Monthly Archives: March 2014

Ten things I didn’t expect when I moved here

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1. 1 day weekends.  Yes you heard right.  Weekends start on Friday afternoon and end on Saturday evenings.  Kids go to school, many people go to work and you only get one lie in a week (if you don’t have small childers and consider 7am a lie in)

2. Shabbat.  You know, the day of rest.  The Sunday that was, when you were young. Closed shops, quiet roads, visiting friends and relations.  In some of the religious parts the roads are closed completely on Saturday here.  For the secular, Saturday means mass exodus to the countryside, beaches or desert for some quality time.  Shame it ends abruptly when the sun goes down.

3. Salaries.  In Israel the cost of living is on a par with the UK, food costs apart from fresh produce are higher and clothing, electronics, household goods are much, much more expensive. Taxes are high and house (read apartment) prices are the same as London.  So how people manage on such low salaries is beyond me.

4. Year round sunshine.  I have mentioned it a billion times before but its worth mentioning again.  Israel rarely sees bad weather which means outdoor living, lots of sunblock (am sporting a burnt forehead as I type) and bikinis from March to December (if you are brave or under 40)

5. School til lunchtime.  This to me is just weird.  I have talked (complained) about it at length here.  As we all struggle to pay the household bills on the crappy salaries we also need to fork out for childcare from 1pm.

6. Everyone has an opinion about Israel.  Everyone.  Before I moved here Tel Aviv sounded exotic and Israel sounded dangerous.  I  am aware of people’s reaction when I say I live here and have learnt not to argue.

7. Food.  Street food is better than most restaurant food in middle England.  Vegetables are fresh and plentiful.  Home cooking is the norm and convenience food few and far between.

8. Israel is tiny.  Teeny tiny and most people live in a teensy portion of the tinyness – few brave living in the desert.  Israel’s population is smaller than the population of Greater London.  No wonder you always bump into someone you know and sometimes it can stifle.

9. Shouting.  Everyone does it. Blame the fiery temperaments, the stress of living in a conflicted region, or the heat and humidity but tempers here are short and it takes some getting used to.

10. Everything is everyone’s business.  “How much do you earn?”,  “How much do you weigh?”, “How much is your mortgage/rent?” to “Why don’t you have/have more children?”, “What did your parents do for a living?”.  All questions I would consider (from a stranger) at best none of their business and at worst downright rude are just plain simple questions here.  My favourite was a few years back when an old man in the park asked me how old I was and then asked why I didn’t have children yet, “because you are too old to start having children now”.  Nice.

Yum, Treats for Purim

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For the third year running hubby’s bakery has come up top for their hamentaschen. Just in case you didn’t see this last year, here is my post about Purim and the award winning recipe.

39 and Counting

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Continuing on with the Purim theme I feel the need to introduce those of you not familiar with the treat that fills my local bakeries and coffee shops at this time of year; Oznei Haman or Hamantaschen.   Hamantaschen is Yiddish for Haman’s pockets and Oznei Haman in Hebrew literally translated means Haman’s ears.   Google it and there are a number of explanations as to why these delish biscuits are called this, none of which is the one I heard first and has stuck in my head – Haman (the baddy in yesterday’s story) was punished for his treachery towards the Jews by being hung from a tree by his ears.  This explanation doesn’t actually explain why the biscuits have 3 corners (maybe he had 3 ears?) and so obviously I heard it from someone even less informed than myself.  The real reason is either to do with the 3 cornered hat he wore, the 3 corners representing…

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My children stroke snails

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Whilst in Switzerland in January I ate, a lot.  My friend’s partner is a bit of a foodie.  He likes nothing better than cooking up a storm of an evening, especially when they have visitors.

IMG_1626He picked me up from the airport and we went straight from one country to another by driving the 5 minutes from Geneva airport into France so we could go to the supermarket.  I am always happy to visit a French supermarket, in fact any supermarket that isn’t in Israel is a pleasure (you may remember my distaste for Israeli supermarkets from this post).  French supermarkets are just a joy to behold.  They sell billions of delicious cheeses, ready made bouillabaisse in glass bottles, so so many creamy individual dessert pots and the wine, well the wine – it’s affordable and most of it good including the stuff in a box.  I was happy to see Vin de Pays de Laude which was the cheap wine of choice for me and my pals back in the day when we lived in France.

Stefan, my friend’s partner is the best person to go shopping with if a) you have a desire to eat anything unusual or try something new and b) if you have loads of time, patience and no shopping list.  To say he is a sporadic shopper is an understatement.  I remembered from my last visit that popping to the shop for milk can turn into a half hour excursion resulting in a trolley full of stuff you don’t really need.  Happy to go along with what ever as I was sans enfants and in a foreign country I merrily trawled the aisles whilst he filled the trolley with delicacies for my 4 day visit. I eventually made it back to Switzerland and my friend clutching bacon flavoured snacks (can’t get those in Israel) and a box of ready made fondue – yum.

The first night I tucked into snails and have been regaling my childers about this ever since.  I must admit I have never seen the point of eating snails.  They basically don’t taste of much and you could easily eat garlicky buttery sauce with a piece of bread and get the same affect albeit without the shells.  Still, when in Rome.  My childer’s screams of disgust never cease to amuse me.  ‘what, you ate real snails?’  ‘did you eat the shells?’ and the best ‘ what for?’ – good question.

I have eaten snails a few times before in my former life when I went to Michelin starred restaurants and travelled business class.  On one occasion I took my Mum to the restaurant where hubby was the pastry chef (The Providores in London – what a great great restaurant) and she ate snails.  I am not sure she enjoyed them but she was very proud of herself.  I have also eaten kangaroo and alligator, caviar and frogs legs but nothing screams euughh like snails.

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We don’t see many snails (the non vacuum packed variety) in Israel as it very rarely rains but when it does they come out in their thousands and my childer’s love them.  A couple of days ago whilst emptying number 1 son’s drawer at pre-school I found a tupperware box with holes punched in the top and a poor lone snail swishing around in a puddle of watery grass, I dread to think how long it had been there.

We always have a snail farm when the rain comes.  A snail farm for ye unenlightened few is a cardboard box with a saucer of water and handfuls of grass and a cabbage leaf tossed in for good measure.  There are usually around 5 snails at its inception and 1 hour later there could be 1, if we’re lucky.  They aren’t fond of the farm.  Tears and ‘rescue’ missions follow.

This morning after the 20 minute walk to travel less than quarter of a mile to the nursery the twins came upon a ‘baby’ snail (he was quite small) and they both sat next to him and stroked him.  ‘He’s so sweet’, ‘ hello little snaily’ (but in Hebrew).  At that point, already late, I tried to douse the flames (causing the smoke to come out of my ears) with the puddle they were all but sitting in and dragged them away with promises that we’d see him again later.  I then asked them if they’d like to eat him for dinner.  Does that make me cruel?

 

Somebody’s Story 1: The man with the dog

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Somebody’s Story 1: The man with the dog

survive thatDiscovery Channel has a new viewer.  Once a week is Survival Night and I have discovered that Discovery can keep me hooked, programme after programme.  I have learnt how to light fires from lipstick, how to cover my tracks in a jungle and how to keep my spirits high in arctic conditions.  I am pretty sure that I will never need any of these skills but I feel a more rounded person bear gryllscarrying the knowledge. I am in awe of the people who can be dropped in the middle of nowhere with nothing but their instincts and knowledge to guide them and it got me thinking about the survival techniques I witness in everyday life which are no less awe-inspiring but for very different reasons.

When I arrived here I started a distance learning course with the London School of Journalism.  One of the assignments was to interview someone with an interesting story.  I was spoilt for choice and remember being overwhelmed with the amount of stories available from the people in Israel: From the families who escaped pogroms and the Holocaust; Those who arrived with Zionist ideals and started socialist communities, those who arrived overland, hidden in donkey carts after travelling for weeks, the list goes on and doesn’t stop with the older generations.  I have met and talked to people whose life experiences far surpass any survival story on Discovery for their real lives have been a form  of survival.

I believe that human beings are by nature a brave species.  The modern world has worn down our edges and made us lazy and reliant on  machines, technology and others for our comfort and safety but  hidden within all of us there is courage and the ability to succeed even in the most difficult circumstances. Israel is a story of survival, of a country and of the individuals living here. 

Every morning I meet a man walking his dog.  He is proof of a person’s courage and ability to succeed.  He moved to Israel from the UK only a couple of years ago.  He is in his mid thirties, married with 2 dogs.  I first met him about 6 months ago in the local post office.  He and his wife were taking back a parcel that had been wrongly delivered to them.  They didn’t speak Hebrew so I helped them out.  They had picked up the parcel from the post office the previous day and on opening it had realised that it wasn’t for them.  Why didn’t they notice it wasn’t addressed to them?  Because they are both registered blind.

dogThey both have guide dogs, neither of them speak the language, yet they chose to move countries with all the bureaucracy and red tape that entails and they are happy they did it.  I do know that they live alone and that they deal with the same ups and downs of living in a language that they don’t understand as I do (and constantly moan about) with the added burden of their lack of sight.  It puts my grumbles to shame and reminds me that in so many ways a Positive Mental Attitude is just about always the key to success.

Their story is a happy one, they came here through choice and are content here, but that makes them no less brave, they show amazing courage and are an inspiration to me. They also have more in common with the survival experts than you may think; they may not be abandoned in the Himalayas with only a pen knife but survival means after all, existing successfully in adverse or unusual circumstances.  Living in Israel is certainly unusual, for me at least.