יום חמישי, 17 באוקטובר 2013

Choosing a Gan for our bubeles

One thing’s for sure…EVERYONE has an opinion about the different ganim on offer in Israel. We needed places for our kids as work and ulpan were about to begin and so we began our search. There are some great Facebook forums for mothers in Israel and one specifically for the area we live in and so we posted a request for Gan recommendations and within exactly six minutes, the dedicated mothers of Modiin replied with various different options as well as their own thoughts about why that particular gan was so great, followed by counter posts saying why other gamin were better. We decided that the only way to really know was to set up visits and see for ourselves.

There were so many options of types of chilcare to choose from…metapelet (childminder), mishpacton (small playgroup in someone’s home), maon (government sponsored groups), Gan (nursery). Once we had decided that we wanted to send the baby to a mishpachton and our three year old to a Gan, we narrowed down our options and chose suitable places. We actually sent both kids to English speaking childcare places as we wanted them to feel comfortable and able to communicate but there are loads of different options of places to go and definitely plenty of Hebrew speaking places.

Our kids cried for the first month every day when we left…you might be luckier than we were! It’s hard for both the parents and the kids (probably more for the parents) but it has settled down and now both kids are thriving in these Ganim. We were so happy that we based our decisions on our gut feeling about each place rather than on people’s opinions as at the end of the day, the parents know their children the best.

יום חמישי, 12 בספטמבר 2013

Ten things to expect in the supermarket

About a week into our Aliyah, we realised that we would have to succumb and visit the supermarket to start stocking our home properly rather than buying bits here and there and delaying the inevitable. Here are some things that we learnt very quickly about the supermarkets in Israel.

1.       You need 5 shekel for the trolley. This was not a surprise for us to have to pay for the trolley as we had to do that in England but most Israelis seem to have a token that is the same shape and size as a 5 shekel coin and for the life of us, we have no idea where to get one from. In the meantime, we are doing it the old school way and stashing a 5 shekel coin in our wallets, specifically for the supermarket.

2.       You can buy meat in the supermarket. This is nothing for most people but to us it was huge being the big meat eaters that we are! There are even places online where you can print off the different names and cuts of meat and chicken and so you will never be at a loss when browsing the huge selection of meat at the supermarket.

3.       Supermarket membership cards (Cartis Moadon) are great and give you lots of extra deals and savings just for members. We have one for every supermarket near where we live!

4.       The supermarket workers have sections where they work so they are experts on their section of the supermarket but have no clue what goes on beyond their aisle! I once asked the fruit guy where the pasta was and he looked at me as if I was mental (and it wasn’t my basic Hebrew that stumped him either!)

5.       If you can, avoid Thursday evening/Friday shopping. The beauty of living in the Jewish homeland is that you are surrounded by Jewish life but it also means that everyone wants to shop for Shabbat! Interestingly, when I did go on a Friday morning once (at 7.30am), it was full of men clutching on to shopping lists from their wives!

6.       Get used to seasonal fruits and vegetables! Our daughter loves grapes but we could only buy them when they are firmly in season and therefore reasonably priced and tasty. Expect citrus fruits in winter, melons in spring, peaches/plums/apricots in summer.

7.       Fun fact…Israelis are not big cereal fans in comparison to Anglos. There is a huge selection of cereals but they are pretty expensive so our cereal collection as halved since coming here. Compare the cereals to the price of a kilo of cucumbers and you understand why Israelis have lots of TCP salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

8.       It is perfectly acceptable to do most of your shopping, leave your shopping trolley in the line to pay and then continue doing the rest of your shopping. There seems to be an unspoken agreement that you do not move an abandoned trolley. Just embrace it!

9.       You can pay for your supermarket shop in instalments or in one payment. This was a strange idea to us but very much part of the Israeli culture for those who need it.

10.   Finally, as you leave the supermarket, you need to hand your receipt to a sixty something year old security guard who looks at your receipt, glances over at your bagged shopping and then stamps your receipt. Not really sure what this does and how this prevents theft when he can’t see inside the already packed bags but again, go with the flow!

Deep breath…good luck!

יום שלישי, 3 בספטמבר 2013

Making a house a home

After a week of sleeping on mattresses all in one room to keep warm, possibly the greatest moment of our lives (bar our wedding day and having children) was about to happen. At about 10am, we stood on our balcony and watched as a huge truck with our shipment from London trundled up the road. We greeted five burly men who started to unload the container and bring stuff up to the flat. The big boss man of the workers (who didn’t lift a single box) walks into the flat and asks us straight up “how much did you pay for this place?” Shocked (as we are English and not used to such outright questions) we told him and then he proceeded to tell us that we had paid too much and that he had a seven bedroom house by the sea in Ashkelon for half the rental price.  Ignoring him, we started to direct the movers to the different rooms to put the boxes into the correct rooms.

When checking to see if everything was there, we couldn’t help feeling that something big was missing. The couches were here, the table and chairs were here, our bed was here, Eitan’s cot was here and then it hit us…Ella’s bed was missing. We had ordered a new bed for her from London which was to be delivered straight to the shippers warehouse. One phone call to the shippers and all was answered…the bed was delivered but our surname (Mendelsohn) was spelt Mandelson on the delivery and weirdly enough, there was a family Mandelson moving to Israel at exactly the same time as us, using the same shippers but rather than moving to Modiin, they were moving to Shoham (not far from Modiin). So our bed was put on their shipment instead and would be delivered to us the following week. Ella would have to sleep on mattresses for another week which she thought was so much fun (thank goodness).

It was just the most amazing feeling to see all of our stuff, all of our home comforts sitting in our flat in Israel. Our couches, our table and chairs, our beds (minus Ella’s), our TV, the kids toys. Nothing beat that feeling that we could now unpack all our things and create our home. Great day.  

יום חמישי, 8 באוגוסט 2013

Pizza, Pizza and more Pizza

As we were staying at family in Netanya, we were commuting to Modiin every day for the first week of our Aliya. This meant a lot of time in the car, eating a lot of crisps and listening to the same CD which we had brought with us, interspersed with the radio when the kids had fallen asleep. We had begun the crusade to blitz through our list so that we would be the most super organised olim that ever existed (we can be a bit competitive like that!)

Two days after we made Aliya was Ella’s third birthday. Now, she had already had about three parties when we were back in London to celebrate this occasion but on her actual birthday, we really spoiled her and took her… to the bank to set up an account. Thank goodness our good friend David and brother/brother in law Daniel were around to keep her entertained and took her out for ice cream, bought her a present, bought her sweets – the instructions were “anything to keep her happy”. After killing quite a few trees through the amount of paperwork that it takes to set up an account here, we came across the dilemma of which type of card do we get…credit or debit. In England, people use both but for people who like to keep track of their spending tend to go with a debit card. So, when we requested the debit card, the woman looks at us like we are a bit mad. She then explained to us that in Israel, people like credit cards so that they can buy whatever they want during the month and then only pay at the end. Finally, we understand why so many people in Israel are in debt. It is not a conscious decision but something that is part of society. We decided to be half English and half Israeli…we got both! After an hour and a half, we realised we were starving and so began the pizza fest that would continue for the next few days.

We also needed to sign up for health insurance which meant bye bye NHS for us. As born and bred Britons, we were used to free healthcare thanks to the NHS. So for us, a big difference was the fact that you have to pay for healthcare in Israel. For Americans, it is the same but for us, it was a different mentality to get used to. One definite plus is that the Olim benefits cover a certain amount of the medical fees for the first year – great stuff.

Next stop was shopping for a fridge. We had never shopped for a fridge before because the one we had in London was second hand and came with our flat. So this was a new experience for us. We looked in three different shops, bartering prices between them all (only in Israel) and finally came to an agreement and made our first purchase which would be delivered to the flat the following week. Very proud of ourselves (and also feeling that the guy might have charged us more because he could hear we were not Israeli), we went to get food for the kids (pizza) before heading back to Netanya for the night where we could actually celebrate Ella’s birthday with cake and presents. Not a bad start. We had done most of the paperwork that we needed to do and met up with Misrad HaKlita (absorbtion) to discuss next stages. Now, we had to sit tight and wait for our shipment. 

יום שני, 22 ביולי 2013


Day One

We were so busy since making Aliyah in March, now I'm finally available to continue my blog. 
After all the excitement of our moving day and finally arriving in Israel as Olim Chadashim, we were completely exhausted. We had planned to stay at family for a few days so that we could get ourselves organised and actually see our flat rather than just studying the same ten photos of the flat that our friends had sent us. We took it easy the morning after. We woke up late (ish – thanks kids) and whilst we tried to relax and absorb the fact that this wasn’t a holiday but actually the place where we lived, we realised that we were itching to start working through the long list of things from the Jewish Agency telling us what needed to be organised and in what order. For example, we needed to sort out a bank account first before we could set up our health insurance so that we could actually pay for the health insurance. Sounds logical. With two kids to keep entertained during the immense amount of paperwork that lay before us, we began planning the next 48 hours.
Before we began arranging all the meetings necessary to set ourselves up as Israeli Citizens, our first stop was our new flat. We were desperate to see our new home and as we found our way around the maze like streets of Modiin (all the streets look the same), we pulled up at the flat. Walking up the stairs, we are greeted by this voodoo style doll sitting on a chest of drawers outside our front door, courtesy of our neighbours. Talk about freaky.  We looked at each other, already thinking that we might have crazy neighbours and opened the front door. Walking in, we suddenly realised what the word ‘unfurnished’ meant in Israel. Literally nothing. Not even a toilet roll holder in the bathroom. Trying to think optimistically about how great it was going to look when all our stuff arrived, we sat down (on the floor) and that is when reality really hit. We had a lot of work to do!
We opened up the door to our mirpeset (terrace) and Ella raced outside and spent the next half an hour running up and down and playing. It was about 20 degrees outside – boiling hot for us Londoners but a chilly day for Israelis and most importantly, not raining! At that moment, we knew that however much work there actually was to do, this was the right decision. The fact that Ella could just go outside and play (despite not even having any toys yet to play with as they were still sailing on the Mediterranean) was testament to the fact that our quality of life had soared and it was only Day 1. 

יום שני, 11 בפברואר 2013


Eight weeks after we announced our Aliya, the day has finally arrived. We are off. The glorious sunny weather has encouraged a few remarks of ‘we get sun here as well so why do you need to go to Israel for the better weather?’ even though it is absolutely freezing. All packed up and sitting waiting for the taxi – atmosphere a bit tense. The taxi arrives early much to our parents dismay (even though they are following the taxi to come to the airport with us).
What is the most anticipated part of the airport experience? When the Elal person asks you ‘what is your reason for travel?’ Our dream response of ‘we are making Aliya!!!!’ is straightway shut down when the guy didn’t even ask us but took one look at our 11 bags and said ‘Ah, you are making Aliya – ok come this way.’ We just nod feebly and follow him to answer the security questions.
A nice, smooth check in where for once our suitcases are not overweight (we do have 190kg weight allowance between the four of us plus a full shipment), we say our teary goodbye to our sobbing parents with a very puzzled and confused onlooking Ella wondering why everyone was crying when only she and Eitan are usually the ones to cry. Feeling very loved, we walk away through to security.
The check in lounge is busy but we manage to entertain Eitan with food and Ella with a new pair of oversized earphones so that she can watch her programmes without subjecting the rest of us to listen to Peppa Pig. So far, so smooth.
The flight is slightly delayed, mostly full and arrives into Ben Gurion at 9.15pm. As prepped by the Jewish Agency, the man is waiting for us by the lifts just after you get off the plane. His name is Avraham and he takes us to a secret part of Ben Gurion airport. It is not really so secret it is just we never knew it existed before even though it is right in front of your eyes when you go to passport control. Up in a lift with a special key (feeling very special that we are allowed in this lift), we arrive in the offices to receive our Teudat Oleh and our Teudat Zehut. What is our first welcome to Israeli culture – a huge bag of sweets given to Ella at 9.45pm. Before we know it, she has cracked open a lollypop, polished it off in about a minute. Five minutes later, the sugar high is kicking in and we have a thousand word a minute talking Ella who is running up and down the offices. Some think this is sweet. Others tell her to shush so that they can concentrate and get us out of the offices so that they can go home. An hour after we stepped into the lift to go up, we are walking through passport control armed with our Israeli documents – we are Israeli citizens.
Collecting all 11 pieces of luggage, two car seats, pushing two buggies, we walk through the doors of the arrival lounge at 11pm to the roars of our welcome party – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, friends - waiting with balloons, banners and teddy bears. Overwhelming and amazing. This is the moment we have been waiting for. Cheesy photos of us holding our Teudat Zehut taken, we are ushered into our taxi – one for our luggage and one for us and off we go to start our new life in Israel.
Finally home.

יום שישי, 25 בינואר 2013


Fact - our Aliyah would never be happening without the support and guidance of friends, family and various organisations. Throughout our whole planning process to date, we have had offers of help in all shapes and sizes. From looking after the kids when packing up to actually helping with the packing – we are REALLY going to miss our support network!
In terms of quashing our worries of ‘what do we do when we actually arrive in Israel?’, the Jewish Agency provided us with all of that information including step by step instructions of where EXACTLY you go from when you step off the plane until you are at your first night’s accommodation. They even factor in contingency plans – for example, if someone is not waiting for you, walk a bit further until you see a phone just before passport control and pick up the handset and wait for someone to pick up. All a bit ‘secret agent-esque’ but this definitely eased our minds about the logistical process.
In the months before our Aliya plans were even a reality, a group of our friends who are equally keen to make the move met regularly in order to discuss different aspects of Aliya such as schools, property, communities etc. This was organised by Habayta and we took it in turns to host these meetings. This was a great way to focus on different aspects of Aliya and gathering useful information about all these incredibly important factors – plus there was always an amazing free dinner (shwarma or pizza – we took it in turns!)
After all the build-up, the planning, the clearing out, the moving, our last couple of weeks in London have finally arrived. Even if we wanted to just slip off quietly, there is no way our family and friends would have let us. The goodbyes are probably the thing that worries us the most as this is the wake-up call that this is happening. It is no longer just an idea in our minds but it is in fact our next step in life.
A combination of a small Kiddush, a British/Israeli themed party and a final drink in the pub made sure we were off on our journey in the appropriate way. Our final shabbatot were spent with our respective families where there were a lot of tears and a few not so hushed whispers of ‘Adina and Rafi can go but they should leave the children’.
A few l’chaims to wish us well on our travels, a few tears from everyone and a lot of everyone getting their diaries out to see when we would be seeing each other next and therefore officially starting the countdown, we are now packed up and ready to go. Bring it on!