Hi, Eric here.
I’m finally giving into Rebecca’s exhortations to write an entry. Given all what’s been going on here with us in Jlem over the past 3 weeks, I’ll write a brief overview of my thoughts and experiences. Stream-of-consciousness style. Then get into my recent adventure buying a spiffy red 1997 Daewoo Super racer, complete with a used Israeli sausage-maker in the trunk.
Okay, impressions of getting to Israel. And please don’t think that I’m making light of us being here – Jerusalem and Israel is incredible, and easily the most incredible experience (aside from our marriage) of my life. So here it is, from the top: The flight was smooth, we slept most of the way. The seats were cramped, but hey, that’s what you get for $420 one-way on Israir.
My other initial impressions – schlepping, schlepping, and more schepping. I’ve gotten into pretty decent shape shape dragging several hundred pounds of luggage up stairs, down stairs, into cars, out of cars, onto various dolleys and trolleys. And then there was the schlepping from the Home Depot and supermarkets here in the hot hot Middle Eastern sun. And the various qualities of falafel at the falafel stands here.
Then there was the setting up of all the logistics: Finding the apartment in the US, signing the lease, getting the 1 year Israeli student visas, getting cellphones, signing up for ulpan, paying for ulpan at the post office (?), calling the phone company for a land-line, walking across town to the phone company building to buy the landline and modem/wireless in person b/c we’re not Israeli citizens. Dickering with the wireless for 2 days before it worked. Calling numerous Israeli customer help lines in broken Hebrew and English. Occasionally noisy neighbors.
Meeting up with the Larons, who’ve ferried us around, introduced us to so many facets of Israel, and generally helped us out so freaking much that it’s hard to describe our gratitude. Going to the Nefesh b’Nefesh reception, which was a real blast. Seeing our friend Sam there, which was great. Putting up Sam for a night in our living/family/kitchen room on the couch. Being put up ourselves by Etamar and his wife in Zichron Yaakov, and his parents in Kiryat Tivon.
All the great food here – fruits, vegetables, dairy, and lots of meat restaurants. Hanging out with our friend Eric Gurevitz (also from DC) here for a great Friday night Shabbat dinner with friends. Meeting an old Romanian guy at the Tel Aviv central train station who kept telling me that all Israelis were crooks, that I should immediately return home to live with my parents, and that someone was trying to steal his stamp collection (?).
Moshe, the friendly owner of the “Rivele” restaurant on Emek Refaim Street, who greets us and talks with us in English and Hebrew (he’s quite a character), and who introduced us to the 2005 Israel Prize for Hebrew, Prof Menachem Brinker, (http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/060202/brinker.shtml) who was eating a big plate of turkey schnitzel at the table next to us. The four of us thereupon had a long late-night discussion about Israel, Zionism, Hebrew literature, and strange Yiddish jokes. We still go to Rivele some afternoons to study our ulpan Hebrew homework and grab a bite to eat.
Passing by Natan Sharansky on his way home from shul on Saturday afternoon, overhearing him talk (in English) about US foreign policy in the Middle East with a friend of his. Hearing Foreign minister Tzipi Livni at the Nefesh b’Nefesh conference give a rousing “welcome home” Zionist speech to the new American immigrants.
The gaggles of young South American Jewish immigrants at ulpan. Some nice, some not-as-nice, and one with a particularly strong “Porteño” (Argentinian) accent, which makes everything she says, both Hebrew and English, absolutely unintelligible. The Russians at ulpan, with whom I get along well.
The hot and muggy weather here in Jerusalem (unusual for this place), up in the upper 90’s this week. Let’s hear it for A/C!!
Waking up at 5:20 AM, in the cool morning air, out on our deck. Davening as the sun rises. AM meditating on life, listening to the city wake up. Daily AM calisthenics. Hearing the myriad cats of Jerusalem (hard to explain) wailing (caterwauling?) and shrieking day and night.
Cooking (okay, Rebecca cooking) meals in our little kitchen as the light streams through the windows in the evening hours.
All the filtered and bottled water that we drink here, and I still get dehydrated.
As far as the car-buying experience goes, Etamar found out about a decent deal in the Haifa area on an old Daewoo Super Racer (sounds like a cross between a speaker system and Speed Racer), bright red, and supposedly maintained lovingly. Rebecca and I saw the car and were driven in it, when we were up for the wedding last week.
So, on his advice and our impressions, we decide to go ahead and buy the car. Buying the car involves taking it for a garage check, changing the ownership at the DMV, actually purchasing the car, and then purchasing insurance. A bit of a long experience.
So I start out take a tiring 4 hour train journey (switching trains twice) to get from Jerusalem to his parents’ home (the Larons) in Kiryat Tivon, outside of Haifa, on Sunday night (remember, the work week here is Sunday-Thursday). Slept overnight at the Larons, and in the AM, Etamar’s father Avi took me to meet the car’s owner and drove to the garage to get the car checked out. Throughout the morning, and despite a number of hassles, Avi shepherded me through this process, mostly in Hebrew. There was a good deal of heated negotiating with the owner of the car (a burly Haifa-area firefighter, with tanktop, big gold chain, pretty good English, and a constant flow of cigarettes – and he wasn’t actually the official owner of the car, as we found out, which was a whole other rigmarole), and then convincing everyone that yes, I could buy a car there even though I’m not an Israeli citizen. Finally, after several hours the car was checked, ownership switched and the car paid for – Avi even managed to get the price cut down a bit. He’s amazing! And the Larons hooked me up with a good insurance agency, to boot. And all this was done as Avi and Zahava (Etamar’s parents) were in the midst of last-minute preparations for a month-long trip to Canada, for which they were flying out that evening! As Rebecca and I keep finding out, the Laron family are one helpful bunch of people – their help has made our adjustment here in Israel much, much easier and interesting.
So that’s the story at the moment. Needless to say, the car made it all the way up the hills into Jerusalem (Jlem is about at 3000 ft altitude), from Haifa about a 3 hour drive. It’s parked outside our apartment building, out on the curb. All is good!
Will follow-up at future dates with updates as needed.