Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Making Israel Home

So our first full day in the Holy Land didn’t go quite as expected, but in the days following we have gotten much more accomplished. We have DH’s teudat oleh and teudat zeut, we opened a bank account and we have an apartment sof sof (finally)! Israel is feeling a little more like home every day.

I won’t sugarcoat it though, it’s been hard. I miss my family and friends like crazy. It’s hard not knowing what is going on around you a good 75% of the time and everything in Israel is just a bit harder than it was in the United States. In the States, I lived so very well with many comforts I didn’t even realize I had. The lack of water here makes one think about leaving that faucet on while you brush your teeth or take that extra minute for the shower to heat up.

Dud Shmesh...funny name for an important piece of the Israeli home.  Solar powered water heater on every roof in Israel.

Your safety is always somewhere lurking in the back of your mind. Security is tight, but relatively quick and easy. Most everywhere you go during a normal day—the mall, the grocery store, the train station—means you’ll go through a metal detector and get your bags checked (Israelis, fortunately and unfortunately, have become experts at keeping maximum security with minimum disturbance to one’s life) . And it will be a while before I don’t do a double take at seeing a soldier’s assault rifle slung around his body while I stand behind him in line at McDonald’s.

The language barrier is the most daunting. But small victories like asking where is the bathroom and actually understanding the response or buying an iced coffee by myself does wonders for my confidence. I’m not a math whiz or computer genius, but luckily language is my forte. Everyone told me before I arrived in Israel that it would become natural to pick up the language once immersed in it. I couldn’t imagine what they meant until I actually got here. I am compelled to speak Hebrew and am amazed by how quickly it comes to me.

Both DH and I have had some hilarious language missteps in the past week though. A security guard was very confused why my husband was asking him the location of the world (olam) instead of meeting hall (ulam). His sarcastic Israeli response? Yoo are here. Zis is ze world. Welcome.

DH’s family had a good laugh when he said he said he went fishing all the time in my dad’s pot (sir) instead of his boat (sira).

The couple walking by us on the street in Tel Aviv probably wondered why I told DH I wanted to live near the monkey (kof) instead of the beach (chof).

Apartment hunting in Israel was a…umm…new event to undertake. To get the overall experience of the apartment search in Tel Aviv, please follow these directions:

Open the front door to your standard 2 bedroom American apartment. Walk inside. Look around for the bedroom door. Open the bedroom door and walk inside. Look for the closet door and walk inside. Shut the closet door. Throw your clothes around the closet. You are now in your Israeli apartment. Rent is due: take out your wallet and set it on fire. Oven, refrigerator and closet space not included.

Israeli apartment building: Shown in actual size.

We looked at 6 apartments in different areas of the city before deciding on our lovely 2 bedroom near Tel Aviv University. During our search, we made several phone calls throughout the day to see a particular apartment we were very interested in. The owner, Shiri, posted the apartment on Craigslist and asked that interested parties call Moses, the current renter to schedule an appointment. Moses was working all day, so we hung around the local mall waiting for a few hours. Finally he said we could come see it at 8:30 that night.

Moses invited us in and sheepishly told us he wasn’t planning on moving out. He was totally shocked and confused why we wanted to look at his apartment. His lease was ending in a couple of days and although he told Shiri he planned to stay another year, she hadn’t made time to meet him to renew the contract. Instead of driving all the way to see him, Shiri posted the apartment he is still living in on Craigslist to be rented without his knowledge.

We apologized profusely and felt terrible to imposing on him. Instead of shooing us out the door so he could get back to dinner and his own life, Moses showed two complete strangers around his apartment to compare to others we’ve seen, gave us advice on how to negotiate the rent and how much we should pay in property taxes, provided a guided tour of the area and gave us a ride to the train. Only in Israel.

Our living room of our new apartment.  Beautiful, huh?

There are things that I have encountered in Israel that drive me three types of crazy and other events that warm my heart and let me know I really have made the right decision. I have learned from bright olim (immigrants to Israel) who have come before me to take it one day at a time, give myself a little leeway and make the best of the journey that lies ahead. I think I’ll take that sage advice.


  1. You go girl! If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere..oh wait..that's the theme song to 'That Girl'. Well it goes without saying, you are that girl..and I'm proud.

  2. Wow, what a experience!! I hope you find an appartment soon...one that is near the monkey :) Just kidding, you guys are going to be just fine and have such an amazing experience!

  3. Thanks Jen! We found an apartment in Tel Aviv and move in Sunday! I can't believe I'm officially a resident of Israel!