalition, you need 61 mandates.

Hertzog has 24; Yesh Atid has 11; Meretz has 4.  24+11+4=39

If he takes Kulanu, which has 10 mandates, he will get 49.  The Arabs have 14 mandates; if Hertzog takes them in addition to Kulanu, then he will have 63 mandates, or, in other words, a coalition.  If Kachlon doesn’t agree to sit with the Arabs – and being a former Likud member, and whose voters are right-wing, he very possibly may not agree – then Hertzog has no coalition.  Yay!!

The chareidi parties, Shas and Aguda (UTJ) will not sit with Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), because he is the one who spearheaded the campaign to force chareidim into the army.  Technically, the chareidim are more worth it than Lapid, because together, they have 14 mandates, while Lapid has only 11.  But Hertzog’s natural partner is Yesh Atid, and he will take the chareidim (some of whom will probably agree to sit with Arabs, some of whom will probably not) only as a last resort – unless a miracle occurs and they agree to sit with Lapid, which is highly unlikely.

Let’s take a look at Bibi.  I was right last time, and maybe I will be right this time.  Last time I said, why not just take Lapid and Bennett?  With Likud, Lapid, and Bennett, we already have a coalition, and because it is only three parties, it was expected to be stable (less demands, less zigzgging, less chance of it toppling over stupidities; Lapid proved stupider than I thought and therefore the potentially stable coalition was very unstable).

At any rate:

Bibi has 30 mandates; Bayit Yehudi has 8; Shas has 7; Yisrael Beiteinu and Aguda (UTJ) have six each. 30+8+7+6+6=57.  It’s still just short of a coalition, but if Kulanu joins them, then they will have 67, which is a good coalition.  Will it happen?  Actually, it’s very likely.

What does it depend on?  A few things:

1. That Kulanu refuse to sit with Arabs, and agree to join Bibi.

2. That the chareidim not insist on changing the draft law, and agree to sit with Bibi without making completely unreasonable demands.

3. That no one else on the right make completely unreasonable demands or refuse to sit with each other.

4. That Netanyahu and Hertzog not agree to a unity government.

If any of the first three happen, we are headed for new elections.  If the last one happens, we are in big trouble.

I am also very frustrated that 3+ mandates of right wing votes went to trash.  Like in previous elections, a lot of right wing votes went to a start-up party that no one was entirely sure would pass the threshold.  Last time, it was Otzma L’Yisrael, and 66,775 votes went down the drain.  This time, it was Yachad, and 118,368 votes went down the drain.  Also remember that last time, the minimum was 2 mandates; this time, the minimum was raised to 4 mandates.  Especially during these elections, when every right wing vote mattered, losing that many votes is a huge frustration and loss.  Wherever you would’ve put them – Shas, Aguda, Bayit Yehudi – they would have done something.  If they had all gone to Bayit Yehudi, then they would have 11 mandates instead of 8.  Let’s say some were taken from Shas and some from Aguda, as well as those from Bayit Yehudi – Bayit Yehudi would have 9, Shas would have 8, Aguda would have 7.  And possibly one of those would have gained two extra seats, because it’s not just 3 mandates – it’s 3+, which means that Yachad’s extra, plus someone else’s extra, might’ve added a second mandate to one of those.

Remember we said that a right-wing government, without Kulanu, had 57 mandates?  If we had those 3+, we might very well have had a coalition right there, even without worrying about who Kachlon will join.  Isn’t that a shame?  I, and many other right wing voters, think it is.

A Freezing Weekend

I wrote this post last Friday, December 13.  But because I hadn’t edited it yet, it wasn’t published.  I also felt kind of funny writing about our Shabbat menu.  But the food came out good, and it was pretty filling, so I figure, why not.  Plus, it’s my only real-time snowstorm post.

Last Friday Yitzchak and I had an argument (more like a fight) over whether or not we should buy a radiator.  No, that’s not really what we fought about, that was just the trigger.

In the end, we decided that at the moment we didn’t need it, and we didn’t know if the winter would get cold enough that we would need it, so it could wait.  When the time came, we would rethink our decision.

The time came Wednesday afternoon.  Now, in all honesty, last week the temperatures were in the 20’s and high teens, and they suddenly dropped the low teens and single digits.  BIIIG difference.  Last week we got maximum five minutes of rain.  This week we had a power outage and it rained long enough for the parking lot to accumulate maybe a centimeter of water before it drained.  The parking lot, by the way, is big.  (If you’ve been following my blog, it’s in the picture Yitzchak took of the view from our kitchen window, posted around the time of our move.)

While Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria are enjoying fifteen centimeters of snow, we just have cold weather.  Really cold weather.  Today’s high is 6 and the low is 1.  Tomorrow’s prediction improved around mid-morning today, rising from a high of five and a low of -2 to a high of 6 and a low of zero.  Not great but better.

So now all Yitzchak and I can think about is making sure we stay warm.  And part of that is having warm food for Shabbat.  Here’s what our Shabbat menu usually looks like:

Friday night – some kind of heavy soup, challa, maybe chumus/ techina.

Shabbat morning – mashed potatoes/couscous, salad, stir fry/cooked vegetables/baked green beans.

Shabbat afternoon (seuda shlishit) – salad, egg salad/tuna salad/deviled eggs, remains of mashed potatoes/couscous, chumus/techina.

Today we decided that we wanted cholent.  Last time I tried my hand at cholent was a few months after we got married, when we were hosting a friend and her fiance.  It flopped, big time.  I haven’t tried since.

But today we wanted cholent, and I wanted kishke, so I’m trying again.  We also decided that we felt like being “fancy” and so our Shabbat menu this week looks like this:

Friday night – challah, heavy soup.  Maybe a bit of kugel.

Shabbat morning – challah*, cholent (with vegetarian kishke that is basically flour, carrots, oil, and onions), kugel, salad.

Shabbat afternoon – kugel, salad, challah, chumus (hummus).  Maybe we’ll make eggs and maybe not.  (In the end, the eggs were used up after we prepared everything else.)

Ah, and obviously, every week we make a cake, usually either a yellow cake or a chocolate cake.  More on that later.

Hopefully, the weather will warm up.  Because this is awful.  In all honesty, though, I’m praying for a few centimeters of snow on Sunday morning so that a) I don’t have to feel guilty about leaving early, and b) I don’t have to teach half a class.  Because at this rate, it doesn’t look like everyone else will be back to normal by Sunday morning, and we have a LOT of out-of-town students.  It’s no fun teaching half a class – to say the least.

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*This is a guttural ‘ch’, it isn’t pronounced like “chair.”  You can listen here.

Earthquake Preparations

Today there was another minor earthquake, in Egypt, but felt in Eilat, measuring at 3.3.  That makes seven earthquakes in six days, six of the seven taking place in the north, around the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).  There were two yesterday – a 3.3 and a 2.2; on Thursday there was a 3.5; there was one on Shabbat (Saturday), that also measured at 3.5, and two on Sunday, both measuring at 3.6.  Today’s was a surprising change, since it was felt in Eilat (all the way at the southern tip of Israel), instead of in the north.

Obviously, since we are so far away from both of them, we didn’t feel any of these quakes, and only know about it from the news.  Also, a few weeks ago, Yitzchak got a brilliant idea and called a friend who is on the city council, to find out that his brilliant idea is correct (I still don’t fully believe it and won’t until I see a source, but he has a point): All the buildings here are built according to the earthquake codes, even though most of these buildings were built before 1980, when the codes went into effect.  The reason?  The building codes for earthquake safety are good for nuclear blasts, too.  (Not that I understand why the city would care, since we don’t have a nuclear reactor, but maybe one day when we get one they’ll decide to put it near this city.)

seven steps, 7 steps, earthquake preparedness, earthquake readiness, earthquake, earthquakes, earthquake drills, disasters, natural disasters, preparation, safety, prevention, planningSo now our emergency kit, started several months ago, is getting finished at an accelerated pace.  Not completely finished – we don’t have iodine pills yet, and we don’t have stuff to seal rooms during chemical warfare – but the basic stuff will be finished.  One thing that I want to put in is our marriage contract – according to Jewish law, a couple is not allowed to live in the same house if they don’t have their ketuba (marriage contract).  I want to put it in the bag, so that it’s there.  Yitzchak wants to keep it in the house.  Maybe we should get a second one written, and that way if we ever decide to divorce, I’ll get double the amount of money.  (Just kidding, it doesn’t work that way, and getting a second copy written is complicated, because technically I could take one copy to one court and demand money for it, and then take the other copy to the other court and demand money for it, and so to prevent that, there are rules about how to write a second copy and when it’s allowed, etc.)

It’s kind of nerve wracking to be hearing about all these earthquakes and that seismologists aren’t sure what will happen next.  On the other hand, seismology is not yet the most accurate of sciences, and the status changes often, soooo . . .

The experts don’t think that these small quakes change the likelihood of a big one.  On the other hand, they say that if a bit one happens, it’s each man for himself, and it’s up to us to make sure we’re prepared.

But you know what?  Every place has its issues.  We are much safer right now than we were in Jerusalem, for a lot of reasons.  And, we can keep our bag in the bomb shelter, which almost certainly will still be standing straight after any size earthquake, because it’s just a big metal box with windows and a door.

All I can do is pray that if a major earthquake does hit, we’ll all be together, and preferably near home, so we can find our blankets, emergency kit, and everything else – even if we have to dig a bit.  Hopefully, Yitzchak and his city-council friend are right and our building will still be standing strong.  But most important is that we’re together.  Next most important – that we find our bag – it has photocopies of critical documents, supplies, and everything else.

Please, G-d, just do us a favor and keep us together, safe, and close to home.

All The World Are Hypocritical Idiots

So, no one cares if innocent Israelis get hurt or killed by inhuman terrorists.  But if Syrians gas their own children – this we have to stop.  For this, we can start World War Three.  At Israel’s expense, of course.  Our families won’t be wearing gas masks and sitting in bomb shelters, eating food out of cans and rationing water.  We’re too far away.  But Israel, Israel can handle it.  They didn’t ask for this war and they’re not part of it, but so what?  They can take the burden, they can take the fear and the fighting.  Their families are better sacrifices than our own.

Seriously, world?  Take your nose out of our business and mind your own.  Syria will do what Syria will do.  Until you live in the Middle East, you don’t understand how the Middle East works.  Let them fight their own wars; it means that they’re too busy to fight others.

Iran you don’t care about.  Hamas and Hezbollah you don’t care about.  You really don’t care about anything, except saving the world and making a name for yourself.  And that’s really egocentric, selfish, and stupid.

Before you jump into a war that will put someone else in danger, think about whether or not you’d put yourself and your own family in that same situation.  We didn’t ask for this.  We don’t want it.  And we’d really rather stay out of it.  But, of course, because Syria is our northern neighbor, we will have to deal with the consequences, to a greater or lesser degree.  (Of course, we’re all hoping and praying for the lesser degree.)

I knew something was up when Yitzchak called the Home Front Command tonight.  Shlomo’s gas mask box was accidentally smashed under a pile of books.  A plastic strap is sticking out.  We don’t know if the mask is damaged, because we’re not allowed to open the box until we are told to.  So, Yitzchak called the Home Front Command.  At first they said that damages would cost us 500 shekels.  (OMG, really?  Like we have the money for that now.)  Then I heard Yitzchak talking about going to Jerusalem to have it checked.*  And I started thinking – huh?  They don’t have a distribution point in Jerusalem.  Then he spoke about Be’er Sheva.  DO they have a distribution point there?  Why does he still want to go to Jerusalem?  And why would he go to Jerusalem if there’s no distribution point there, anyways?

Well, it turns out there is.  And there will be one opening in Be’er Sheva on Sunday.  Something smells really funny here.

Yitzchak looked upset, so I asked why.  I figured he’d say that it’s late and he’s tired.  Instead, he says that America decided to go to war, with all of Europe, against Syria, and that Syria threatened to attack us, Israel, with chemical weapons, if America actually went through with it.  Yay, America.  Yay, Obama.  Save the world on someone else’s backs, not ours.  You world-class [closet] anti-Semites and idiots.

I guess that explains why Mom (Yitzchak’s mother) called at such a random time.  It explains why they are opening new distribution points, why everyone on the Hebrew-language forum I’m on is freaking out (I freaked out a long time ago), and why Yitzchak is so upset.

It also means that we need to finish stocking our kit.  Dang it.  This is NOT the expense we needed right now.  This is NOT what we want to be doing right now.  At least we are in the South, far away from Syria and pretty much everyone.  The army has started calling up reservists.  Yitzchak wanted to join the army back in June, and he would have done basic training, making him an option if the army was pressed for manpower.  But the basic training would have fallen on what I thought would be the toughest three weeks of the year, and I refused (Yitzchak doesn’t have to serve).  When those three weeks weren’t so hard, I felt like we’d lost out on an opportunity.  Now I know why.  Thank G-d.  But – Jack is in the North, and he’s going into a combat unit.  Oh, dang it.

World, I hate you.  Mind your own business and fight the real bad guys, not the people who are minding their own business in their own country, with their own families.  You can’t save the world.  You’ll only make things worse.

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*(End of story: The person asked why we don’t know if the mask is damaged.  Yitzchak told her that we haven’t opened it to check, because we’re not allowed to open it.  Oh, oops, you’re right – you’re not allowed.  So take it in to be checked, chances are that since it was an accident and you still haven’t opened it, you won’t have to pay a fine.  Yitzchak doesn’t want to wait until Sunday, he’ll go in to Jerusalem tomorrow to get it checked.)

Oops, Shoes!

Yesterday was Tisha B’Av.  On Tisha B’Av there are five [main] things that are forbidden.  One of those five is wearing leather shoes.  Since I didn’t go anywhere yesterday, there was no reason for me to wear shoes at all, so I kind of forgot about it.

Anyways, yesterday afternoon, Shlomo decided that he wanted to go out.  Now, there was no way that either Yitzchak or myself was about to take Shlomo on a walk, in the heat, on a fast day, four hours before the fast ended.  But Shlomo had decided that I was taking him on a walk.  He brought me my shoes, and tried to put them on my feet.  I kind of ignored it, until Yitzchak told me to cooperate with Shlomo.  I did.  I let him put the shoe on me, and while Shlomo was trying to figure out the other shoe, I took my foot out.  It just felt gross.  So, I told Shlomo, “Ewww, I can’t put my feet in these shoes without socks, it feels gross.”  I thought  Shlomo accepted it; he walked off and I heard him playing with the closet doors.

tisha b'av, no shoes, no shoes allowed, destruction of temple, 9 avFive minutes later, Shlomo comes back and hands me something: A pair of Yitzchak’s socks.  I did say that I needed socks, right?  So, He brought me some.  I had to laugh; I put the socks on and I put my feet back in the shoes.

Then Shlomo went to the bedroom to bring me my wig.  This I refused to put on, saying that I needed to put my hair up first.  No problem for Shlomo – he started to climb on the table, in order to bring them to me.  I just said no – we’re not going anywhere.  And I left my shoes on . . . because, well, why not?

About half an hour later, Yitzchak prepares to go to mincha (the afternoon prayer).  I see him put his shoes on. And then I realize – I’m wearing shoes.  He’s wearing shoes.  It’s Tisha B’Av.  We’re not supposed to be wearing shoes.

Oops.  I have never, ever, ever made that mistake before.  I don’t think Yitzchak has, either.

Oh my goodness.  It’s Tisha B’Av and we’re wearing leather shoes.  I take mine off.  Yitzchak insists that after midday, it’s fine.  He has reason to insist, too – Yitzchak has been up to the store and back again, twice, presumably also wearing his shoes.  I insist that Yitzchak take his shoes off before proving it.  He does.

And he can’t prove it.  Oops.

At least it was an honest mistake.  I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it.  But in the meantime, it sure made my heart drop.

Two Bus Drivers

We went to visit some friends for Shabbat.  Since they don’t live in Jerusalem, we had to check when the last bus left.  There was a bus at 15:30, 15:50, 16:15, and 16:45.  We wanted to take the 15:30 bus.  It didn’t happen.

Instead, we got to the Central Bus Station at 16:20, just in time to pick something up for our hosts (we hadn’t managed to bake something), take a few minutes to sit, and board the last bus to our destination.  We saw the bus pull up and went out to meet it.  We were among the first people to reach the bus, which meant that we would have our choice of seats and be able to sit together.

egged bus, israel bus system, israel buses, egged, buses, public transportation, afula, bus routesAs we got on, the bus driver called out, “I’m going to Rishon L’Tzion, he’s (pointing to the bus to his right) going to Ramle.”  He turns to each passenger and asks where they need to go, telling some of them to go to the other bus.  I didn’t quite get it.  And I was even more confused when he told someone that he’s not stopping at Mishmar Ayalon, because I know that that’s one of his stops.  It’s true that as each passenger boards and pays, he tells the driver where he is headed and how many tickets he is buying, as well as whether or not he wants a round-trip ticket.  But the bus driver was really into it, asking everybody ahead of time and repeating his announcements over and over.

Then the driver closed the door and started pulling away.  As one last straggler ran to catch the bus, the driver opened the door and yelled out, “Leave with me, so you don’t get anyone who wants Rishon L’Tzion.”

Huh?

What’s the number of the bus beside us?

Ahhh, it’s the same as ours.  Why are there two buses with identical routes and numbers leaving at the same time?  I have no idea.

But I do know what the driver was about: He and his friend decided that they wanted to finish their last route early that day and go home, and knew that the passengers also wanted to get where they were going faster.  After all, it was only a few hours before Shabbat.  So the two friends split the route between them, shortening both bus rides: The other bus would stop at every stop until Ramle, inclusive, and Ramle would be his last stop.  Our bus would not stop until we passed Ramle, even though we were traveling an identical route, but on the other hand, it would go to the end of its route, dropping off everyone who was traveling past Ramle.

It took fifteen to twenty minutes off our ride.  On the other hand, we went fast enough that Shlomo threw up – all over the nice young ladies opposite us who let him sit on their laps and “play” their game with them (translation: they played with him when he insisted on asking for their game).

Only in Israel . . .

Student Aliya (Immigration to Israel)

Yesterday I was thinking about how I moved to Israel.

Or rather, I was thinking about how, when I visited my family one summer, I met one of my eighth-grade teachers.  She asked what I was doing, how I was doing, where I was.  I told her that I was studying for a B.Ed. and had moved to Israel.

But I felt funny saying that.  Really, I didn’t live in Israel.  I mean, technically, I had.  But I kept coming back for the summers, because my “home” was a student dorm, that was closed in the summer, and where I switched apartments every school year.

I didn’t feel like I lived here.

Now, I live here.

When I think back to when I made aliya, I think it was a smart move.  The government gave me a huge subsidy for my degree.  They gave me a small, but helpful, rent subsidy (which disappeared, for reasons of bureaucracy, when I married Yitzchak).  I had a place to live, and during vacations, had people to stay with.

I paid a dorm fee and food.  I didn’t pay electricity, water, gas, property tax.  I paid for my schoolbooks and transportation, laundry and food.  I didn’t pay most of my tuition fees, or for rent during vacation.

It was a smart move.  It was a good thing to do.

And if you’re a single student, it’s probably a really good option.

Now, if – when? – I go to visit Canada, I can honestly say that we live in Israel.  We do.

And I don’t like to fly, so I am happy that we have our own little apartment here in Israel.

Once, I used to like flying.  That was when I was single.

Somehow, after we got married, I stopped liking flights.  Maybe it’s because of all the flying I did while we were engaged.  Maybe it’s because now, I fly with Yitzchak, and he packs differently and plans for flights differently.

Maybe it’s because we have Shlomo.

Maybe I’m just more tired and like to stay home more.

I don’t know.  Truthfully, I don’t care, either.

As long as we can stay happily at home.

But if my sister or brother asks whether they should make aliya and get a degree here – my answer will undoubtedly be yes.

It was a good choice.