Sunday, February 12, 2012

Once Upon a Shabbat in Jerusalem

This past Shabbat, I had the opportunity to take in and enjoy the beginning of the day of rest unlike anywhere else in the world.

I headed out from my apartment about 20 minutes before candle lighting time towards the Old City. In the middle of the Mamilla outdoor pavilion, I heard the Shabbat siren ring out. For some reason, despite this being the third Shabbat I'd spent in Jerusalem since arriving last month, it was the first that I was able to hear the siren wail announcing the entrance of Shabbat and the ushering in of a day of holiness, of rest, and of peace. Back in the States, one of my favorite times of the week was the walk from home to shul for Kabbalat Shabbat, when I could feel all the stress and worry of the past week fall off my shoulders and a calm come over me.

I walked through Jaffa Gate into the Old City and crossed into the Jewish Quarter to head to the Kotel. It was still light out when I got there, and the plaza was filling up. Shortly after I entered the men's section and contemplated which service to join, a group of 40-50 Israeli Defense Forces soldiers entered, singing and dancing in unison. Fully in uniform, they, too, were stopping their routine, as this particular group was approaching its final days before becoming officers.

They invited everyone to join them and to celebrate the moment, and so I joined the officers-to-be, their commanders, along with tourists from around the world and fellow Israeli Jews. I know it sounds a bit cliche, but it was truly amazing to look around this circle that had expanded throughout the entire men's area of the Kotel and see Jews of all different backgrounds and colors, levels of religious observance, and abilities to speak Hebrew. But singing "Am Yisrael Chai", we reaffirmed the very reason I decided to move here.


On an entirely unrelated note, I finally bought a drip coffee maker last week and was walking around on Wednesday or Thursday to buy some coffee to take home with me when I came across the following storefront. Needless to say, I stopped in, but didn't wind up buying coffee from them...maybe next time!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Some #Obstinate Reactions to Close Out My First Month

As my first month as an Israeli citizen draws to a close, I felt it was only appropriate to share what was quite an #obstinate reaction to a situation that was unnecessarily annoying.

Way back on the day after I landed, one of my relatives took me to Rami Levy get a cell phone plan for my iPhone. As they described over the phone and again in store, it's a pay-as-you-go plan with very good rates per minute and per SMS and unlimited internet access. The only hitch was that since I hadn't opened an Israeli bank account yet, they needed my cousin to use her credit card for the account and we would switch payment options when I got my bank set up (apparently international Visa and MasterCards weren't acceptable).

Flash forward to last week, I have my bank's debit card, which has the "IsraCard" logo, Israel's internal credit card company, and we go back to the store to get the payment switched over. They look at my card and tell me, "Well we can't use this for payment because it's not a credit card, it's a debit card". So I said, "Exactly. The money comes directly from my bank account without an intermediary" and they told me, the only method of payment they accept is an Israeli credit card. I asked about other options - a direct debit plan from my bank account, my international Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, whatever.

When they still said no I got a bit #obstinate. I noted that were I to get an Israeli credit card, I would have to pay a monthly fee for it (as there are always hidden charges to anything bank related in this country) and that in every single other situation, my CapitalOne Visa, which doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, would be golden, including, as I mentioned, at the Rami Levy supermarket that was attached to the store. Since Israeli law prohibits cell phone companies from signing you to a contract you can't get out of, I told them I would go to the other three major cell phone companies, pick whichever deal they had that was best, and switch the next day, and that's exactly what I did and am now happily an Orange subscriber! Oh and I also congratulated them for creating unnecessary obstacles for new immigrants...all in Hebrew so it's probably a good thing I don't really know too many curse words!

That moment of obstinance aside, things here are good, although it will be weird not being in Boston for the Super Bowl Sunday night/even later Sunday night here. This past week has brought some change into my apartment and I now have a new roommate. As I mentioned in my last post, my friend Sarah, who was my madricha on when I was here on OTZMA two years ago, has now moved in and we've been hard at work over the past three days cleaning, rearranging and reorganizing the apartment. I now have a new bed and a little shelving unti for all my DVDs which is great, and things feel more orderly and a bit less haphazard.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom wherever you are!