Month: July 2019

Six More Things I Love About Israel

Israel

Way back when a friend challenged me to write an article about things I love about Israel. I thought it was a fair challenge on a number of levels. Obviously there are things about the country that bug me to no end. It’s only fair that I tell the other side as well.

There also needs to be some balance to my bitterness for what I’ve seen and been through. And even if it’s not there to counterbalance my feelings about Israel, it’s worthwhile to be there to counterbalance my soul. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking it would be great to be cynical today.

But I am a cynic. And I have plenty of reasons and ongoing support for my cynicism. But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. And credit should be given where credit’s due.

1) ProFit, My Beloved Gym

Gyms in Israel aren’t known for being very affordable. And even though I’m certainly spending more to go to Profit in Talpiot than I was spending in the States, I must say that a) it is the most affordable gym I’ve seen so far, and b) it’s worth each and every penny.

Not only has my gym been my greatest form of escape and has kept me strong and fit for some time now, but it is truly a break from some of the most stressful elements of Israeli society. There’s no Israeli vs. Arab in my gym. Everyone exercises side by side. Men exercise alongside women, religious folk on the machine next to someone completely secular. And all political opinions are left at home.

Everyone is just working hard to be healthy. A common goal that transcends all the garbage that chills me to the bone.

2) Walking the Mighty Mesila

And speaking of breaks from the world at large, nothing beats a walk down the Mesila (also known as Derech Harakevet or the Old Train Tracks).

A walk down this lengthy and gorgeous path is a trek through all elements of Israeli society. Some folk are jogging. Others are walking their dogs. And still others are just going from one place to another.

And some are just sitting and enjoying the crisp, clean air.

But they all have one thing in common: They’re at peace.

The Mesila isn’t just a break from all of the craziness of Israel. Anywhere in the world this would be considered a beautiful, relaxing place to spend your time.

3) Israel’s Objectively Better Wedding Experience

I’m going to say it, out loud and once and for all: Weddings in Israel are far better than weddings in the States.

Weddings in America are very formal and slow paced. Everyone is seated during the ceremony and everything progresses in an ultra-standard way. And there is a fashion show aspect that is hard to ignore.

At an Israeli wedding, formal dress is downplayed. It is not at all uncommon to see many a guest in sandals and an untucked white shirt. They pile around the ceremony. And this overly informal atmosphere goes hand in hand with the wild and pure fun about to come.

Sure, every wedding has the guy smoking at the side and the bozo who answers his cell phone. It’s all worth it to create the perfect environment for the crazy amounts of informal fun everyone is about to have.

Everyone’s about to sing and dance in utter joy, with few dull moments. An objectively fun and exciting experience!

4) Israel’s Uncanny Ability to Move On

Israelis have an uncanny ability to forgive and forget, so drastically different than the environment I grew up with in the States.

I feel like holding tightly to grudges is a part of being a true blue American. Someone wronged you, and there is no statute of limitations to when the ensuing feud will come to an end.

Not so the mighty Israeli. Anger in Israel is intense and frequent, but short lived and completely impersonal. Just because you were in a yelling match with the clerk from the Misrad Hapnim for twenty minutes yesterday, doesn’t mean they hold any ill will whatsoever. It’s more likely that if you were to see them on the street the next day you would get a nod and a semi-friendly “What’s up?”

5) Israel: A Different Kind of Pride

Admittedly, I waiver about my feelings on this one. Israeli pride can be funny sometimes. Folk here use the word “we” a whole lot. Oftentimes they’re referencing an accomplishment made by an individual or an organization (or even something that happened before they were born), and using it as a source of pride.

We invented the PillCam. Or Soda Stream. We won Eurovision! And the list of national achievements can go on and on.

I grew up in the States. I never once found myself bragging about the invention of dental floss or crash test dummies. Yet in Israel it’s entirely natural to have a national pride over all the “Israeli” accomplishments, regardless of your giant lack of actual connection.

6) Israel’s Doggie Culture

To be sure, there are plenty of stores and other locations where it is not permitted to bring my precious pooch. But it feels like they are the exceptions, not the rule.

The default is that you can bring your dog almost anywhere. I’ll never forget once walking through a strip of bars in Jerusalem. We contemplated sitting down at a place, but I was concerned that it wasn’t an option, since my trusted hound was with me. Not only did they encourage me to come in regardless, they offered to bring him a bowl of water!

Indeed, good ole Frankie gets to experience a whole lot of Israel.

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Anyone watching knows I don’t love everything about Israel or its culture. I think it’s import to critique Israel, from top to bottom. I think it’s essential we all work together to create a better and more functional society. The society we deserve.

But I need to give credit where credit’s due. Israel is by no means devoid of its positives, and some of those are reason enough to cross the ocean and stay here for a while.

May we be blessed to fix the ever-present problems plaguing our everyday lives, and may my next list be about the top 100 things everyone loves about Israel!

***

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Posted by jaffeworld, 0 comments

Aliyah: Getting the Help We Need, Part II: The Facebook Question

question

In my last post I wrote about organizations that boast of helping those who are trying to succeed in moving to Israel (aliyah), but are failing short. I don’t believe, ultimately, that the secret to success here lies in an organizations. However, there is a group that is absolutely essential: All of us.

We are in a remarkable generation. I can post a question on a group on Facebook (such as Secret Jerusalem and Keep Olim in Israel) and get answers from thousands of people in just minutes. We have a country of immigrants whose collective wisdom is more than enough to help everyone find the information they need.

For example, I once posted on the group Secret Jerusalem that I needed assistance speaking on the phone with an actual human at a specific government office. Someone told me a sequence of numbers that worked like a charm and got me exactly what I needed. I was floored. In the 70,000+ members of this group, someone lurked out there with exactly the information I needed.

The problem: I had to trek my way through tons of idiotic responses in order to obtain the information I required. There are a lot of great ways to answer people’s questions. But there are just as many awful ways.

I would like to propose:

10 Commandments for How to be Helpful on Facebook

1) Never say “Google It”

There are many equivalent things that are equally bad, but this of course takes the cake as the classic annoying response. I know you think you’re the first to discover this new and fresh oasis of knowledge known as Google. But, well, you’re not. Please assume that I’ve tried that. Please assume I’ve checked their website as well. Or perhaps I couldn’t find their site and a link might be amazingly helpful.

You have no obligation to respond. If your answer is “Google it”, your silence is truly appreciated.

2) Don’t Write “Following”

I’m glad you found the question interesting enough that you want to hear answers too. Problem is: No one cares. And there are ways to follow without telling everyone, and without giving the one who posted any unnecessary notifications.

If you didn’t know there were alternatives, you’re forgiven. But now try these instructions and never write “following” again.

3) Read the Question

I recently read a question on Facebook. It was one sentence, no more. It very explicitly said “Jerusalem” in the question. Yet, the first response asked what city they needed their answer for. Why are you bothering to try and help someone if you can’t even be bothered enough to read through their full, brief question?

Take the extra six seconds to look before you respond. Those six seconds are golden!

4) Scroll a Little

And while you’re troubling yourself to read the question, take a minute, just a quick minute, to make sure you’re not the 47th person to give the same answer. Is it the end of the world if you do? No. No real harm. But then again, there’s no real harm in not forcing someone to read the same answers over and over again either.

So be helpful. And while doing so, try not to be pesky and ultra-repetitive at the same time.

5) Keep the Stupid Jokes at Bay

My first exposure to the wonderful world of seeking help online I asked for assistance with a door handle that was broken. I feel like in ten or so responses, I was exposed to everything that bugs me about these types of forums.

I know you think your joke is amazing. Sadly, I have some news for you. Not only was your joke inane at best, but it was wildly unoriginal. Someone else just made it an hour ago. If you bothered to scroll up, you would have seen that (see #4).

But far worse: I get this cute little notification telling me someone has responded. When I enthusiastically check to see if someone has helped me solve a problem, and instead I’m greeted with what you must assume is wit, you do nothing but frustrate me. You have not made Israel better. You’re just slowing us down so you can get your three seconds of attention.

6) Don’t Sell Me Crap

While we’re speaking about my door handles… please note that a friend responded and solved my problem. Fairly quickly in fact. And I’m grateful.

I’m not grateful to the half dozen people who then tried to sell me door handles. First of all, I was renting a crappy dungeon in Nachlaot. I wasn’t about to invest hundreds of dollars in increasing their door value. Second of all, scouring these forums in order to try and sell people crap is just plain obnoxious.

I saw this in an exaggerated form when I was recently planning my wedding. I couldn’t post any question without someone trying to become my band. Listen: I need your help, not your sales presentation.

7) Answer the Damn Question

Third of all, you didn’t answer my question. I wasn’t looking to buy new door handles. I wanted to fix my existing ones. Please answer the question I asked, not the one you wish I had asked or the one that better suits your agenda.

I’m constantly seeing this. Someone asks for the best pizza in Talpiot. Someone responds by saying they don’t know, but there’s a great one in Har Nof. I’m sorry, but what part of my question was an invitation to just say random information you happen to know. You are under no obligation to respond. And if you don’t have an answer to my actual question, it’s never a problem to not respond.

8) Don’t Speculate

“I think I may have seen a store like that somewhere on Emek.” This is a really bad answer. It’s extremely non-specific and inspires zero confidence.

Remember: You are under no obligation to answer anyone’s questions. If you don’t have an answer, your silence will never be upsetting to anyone.

Speculation is cute and all. But I asked my question to find answers, not to watch you search the annals of your memory, nor to watch you philosophize about what may or may not be useful information.

9) Don’t Tell Me to Get Used to It Here

If I’m asking for a certain brand of whatever, because I really enjoyed it in my home country, this is not your opportunity to hop on your soap box and remind me I no longer live there. I get it. You moved to Israel. You sacrificed certain comforts to do something extremely meaningful for yourself. Stop patting yourself on the pack, and please leave everyone else alone.

If they miss a comfort from their past, and wish to see if it’s possible to still have it, that’s their prerogative. And it’s none of your business. Either answer the question, or don’t. But keep your self-aggrandizing monologue out of it.

10) Stop Being So Damn Mean

Finally, people on these forums can be just downright mean and insensitive. There’s no place for this. Everyone’s issues are their issues and deserve respect, not condescension. Not berating.

Remember: The time will come when something will upset you. You will be frustrated and seek assistance. Don’t set the precedent that it’s OK to crap on other people or their problems. Otherwise when your turn rolls around, your problem will be as meaningless to others as you’ve treated theirs.

But more than that, being mean is never the right choice. In pretty much anything in life. Even when you’re hiding behind your keyboard.

Conclusion

The basic rule of thumb is like this: You are under no obligation to answer! If you are going to answer, follow these ten guidelines, and you’ll be well on your way to making Israel a better place to live. For all of us.

Ignore these rules… and you’re likely a part of the problem.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, 0 comments

Aliyah: Getting the Help We Need, Part I

Aliyah

This post might upset some. But perhaps some people need to be upset. Because I feel everything I’m about to say is long overdue. And as much as there are plenty of individuals who will have fingers pointed at them, there is a communal responsibility that makes what I’m about to say relevant to countless individuals.

The Complexity of Aliyah

Moving to Israel (Aliyah) is not easy. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Yes, I’m sure when you move to Israel from Ethiopia or Russia, whereas you may still have challenges, you are nearly guaranteed an increase in your quality of life.

However, this is not the case for many if not most of us who move to Israel from North America. We have certain standards that we became used to in our previous lives. And yes, we are moving to another country, with its own unique culture. Israel has her own way, and its own situation, and no one should expect to be catered to.

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a challenge.

Those challenges can be enormous. And they also can be objectively puny. But they are still challenges, and need to be respected. They need to be comforted. And where possible, they should be accommodated. That’s the case even when you believe the individual should be learning to live without whatever comfort they are seeking.

Aliyah and Seeking Help

When I was moving back to Israel, I sought help from every direction I could think of. I was panicking about any number of issues. I didn’t know how to find a job and I needed advice on apartment hunting. And I had countless questions, and I certainly didn’t not want to go into such a daunting experience alone.

There were some organizations who said their main focus was to collect money. I thought it odd that I was explaining my fear of the system and my dread of not being able to find work… and I was hit up for a donation. I found this inappropriate on a number of levels. But at least they were fairly upfront…

There were two organizations whose attitudes to me I found so repellent, I would like to highlight them here: Nefesh B’nefesh and AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel).

Aliyah and Nefesh B’nefesh

Nefesh B’nefesh boasts of making the process of moving to Israel significantly easier. Their propoganda makes it seem like Aliyah is impossible without their assistance. And to some extent, that may be true. But, sadly, I made Aliyah before they came into existence. And even though it is not indicated on their site, there are those who they will not help. Ever.

Any attempt I’ve ever made to connect with Nefesh B’nefesh was met exclusively with an invitation to look at their website. Apparently, unless I’m one of their numbers, I’m dead to them.

Any organization claiming the way they do that they exist for the sake of immigrants (olim), cannot ignore olim. Any olim. I only know what I know, but I’ve also heard from others that as time went by, the organization has become less and less vital to so many. Sure, everyone who is able to will (and should) use their services. Any help is better than no help.

But how do you sleep at night knowing that ultimately your purpose is filling checkboxes to say how high your numbers are? You don’t pay crucial attention to what happens once the immigrant is already here, or the many reasons things don’t work out for so many people. And you’re blatantly ignoring the needs of some who could desperately use a little extra assistance.

Embarrassing.

Aliyah and AACI

Another organization who I turned to for aid and support was AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel). My primary concerns, like most people, were housing and work. I was told they could most certainly help me, but only if I pay them a membership fee. So I shelled out cash I didn’t have in the desperate hope they would be able to answer my many vital questions.

That’s when the magic began!

As far as housing was concerned, I was given a list of websites. Nothing more, nothing less. Just names and links. Some that even worked! No attempts to help me find the right neighborhood, or how to navigate the system. Just a page with links.

But that was far more impressive than the assistance I was given for finding employment. AACI offered for me to meet with their liaison, who had very limited office hours in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. She would not help through Skype or phone or email. She categorically refused to assist someone unless it was in person… and I was living in Kansas at the time.

So there I was. I shelled out cash I really needed in order to get a list and an impossible consultation. There wasn’t even a mild attempt to do a better job than woefully below par.

But, yet again, another organization was able to include me in their numbers. And endlessly pat themselves on the back for the quality assistance they offer to make new immigrants’ lives easier and better.

“Secret” to Successful Aliyah

Do these organizations do anything good? Do they make anyone’s transitions to Israel easier? I’m sure somewhere hidden behind a whole lot of garbage, they do good things. Personally, I haven’t seen a shred of evidence.

Ultimately, I found an apartment. On my own. And with the assistance of a couple of good friends who were living in Israel. I furiously networked and eventually found a job. I owe everything to hard work, perseverance, and a whole hefty load of good, old-fashioned luck.

Why did I succeed? Not because of some special organization that supposedly helps olim. I succeeded in spite of them. All they offered me was false hopes and a bit more financial difficulty.

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Would Israel be better off without them? Well, people have successfully transitioned into the country without their help, so they’re not strictly needed. If enough people’s stories are like my own, they might be doing as much harm as good. And if their influence is actually negative, I’m sure the massive amount of charity going their way could be better spent elsewhere.

If you’re going to help people, then help them. If you’re going to steal money and continue to do minimal for the greater good, why are you here?

Anyone Else?

But there lies in Israel a group of people that everyone actually does need.

Each other.

How do we take that responsibility as seriously as possible?

See you in my next post.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, 3 comments