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.

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