Ten reasons why it’s better to make Aliya in 2011 than in 1984

This is a guest post, written by my son Ben in honor of my sister’s aliya tomorrow!!!!!

Ben arrived in Israel in 1984, a day before his 17th birthday.

 

Telephones

 

  • Cellphone networks did not exists in 1984
  • In 1984, getting a landline phone installed in your house took months, and in some cases took up to 10 years.
  • In 1984, payphones were often out of order. They worked only on telephone tokens.
  • In 1984, if you wanted to make an international call, and didn’t have a phone in your home you had to either call collect or go the telephone room in the central post office. There you paid about $2/minute and the post office took an extra 8% cut. They explained it this way, “Every minute is five seconds less.” This meant that you paid for a minute, but only got 55 seconds.

 

Inflation

 

Aug 1984 – 14%

Sep 1984 – 18%

Oct 1984 – 19%

Nov 1984 – 16%

Dec 1984 – 4%

 

 

2011 – 2.5%

 

Email

 

In 1984, Email was available only to university staff and people who took university courses requiring use of a computer. Businesses used Telex’s. (Faxes were not in widespread use until the 90s.)

 

Public busses

 

In 1984, only express bus lines were air-conditioned.

 

Television

 

In 1984, there was one Israeli channel. In many parts of Jerusalem, you could watch Jordan TV. At high altitudes you could also receive Middle-east TV from Lebanon. Cable and satellite television service was not available. Importing a satellite dish large enough to receive American television was illegal.

 

Israeli Currency

 

Towards the end of 1984, the largest denomination bill was worth only $3.50. My friend’s father bought a Volvo in 1984 with a duffle-bag full of bills.

 

Foreign Currency

 

In 1984, it was illegal to change Shekels outside of banks. It was illegal for Israelis to own foreign currency except for traveling outside the country. (Yitzchak Rabin was ousted from his position as Prime Minister for breaking this law.) Everyone I knew bought shekels only on the black market.

 

Hi-Tech business sector

 

Did not exist in 1984

 

Modiin

 

Did not exist in 1984.

 

Travel Tax

 

In 1984, Israeli citizens had to pay $100 tax in order to leave the country

 

Food

 

In 1984, ketchup was watery with red food coloring

In 1984, the only mustard available was actually mustard flavored mayonnaise

In 1984, the only chocolate available was Elite (whose factory was inRamat Gan)

In 1984, low fat cottage cheese was unavailable

In 1984, fresh baguettes were unavailable

In 1984, supermarkets did not bake bread and pastries

In 1984, bagels were unavailable

 

 

Ben             .

19 Dec 2011

Mixed up

Today I had a most pleasant experience. I taught my first class in a program to train marriage counselors. I left Modi’in for Jerusalem early in the morning, missing breakfast, to avoid rush hour traffic. I had not yet met any of the students and was pleased to find a room full of interesting, bright, and versatile women. What a pleasure it was to meet them! I look forward to spending time with them in the weeks and months ahead.

After three hours of teaching, I headed back home to Modi’in and on the way, passed a sign that looked like this:

I must have been hungry, because a quick glance had me thinking that instead of Magen David, it said “Haagen Daz.”

But I’m not the only one who’s mixed up. The International Red Cross has made Magen David Adom drop its six pointed star and instead adopt a red “crystal” as its symbol when appearing outside of the country’s green line so as to not offend the Palestinians. You figure out the logic to that!

Thanksgiving 2011

I will spare you the usual blah-blah of how wonderful my family is and how amazingly great it is when we adults all get together and tell you instead about the good things that have happened recently and wonderful things to look forward to that make me really thankful.

We recently returned from a trip to the US. In a few weeks time my sister, the last member of my immediate family not yet living in Israel, will be coming to Israel to live. All of us are very very excited. I will finally have my sister nearby after 45 years of living varying long distances from each other (all my fault… she stayed in the same place while I roamed planet Earth.) I wanted to go and be with her to visit some of the places we shared, to reminisce, and for me to say goodbye to Philadelphia, the city where I was born, where I grew up, and where I got my education. It is unlikely I will visit there again.

When we drove up to the house we used to live in, we were surprised to find the woman who had bought it from my mother out on the lawn. She was friendly and chatty and we enjoyed speaking with her. My sister pointed out that the “new” owners had lived in the house about as long as we had.

We enjoyed walking in the downtown area. I loved seeing my cousins and hearing about their lives.

I even enjoyed the antics of a future Israeli immigrant

There’s more to tell about the trip, but that’s a small taste of some things that made me happy with the promise of more to come!

What can we say?

From the moment that Gilad Shalit was kidnapped I have felt enormous compassion for him and for his family. Able to put myself in another’s place in my imagination, his parents’ place was one I chose not to visit because the pain would be so overwhelming. He is an innocent young man unlucky enough to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. His parents have been living a nightmare. Who among us does not want to see him home safe and sound?

But the price…

Those of us who have been living in Israel remember those horrific days of the second intifada when on at least a weekly, sometimes daily basis, innocent people going about their business were murdered on the streets, in buses and restaurants and hotels and catering halls. I was afraid to turn on the radio, fearing another attack. I would come out of my class that I taught on Sunday mornings, and several weeks in a row, the car radio would tell me how many innocents had been murdered that morning. Literally every person in Israel knew at least one terror victim- many of us know several families who lost family members.

And now, Israel has acceded to the Hamas requests to release murderers who were responsible for these http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/148780#.TpqdBZsUqdA. And they are unrepentant. They are not ashamed to say they would do it again. They will be received as heroes. They will inspire and school others.

So we will have convicted terrorists back out where they can act and have emboldened their protege’s who won’t mind spending a few years in an Israeli prison if it means they are able to kill Jews. After all, all that has to happen is that terrorists kidnap one soldier and they’ll be out again eventually.

What would we say to the Shalit family if we chose not to make this deal? A difficult question.

But here’s a more difficult one: what will we say to all of the families who G-d forbid, will lose their loved ones as a result of this decision?

G-d help us!

La-di-da-di-da-di-da*


A long time ago I was living in the US and one, and then two of my children were living in Israel. As time went on, the third and fourth joined them. By January of each year, knowing that I wanted to visit the children, I would make my airline reservations for the following summer. Months of anticipation and and planning culminated in a wonderful visit.

When several years ago we traveled to the US and gave an audio-visual presentation and spoke to people about travel to China, they responded by saying they would have to think about it and maybe in a year or two, they would want to travel. They would perhaps be saving money in the interim, but often it was the case that they had other long term plans that superseded these trips.

Now everyone knows that Israeli culture is different from US culture, but there is no greater difference, at least in my mind, than that of the attitude toward travel.

It is rare to find an Israeli who has not traveled outside of the country. A weekend in Turkey or Cyprus or Greece is no more exotic here than a weekend in Eilat. In many instances, it is cheaper. Years ago when the dot-coms were booming, it was not unusual for companies to take their workers away to Turkey for a weekend as an extra bonus. Israelis love to travel!

We have any number of travel agencies that offer package deals to European locations for prices that are practically unbelievable. And people may decide on a Thursday that they would like to go away the next week and by Sunday they are on a plane and by Sunday night they are strolling the alleys of Rhodes or perusing the English book shops in Malta.

But try planning a trip to an exotic location like the far east. We will be leaving on August 15 for Vietnam and Cambodia. Our American participants started planning the tour in the winter. Our Israelis (yes, I’m talking about English speaking Israelis too) have all pretty much started registering in the last 2 weeks with several calling today!

OK, I’ll admit it: this isn’t even last minute by Israeli standards. I once had a call from a woman on a Thursday to ask me about a tour to China leaving on that Sunday. Of course that one was impossible. It takes several days to get a Chinese visa.

I have to admit, I am more like the Israelis than the Americans. I get a real adrenaline rush from these last minute arrangements. I enjoy the spontaneity of making decisions and then acting on them immediately. So, if you know anyone who wants to come along, there’s still time!

*just nonchalantly hanging around… hmmm… maybe I’ll visit Singapore next week….

Waiting…

I have a firm belief that you never know how something will be until you experience it. I can give you quite a few examples– from decisions that abstractly seemed simple and when in the situation, the decision was also clear, but in the other direction– or my preconception of what a new place would be like when we were given an assignment by the Army to an area across the ocean or across the country.

Now usually, I try to keep my family out of my posts. I prize their privacy and therefore they do not appear prominently in my postings, but this time, I am making an exception.

I moved to Israel in 1995. My only close family member aside from my husband and my children and their families is my sister. She lives in the US. Wherever we were on our far-flung adventures in living in 18 different homes since we got married, she managed to visit us. Although we are different in many ways, we always stayed close. Since I have been living in Israel, my sister has managed to visit us about once a year. We handled the distance well. I enjoyed her visits and tolerated the time in between. It’s been a long time that we’ve lived far away from each other, and it seemed OK.

Several months ago she told me that she has decided to make aliya, to come to live in Israel. Surprisingly enough, although I had been tolerating her absence well, from that moment, it has been hard for me to wait until her expected date of arrival. Recently she visited. Discussing the nuts and bolts of her aliya was amazing. It became more and more real to me that she really is coming. I must have said to her about a hundred times, “when you are living here, we can…”

When I said goodbye to her this time, it felt good to know that this was the last time that we would be living separated by an ocean.

And I think back to that first glimpse of her when I was 4.5 years old, those big beautiful eyes looking out at me from a bundle of blankets, my long awaited sister, coming home at last. And now I look forward once again to greeting my long awaited sister, coming home at last.
Whn

Have I mentioned…

that I love living in Israel? That I find the people here to be kind and friendly and open and helpful? When we were in Malta, meeting other Israelis on the street was like meeting old high school classmates. (OK, that’s especially true for me because as I’ve mentioned before, I somehow was invisible during high school and none of my classmates remember me, so that this is exactly the same– we have a lot in common although we don’t know each other at all!)

Here, in the gym, there is a woman who frequently swims when I swim. Because we swim at about the same pace, it is very comfortable for us to swim in the same lane. We only know each other by sight, and only recently have we begun talking with each other as we get ready to leave the changing rooms. Last week she asked about my Pesach preparations. She talked about what she was doing, how this year would be different since a new son-in-law had a custom in his family that for the bitter herb, they eat tart apples. While we were talking a third younger woman was listening and she said that in her family they also eat tart apples for the bitter herbs, but put chopped liver in top of it. As we talked others offered their traditions. These women were not women who by their dress or manner most people would identify as “religious.” They were typical Israeli women. The discussion ended with someone who was leaving saying שיהיה שקט “Sheh yihyeh shaket” — it should just be a quiet* holiday. We all nodded in agreement.

Tonight on the news, the feature was afikomen gifts for the children– what children wanted and how much parents would be spending on them… What a country!

Outside this evening, the streets were filled with busy people and the restaurants were hopping with people taking a break from the Pesach cleaning and preparations.

In our house tonight, we searched for chametz by candlelight. With the gefilte fish made, the roasts and the potato and apple kugels made, about 50 giant matza balls were born.

Have a wonderful Pesach and שיהיה שקט

*Here, by quiet, we mean with no terror.

How it feels

Here’s what it felt like:

I was sitting at my computer and suddenly on Facebook, I saw that there was an attack in Jerusalem. First I felt disbelief. How could that be? Things have been calm for a long time. I went to the four Israel news web sites I use: Jerusalem Post, Ynet, Haaretz, Arutz Sheva. None of them any news about it. But meanwhile, my husband turned on the radio and told me that yes, it was true.

I went to the TV and watched, in the same way that I watched on 9/11, helpless. The energy drained from me. I heard the people on TV talking about how quickly they got to the scene, how quickly they rendered assistance, and how quickly all of the injured were taken from the scene. Within 15 minutes, all of the victims were on their way to the hospital.

We had planned to go to Jerusalem tonight. We went.

On the way, traffic coming from Jerusalem on the road that passes by our house was backed up from the checkpoint near us for several miles. Police were at the entrance to Modi’in as we left and we saw police cars and policemen in profusion. We know that our neighbors often enjoy carrying out multiple attacks.

I wondered– is another round of violence in the offing?

We got to Jerusalem and things were normal. It was cool outside. There weren’t a lot of people on the streets, but it was not unlike other weekday evenings.

We had dinner at a quiet restaurant.

We returned home. Our route took us past the scene of the attack. It was cleaned up and people were standing there, waiting for buses.

By the time we got home, we were able to read the statements of world leaders. Some, like the UN Secretary, understood that this was terror, targeting innocent people, and that there was no excuse for it. Others equated the attack on our people with the accidental injuries of people used by terrorists as human shields. But the most cynical accounts were those that cited a bus stop as the target of the attack. I suppose to them, Israelis are not worth mentioning.

This comes in the same week that rockets and mortars targeted our cities causing damage and injuries.

And there still are those who single out Israel as the cause of trouble in the world– who demonstrate against us. boycott us, hate us.

Outrageous!

I am so very very tired of it.

Yichiam to Klil

On Friday, on our way to a lovely weekend at a field school on the coast of Israel near Achziv, we took a hike along with friends of ours on a trail that started at the Crusader Fortress at Yichiam and ended in the ecological village of Klil. We passed lots of other hikers- old and young, Jews and Arabs, all out on a magnificent day.

Because it is already spring in Israel, which one determines by seeing the blooming of the almond trees

we were treated to a very lush experience. Climbing down the mountain we saw this vista

We walked along a dry creek bed, filled with stones.

and we saw beautiful cyclamens,

brilliant anemones,


and even dazzling wild roses.

It was the perfect prelude to a lovely shabbat stay by the sea where we enjoyed the brilliant sun and the clear blue water of the Mediterranean.

Sweet!

We have an apartment that we rent out short term. It had been unoccupied for a week or two. Then we were contacted by someone who needed it for just a few days. A new baby has been born, a first child, a son. The new grandparents were flying in for the brit. Even thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

And so this morning at 6:30, I greeted two very happy, very excited (and probably very tired) people who had just flown in to see their new grandson. I am told that after their short stay here, they will return home and will be here again in another 3 weeks or so for the pidyon haben.

Mazal tov!