Monday, August 11, 2008

Final Post

This blog has officially reached it's end. I will leave it up and you are free to browse the contents that I have posted for the past year and a half or so. But this was meant to be my Chutz L'Aretz blog. I know! I am simply moving domain names, so feel free to update and RSS readers you might have with the new address
You can access the new site by clicking here.
Shalom from Israel!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Week

So lot’s of fun stuff this week (oh, that was a lie). On Tuesday I headed to Ramat Beit Shemesh to pick up the (loud trumpet music) The Israeli Checks and ATM Card!
They only had the checks, the ATM card will arrive NEXT week.
Besides this unexpected turn of events it gave me a chance to catch up with some people in RBS who I hadn’t seen in a while.
On to Wednesday.
On Wednesday I took my first trip ever to Kever Rochel (Rachel’s Tomb). From there I went to Maaleh Adumim to hear Rabbi Pinchas Winston speak about the Geula (redemption). Due to my desire to keep these writings as neutral as possible, I will not be detailing what he said. But take my word for it very interesting stuff.
I then spent the night at the home of a family who make Aliyah from Baltimore, the Dressler’s.
This morning, I went to Jerusalem to make my first (and probably last for a while) big purchase, the bike. I know have a set of wheels, and I must say that it was quite a feeling to be able to get around Jerusalem, at 10 mph rather than the usual 3.
So I went to the Old City and davened at the Kotel.
I’m heading to Moshav Matityahu for Shabbos and Tish B’av.
Hopefully some exciting 10mph stories next week.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ketubot, Rabbi's and Shnekel's (and Pizza)

Well today I had the privilege of getting my first experience with the Rabbanut. I had some friends who got married last month in America, but the Rabbaut did not recognize their Ketuba, so they had to go in front of these Rabbi’s to “prove” that they were married. To do that they had to have two “aidem” (witnesses) to the fact that they were married, so my friend and I went to the Rabbanut building in central Jerusalem this morning.
An interesting fact, the Rabbanut building is the same building that used to house the Knesset. It’s right off of King George street.
I had been waiting for my first experience with some kind of hellish Israeli bureaucracy, and luckily my first experience was not directed at me.
My friend and I actually arrived before our friend and his wife, we hadn’t seen each other for a while so we had a good chance to schmooze. When they finally did arrive they started the process of whatever it was that they do behind that door.
Now the door was very interesting. Pretty much at all times the door remains locked, and you are not able to knock on it because there is a sheet of cloth that hangs suspended between the actual door and the hallway where they make us all wait for them.
The first thing they did was confiscate our Tudat Zehut’s, I’m not sure exactly why they did that. They then took the couple into the room by themselves to question them. I later found out that they wanted to make sure that our answers matched whatever they had said.
My friend and I each went in separately, my friend went first. I was wondering what kind of questions they would ask me. I assumed it would do something related to the wedding , “was the Ketuba written the correct way?” “Who was the Rabbi who wrote it…” etc.
But to my surprise, when it was actually my turn to be interrogated, they were asking me questions relating to the religious level of the my friend.
“Does he drive on Shabbat?”
“How sure are you of that?”
“How long have you known him?”
Then the actual questions of sustenance.
“You were at this supposed wedding?”
“What was the name of the Rabbi who signed the Ketuba?”
That last one I answered “Rabbi Goldberger,” and for good measure (as all of them were very Charadi looking) “and he wears a very big Striemel.” They seemed very impressed by that.
Of course the problem came when they stared asking me questions about my friends wife, and more specifically when they asked if I knew here parents. I didn’t and the pretty much told us that she was not Jewish, because we had not proof that she was Jewish, therefore they could not give them an Israeli marriage license.
Let’s just say the emotional situation in the room starting moving VERY quickly.
So we went out wondering what we were going to do when the couple remembered that she has a relative who lives in Geula (the place-not the time) who knew her and her parents. They were able to contact him, and he showed up about a half an hour later, dressed in his kaputa and hat, and looking very Chareidi.
Let’s just say that the next step went very quickly and they were accepted as a married couple. (I think there was some Yiddish involved).
When the Rabbi came out to tell them what their decision had been, there was a big sigh of relief (he’s in the army and it’s not that easy for him to get out). The Rabbi told them the good news and their instructions for getting the documentation that they needed.
As he turned to leave he turned around, smiled, and said to the two fo them “Mazel Tov.”
The last step was they actually had to go downstairs and pick up the physical document. While we were waiting for them, my friend (the single one) went to get a soda and asked if the machine too a “Shnekel.”
“What’s a ‘Shnekel?” I asked.
That was apparently his term for the new 2 shekel coin. I wonder why the name never caught on…
From there all four of hung out for a few hours. This was really the first chance that I had to hang out with friends since getting here.
We had lunch on Ben Yehuda (pizza) and then I went with them to Misrad Hapanim so that she could (finally) get her last name to be same as her husbands.
From there we parted ways and I went to pick up some things I needed. But I must say all in all, it was a very interesting day…

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Neve Daniel

On Friday headed out to Neve Daniel to spend Shabbos with the Eastman’s. I’m not exactly sure why everyone call it Neve Daniel, all of the signs I saw said “Newe Daniel,” and the Hebrew had 2 vavs which usually implies a “w” sound.
I first traveled into Jerusalem to meet up with the Eastman boys before heading to the Central Bus Station (commonly referred to as “The Tachana”) and was approached be a cab driver trying to offer me his service. I’d tried to tell him that I would rather walk, and he continued to insist that he would drive me. So I asked “will you take me for free?” He looked a little surprised and I realized that he had completely misread that situation (think that I was a “rich American”).
“Ani Oleh Chadash” (“I’m a new immigrant”).
He looked at me, “From America?”
“Why would you come here?”
So I said it straight to him, “It’s better here.”
I think I gave him something to think about over the weekend
So I meet up with the Eastman boys and we took the bus to Gush Etzion. Neve Daniel is on the highest mountain in the Gush Etzion region and from the top you really have a commanding view of the area. To the west we could see Beitar, and on the other side of the Efrat, and apparently on clear days you can see as far as the Mediterranean Sea.
I introduced myself to Jeremy Gimpel of Shabbos, who lives on the block next to the Eastman’s, as well as to Lawrence ben-David, husband of Laura ben-David who wrote the Aliyah book “Moving Up.”
The synagogue in Neve Daniel is quite impressive, they know how to give it its due prominence (pictures’ on the blog I’m still not sure exactly what the structure on top was (I heard, water fountain, UFO…) but it was an impressive structure.
One interesting thing I learned this week regarding the security fence that Israel is currently building is that apparently the Prophets actually write about the area that Jerusalem will cover during the time of the Third Temple. During that time all Jews will have to travel to Jerusalem, and they all have to be in the walls of the city.
The truth is that today, as large as Jerusalem has become, there still is not enough room for all of the world’s Jews.
Interestingly enough apparently the way that the security fence is being built in relation to the Eastern part of Yerushalayim, the fence is going almost exactly on the border that was prophesied would be the border’s of Greater Jerusalem 2500 years ago.
Just an interesting tidbit I picked up over the weekend.
Oh, and he pictures are (finally) up. Let me know if you have any trouble with the links.

Here's the picture of the Shul:

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Alternative dimensions and Beit El

I am thoroughly convinced that buses in this country exist outside of the dimension the rest of the world exists in. I don’t understand how it is possible for them to squeeze into these incredibly narrow spaces, spaces that I would feel uncomfortable going through on my bike. (The other day I was on a bus that was passing another bus in an extremely narrow road, and I swear that at some point the two buses intersected and were intersecting over one another-something that, as far as I know, is impossible!)
And even more so then the extremely narrow spaces are the speeds that they send these enormous machines through the street at. Yet they always manage to stop on a dime, and navigate through cars, other buses, and pedestrians.
Besides that today I had a great “only in Israel story.” I was on the bus from Beit Shemesh to Bene Brak, and at one of the stops in Beit Shemesh a man came speeding towards the bus on his bike, with his small son in a carrier on his back. The man pulled in front of the bus and asked if the bus would wait for him so he could run his son into his house (which was right in front of the bus stop). The bus driver asked if anyone minded, and no one had a problem with it. The man took 2 minutes running inside and then running back out, throwing his bike in the bottom of the bus and finally climbed onto the bus.
At the next stop we had a guy come onto the bus wearing his tallis and tifilin. Only in the country!
My trip for the day (after I went to Bene Brak to drop off my stuff-and by “Bene Brak,” I mean “Givat Shmuel” were I’m staying) was to Beit El to visit the Arutz Sheva studio.
I got to the bus station and was waiting for the 2pm bus when Walter Bingham, one of the radio hosts, sat down right next to me.
Just so you know who this is, Mr. Bingham made Aliyah 4 years ago from Britain. He is well into his 80’s and actually fought for the British during the 2nd World War.
So he gave me a little tour as we were driving through the Binyamin region of Israel. On the way he pointed out a few Jewish towns, like Kochav Yaakov, as well as Ramallah, which we could see in the distance.
The first person that I met in the studio was Ben Bresky, cool guy who does a lot of the audio editing and mixing for the studio as well as hosting a music show once a week on Sunday.
While I was there I actually recorded a commercial for the station, I send it out when it gets played.
After schmoozing for about and hour I headed across the street to the Yeshiva there to do some learning (with all of this running around I’m a little behind in the Daf). I had a great seder, and the yeshiva was quite impressive, about 200 boys, I’d say ages 14-18 all doing their afternoon seder in the Land of Israel. This is Judaism, Torah in the Land of Israel, you can’t get any better then that.
I went back to the studio a little while later to say hi to Goel Jasper and Dovid Gancher who were there to do the Aliyah show. They were interviewing the translator of the Eim Habanim Semeicha, Rabbi Moshe Lichtman (who I believe lives in Beit Shemesh).
I then when back to Jerusalem and treated myself to my favorite schwarama resteraunt, and had a Chetzi Chetzi.
Now for those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s basically a Schwarama, but with strips of Schnitzel in it. I don’t want to imagine how good/bad it is for you, but it was sooo good.
Anyways, probably won’t be able to post again before Shabbos, which I will be spending in Neve Daniel with the Eastman’s.
Have a great Shabbos!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pizza, Government Offices, and Cell Phones

Whew! A lot has happened in the past few days. The last time I posted I had gotten my name changed at Misrad Hapanim to the RIGHT name and had opened my bank account.
That was on Sunday. After I had posted that I went and got my cell phone (I’ll post the number at the end), and had a great experience at the Orange store. I understand that the workers there work on commission but this guy who I had was phenomenal. He spoke English, and was very upbeat and fun. After we had the phone set up he gave me first ringtone, a clip from Jeff Dunham’s skit of Achmed the Dead Terrorist, “SILENCE!! I -.”
Phone’s work differently here then they do in the States. As a tech guy I keep with all of the changing technologies and different services that are offered in different countries. In America, you are usually given a phone by the phone company (usually it’s free, but sometimes you pay a subsidized price) and then you pay a monthly fee for a set amount of minutes which either are not all used up at the end of the month, or if you use more then your quota of minutes you have to pay more if you go over. There are other perks in America, like free night s and weekends.
In you pay for your phone (as far as I know unsubsidized) but they you pay pennies for the phone service, and you only pay for the minutes you talk.
I’m not saying one way is better than the other, just the differences between the two.

Anyways, Sunday has for sure been my most successful day so far. Getting 3 things done in one day is apparently quite an accomplishment in this country.

I was speaking with someone at the Nefesh B’ Nefesh office when I was there on Sunday (not an NBN staff-someone else I knew), and he pointed out to me that what I’m doing is like registering for college. You have to run around going to from office to office for a few week’s… and then the REAL work begins!

Alright, so yesterday I went to Yerushalyim to take core of my health insurance at Bituah Leumi. I walked in thinking “here we go, a government office in Jerusalem.” I was expecting to have a 4 hour wait before I was able to get anything done.

To my surprise I was only there for about 40 minutes. I filled out my forms, and they said everything should be taken care of by next week. I was very surprised that it had gone that smoothly. And here I was at 10:30 in the morning with a few hours of free time on my hands. So what does any good Jew do when they have free time? Usually one of three things:
1. Eat
2. Socialize
3. Learn.

I did all three

I stopped by a pizza shop and had some early lunch, while listening to a shiur on my iPod. About halfway through my meal, one of my Rabbaim Rav Slifkin (the “Zoo Rabbi”) walked into the shop. He had just returned from a trip to Africa, and hadn’t know about my Aliyah. So we sat and schmoozed for about a half an hour.

Later in the day I met up with uncle to have lunch (again!...second lunch), and we schmoozed for a few hours. I then went back to Benei Brak/Givat Shmuel and picked up some stuff so I could be in Ramat Beit Shemesh in the morning to take care of bank stuff.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Teudat Zehut and other intersting things

Finally I got something done! Yesterday I went to the NBN office and picked up my Teudat Zehut without an issue. They sent someone to get it for me in Ashdod and it was waiting for me at their office in Jerusalem when I arrived.
An interesting side note, it's getting to the point now that I'm (and I'm sure other people as well) are getting very jumpy around tractors. I passed a group of Arabs working on the new subway system and one of them was in the tractor starting it up and facing right at me.
There wasn't an issue, I walked right passed, but it's just another thing to keep in mind when you're out and about. The only way to go about this is to live you're life as normally as possible and don't give into the fear. The terrorists want us to live our lives in fear and the best way to fight that is to live you're life as normally and as freely as possible.
From the NBN office I went to Maaleh Adumim to see the Adler's. I met up with the Schamroths there and we all went out to Malcha Mall for dinner (Kosher Burger King-I'll start posting pictures eventually).
Burger King was interesting, in America you have inter-transliterated siddurim, where they have the Hebrew transliterated into English. Here it's the other way around. I was staring at their menu trying to figure out what it was saying (Davel Vooper?) The Double Whooper was very good.
The one issue I had that I knew I was going to have to deal with when I got here was getting my name changed so that it included both of my middle names. I was already and Israeli citizen so when I made Aliyah I had to come with my Israeli passport. So I was back and forth to the embassy in Washington a few times between December and March. When I received my Israeli passport I opened it to discover that they had left out my 2nd middle name. My middle name is "Israel" -Yisrael, someone there must have thought that I had put nationality in the wrong box so they returned my passport without the correct name.
When I told them they just told me to go to Misrad Hapanim here and get it changed, because I would have had to wait another few months if I had gotten it done in America (they mail everything to Israel) and I needed the passport in order start being processed for Aliyah.
The truth is it was the smoothest thing that I've done so far. Thank you to Yehudis for driving me around to all of these places in Beit Shemesh to take care of my documentation-it is saving me a lot of time.
I walked into the Misrad Hapanim where the security guard-that's right, the security guard-helped me fill out all of my forms to have my name changed.
They were incredibly helpful and they changed my passport and Teudat Zehut for me right on the spot. It only took about 20 minutes.
From there we went back to Ramat Beit Shemesh where I opened my bank account-another thing that went relativly smoothly. I know when I get my first bank statement all hell will break loose-but that will be for another post.
So hopefully by the end of today (if everything goes as planned) I'll be able to check 3 things off my list:
1. Name change
2. Bank Account
3. and cell phone

We should be heading out soon to go pick up the phone. Hopefully that will also be a successful trip.
I'll update the insurance situation on the next post. NBN is going to try to help me with this.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Shabbos and more fun with Bituach Leumi!

So Friday, I got up at around 7am to go to Shacharit. Then I hung around Givat Shmuel for the morning doing some work on the computer, and getting to know my 2 other roommates, one who's Israeli, the other who's a law student in Chicago and was in Israel for the summer as an intern.
I got the bus to Ramat Beit Shemesh at around noon. It felt so good to be be back in RBS for Shabbos, where I spent Shabbos with my families good friends, the Schamroths.
Shabbos was awesome, you can't really compare Shabbos in Israel to Shabbos in America. Particularly when you spend it in an almost entirely religious community, and every single other person in the entire community is doing the exact same thing that you are. I remember seeing a list of "what we like about Israel" and one of the things on the list was "Shabbos, really feels like Shabbos."

I walked down to Ramat Shilo, where I will be moving to sometime next month, for Mincha and Shalosh Seudos, and ran into Dovid Gancher from the Aliyah show on Arutz Sheva. Nice guy, and he's a head hunter, and good person to know.
I had Shalosh Seudos with my Rosh Yeshiva, and had a very nice close to Shabbos with maariv in Ramat Shilo.

Today, more fun! I went down to open up my bank account at bank #1 and found that it was closed in Sunday. I went to bank #2 and found that they could do anything because of the situation with my tudat zehut. They can open up a bank account with me before my tudat zehut is issued, and they can open it up after I have my tudat zehut, but they can't open up the account after it has been issued but before I have it. I should be getting my tuday zehut today and will be able to open up the account tomorrow (hopefully will also be able to get my phone after that). Thanks to Yehudis for driving me around everywhere.
Another interesting story with my tudat zehut (which I'm hoping to pick up today from the NBN office), I got a call from Nefesh B' Nefesh saying that somehow my Tudat Zehut never made it from Ashdod to their office in Jerusalem! Would I mind if I could wait a day and pick it up tomorrow.
NO! I want my tudat zehut today because there are too many things I need to do that I can't do without it! I need the Tudat Zehut to open a bank account, and I need to open a bank account before I can get my phone!
Not to knock NBN they've been incredibly helpful throughout all of this, but if I'm going to be dealing with American's I have a right to act like an American!
I also went on trip #2 to Bituach Leumi (health insurance) today. The guy there was in credibly helpful but if I went through his office it would take close to month before I was insured (arrg, if only I'd remembered to go to Bituach Leumi at the AIRPORT!). He recommended that I go to the one in Jerusalem, I'll have a longer wait at the office, but I'll get insured faster.

So hopefully the next time I write I'll have my Tudat Zehut, and I might have opened my bank account and even gotten a phone. But I'm looking up! Because I know that it'll take a while but once everything is done all I'll have left are some great stories to tell.

Friday, July 25, 2008

To Yerushalayim

So yesterday was my first trip into Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). It was weird, it felt like I’d never left. There were some changes, the biggest one being the new bridge that they’ve installed right at the entrance of the city, but I walked past my favorite shawarma shop, and the Tachana (bus station) was as crazy as ever.
I decided to walk to the Old City instead of taking a bus, so I could take stop by some places along the way. One of which was the site of the bulldozer terror attack a few week’s ago.
My first stop was Mechane Yehuda (“The Shuk”) where I picked some bourekas (one thing I forgot about this country is how good the baked goods are). I then stopped by the Judaica Book Centre to take a look at what they had and to say hi to the owner.
From there I pretty much went straight to the Old City, I tore Kria right at the top of the stairs that lead down to the Kotel. Stayed for a little while, learned the Daf, davened Mincha, and then took the bus to Geula to catch a bus to Ramat Beit Shemesh.
It’s interesting, that my day in Yerushalayim seemed so routine, for 2000 years Jews have been praying to return there and now that we are back, it kind of feels like it’s taken for granted.
Anyway, short post for today, and some more press from this week’s flight.

The Baltimore Jewish Times:

Yeshiva World News (pics taken by my friend Yehuda):

Arutz Sheva:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Everything and Nothing" at the same time

Today's post will be in 2 parts

I forgot to tell one part of the initial experience after I got to Israel yesterday. After I left the airport and was driving on the Tel Aviv highway towards Givat Shmuel, my first thought was, “wow, the country looks goooood.”
You kind of get a warped perception of what life is like here from America. Largely because the only news you hear is bad news. Not that you’re not aware of bad news here, but here you can walk around outside and see a thriving economy, lot’s of people walking around enjoying the sun, and the sun, you don’t get it quite like you do in America, and you see life in the country. Quite a different experience then one gets in America.
Anyways, I had a Russian cab driver, who spoke about 3 words of English (“yes, no, pen”), so I got to practice some of my Hebrew right when I got here. I was actually surprised by my Hebrew, I guess it wasn’t as bad as I thought. So far actually it seems that I’ve been speaking to everyone in Hebrew and they’ve been speaking to me in English. I’ll say my Hebrew sentence with one or two English words substituting the Hebrew one’s I don’t know, and they’ll respond in English with one or two Hebrew words mixed. It’s kinda working… Anyways I’m already expanding my vocabulary, guess how you say “energy?”
“Cholesterol is… well, “cholesterol.

So I asked this cab driver where he was from in Russia. He told me he was from the town of Berditchev.
There’s a rabbi, named Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who was famous for his Dan l’kav Zchut (giving everyone/everything the benefit of the doubt). So this was the name that immediately popped into my head.
I turned to ask him “Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev?” But before I got the chance, this not overtly religious looking guy, turned to me and said, “You know Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev? That was his place.

Part 2:
So today I went to Beit Shemesh to get part 1 of bureaucracy done…and walked away empty handed. I had to go to Betuach Leumi to get registered for health insurance and they had absolutely no one there who spoke English. I'm at the stage where I can mix up the two languages, but I'm not really conversational n Hebrew (yet!). So I’m going to go back tomorrow with someone who speaks Hebrew, and get this thing straightened out.
But the day was not a complete waste; I had the completely random experience of taking a cab with an Israeli who lived in Baltimore. He said he lived there from 1991-1998 and he told me there was one thing he learned there, and it took him 8 years to learn this, “In America you have everything, yet you have nothing. In Israel you have nothing, yet you have everything.”
I’m heading to Jerusalem for the first time on this trip tomorrow, will write later.