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Oct. 7th, 2009

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Airline tickets

A travel agent called me yesterday, with a ballpark figure for a round-trip ticket from the States to Israel and I almost suffered a heart attack. It is time for me to start looking for travel discounts! Unfortunately, I have no frequent flyer miles.

Today, I was reminded of something. About fifteen years ago, there was a woman who used to attend weekly Torah study at my shul. She was the minister for a local, Christian church. At some point, she discovered that her mother's mother's mother's mother's etc. had been Jewish. As a result, when she took her congregation to Israel, she got a free airline ticket. Can anyone guess what organization might have obtained that deal for her? (She was in her late thirties, so it wasn't through Birth Right.)

I don't need a free ticket, but I would gladly accept any discount that I qualify for. This will be my first visit! :-)

Oct. 4th, 2009

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There's a zoo in Jerusalem and it's website shows lots of beautiful animals. This is definitely on my list of places to see before classes start.

Fellow members, what's on your list of places to see in Israel?
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Shopping questions, more shopping questions, and sushi bars

The more I think about the details of living in Israel, the more nervous I get. I know I'm worrying excessively and I hope my questions won't be offensive.

After trying to find transformers, so that my electrical appliances would work in Israel, my father suggested I buy a new laptop after I arrive in Israel rather than before I leave the States. That would obviate the need for transformers and make room in my suitcases. (Pretty smart guy, my dad.)

Would I have any trouble locating a computer shop in Jerusalem or would I have to go to Tel Aviv? What about computer repairs?

How about an electric toothbrush and a heating pad?

I couldn't find a website for a bookstore or library at Hebrew University Mt. Scopus, but when a friend studied there six years ago, all her classes were in English. If I could purchase a BDB and other Biblical grammar tomes in Jerusalem, there'd be more space in the two suitcases that must sustain me for three years.

My school's website says that clothing is very expensive in Israel and specifically advises students to bring all their own winter clothes. How much could an extra sweater and a pair of long-johns cost? (Here sweaters can cost 95 to 260 shekels and long-johns are 95 to 110 shekels.)

Now that I think about it, I have trouble finding clothes hangers in the States-- what type of store sells them in Israel?

Someone once told me that there are no hechshers in Israel. How does one know which packaged goods are kosher? Are there stores that sell only kosher products? And which is more common: shopping at one supermarket or visiting the baker, butcher, and produce stand?

It seems like a silly question to me, but I better go ahead and ask it: will I have any trouble using my MasterCard in Israel? (Tourists must use foreign credit cards all the time.)

Finally, I come to the most important question of all:
Where in Israel are the sushi bars?

Sep. 22nd, 2009

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The average weather and rainfall in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv-Yafo is listed in Fahrenheit and inches. (Is Yafo a suburb of Tel Aviv or a neighboring city?)

According to Wikipedia: Temperatures in Israel vary widely, especially during the winter. The more mountainous regions can be windy, cold, and sometimes snowy; Mount Hermon's peak is covered with snow most of the year and Jerusalem usually receives at least one snowfall each year. Meanwhile, coastal cities, such as Tel Aviv and Haifa, have a typical Mediterranean climate with cool, rainy winters and long, hot summers. The highest temperature in the continent of Asia (53.7 °C or 129 °F) was recorded in 1942 at Tirat Zvi kibbutz in the northern parts of the Jordan-valley. From May to September, rain in Israel is rare.


Please feel free to post any questions or advice you have about living in Israel. If you've been lucky enough to visit Israel, tell us about your experiences!

Sep. 14th, 2009

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Israeli Calendars

It's not an extremely important question, but I am curious.

Do Israeli calendars focus on Julian or Jewish months? Do they use Arabi... um, the numbers I'm used to, or Hebrew letters? I haven't found an example on Google, so I thought I'd ask here.

Also: lu-a-chim or lu-a-chot?

Sep. 11th, 2009

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Health care

I believe Israel has universal health care, so I won't bother to ask about the insurance companies that sell coverage to visitors and students. However, in light of the debate currently occurring in the US, I am curious about Israeli medical care.

How long do you usually have to wait to see your doctor? Are there unduly long waiting lists for certain medical procedures? Are there private alternatives for wealthier people? What things are excluded from the definition of health care? (In the U.S., mental health, and an absurdly broad range of things labeled "cosmetic," are not covered by insurance companies.)

In the U.S., the President has stated (disingenuously, I think) that abortions will never be covered. Since Orthodox Judaism permits abortion to save a woman's life, I imagine abortions are covered at least some of the time. Does Orthodoxy have much say in what medical care is provided to everyone?

Sep. 3rd, 2009

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Places to see

There is so much to see! Just a few weeks ago, my list of "must see" places was pitifully short. That's no longer the case.

If you haven't been there yet, what places do you most want to experience? If you've been to Israel or if you live there, what places do you think are most important for visitors to see?

I'd hate to think of myself as a "tourist" in Israel, but the word "pilgrim" doesn't seem right-- it makes me think of The Canterbury Tales or the Mayflower. Jews have been making pilgrimages for ever (to the Holy Land or to the graves of tzadikim in various parts of the world), but I've never heard anyone use the word "pilgrimmage" when talking about a visit to Israel or a place within Israel.

"Making aliyah," in the States, seems only to refer to moving to Israel permanently, even though, biblically, there's no time limit; you "go up" for a festival. How is the term used in Israel? Is there a word for making a pilgrimage, say to the Cave of Machpela or to a site of an important event in modern Israel's history?

When visiting holy sites, women should "dress modestly," suggests an agency that leads tours of Jerusalem. What exactly does dressing modestly entail? (I can dress so that I'm covered from wrist to ankle, but should I trade in my jeans and ball cap for a long skirt and snood?)

Speaking of clothing... I just realized that I do have one piece of advice that I can share with our community. Read more...Collapse )
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While searching for useful links to add to our community profile, I found a page about renting apartments and buying houses in Israel. It said Israeli apartments often do not have bedroom closets, kitchen cupboards, bathroom cabinets, or medicine chests. (It also maligned Israeli mattresses.) According to that site, if the previous tenant failed to pay the utility companies, you will not be able to get the utilities turned on until you cover the balance of the previous tenant's bill.

However, the school's website does not mention any of those things. It does advise readers to find out what hours of the day the apartment will be heated and it also warns readers to expect that "many landlords insist on receiving rent in advance for short-term rentals... For longer term contracts... landlords often insist on three to six months payment at a time."

Do any of these comments or recommendations ring true?

(Presumably, not all neighborhoods or cities will have the same rental situations. Just in case you're familiar with it, my school is in the Talpiot neighborhood, and I will probably live there, too.)

Sep. 1st, 2009

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Funny things people have said in Hebrew

At a wedding many years ago, I was chatting with an American woman who lived in Japan. She told me a story I have never forgotten.

When she first arrived in Japan, she needed to purchase a pillow. She had studied Japanese in college for four years, so she walked confidently into a linen store and, in her best Japanese, asked for a pillow. The saleswoman gave her an odd look, walked to the back of the store, and returned with a pillow.

Months later, the American woman realized that she had actually asked for a tuna.

So, have you, or has someone you know, made a minor blunder in Hebrew-- or another language?

Aug. 31st, 2009

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A question about ulpanim

Here is a website I stumbled across. It describes the various levels of ulpanim and provides reviews for a couple of the schools: Learn Hebrew in Jerusalem Ulpan.

The Pardes Institute has two lists of ulpanim, an "A list" and a "B list."

Hope these links will be help other people, too.

* * *
My question: I wonder if anyone has heard about either Hebrew University's Jerusalem Ulpan or the Beit Ben Yehuda Ulpan? The first is at the top of Pardes' A List and the second is at the bottom of its B List.

The second school is in the same area where I'll be living, while the first school is all the way on the other side of Jerusalem and I don't know how difficult it will be to get around Jerusalem. If you have heard any first-hand accounts of either ulpan, it might help me make a decision.

I've just started using Rosetta Stone. (I excelled at Biblical Hebrew but had a terrible time with Modern Hebrew.) It's too soon to say for sure, but I'm pleased with it so far. When I'm further along, I'll post a review of it.

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