Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chanukah is Over...War is not.

War continues
There is nothing else on people’s mind but the war situation. TV constantly showing on the news, radio updating every significant event (in addition to the regular every hour update), newspapers & people at work talking about it. It is a true concern for the entire country and very scary for all those in the south.
Let’s hope for a quick resolution and end to terrorism.
Thanks for all your emails and thinking about us here.

Chanukah is over with full strength
The last day of Chanukah is the brightest of all with all 8 candles lit. It was also bright at home since we had many people to celebrate my mother in law’s birthday as well as Chanukah. We had a great time, it was great meeting many of my in-laws friends. We ordered also a giant pizza just like in Batya’s birthday but this time we asked for a Chanukiya on the Pizza. I could see how happy my mother in law was and that made us happy too.
We also had Ilan gan’s (kinder) Chanukah party. Nothing as elaborate as Batya’s but it was very nice to see Ilan singing in Hebrew.
It has been very nice to have all this company at home. The kids are also happy to see them all. They have been touring around many sights, museums, meeting friends, etc. We are all traveling tomorrow and Friday to the north (not the south), we are staying at a Kibbutz were Grandma’s friend lives. I’m really looking forward to a couple of days far from work.
This was a very significant Chanukah for me, throughout the day I was reminded of the holiday, I ate in average probably 2 sufganiot daily (Chanukah Doughnuts), several parties, the kids celebrating it beautifully at school, wishing everyone at work daily happy hanukah, and being in Modiin the same place were the Maccabim (Chanukah hereos) lived.

See below the many pictures from last week. Also to the right look for the latest Youtube videos to see Ilan’s Chanukah party and the birthday/Chanukah party.

I’ve got to show off some of my work at work :) It’s all in Hebrew but it still looks cool.

Take a look at our product’s renewed website

Oh yeah… Happy new Year. 2009……

Monday, December 29, 2008

War in the South - The Modern Maccabeam

Not to worry we are all doing fine. We are with the good guys. :)

Although we are far from the Gaza strip I must admit that I do feel a little nervous. The truth is that nothing is really far from anything in this Eretz Haktana (little land) especially when you live right in the middle of the country.

In addition to the attacks in the Gaza strip in response to rocket attacks to Israeli civilians in the South, there has been a lot of smaller incidents all around the country from which 2 of them hitting very close to Modiin. A stabbing Arab worker in Modiin-Ilit in the town of Kiryat Sefer (about 15 minutes from here) and stone throwing on route 443 (road from Modiin to Jerusalem).

We are all trying to be careful but exactly how? People continue to live their own lives as usual, except for those in the south that are really affected by the latest rocket attacks in their cities.

Yesterday 6,500 reservists were approved to be called to duty. We saw many more people wearing their uniforms on the streets and in their cars going to their military bases.

I recently came across an interesting blog following the war live (now that's a Blog)
Thanks Steff for the site and the heads up on route 443 (actually all the family took that road today to get to and from Jerusalem).

The last day of Chanukah was celebrated last night and today. We celebrated our freedom as the Maccabeam fought for the freedom of our religion, culture and land. Today my heart and prayers are with our modern day Maccabeam who under the Israeli army are fighting against terror to keep our cities safe and bring peace to our region.

Keep tuned for a post on yesterdays Chanukah/mother in law birthday party.

Stay safe and may all your prayers help bring peace to the land of Israel and all its surroundings.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays - Work on Dec. 25

Happy holidays to everyone.

Our Chanuka has been wonderful. Everything is so festive, there are chanukiot everywhere. We have family visiting and thank G’d a full house with my inlaws, sister in law, grandma & cousin, it’s great seeing them all and celebrating chanuka together. We are all looking forward to having a great time together. As you can see I have reset the countdown for the next family visit end of January, we are very excited to have Bashe coming.

We have had several chanuka parties including the one on Batyas gan (kinder), today we have Ilan’s, we had one in Raanana at our Mexican friend’s, we are doing one to celebrate also my mother in law’s birthday, had one yesterday in Jerusalem where we were “honored” among others by World Bnei Akiva (youth organization) for making Aliyah (moving to Israel).

I did not realize until the end of the day but it’s the first time in my professional life that I work on a December 25. It will also be the first time I work on a January 1 not to mention the Sundays that I’m still not used to them being a work day, however I must admit that a no work Friday is very very very nice (but not as nice as a Sunday).

Talking about Sundays, we are very proud of our Black & Gold (Steelers) and have been following them every week. I’m glad the last two games are 1pm (8 pm Israel), because the 4pm (11pm Israel) was making me just a little bit tiered the morning after. I’m still not sure how we will manage to watch the Superbowl at 3am Israel time.

Enjoy this great season: Chanukah, Christmas, New year, Kwanza, Shabat Shalom.

Some pictures below:

Also to add to my Sabra Album:

Below photos of a chanukia right next to a Sukah (hey at least they are doing it all). I took this yesterday at Jerusalem.

From Chanuka II 5769

From Chanuka II 5769

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chanuka Sameach 5769

Dear Family and Friends,

חנוכה שמח

From Modiin the land of the Makabim we send you our wishes for a joyous Chanuka full of light and miracles.

It is a true miracle to be able to light Chanuka candles exactly where the Makabim lived and see how our people, religion, culture and land illuminate the world stronger than ever.

Enjoy the video card from the kids below.

Difference between פּ (Pei) and שׁ (Shin)

Last Thursday we had Batya’s Chanuka party at her Gan (Kindergarten). I must say it gave so much meaning to our Aliyah (move to Israel).

Apart from being impressed by how the teacher was able to coordinate 30 children into doing such a fantastic spectacle for close to 1 hour, I was mesmerized by experiencing every single aspect of this party that go deeper to the wonderful show of light effects, songs, poetry, prayers, music and dance the kids put together. It is beyond words to describe the feeling but just watching Batya perform songs of Chanukah all in Hebrew around children from which more than half arrived in Israel in the last 2 years, in the land of the Makabim who fought and miraculously won and achieved our cultural and religious independence made it very special. The evening also included poetry and prayers around Chanuka as well as our land and soldiers. It is truly a miracle to see all these happen in front of my eyes from the national & religious level as well as the personal level where I can see Batya growing up and being educated in this environment. It brought a lot of meaning to our Aliyah.

The difference between פּ (Pei) and שׁ (Shin) cannot be measured. פּ (Pei) stands for Po (Here) and שׁ (Shin) stands for Sham (There). The theme of Chanuka repeats “Nes gadol Haya Po/Sham” (Big Miracle Happened Here/There) depending on your location. For the first time we are celebrating Chanuka Po (here) where the miracle happened and where miracles are still happening, and if you don’t believe me, come and see it for yourself.
Below are pictures of the party. Enjoy.

Videos of the party (all 13 of them) can be watched on the links below or by going to :


Next Family visit
I have just added a countdown clock to the blog on the right so that I can count together with you the next family visit. We are anxious to have you all here.

Oh yeah...My Birthday
Nothing too fancy. I just spent a long day at work and then got my cake at home with the sweetest people in my life. See some pics. below.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

December in Tel Aviv - Sabra Album

December in Tel Aviv
Last Friday we were able to visit Tel Aviv for the 2 and a half hours until we have to return for the kids at School.
Modiin is exactly in between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv so it gives flexibility to be within 30 minutes on any of these major cities.
It was amazing how last Friday December 5, already winter time, the temperature in Tel Aviv got to 81 F. It was relaxing to walk through the Tayelet (Boardwalk) and feeling the Mediterranean breeze. Finding a kosher restaurant was again a challenge especially in such a premium real estate where people visit during Friday nights and Saturdays. It was nice walking through the artist market Nachalat Binyamin and then the marketplace Shuk Carmel.

Sabra Album
I would like to start posting pictures that talk about how Israel is such a special and interesting place. These pictures are so unique to Israel that I would like to call them “Sabra Album” (Click here for definition of Sabra).


Herzl, the father of Modern Zionism said: "If you will, it is no legend" speaking of course of a Jewish State. This politically charged graffiti reads "Don't want, don't need to..."

Herzl on top of a water tank in Herzliya.

"Am Israel Chai", "The people of Israel are alive"

In contrast to the Herzl graffiti.

" No right turn on Saturdays & Holidays"

Kosher McDonalds with separate Meat and Dairy

Preparing the Eruv next to Tel Aviv beach

Shabbat Dinner at "Ach Hagadol" (Big Brother)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanks G’d it’s Thursday?
As you have read from my blog. Our weekends really start on Thursday nights. Is this the night to go out? Not for us. We have tried to prepare ourselves for Shabbat on Thursday night, that way since I don’t work on Fridays and there is no Ulpan for Liora (Hebrew classes) then we can take early the kids to school and go out until 12:30pm to pick them up.
It’s a swap of “Family Sunday” to “Marriage Friday morning” .
Two weeks ago we were able to go to Jerusalem visit the Menachem Begin museum (Begin Center) which I highly recommend. I asked my father the other day to recount my encounter with this great leader of Israel and Nobel prize winner, it goes something like this: We came to Israel to celebrate my brother’s Bar Mitzvah in the early 80’s, it was my first trip to Israel and during my first visit to the Kotel (Western Wall) as we were going down the steps a “big guy” stepped on my tiny sandaled foot. I started to cry as my father tried to confront him but noticed there were several of them with Prime Minister Begin in between them. As they passed us, Begin saw me crying, reached out to me and patted my head. That’s it… It was not really something to include in his museum, but it definitely deserves a place in my museum (aka Blog). It’s amazing how something so insignificant for a big leader can be so big for a regular person. After the museum we still had some time to visit the Western Wall. Isn’t it amazing we are 30 minutes away from the Kotel?
Last Friday we were also able to take the morning out and visited the Palmach museum in Tel Aviv, also highly recommended. Our morning started as we parked in the museum an hour before the museum reservation started and looked for a place for a nice sit down breakfast. Unfortunately we got hit by Tel Aviv’s reality… The first place we stopped by…Not Kosher, the second one…Lo Kasher, Third one…Niet. It just hit me that it’s actually hard to find a Kosher place in Tel Aviv, or at least in that area. In the end we got into a mini-market bought yogurt, juice and a sandwich and ate it on a table outside. Back to the museum, it is so well done. I have never seen a museum like that were they make you part of it and play with all your senses. They make you feel part of this elite early Israeli army division and from my point of view in the end they show the miraculous war victory and foundation of the Jewish State.
I’m liking these Fridays, however I still miss Sundays.

We are Family
Since we moved here I have been able to meet family that I haven’t seen for a while or have never met in the past. It is great to be able to live closer to family. Last week for Shabbat we were able to host 2 second cousins with their respective families. It was great hosting them for lunch and getting to know their children. Also last week I was able to see a lot of my immediate family at my first cousin’s engagement party in Jerusalem. It was nice seeing them, celebrating this great event and a very interesting experience in the center of the ultra-orthodox society.
It has also being great meeting other distant family members from my Father’s mother side, from my mother’s father side who is also related to Liora’s family in an even more distant way, Liora’s distant relative (Krova) and soon we will be meeting even more. What better place to reunite families?
We are counting the days to see our parents and family coming in a month from Liora’s side, and then later for Passover from my side. We are also looking forward to my nieces visit soon.

Slow November
I just noticed that November has been the slowest month in terms of Blogs. I have been coming back late from work and with not much energy left to sit in front of the computer.
Below are some pictures of the kids at a Pirates party, our last visit to Jerusalem and other for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Blessings

Just a couple of videos for your enjoyment.

First: Ilan singing Hamalach Hagoel, the blessing Jacob gave to Joseph's children Menashe & Ephraim (Genesis 48:16).

Second: Batya singing Birkat l’shlom hamedina, the blessing for the wellbeing of the state of Israel that she learned at school.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wishing you health
I would like to open this blog wishing a speedy recovery to our dear friend in Pittsburgh. You are in our prayers everyday and wish for your health from the land of Israel. We send our regards to the family as well.

A Day at the Hospital
The last couple of weeks have been very active for all our doctors. Batya’s strept was followed by Ilans strept and most recently Liora followed. Antibiotics are very popular at home, but thank G’d we are all healthy now.
A quick visit Liora made to the eye doctor in Modiin led to a visit the morning after to the hospital due to something the doctor needed a second opinion on and potentially a laser intervention. Before I go on I would like to let you know that there was no problem at all but it was worth checking just to make sure…ahh and of course for the experience at an Israeli public hospital.
Visiting the hospital was a unique experience. First, to enter you go through airport security, I haven’t blog much about this but at every public place when you park the trunk of your car needs checked (How about my Pittsburgh English?) and every person needs to pass through a metal detector and bag check. After that comes the paper pushing and sticker sticking, many forms, many people and offices were visited until we got to the eye doctor, whishing that we get a doctor who can explain things in English we were blessed with Dr. Garza. To our surprise there is a very high amount of Mexican doctors (not necessarily Jews) who choose the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem for their 3 year residency. So we were able to understand everything in Spanish.
It was very interesting seeing the sea of people inside the hospital. Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Druze & Christians, all colors, black hats, baseball caps, wigs, scarfs and no wigs, black kipah, knitted kipah and no kipah, Russians, Ethiopians, American, Mexican. We were all waiting for our turn and we are all representing Israel’s population.

A Weekend at Haifa

We spend a beautiful Shabbat a week ago with our Pittsburgh friends who moved more than 3 years ago to Haifa. It’s a very nice city with a breathtaking view. We were able to see all the way to Lebanon from there. It was nice seeing them and getting to know other communities in Israel. Thanks for your hospitality.
Before getting to Haifa we went to an Arab village known by its mix of Muslims, Christians and Druze Arabs. There we visited an Olive Oil factory that the company I work for distributes. It was a great experience to be welcomed into their home business since the 19th century. They have seen the Ottomans/Turkish, British and now Israel. We were offered coffee, delicious samples or their products and many products as a gift that we could not turn back, too bad I don’t like olives. I must admit that I was worried on our way there as we drove and were surrounded by Arab villages, mosques, arab shops with signs in Arabic. But then I realized that these places are proof that we can all get along and live together in peace.
I’m including some pictures from our trip to Haifa, enjoy.

A Month at Work

I received last week my first paycheck here in Israel. I worked hard for every Agura (penny) on that paycheck. Work has been challenging. Hebrew for 9 hours straight. I can manage talking and understanding but I’m having most difficulties reading and most of what I write is in English. Processes are different, people interact differently, customers and consumers are different, resources are different, a private company is different than a public one, data availability is different, and the list goes on and on. There is still a lot to learn. I work roughly from 9am till 6pm (or later) with lunch on site at 1pm. People are OK with me writing in English as well as every once in a while throw a couple of words in English at meetings. My official title is Marketing Manager, Food Division. I manage primarily 3 brands: Heinz (who’s dear to my heart given my 6 years there), Quaker (who I have been a consumer for several years) and Sipahh (a recently launched straw with milk flavoring). I have someone reporting to me (Brand Manager) and I report to the company’s Marketing Manager who reports into the CEO.

A Night at Heinz Field

I have been lucky that they have televised many of the Steelers games. However it seems like every time I stay up late they end up losing and even scoring safeties against themselves. The game against the Chargers is just starting but a 4:15pm game means 11:15pm for me, so we’ll see how far I can go. (What happened to the 1pm games?)
Something I notice is the white stuff falling on Heinz field and would like to give all my friends in Pittsburgh a quick picture to see what they are missing in the Holyland. Take into account that it’s 4pm Pittsburgh vs. 11pm in Modiin. Enjoy and visit soon.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Our bets are in
We received and sent our absentee ballots, now it’s your turn to vote.
It’s a little ironic that I’m exercising my right to vote for the first time as a US citizen from Israel.

Speedy recovery to all
We’ve been here 3 months and the kids have been sick more times than a whole year in Pittsburgh. Ilan had a stomach flu last week and as he went back to day care Batya started with Strept. I guess it’s because they are exposed at school to 3 times the amount of children they were exposed to in Pittsburgh. Another factor could be the fact that they are not into Purel.
We send from Israel prayers for a speedy recovery to Bobe Jaye.

Below are some pictures of the kids.
Make sure also to check our latest videos and watch the kids having fun with the corrugates from the shipment.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Swiffer, our sombreros & two bottles of “Lechera”

It’s like Chanukah in October! As I previously mentioned we received our shipment more than a week ago. Our home looks like the back of a Wal-Mart store with boxes, cartons and paper everywhere, however we are getting there. It’s exciting opening every box and finding something we (or the kids) really missed, and it’s also funny opening other boxes and wondering “what were we thinking?”.

It’s amazing how simple things become so necessary. When you don’t have them you really miss them. For example, one of the two greatest inventions of the 20th century: No. 1 Swiffer (note that I do not get any money for saying this, but I should) how can Israelis continue to mop their floors the way we did 20 years ago? We have even seen a great funnel invention for when we run out of the cleaning solution. No. 2 “La Lechera” on a squeeze bottle (Mexican brand of Sweetened condensed milk). Yes, we did bring two of them. For those that know me very well my favorite breakfast since the introduction of this product is Wheaties with Lechera and milk. Wheaties are unavailable on our Eretz Haktana (little land) but they can be easily replaced by Quaker Oat Squares (Hey, I have to support my own brands). You get the point, the adjustment has to happen even in the smallest things.

As we were going through the boxes, we started to open one that did not weigh much, in fact, we thought it was empty. After opening it and taking out layer upon layer of paper we discovered our two sombreros. A huge box for two sombreros… That was the easiest box to unpack and the dumbest items to bring (not counting the plastic supermarket bags that somehow made their way to the boxes). Someone is being paid by volume here… I can’t complain, the packing was so good that casualties so far have been only one broken glass plate.

Enjoy some pictures of our home full of boxes, boxes and more boxes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The beginning of "after the holidays"

It arrived. Achrei Hachaguim (after the holidays) just begun. Everything for the last 3-4 weeks was halted until “Achrei Hachaguim”, so I guess it’s now time for everyone in the country to get all those things done. We are in the beginnings of the “after the holidays”.
Sukkot and Simchat Torah were wonderful. It so nice to see that the entire country even though they are not all celebrating it at least they all know of its existence. No need to explain to my boss and colleagues why I can’t work most of the days on this month (I actually enjoyed explaining my holidays but it was hard missing work while everyone else was working). In here everyone was out, they all wish each other Chag Sameach. It was wonderful looking at all the Sukkot (Huts) built everywhere we went. Walking out at night and listening to everyone out singing, eating and chatting in their Sukkot. We were invited to some of the holiday meals at the Sukah of new and newer friends from Israel, England, Ireland and we also met there other families from Scotland, Gibraltar, England. We also hosted to some of the meals to friends from Mexico, Israel, Pittsburgh, distant and “new” family, and our cousin from NY. Isn’t it miraculous that Jews with different backgrounds from around the world are able to celebrate together as Israeli citizens the holidays in the land of the Jews?
Our experience in Mea Shearim (Ultra Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem) was very different. Everything turned black & white and our time seemed to go back a couple hundred years. The streets and sidewalks were all taken by waves of people buying and preparing for Sukkot. Scrutinizing every single inch of their Arbat Haminim (fruit and plants used on Sukkot), buying decorations, etc. Sukkot hanging from every balcony and rooftops filled with them too.
Simchat Torah was very nice too and a little weird given that it was the first and only day as opposed to the second day outside of Israel. The kids were happy dancing in circles with the fake stuffed Torah we got them and eating all the candy they were handed. Kol hanearim was also beautiful hearing all the children singing hamalach, although we missed and are curious to know how the big talit went at Shaare Torah.
I’m grateful that we were able to experience this season in Israel. Take a look at the pictures below for images of Sukkot in Jerusalem, our Sukah and the kids and family, I hope you get a taste of the holiday environment.

Got ballot?
We got our absentee ballots to vote in the American Presidential Elections today. Who will it be?
Also next month we are voting for Mayor in Modiin. I’m not sure how that one works. I’ll just vote for the Jewish candidate…just kidding there is no other choice.
I’m just missing the Mexican elections. We’ll have to wait until 2012 I guess.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quick update: Work, Sukah and a ton of boxes.

I don’t want to leave you hanging in there. So here is a quick post.
Things have been very busy. Work is getting busy by the minute and is not leaving much strength at night to write the blog, but don’t worry I will find the strength back. I’m getting plenty of responsibility which together with the language barrier adds to the challenge. I feel like I'm in a good place.
The shipment arrived today (Oct. 16) with a 45 minute warning. You would think that something that left more than 3 months ago (July 8) from Pittsburgh with a cost of some thousands of dollars could simply give you a day or two in advance, right? Wrong! It didn’t! What is this box doing here? I don’t know ask those other 90 boxes… :)
Sukkot has been beautiful. It’s such a happy environment seeing everyone celebrate it. I would like to describe later with more detail the experience. It’s just wonderful to see so many Sukkot, and have family, friends visiting as well as being invited by friends. I’m so happy we are experiencing the chagim (holidays) in Israel. And by the way we celebrated 1 day only (vs. 2 anywhere else in the world). Only in Israel.
We will be spending Shabbat at Holon with Israeli friends from Mexico.
Shabbat Shalom.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Yom Kipur & trip to Jerusalem

Yom Kipur like a pro.
We had a very special Yom Kipur. This time I was prepared and I bought my own Machzor (prayer book) so that I can too feel like a pro. The prayers were very nice, everyone participated in the singing. Although many tunes were new to us, the most traditional ones are the same ones we know from Mexico and Pittsburgh. Isn’t it amazing how hundreds of years pass and around the world we are all praying the same prayer with the same tune?

I remember vividly how I singed and danced last year at the end of the long fasting day “Beshana Havah V’Yerushalaim…” (Next year in Jerusalem) hoping that G’d would show me the way to get to Jerusalem for next Yom Kipur. This year the singing and dancing took a different meaning because he did show me the way to Jerusalem, not only that but he made it so easy for us, with health and even a job. Being on the holiest of all days (Yom Kipur) at the holliest of all lands (Israel) was spiritually special.

The fasting was easier than ever. Because of the change in clocks last week the fast ended by 6pm.

Having a Brit Mila (Circumcision ceremony) during Yom Kipur is rare and very special. This year we had the honor to attend and participate in the Brit of the son of our good Mexican friends in Modiin. It was beautiful and he got the most beautiful name: Lior David. We felt very honored to take part of the ceremony as Kvaterim (Loosely translated as Godfather) of Lior. After the fasting there was a nice braking of the fast to celebrate the Brit. What a Yom Kipur, we got two shows for the price of one.

No Fui Yo!!!
As we were all getting dressed for Yom Kipur in white clothes Ilan wanted to wear a red T-shirt. He insisted and was stubborn about the fact that he wanted to wear his red t-shirt. In the end he did not wear that t-shirt but then it hit me. Yom Kipur is the day when we repent from all our sins and wrongdoing, right? Ilan’s red T-shirt had a legend in Spanish that reads “No fui yo!” (It wasn’t me). He might have known exactly why he wanted his “No fui yo!” T-shirt for Yom Kipur.

Havtacha vs. Haftaah
I did not have work today, Liora did not have Ulpan (Hebrew classes), however the kids did have school. Sounds like a perfect day to go out and do those tours we are never able to do with kids. Today we visited Jerusalem without the kids and had a very nice and interesting time. We started having a quick breakfast in the old city, then we went to the Kotel (Western Wall) and then attended two tours: The Chain of Generations and The Kotel tunnels. The first one was very moving and showed in glass sculptures the continuity of the Jewish people through names of our ancestors (take a look at the pictures). The other tour felt more like an Indiana Jones tour going through archeological tunnels that follow the continuation of the Western Wall (take a look at the pictures) it was very interesting and the best part was that it had a special religious significance as well. At one point in the tour there is a part of the western wall that is the closest a Jew can get to the Holy of Holies. Almost at the end of the tour, which was all in Hebrew, the tour guide said that we would be exiting and there would be “Havtacha” (security) which I mistranslated as “Haftaah” (Surprise). Well to our surprise the tour ended in the middle of the Muslim Quarter and required 2 armed security man to escort our group to the Jewish Quarter (see pictures). I must say that we were all very scared especially as we heard loud music in Arabic, people walking through the group, busy shops. Suddenly the heads changed from Kefiot to Kipot and we were back in the Kotel plaza.
After that we drove to Meah Shearim (Ultra orthodox neighborhood) to experience the Sukkot atmosphere, more on that on upcoming postings.
Enjoy the photos.
Chag sameach to all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My first email.
Do you remember the first time you sat in front of a keyboard (typewriter for most of us) and started to type? I had that feeling yesterday.
For the first time I sat in front of a keyboard in Hebrew and typed my first ever email in Hebrew. Can you imagine that? Our ancient language, the language of our holy Torah, on an email? Isn’t that amazing? I wrote about two full sentences but it took me about 15 minutes or so. I still haven’t figured out where and why the letters are positioned that way. Also I must thank Mr. Gates for adding a spell check to his software, it came in very handy. I have decided for now to write in English.

Some other complications Hebrew brings to the computer is the fact that you can go back and forward from writing right to left and then left to right, however numbers are always left to right. The calendar on Outlook goes from right to left, so you need to scroll to the left to go to the next day (not to the right), a couple of times I have scheduled a meeting for yesterday instead of for tomorrow.
I have done 3 days at work and now I’m on vacation until Wednesday due to the holidays + pre-holidays + bridge + Friday. They have been interesting days, all charged with lots of Hebrew. I’ve got a lot to learn about the Israeli market as well as the company and everyone at Diplomat has been very helpful and understanding. It’s very interesting the differences found in marketing for a country with 300 million people vs. 7 million, between 3,500,000 square miles and 10,200 square miles or 8,400 square miles without Gaza and the West Bank (slightly smaller than the state of N.J).

I’m looking forward to mastering the language and fully understanding the business and processes.

Regarding the cultural differences, I’m still trying to figure it out.

It is a funny feeling to be able to eat freely at the company’s cafeteria and ask for the meat Kreplach. Only in Israel.

It’s amazing also how the entire business and decisions are affected by the Jewish Holidays. Religious or secular we are all affected. This new product launch would not work in April because of Pesach (Passover), we could do a costumes’ promotion for Purim, this will have to wait until after Sukkot, how about a special sale for Chanukah? Only in Israel.

Back to the Oscars
A sequel for “Driving Miss Daisy” came out but did not do much. We have finally received our drivers license after all that we went through, waited and paid (see blog “And the award goes to”). Not much happened after we went to the post office to pay for it.

A great sequel is still underway from “The Hunt for Red October”. Our shipment finally arrived in Israel last week, but it took another week to be unloaded and go through customs. But wait, we didn’t know that it passed customs until yesterday that the shipping company said that they cannot release it until they get a document we previously gave them at a meeting in a park that they lost. Very professional. Did I mentioned they also charged us slightly more because the shipment is coming from the Haifa port vs. Ashdod because of the unloading in Turkey driven by the strikes in the Israeli ports? Well, to top that, now that they have everything they have it will have to wait until after Tuesday because of the holidays. I will not name our shipping company (we are so close to Yom Kippur and it would not look good on my records J) but I’m not too happy with them, however if there is anyone out there looking to ship their things give me a buzz since we should not “Place a stumbling block before the blind person”.
The only thing we were hoping to get at this point was our Sukkah (Hut) before Sukkot, but it doesn’t seem feasible now. However by posting an email to a Modiin e-list I was able to get a Sukkah from someone we are yet to meet who will not be in town to use it. What a great Mitzvah (good deed/commandment) is for someone to let a complete stranger perform another Mitzvah (building and using a Sukkah). Only in Israel???

Gmar Chatima Tovah to all. Easy fast.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Very active first week of the year

Gooooood morning Jerusalem!
It was a great experience being able to go with Batya and her Gan (Kindergarten) to this special trip to Jerusalem last Friday.
We met at 4:10am by her Gan, 2 buses took us to Jerusalem. We passed through Meah Shearim (ultra orthodox neighborhood) were we saw people walking towards the Kotel (Western Wall) for Slichot (special season prayers). We got to the Kotel and it was packed. The children prayed on the plaza under a Talit beautifully as you could hear people praying in the background and shofars blowing, it was an unbelievable scene. After that all the parents got in and prayed Slichot and the morning prayers. As always visiting the Kotel especially during this important days of the year was very emotional and spiritually significant. After the prayers we gathered in the plaza again and the children sang.
We then walked through the Jewish Quarter and listened to the guide’s explanations, remember this is still before 8am. Walking through Jerusalem’s old city gives a special feeling of walking through history.
We then went to Gan Hapaamon to have breakfast and saw the replica of the Liberty Bell which was a gift from the US to Israel. From there we went to Mishkenot Sheananim where Montefiori’s wind mill stands and the children sang the songs they learned about him. I was so proud to see Batya singing with all the children songs in Hebrew I never heard before.
We closed the Tiyul (trip) at the Gan Hamifletzet (Monster park) which was by far the highlight of the trip for the children. We returned home at noon very tired but with a priceless experience.
It’s something amazing that we were able to do something like that. Just in Israel.
Below are some pictures and videos of the trip.

Welcome Home Bnei Akiva
It took a couple of months until we were able to make our home a Bnei Akiva hub once again. This Shabbat we hosted 9 Mexican kids that are spending one year in Israel just like Liora and I did after finishing high school. They had Shabbat Dinner and Lunch here with us. They had a great time and we enjoyed hosting them knowing how good it felt back then when someone gave us a decent meal. It brought great memories. We have now been officially named their adoptive family.

Back to Work
Today was my first day at work since beginning of July when I left Heinz. Later on I will describe more in depth but it was a tough day. I’m working as a Marketing Manager at Diplomat’s food division ( They distribute consumer products from around the world in Israel including Heinz, Procter & Gamble, Quaker, other. They were very nice to me but I know it’s going to be rough. Today everything was in Hebrew and I forced myself to keep it that way. I have a lot to learn and many people to meet but I’m looking forward to the challenge. Hey, it’s not the first time I’ve done something like this before, it will just take some adjustments. I'm thakful for the job I have.

Who moved the Clocks back?
I love this place.
Today (Sunday) at 2am we moved the clock back 1 hour. So now we are 6 hours ahead of Pittsburgh/NY, 7 hours ahead of Mexico and 9 hours ahead of San Diego (let me know if I have any other zone Blog readers to calculate the time difference for you J ).
Why now?
The clocks are moved back the first Sunday before Yom Kipur so that the fast can be finished “an hour earlier”. Isn’t it amazing? I love seeing the interaction of Torah law and tradition with how the modern state of Israel deals with regular government and national matters taking into consideration that we are a country like no other. Only in Israel.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fisrt Rosh Hashana in Israel

Recounts of a very good year
Our first Rosh Hashana in Israel was very nice. First, as I wrote previously you could feel the holiday environment weeks before everywhere (even at McCartney’s concert). As the holiday got closer you could start seeing people buying at the supermarket fish, pomegranates, honey and other traditional products as if they were products under extinction threat. The neighborhood smelled like a blend of deliciously homemade dishes (far from the Gefilte Fish smell on Mexicali 20).
The day finally came. Our first Rosh Hashana after moving in Israel… how do I start recounting for last year and begin to think of the new year, so many huge things happen to us physically, professionally, emotionally and spiritually. Endless prayers I had to make to thank for last year’s help, thank G’d for helping us see clearly and guiding us to get to Israel. Everything went and is going almost perfectly and there has been no doubt in my mind since the start that it’s all His work, showing us that we are in the right track for the purpose he has in our lives.

Praying with the Pros.
Going to the Bet Hakneset (synagogue) here was a nice experience starting with the fact that it’s less than 5 minutes away. It reminded me of a sermon that Rabbi Wasserman gave regarding being like a pro. When you go out bowling you can clearly distinguish between those that are there to just have a good time and those that are real bowlers. The pros bring their own bowling ball and shoes and the rest of us just use the ones they give us there. Well, at our Bet Hakneset it was all Pros., very few Machzorim (prayer books) were available for people, everyone had their own (I had a similar experience in Raanana Israel back in 1989 where I shared a Machzor with a Mexican man who ended up being my father in law 11 years after), it was definitely not a spectator’s sport, we were all playing in it, all singing and praying with great intention. I was praying with the Pros. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipur were the few days I wore a suit & tie during the year, not anymore, the fashion here is white shirt, no tie, I love it… but need more white shirts :)

Time with family
This time of year always brings great memories. The family meals with the dishes I loved (Galupchikes) and the ones I never dared to even try (Pasha/Fis). Walking to shul early with my father and brother and praying together. Having everyone at the meal was something very special and something I miss tremendously since we moved from Mexico. It has been a blessing to be able to share those meals with friends while away from Mexico. We had 4 very nice meals with friends, 1 at our home where we also had guests and 3 out, it filled out part of the gap of being away from home, we feel the love in those that surround us. Thanks to our hosts and visits. It was nice to host Jill for these couple of days and I hope you felt at home and with family as much as we felt it by having you visit us.

Year’s First week forecast
Many interesting things in the not too distant horizon. I’m going with Batya and her school tomorrow to Jerusalem at 4 am (Yes 4 AM, don’t ask, I’ll write about it soon), also coming up is a huge Bnei Akiva Shabbat at our house with the Mexican Hachshara (coming soon to your favorite Blog) and on Sunday I’m starting to work and I hope I can continue to write as often as I have in the past.

Below are some recent pictures. Enjoy!

Shabbat Shalom to all and G’mar Chatima Tova.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shana Tovah 5769

Dear Family and Friends,
שנה טובה

From Israel we wish you a healthy new year, full of happiness, accomplishments and peace.

May we all soon see the day when we celebrate together in Jerusalem.

Enjoy the Video and make sure you take a look at the Bloopers too.

BLOOPER #1 - Crazy :0

BLOOPER #2 - Sad :(

BLOOPER #3 Flags A

BLOOPER #4 - Flags B

BLOOPER #5 - Chairs

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul in Tel Aviv

I was there and I was one of them.
This was a once in a lifetime experience. It was a historical cultural event in Israel and I was there to experience it.
I was very lucky to be able to go to Paul McCartney’s concert last Thursday with my friend Dani. Thanks Dani and Happy Birthday.
We got there at around 6:30pm or so and were greeted by the security guard with a smile and a “Shana Tovah”. The park was surrounded by thousands of soldiers, police in cars and horses. The security was very impressive. About 90% of the tickets were standing tickets and the rest were for VIP at ridiculous prices (not that the standing ticket prices were less crazy). The places in front of the stage were already packed but hey, how difficult would it be for two people to squeeze in? Well…very difficult. There was literally no room but we were able to get in not that far from the stage. It was a great feeling to be part of this sea of Israeli people and then it hit me, wait a minute I’m one of them now (at least one of the ones that can afford a ticket). Regardless of the different looks, accents, ancestors, religious observance, political views or strength of our B.Os (body odors) we were all mostly Israeli jews, that’s exactly what I wanted to be when I came to Israel and now it hit me in the middle of 40,000 + of us packed in a can of sardines, I’m now part of the Israeli society.

Pol Mekarrtni
After 2 hours of waiting (3 hrs+ for other) with not much room to even raise our arms, after 43 years since the Beatles were banned by the Israeli government, after several attempts to come to Israel and regardless of the terrorist threat he received a week before the concert, there he appeared as we all jumped, sang, danced and screamed. I was actually amazed to hear all the Israelis sing his songs, especially the Beatles ones. He welcomed all the crowd by saying “Shalom Tel Aviv, Shana Tovah” I could not believe what I was experiencing, Paul, my rock icon wishing me a happy new Jewish year in Hebrew, not only that, throughout the concert he used many words in Hebrew such as “Ze mi Paam” (This one is from old times) and sang “All my loving”, he announced his song “Alhan Jude” (Hey Jude) “Atem sharim iti” (you sing with me), and as we all sang he ask for the “Gvarim” (Men) to sing, then “Nashim” (Women) and finally “Kulam” (everyone). This song reminds me a lot of the first time I heard Paul in my life, thanks Jacobo for convincing me to attend that concert back in 1989. The concert brought back a lot of great memories especially as he sang George Harrison’s “Something” – our wedding song. He went on for about 2 and a half hours, by then most of us were exhausted but wanting to hear more. As he left the stage a couple of times the crowd screamed “POL MEKARRTNI….. POL MEKARRTNI” (I’m not sure how to write the thick Israeli accent). He sang many old Beatles songs as well as some of his Wings days as well as his solo career songs. During his performance of “Live and let die” as I already anticipated they included fireworks with big explosions, I knew they were coming but must admit I did hesitate for a second, especially given the vulnerability of so many people and the threats Paul received. Several times Paul referred to Peace in the world including the song “Give peace a chance”. It was by far the greatest concert experience I ever had given the performer, the place and the time.

Lehitraot Tel Aviv!
“And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make” his final song lyrics as he said “Lehitraot” (Good bye/See you later). Will he visit Israel again?
There was no single newspaper on Friday without Paul’s picture on the first page. This was indeed an important cultural event.
After the concert Dani took me to this great Shwarma place, it showed me not to judge the book by its cover, this was the best Shwarma I ever had and it was at a not so clean place right next to the gas station. It could have been the midnight heavy dinner or just the place but today I was under what I will like to call Goliath’s Revenge (similar to Moctezuma’s revenge in Mexico), but not to worry it will definitely not be the last Shwarma I eat.

When the rain comes
This concert was really meant to be. On Friday (the day after the concert) the center of the country received heavy rains. The first rain of the year. Did Paul leave some English rain with him? I never thought of rain being that big of a deal but I guess you don’t appreciate something until you lack of it. As many of you know Israel has water problems every year and depends on G’d’s will every year. Every rain is a blessing and it was received as such. We were all very excited to see rain fall, Batya at her Gan got out with all the kids to run and celebrate in the rain. Lets hope for a good rain season.

Enjoy some photos from the concert.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Give me my Sunday back!

Hi all,

Ilan is doing much better. His fever is long gone after the antibiotics and he is starting to move his arm. Hopefully we can soon send him to Gan (day care).
Batya is so happy at school, she is starting to learn Hebrew at the speed of light. She has made a couple of more Anglo friends.
Last week thank G-d I signed on my work contract, I will start on October 5. I will wait after I start working to give you the details. I’m very excited to be able to get back to the workforce.
Liora has been taking care of Ilan at home until he goes back to Gan, after that she will join me back at Ulpan (Hebrew classes).

Can you imagine if you went to sleep on Saturday night and when you wake up it’s Monday morning and you need to go to work/school, etc? Yes, it sounds like a nightmare doesn’t it? Well, we are still adjusting to that over here. Friday is typically not a work day (although there is school with early dismissal) then Saturday is an official national rest day and Sunday is back to work. Many times we have had miscommunications given that Yom Rishon (First Day) is Sunday but in our minds the first day of the week is Monday right? Wrong? Monday is already Yom Sheni (Second day).

It’s great to feel how the Jewish New Year is coming. You can see it and feel it everywhere: The supermarket, stores, schools, streets, TV, promotions, newspapers, radio, etc. Even the least religious people in Israel know and celebrate in some way the Jewish New Year. It’s not only seeing the Honey and Gefilte Fish on display at the Waterfront Costco and at the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle, this is practically everywhere, it’s so nice to be able to be part of it.

I’m very excited about this upcoming Thursday’s night concert. Paul McCartney’s visit is a huge deal here in Israel and you can imagine how big it is for me too.

I wanted to share with you some pictures we took a couple of weeks ago at a Park in Modiin similar to the Gan Hamifletzet (Monster Park) in Jerusalem, but this one is a grasshopper.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Double Whammy!

Ilan is getting much better from his broken collar bone, he has learned not to move it and apparently it’s healing well.

Last night he woke up at 4 am with very high fever, so we took him again to the doctor this morning. He has Strept.

That’s the way to end a healthy year, with a Double Whammy.

Lets pray for an upcoming healthy new year for all.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Miss Ya Black & Gold. Viva Mexico!

Miss Ya Black & Gold.
As time goes by we start missing more and more things we had back in Pittsburgh.
As the NFL season kicked off a week ago, I must confess that both Liora and I are missing our good’ol Steelers. We know we are 2-0 thanks to the Internet but it would have been nice to be able to watch the games. Yet another thing to get use to. Last minute update: Liora just found on TV a rerun of the game against the Browns………. Luv Ya Black and Gold!

Viva Mexico!
Tonight all Mexicans celebrate el grito. Well, we have not really celebrated it in a while but at least let me do a Cyber Blog version this year. VIVA MEXICO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So what am I? A Mexican in Israel? An American in Israel? A Jew in Israel? A Meximerican Jew in Israel? When asked my typical reply is: “I made Aliyah from the US” (and after watching their faces trying to figure out the accent) I continue “but I’m originally from Mexico”.

As daily life was starting to kick in…
Last week Liora and I started to take Ulpan (Intensive Hebrew classes with other Olim/New immigrants). The class is held every weekday (that’s Sunday to Thursday in Israel) from 8:30am to 12:45pm less than a block away from our home. We have enjoyed it a lot and I think it has helped with our Hebrew. It’s very interesting to listen all the different accents in our Ulpan (Hebrew classes): American, Mexican, Irish, British and share the same experiences as we try to navigate through Israel as new immigrants. We have made several friends from here.
The kids are liking their Gannim (schools/day care/kindergarten). Batya is so exited every day to go to Gan and made a couple of English speaking friends. Ilan is starting to like his Gan too.
Daily life started to feel good until last Friday 2 hours before the start of Shabbat, our little Ilan fell of the couch and broke his collar bone. He is doing well, he has a splint so that he doesn’t move the shoulder/arm and the Doctors said that he should be fine in two weeks but recommended not to send him to Gan. So Ulpan will be interrupted and we will figure out if we do turns, bring him in, etc. Ilan is doing well, other than not being able to jump around he is happy as always.

What about work?
The truth is that I have enjoyed this time tremendously. The full time Aliyah experience together with wife and kids and no work distractions (other than interviews and more interviews), however the time has come and I have found the job. The job was always there, it was just waiting for the right moment so that we can find each other. Not that I was sitting and waiting for it to find me, this is a mutual search, and we have finally found each other. I will give you more details as I close the deal. I will most likely be starting beginning of October. I’ll also work on a special blog regarding job hunting experiences in Israel, I can’t promise anything close to “And the award goes to…”.

A Plastic Shabbat
Just like every Shabbat, this one was also very special. We loved to host Jill as well as Hillel who are here in Israel for one year. We invited for a meal Batya’s friend and family from Ireland, we had a good time. And what about the Plastic Shabbat? Well, since our things are still in Turkey waiting to get into the Israeli port, we had to do all plastic (as we have in the past) but this time for many guests. We found a great paper/plastic store with disposable things for all your party needs, an interesting fact was that I was able to buy at that same paper/plastic store some cheap Birkonim (After meal prayer books), there are certain little things that just make a huge impact in our experience here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

And the Award goes to....

Since we got here we saw that we gain nothing but frustration if we get angry at the cultural differences, bureaucratic processes , etc. and realized that it actually helps to just accept it and respectfully joke about it. I have tried throughout my Blog to both give you a sense of life around here as well as give you something to laugh about regarding our experiences dealing with these cultural differences.
I have decided to include this postings to give an award for the longest, most complicated and bureaucratic process of all. I hope you enjoy it.

The nominees for longest, most complicated and bureaucratic process are:

The Hunt for Red October
Written and directed by our shipment company in association with the boating and container companies.
Special appearance by unhappy Israeli port workers who decided to reduce capacity at the port to 30%.
This tragic comedy tells the story of a shipment that got out of Pittsburgh to the NY port and shipped across the Atlantic to its final destination the Holy land. Experience all the ups and downs of this shipment as it gets sent to Turkey until Israeli port workers and the government get to an agreement. Explore all the plastic silverware and creativity in the Kitchen as the expecting family awaits for the arrival of their shipment. This movie might be having a sequel as the things arrive in the port and need to clear customs and make it to Modiin.

This thriller is full of surprises as the actor opens a bank account and finds himself stock in an endless infestation of bank fees. He can’t put money in, or take money out, he can’t ask for checks or get a credit card, currency exchange, he can’t perform any activity at the cashier or on-line without falling into the hands of the bank fees. Will he learn to live with these scary creatures or will he leave all his money in the US?

The Twilight Zone
Science Fiction. Special appearance by the Russian Cable/Telephone/Internet Guy. This movie will put you to think as the actor gets immersed in the confusing world of Telecommunication services pricing where he does not get what he wants but what they want him to get. Watch him try to contact customer service several times knowing that each time his call reaches the Twilight Zone, especially after the service has been connected and his commitment with them is already in place.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Drama. Tells the story of a family in search of a Medical insurance. The office hours and availability of the 2 different offices needed will keep you on the edge of your seat. Join us as this family figures out that they need to go first to the post office so that they can pay and get the paper signed so that they can go to their Kupat Cholim (medical insurance office). Join them on their adventure as they go to the office several times until it is open only to find that they needed to have an open bank account to set everything up.

Driving Miss Daisy
This movie of epic proportions has one of the largest cast in history including: Optician, photo place, doctor’s office, Mizrad Harishui (License Bureau), Driver instructor, test inspector and it has been announced that in the future it will also include the post office. This movie takes the viewer into the different places, offices and people. Sit for 2 hours a the Mizrad Harishui for a 5 minute signature from them, learn about the brotherhood that exist among the different entities that share profits from the ones requesting a drivers license transfer, watch them pay for a digital photo, for the green form, for the eye doctor, the one mandatory driving lesson, for borrowing the car from the instructor to drive during the test, for the test, and finally for the ultimate goal: for The Israeli Drivers License . Ride along with 2 other people taking the test in the same car and have an adrenaline rush as you see one of them getting into a wrong way street. Share the friendship with the driver instructor and the coldness of the test inspector as he says with no expression in his face: Yemina, Yemina, Smola, Yashar (Right, Right, Left, Straight).

Green Card
Starting the consulate in NY. This simple short film shows the actor’s first exposure to bureaucracy as he tries to obtain his immigrant visa. The entire plot is around the consulate not receiving the documents after more than 2 weeks that was Fedexed. The audience will reach a complete shock when he learns that the visa cannot be sent until a $8.00 money order is sent back to the consulate so that they can Fedex it back. Will they be able to receive their Immigrant Visa before their departure? Well, the audience knows the story, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to immigrate.

The Sound of Music
From the producers of the live on-line arrival ceremony and the chartered flight to Israel this tremendous musical production will definitely not get the Oscar but is worthwhile mentioning. Produced in its entirety by Nefesh b'Nefesh, after a family completes their application and sends copy of many important documents they encounter during their flight to Israel with government agents that process their Tehudat Zehut (equivalent to Social Security number) and other important government documents while they fly. This family only had to pick up all their documents one day at the offices knowing that they have saved themselves lots of time to process one of the most difficult documents.

And the award goes to….. Driving Miss Daisy!!!
By far this has been the most complicated, long and bureaucratic process that we have not finished but just today we were able to do the driving class followed by the test that we both passed. We should be able to get our drivers license in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Praying Towards the West

Every Shabbat we have spent here in Israel has been special in its own way. Last Shabbat we spend it at friends of family in Maale Adumim and we felt right at home. Thanks to our hosts, we had a unique experience, you made us feel right at home. Below you can find some pictures and a video that shows the breathtaking views from their home balcony of the Yehuda (Judean) desert.

You might be asking yourself what the meaning of the Blog Posting title "Praying towards the West" means. As many of you know we always pray towards Jerusalem. Most of my daily prayers have been to the East where Jerusalem has been in reference to where I'm at (except for the old sanctuary at Shaare Torah that faced Mexico, but not anymore :) ). But this Shabbat had a very special meaning the fact that I was facing West during our prayers, not that I have a great sense of orientation and can tell the difference but because of the place where we were at. Maale Adumim is a city with over 40,000 Jews East of Jerusalem. Yes, East of Jerusalem is known as the West Bank. I must say that I was a bit afraid driving to and from Maale Adumim. Even the GPS has an option to include or exclude such a territory. But I was amazed to find such a beautiful, growing and full of live city right in the middle of the Yehuda desert. Shopping centers, schools, parks, fountains, roads, synagogues, etc. it was all beautiful to see.

It's great to have family visit, and I want to welcome our cousin Hillel to Israel. You know you have a home in Modiin. I wish you a fun and meaningful year. For the family back in NY, don't worry, we'll take care of him as much as you looked after us during our 8 years in the U.S.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Batya's 5th birthday party

Last night we celebrated Batya's birthday. I can't believe she is now 5.
We all had a great time, thanks for all those that came to share with Batya and us her birthday.

It was interesting seeing the children interact in different languages and seeing Batya in Spanish/English playing in Spanish with a Spanish/Hebrew girl and in English with an English/Hebrew girl while these other two girls played in Hebrew. I know it sounds confusing but for them it was a piece of cake, speaking of which... the cake was nice but the food highlight was the Giant Pizza. This is the largest pizza I have ever seen and to top it off it had a picture of a princess on it drawn with toppings such as olives, cheese and corn, yes corn is a staple topping in Israeli pizzas, I guess we have to make up for the Treif (forbidden by dietary law) pepperoni.

Below are pictures and a couple of videos from Batya's 5th birthday party. We wish you were all here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

And then there was school.

September 1 is the official first day of school across the nation. I wanted to share with you our experience taking two children to kindergarten/day care.

Longing for the day and anticipation.-
Millions of parents have been longing for this day for a couple of months now. Creativity has been exploited in terms of finding things to do with them, camps have been over two weeks ago.
At work people would take their children this last two weeks (I have personally experienced this) having burned all their vacation days but still having the children without camp. Yesterday at the shopping center and supermarket one could smell the anticipation. People buying the last school supplies and everyone buying their lachmaniot (bread) following the regulation to send to the kids a lunch consisting of 1 sandwich, 1 fruit/vegetable and water (no kidding on this regulation). Bread was in short supply yesterday.

The third plague in Egypt.-
Nobody wants them, everybody is careful but in the end some will get it and some will not. We as newcomers and not used to hear the word L-I-C-E too often and have prepared for it with all the preventive means available. We have the metal combs with magnifying glass, we’ve put a couple of drops of concentrated Rosemary oil behind their ears and back neck, just like a weird sect ritual, the smell was strong but Hey! wouldn’t you do it too? As we say in Spanish “Por si las flies” (sorry, no direct translation for this one) There should also be a prayer to guard against them.

Batya and her new 30 friends.-
Batya was so excited today when she woke up knowing that she will be going to Gan (Kindergarten). She is going to a Mamlachti Dati school (Public Religious). Her class consists of 31 children (20 boys and 11 girls) with 2 teachers. A little different from her class of 10 back in Pittsburgh. Her class has children of many new immigrants from many English speaking countries including US, UK, Ireland, South Africa and Australia. She made a new friend from an Irish family who arrived 2 weeks ago or so, they were able to communicate in English, however the teacher and all the program will be in Hebrew. Batya was very excited after school today and is looking forward to tomorrow and to the whole school year.

Ilan would not let go.-
The story with Ilan was different. His class was for 2 hours only today and parents were allowed to stay a little bit to ease the transition. Ilan would not let go our hands. We had to stay with him the 2 hours. In the end he was feeling a little better but still would keep his eyes all the time on us to ensure we are there. His class has 25 children with 3 teachers. All of the families are Israelis, therefore not much English will be spoken. Ilan learned his first phrase in Hebrew today: Ani lo medaver Ivrit (I don’t speak Hebrew).

At ease.-
As for Liora and I, we were both very concerned with their schools, teachers, groups, language, etc. After seeing Batya today we felt much better and for Ilan at least we now know the teachers and school facilities and it looks good. We just hope Ilan can stay on his own tomorrow at day care.

Below are some pictures of our kids’ excitement of going to school as well as pictures of us before they go. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New photos - last weeks of August

Thanks for your feedback on the blog. I’m glad you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. Your feedback is important.

Below is a slide show of the last couple of weeks. It includes pictures from many parks, the Museum of Israel, Ein Yael Living Museum, Mini Israel, a small b’day party for Batya with cousins, the Weizmann Institute of Science. As you can see we had plenty of time to tour around before the kids start school on Sept. 1. Unfortunately we were unable to tour the north because of lack of hotel space last week and interviews this week, however we still got to visit many places.

For those wondering, YES I was able to secure a ticket to see Paul McCartney in Tel Aviv on Sept. 25. There is a lot of anticipation in Israel and it has been called the largest event of its kind in the history of the country.

Job search for me has been in full swing the last couple of weeks. In my mind I’m preparing a special blog summarizing some of my experiences especially the funny ones. For now thanks to all my potential employers for providing such reach material for my blog.

We will be spending this Shabbat with our good friends in Raanana and next week with other family friends at Maale Adumim.

Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Our first guests

It was nice to spend a Shabbat at our home and it was even nicer being able to have friends for dinner on Friday night. It made us feel like we are at our own place and can start sharing with others.
I must admit that we would have liked to have a little more to offer to our guests other than the plastic plates and silverware, wine on plastic, and delicious but creative cooking by Liora given the limited amount of pots and pans we have (all our kitchenware is coming in our shipment). However we had a great time and hope we can host many more of you soon. Pa y Ma (on both sides) we are already waiting for you. Hillel we’ll see you very soon. Jill are you here now? Ariela, Liora, we can’t wait for your trips to Israel to see you around here. Nat, too bad the upcoming summer won’t work, see you some other time.

Continuing the “To be Israeli” theme, I’m right now looking on TV the final for “Kohav Nolad 6” (A star is born) the Israeli version of American Idol. The winner is a kid named Israel in case anyone was wondering. We just followed the last two shows. It was fun, it included some of our favorites from Shlomo Artzi, Arik Einstein, Rita, Etc. and believe it or not it made us feel more Israeli.

We witnessed a funny Israeli moment the other day driving in Jerusalem that I wish I had a camera handy. As we are waiting for a left turn only red light a huge truck not wanting to wait behind us to continue straight, goes half of the wheels on the street and the other half on the sidewalk taking the truck on an almost 45 degree angle, passing us and the rest of the cars and then with a fast drop back straight to the road. After witnessing this barbarous driving act we noticed the writing on the back of the truck: “VeIsrael Nohaguim Vezehirut UBitachon” (In Israel we drive with caution and safe). We just had to burst in laughter.

Please check the blog soon for new pictures of places we have visited as well as family and friends we have seen.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Let it be!

Let me share with you the news I woke up to today after reading the newspaper.

He is coming!!!

Apparently he had to wait until I’m here. No, it’s not the Mashiach, but he must be nearby too.

Click below to see what I’m talking about.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

To be Israeli

Today I bought a book that was recommended to me called “To be Israeli” with easy to understand Hebrew. Although I have not started it I thought of putting a line or two on a couple of funny/unusual experiences we had these last days.

You know you are Israeli when:

- You proudly wear your Naot Sandalim (Sandals) everywhere – Today I bought my first pair and made my crocs jealous. I do feel more Israeli on them (the locals probably see me as a tourist on Israeli sandals).
- You have a meeting at the a park where you sign official documents – Yep, that also happened today. We had a meeting with our shipping company sitting down on the park’s sidewalk in Jerusalem. Papers where flying everywhere. It was a very funny scene. Our things will be arriving in Haifa’s port in a week or so (Batya’s Barbies cruise across the Atlantic is coming to and end) after that we hope to have our things in another week or two.
- You honk before the traffic light is green – That one I have not done, however I have been honked before the green light. As many of you know people around here have less Sablanut (patience), because of that the traffic light system has the following colors in this order:
1. GREEN = Go (fast)
2. YELLOW =Start stopping (surprisingly this one is very well respected)
3. RED = Stop
4. RED & YELLOW = Get foot off the brake and honk loudly
5. GREEN = Go (fast)
No kidding on the order of lights.
- You master the 4 swivel wheel drive of shopping carts and have your 5 shekel coin ready– We previously talked about the need for the 4 swivel wheel. It also has a lot to do with the Sablanut issue. The 5 shekel coin is needed to get your shopping cart and you get it back if you return it.
- You eat your hummus everyday – OK maybe not everyday but you do consume a lot of it here.
- You wear your sunglasses on your head – I do not use sunglasses but it’s interesting to see that man do like wearing them on their heads. Don’t ask why, once I become one I will let you know.
- Daven Arvit (night time prayer) on the sidewalk or park with your neighbors – I’ve done the park one. But it’s amazing one can do that around here.
- When you give driving directions you end with “Yashar Yashar Yashar ad hasof” (Straight Straight Straight ‘til the end) or “Yashar Yashar Yashar ve tishal shama” (Straight Straight Straight and ask there) – That is also true 90% of the time.
- You say Shabbat Shalom on Thursdays – Since people’s last day of the work week is Thursday.

Well as you can see we try to enjoy our cultural differences with a little bit of fun. As we discover more of these we will share them with you.

Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Following some feedback to post more often and not necessarily long blogs, here’s some short experience I had today.

Kosher Kentucky Fried Chicken, What a concept!

Today we stopped by The Jerusalem Kenion (Mall) and for the first time I tried a Kentucky Fried Chicken. For non-Kosher people it might sound like a trivial thing to do, but for me it was a big deal.

The KFC and Pizza Hut are right next to each other, however, they are completely separate and the tables are divided by a glass mehitzah. Yes, it’s still Colonel Sanders everywhere, I was nor really expecting to see Rabbi Sanders or the Colonel wearing a Yarmulka. :)

For all those who have never tried it, it’s good but not that big of a deal. Jason’s Super bowl wings far exceed KFC’s, plus KFC’s only come in regular and spicy.

So what’s the big deal of eating at KFC if the meal was just good? Just the fact that I was able to do so. One of the added benefits of living in Israel, it makes me feel like a regular person that’s able to eat at a KFC like anyone else.

Being in Israel makes me feel like I belong here for big things as well as little things.

I would still go for a Shwarma before KFC but now I can say that I have tried it.

By the way Burger King was also good but I wonder what it would taste like with Cheese.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What a beautiful country.

With no school or work this past week felt a lot like vacation.
We went to several sites and have been exploring the places we can go with the kids including the safari/zoo in Ramat Gan (Tel-Aviv), the Monkey Park, Caesaria and its beach, The Mifletzet (Monster) Park in Jerusalem, Yafo, Kibutz Hatzor to visit a friend and a Kosher Burger King. (see the photo slide below).

We spent the last two Shabbats at family in Jerusalem and it was very nice. It’s great to have you all here. This last Shabbat Ilan and Batya got to meet and play with 10 cousins from all ages plus aunts and uncles.

I would like to try something new and see if it works. I’d like to ask for feedback on any questions or specific topics you would like me to write about regarding our experience here in Israel. Please leave a comment or send me an email with your requests.

Take a look at the photos below and a couple of videos: “dizzy” video at the Gan Hamifletzet (Monster Park) and the kids at Mishkenot Shaananim. Remember that you can also look at our latest videos on the right or by going to

Friday, August 8, 2008

Back to civilization

It now feels more like home.

We moved last Friday to our new home and it felt so good. We have unpacked our luggage and now enjoy our own closets, since last Wednesday we got internet, cable TV and telephone. It's starting to feel more like we are here to stay. Back to civilization...

Modiin is beautiful. It all looks relatively new and well planned. We are starting to get around better and better everyday (sorry GPS).

Last Friday we had to make our first big trip to the supermarket to get everything for our new house. It was a unique and interesting experience. In the beginning I did not understand why the carts have 4 swivel wheels but realized that even though people at the busiest time of the week are trying to defy the laws of physics and try to have two objects occupy the same space at the same time, there is no other way to have everyone out of the store by 5pm if the carts would not move horizontaly too. People simply move your cart and push you if you stand for more than 10 seconds. Being able to buy everything from the store knowing that it's all Kosher it's great but a little overwhelming too. The possibilities are endless.

The children are doing great. They are very happy and are adjusting wonderfully. The truth is that for the four of us it feels so far like a vacation with no school, camp or work, except for the many offices we have visited and interviews I have been to. We have booked them to their schools/day care that start on Sept. 1. We have visited a lot of family, friends, and local attractions including a safari/zoo, water park, shopping centers etc.

It has been so nice to be able to reconnect with family, Israeli friends and Mexican friends in Israel over the last 3 weeks. For the next two weekends we will be spending Shabbat in Jerusalem with our family. Thanks for hosting us. Spending the beginning of 9 of Av in Jerusalem will be very meaningful and let's hope that we can soon celebrate on that day.

Our hebrew is getting better and better and we have had many funny occurrences such as Liora asking about a Neguia test vs. Neigah test (Touching test vs. Driving test) as we were going through the drivers license process. Also we have had many times where we buy something on the supermarket without reading every description of the product and at home when we open it we realize it was a different product or flavor. It's a great way to try new things I guess.

Since I have finally access to internet on my computer now I'm able to upload and share videos and photos. The photos below are from our last days in the NY, our arrival in Israel and our first 2 weeks here. I have included a very cute video of the kids below. Please look at the right on "Weisser's on Youtube" for the rest of the videos. Enjoy!

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