Friday, February 23, 2007

Thanks Abe!

A new report, set to be published in the medical journal The Lancet shows that circumcision reduces the risk of contracting AIDS by as much as 65%! That's very good news for the whole world. Thanks to Avraham for getting the whole circumcision thing going.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Electric Company

I was looking over our utility bills to prepare for our taxes (even half a planet away, I can't avoid April 15) and was thinking of the word "electricity," which in Hebrew is Cheshmal (hard H in the beginning, like Chanukkah). I was told in Hebrew class that the word Cheshmal only occurs once in the Bible - it is the radiant or "flashing-fire" light described in Ezekiel 1:4.

So, when modern Hebrew was invented, they needed a word for electricity and since no one knew what this radiant lightning-like light was, they decided to use the word from Ezekiel to mean electricity. Cool, huh?!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

12-Packs on Sale - Only $18!!!

I noticed that our local market had many 12-packs of Dr. Pepper piled up next to the wines. I love Dr. Pepper and it's not generally sold here - I consistently drink Coca Cola from 1.5 liter bottles. I picked up a case and asked the clerk how much for a pack and he looked back at me incredulously. Apparently, the Dr. Peppers were there and ready for individual sale, not as a pack. Plus, they were to be sold for 7 shekels each - about $1.66 per can! The clerk told me he'd give me a pack for only 6.5 shekels each so the case would cost a whopping $18.57! I instead picked up another 1.5 liter bottle of Coke for 6.75 shekels.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Weather Outside Was Frightful

Last Thursday was absolutely beautiful - sunny, warm, blue sky. But, by Saturday afternoon, the weather turned awful. Saturday night was incredibly windy and rainy and the noise of the wind kept us tossing and turning all night long. This morning was not much better and I wasn't looking forward to walking the twenty minutes to Hebrew class. Jen suggested a taxi but I wouldn't hear of it. I walked through the rain and wind and discovered that just under half my class showed up, which made for a better student-teacher ratio after all.

Apparently, according to the Swede in my class, our classmates are a fair weather bunch and during the bad weather at the end of December (before I started with the class), there were several days where only the "hearty Europeans" showed up. He also told me that bad weather is like a dentist's appointment - you just have to get through it! He also said, "It's not like Siberia! This is nothing!" At least the forecast for the imminent future is nice.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Yad Vashem

Yesterday, Jen and I visited Yad Vashem's (the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority) new Holocaust History Museum here in Jerusalem. It was our first trip to Yad Vashem and the huge campus is breathtaking in its size and number of memorials. The new museum itself is architecturally outstanding and beautiful. The visitor takes a chronological path from Jewish life before the Holocaust through the rise of Nazism and murder of 6 million to the post-Holocaust years and the founding of the State of Israel.

While we were visiting, there were many groups of Israeli soldiers visiting as part of an IDF member's training is to visit Yad Vashem to understand what Israel is fighting for. The museum makes a strong point toward the need for the Jewish state throughout as one is regularly reminded through the exhibits that the Jews of Europe had no where to go to avoid persecution and murder.

Yad Vashem is an incredible place but, unfortunately, we should have walked the grounds and seen all the memorials before having visited the museum as we visited on a Thursday afternoon when the museum is open until 8 p.m. but by the time we finished the museum, the grounds were growing dark. We'll definitely go back as we also need to visit Yad Vashem's neighbor, Har Herzl.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Belated Hanukkah Photos

Sorry for the delay; we walked around Jerusalem in the evening right before we left for the airport and took some photos of some Hanukkah menorahs.

This last photo is just outside the synagogue at the Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv; it's a table filled with Hanukkah menorahs lit by airport staff and travelers who couldn't light candles at home.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Where Are the Potato Pancakes?

OK, it's Hanukkah and time to eat delicious greasy potato pancakes! Unfortunately, they are not for sale in Israel. They are not sold frozen at the grocery stores and they are not available fresh at the restaurants. They are not here, Sam I Am. Even though you can get potato pancakes any time of the day, any day of the week at the International House of Pancakes, you can't find them in Israel during Hanukkah. That is bizarre. Don't tell me to cook them myself, either; I hate getting burned by potato pancake grease.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Invite and Order

We were at a medical clinic the other day and a man shouted to his wife in English, who was talking to the receptionist, "Tell them the doctor invited it!" Invited it?

I chuckled because I understood his error! In Hebrew, the verb that means "to invite" and "to order" is the same word so the guy simply picked the wrong English word to translate the Hebrew word in his head.

DayQuil Surplus

Before we left, we went to Costco and bought large boxes of NyQuil and DayQuil because they are my favorite cold/crud medicine. Jen isn't feeling well so she just asked for DayQuil and looking at the box, I realized that we've been pretty healthy. In the past nearly six months, I've only had to take one serving of DayQuil and one of NyQuil. Jen has been totally healthy this entire time and never needed anything from the fine Quil family of products until today. Poor Jen - a party on Sunday and a flight home on Monday! Will she get better before she spends two weeks at home in bed? Stay tuned!


When we were last at the zoo, I was impressed when an announcement went out across the loud speakers that mincha (afternoon prayer service) would be held in a few minutes. That was very cool.

In other places around the city, a male will often find himself asked to join a prayer minyan to help make the quorum of ten.

Yesterday, I was downtown shopping and I saw a shirt I wanted to buy at a store and it wasn't until I had already grabbed one, I realized that the store was filled with men who were davening mincha. Several invited me in but I had to tell them that I'd already davened and so I really wasn't someone they wanted in their minyan (because all I could do would be to answer "amen" to their prayers and it's better to have a fresh mincha-free person be part of the minyan). I noticed that men were coming into the shop to pray from many of the surrounding shops. It was very awesome - all these shopkeepers going to join in a mincha minyan in another's store.

I felt a tad uncomfortable standing there, saying "amen" as I waited until mincha was over but within a few seconds one of the guys took my money and passed it down the line to the owner, and then my change was passed back. I would've waited, really - mincha from start to finish takes less than ten minutes and they were already into it by the time I arrived. Oh well.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More on Graffiti

Israeli news source Ynet published an article all about the Am Yisrael Chai graffiti all over Tel Aviv, as was reflected in my earlier post. It even has a photo of the same graffiti that I have a photo of.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Am Yisrael Chai

The photo above shows some graffiti that is commonly found around Israel but perhaps the addition (in red) below is uniquely Tel Aviv. The blue star of David and the Hebrew script proudly say, "The People of Israel (i.e. the Jewish People) Live!!!"

Underneath, another Tel Aviv graffiti artists adds his or her opinion to this comment. When in Tel Aviv, I saw the Am Yisrael Chai graffiti painted all over. I haven't seen it as often here in Jerusalem.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Package Pickup

We were excited to receive another package slip in the mail a few days ago. So, this afternoon, Eve and I walked to the post office to pick up the package and I was thrilled when the automated package pickup system gave me the same box of contact lenses that I took back to the post office that weren't mine a few weeks ago!

I left the package in the package pickup device so I'm sure I'll get a nasty letter from the post office soon.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I Can Read!

I love this flyer! I love it because I actually understand it (even without vowels) and because it's funny to see this in Hebrew; it says, "Do you want to make a lot of money?" I love it!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Non-Sukkah Sukkah

Our apparently secular Israeli neighbor has given into pressure from the kids. Here's what the dialogue must've been (but in Hebrew, of course)...

KIDS: We want a sukkah!

PARENTS: We're not religious - we're not building a sukkah.

KIDS: But, all our friends have sukkot, why can't we have a sukkah like the other kids?!


KIDS: We don't go to school during Sukkot because it's a holiday. All our friends eat and sleep in their sukkot with their families so it must be important and so we should have one too!

PARENTS: But we're different from your friends families - they're religious and we're not!

KIDS: C'mon!


KIDS: Pleeeeeesssseeee! (in Hebrew - B'vaaaaaakkkkkaaaaa-sh-sh-sh-sh-aaaaaa!)

PARENTS: Fine, fine, enough already! We'll get you a sukkah and you can sleep in your tent in the sukkah!

KIDS: Yay!

The result is a non-sukkah sukkah (notice that there's nothing on top and it's not really a sukkah if you sleep in a tent inside the sukkah)...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

History in a Nutshell

This fantastic animated map of the Middle East shows thousands of years of history. You have to see it!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Worst Product Ever!

I've discovered that there are many products in Israel that are better than those in the U.S. and there are also many that are worse than U.S. products. However, I think I have found the very worst product I have come across in my entire lifetime.

It all started when I needed to do some ironing. Our landlady left us a very nice ironing board except for the fact that it has no cover on it. Thus, if I were to iron directly on the board, the grid pattern of the board itself makes its way onto my garments.

To prevent this, I have been using a towel, but that has become tedious. I wanted to buy an official ironing board cover. My mission seemed simple and uncomplicated. Oh how I was wrong!

Friends and I went shopping at the big mall (a fabulous place!) and meandered into the home store there. They had a selection of ironing board covers so I picked the one that had the least ugly design (pretty much what I would also do in the States) and thought I was done with the matter.

The next day, I tried to use the ironing board cover. It was crazy! The packaging made so many promises...

Elastic...hmph! There wasn't a stitch of elastic on the whole thing. It was a flat, thin piece of fabric that draped over the board. Not much better than my current make-shift towel cover, I was thinking.

Anyway, I thought I would try it. As soon as the iron got near the "ironing board cover" it disintegrated! No kidding! A big patch melted right onto my iron, creating a huge gooey mess!

What kind of ironing board cover can't be ironed upon?!?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Summer Time is Over, Here

Sunday morning at 3 a.m., summer time (i.e. Daylight Saving Time) in Israel ended and we "fell back" an hour. This occurred four weeks before the United States ends DST. Thus, for four weeks, we're nine hours ahead of California, instead of ten hours ahead. Once DST ends in the U.S., we'll be back to being 10 hours ahead. Meanwhile, it's temporarily confusing.

The time traditionally changes in Israel between the new year, Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur. It helps to make the fast a bit more bearable because it "seems" to end a tad earlier since one is not yet used to the time change.

Nonetheless, starting our fast yesterday at 4:49 p.m. seemed exceptionally early but, then again, nightfall is now at 6 p.m. so we're more appropriately tied to the time that our longitude should be at (as we're close in time to the September equinox and on the equinox, sunrise should be at 6 a.m. and sunset should be at 6 p.m.).

But, there's one clock, our oven clock, that we can't figure out how to change the time on so it's already frustrating. I guess we're going to have to email our landlord and ask.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Operation Shekit

Now that the IDF has pulled out of Lebanon, I propose a new domestic mission! Operation Shekit will involve reducing indiscriminate honking throughout the country. Rubber bullets, tear gas, and other IDF tools should prove to be quite effective in reducing the honking problem that plagues Israeli society.

Post Office Trip

We went to the post office today to reject the package that arrived but didn't belong to us and to pay our telephone/Internet bill and our electricity bill. We were ninth in line when we arrived - it was the longest line we'd seen yet but it did move pretty nicely. However, many customers seemed to have incredibly complex situations and in fact, one gentleman was at the window, tying up one of the three clerks for the entire time we were there.

When it was our turn to approach the window, a women came from outside the post office and marched right in front of us to claim a package. The postal worker helper her despite her violation of the line protocol. The people remaining in the line were not happy at all and were suggesting to me that I should be yelling at the woman because that's the Israeli way. I neglected to yell, preferring patience instead. I realize I couldn't be a proper Israeli.

The woman obtained her package and we were able to gain the (almost) full attention of the postal worker. We paid our first bill. Then, the postal worker placed our change on the counter and then proceeded to talk on the phone. We left the change on the counter to pay toward our next bill but as soon as she was off the phone, she picked up our 50 shekel bill and put it in her cash drawer and walked away to do something else. We were flabbergasted and couldn't react quickly enough in Hebrew. We thought our $11.11 was lost forever!

I scrambled in my head to find the right words to say in Hebrew to ask for the money back. It was stressful! When she returned from doing whatever she was doing I successfully told her in Hebrew that "the fifty is mine." She gave it back. I was elated!

We paid our two bills and she took the already opened package of contact lenses that didn't belong to us back, to mail back to the optical store that sent it to us. (I called the optical store and they were excited to hear from me because the person who's contacts they were really wanted them. They told me to take the box to the post office for return to them.)

Another exciting Friday day in Israel!