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Archive for November, 2010

The iPod

I have been living in Israel for three months. In that time, I have not made any trips to the Apple Store. One obvious reason for this is the simple fact that there are no Apple Stores in Israel.

Instead, there are iDigital stores. I think there are three of them.

The official Apple Premium Reseller

iDigital is the official Apple reseller here in Israel. The store is designed to look almost just like a real Apple store. A casual observer might even think it is an Apple store. However, instead of a big, silver Apple logo, the store only has a small, silver Apple logo with the words “Premium Reseller.”

I have been in Israel for three months and I’ve been to the iDigital store three times. The store is located in Tel Aviv and it takes about 20 minutes to drive there (if there is no traffic). Even though I’ve been to the iDigital store more times than I’ve been to the Kotel, I must insist that I’m not an Apple groupie. As my son has pointed out a few times, it’s not even a real Apple store anyway.

The fact is that I’ve been to the iDigital store three times over the last three days.

My son’s iPod Touch was stolen a few weeks ago and we decided that we would replace it. I also wanted to get a hard-shell cover for my MacBook, so my son and I went to the iDigital store two nights ago to take care of business.

Google has an office some where near the top

It was only my second trip into Tel Aviv. My first trip to Tel Aviv was about a month ago when I interviewed with Google. That trip was a disaster. I was five minutes away from the office building and I figured that I would arrive just about on-time. Then my GPS failed me — I took the high-road fork instead of the low-road fork. It took me quite a while to get back and I finally arrived at the office about 40 minutes late. Then I took the left elevator instead of the right elevator. The left elevator handles the bottom-half of the building and the right elevator handles the upper half. Anyway, it never looks goods to be clueless. The fact that the GPS that betrayed me (my iPhone) was using Google Maps is just the icing on the cake. But I digress….

A very squeaky clean parking garage

This time I found my way through Tel Aviv to the shopping mall with no problems. It is a beautiful mall. They even clean the floor of the parking garage. The floor was literally squeaky clean. We saw a guy driving around with the same machine that is used to clean the floor in grocery stores.

The iDigital store is not nearly stocked as well as a “real Apple Store,” but I was still able to find a purple, hard shell for my Mac. We also discussed the iPod Touch with the sales clerk. Apple products are normally priced at a premium, but because of the VAT tax in Israel, the prices are significantly higher than the ordinary, inflated price. However, we discovered that the iDigital store gives a 25% discount if you trade in an old iPod. With the discount, the price is only a little bit more than normal. My son had an old, broken iPod back at home, so we decided that we would return the next day to buy the new iPod.

Pretty in Purple

That evening, I put the purple shell on my Mac. It looked great, even though it was broken. It would not lock into place on one corner because the little plastic hook was missing.

The next day, my son and I brought my new (but broken) shell back to iDigital along with his old iPod. They gave me a new purple shell, but we were unable to buy the iPod Touch — out of stock. The manager told us that Apple doesn’t send them enough inventory. They were supposed to receive a new shipment the previous evening, but it never arrived. He didn’t know when it might arrive — maybe in a couple of days or maybe next week. He told me that I should just call every day.

This morning, I called and I was told that the shipment did, in fact, arrive last night. The shipment contained two iPod Touch media players. They set one aside and my son and I made the third trip in three days. We bought the iPod, and there was much rejoicing throughout the land.

I suspect, by now, that they are sold out again.

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Puncher

Recently, I learned that in Israel, a flat tire on a bicycle is called a “puncher”.  I brought one with a flat tire to a local bike shop. The shop owner saw the bike and said, “Puncher?”

I didn’t know what language he was using and I certainly did not understand the question, so I told him (in Hebrew) that I didn’t understand his question. I am instantly identifiable as an English speaker as soon as I say one word in Hebrew.  The shop owner repeated his question using a full English sentence: “Do you have a puncher?”.

A puncher? This was fascinating. He was using the term “puncher” while speaking English. It was obvious that he was referring to the flat tire, so I confirmed that the tire was flat. I told him I was not familiar with the word “puncher”. He thought that was odd and asked me what it is called in the United States. I told him it was called a “flat tire”.

I asked him to pronounce the word slowly so I could really hear how it was said: pun-cher. There are many foreign words pulled into modern Hebrew, so I figured the idea was that an object punches the tire causing the flat.

Later, I had a conversation about it with my wife.  It went something like this:

Me: I found out that Israelis call a flat tire a “puncher”.

Wife: Don’t you mean a “puncture”.

Me: No, not a puncture — a puncher…. (pause) Oh, you must be right. He probably can’t say puncture.

Wife: <laughing> You thought he was saying puncher?

Me: Well, I asked him to say it slowly. He was definitely saying puncher. For what ever reason, I never thought of the word puncture.

However, it kept nagging me. He definitely said puncher and he spoke English pretty well. I had trouble believing that he couldn’t say the word “puncture”. The next time I was at his shop, I brought it up again. “You call a flat tire a puncher. Are you trying to say puncture?”

His response: “Puncture? What’s that?”

I explained what the English word puncture means and he responded by explaining to me that “puncture” has a “kah” sound, but the Hebrew word is “puncher” without the ‘kah”. He was able to say “puncture,” but he wasn’t familiar with it and the Israeli word he was using is “puncher”. I asked him if it was derived from English and he didn’t know. So, now I felt vindicated!  He wasn’t trying to say puncture after all.

However, this just didn’t seem right. The Israeli word “puncher” seems to have the same meaning as “puncture” and they sound too similar to not be related.

A few days later, I found out that the Israeli word “puncher” is derived from the English word “puncture”, but it is not a mispronunciation.  The syllables in “puncture” don’t work well in Hebrew, so the difficult sounds were dropped as the word was used over time. Now it is just some foreign-based word in the Israeli vernacular.

In general, there are many English-based words that have been pulled into modern Hebrew. Normally, you can hear the source right away. Somehow this one escaped me until my wife set me straight.

Categories: Hebrew, Israel Tags: , ,

No Parking!

Blue and white curbs are only for residents of Ra'anana

Ra’anana has a problem with automobiles.  In particular, there is not enough space for them.  It seems like this is a typical problem caused by (lack of) government planning. The plan was probably fine years ago when the roads were expanded and the parking spaces allocated, but now it is woefully inadequate and there is no obvious way to fix the problem without using a bulldozer.

Traffic and parking can be a nightmare. I walk or use a bicycle as much as possible.

About two years ago, in an effort to help fix the parking problem, the city of Ra’anana decided to have special parking areas for residents. These special parking areas are identified by a blue and white stripped curb. Almost all the available parking is blue and white.

I am a resident of Ra’anana, so I am allowed to park in these special places. However, normally your car has an electronic chip that identifies the owner as a resident. The chip makes it simple for police officers to figure out who is illegally parking in a Ra’anana resident spot. Since I’m still renting a car, mine doesn’t have the chip. So, if I park in a special space, I’ll get fined. In theory, I can show up in court and get the fine waved, but somehow that doesn’t seem like a good plan.

No parking in red and white spaces -- unless you use the sidewalk (or know the mayor)

A better plan is to just act like you own the place. People routinely park in no parking areas, double-park, or park on the sidewalk. This seems to be okay since everyone knows there is a parking problem and, as a result, the parking laws are (seemingly) not enforced. The no parking areas are easy to find because the curb is painted red and white.

Another solution is to use a motorcycle or scooter. These are commonly parked in little niches, nooks, or on the sidewalks. As an extra advantage, the motorcycles routinely drive between the lanes during heavy traffic. When that’s not possible, they can always squeak around a tight spot by using the sidewalk. It is basically a free for all, but the motorcycles and scooters do travel fairly easily even during the worst traffic situations. For this reason, all the fast-food delivery guys ride scooters with giant, oversized carrier boxes mounted on the back.

Although it doesn’t help with traffic, there is a third option — the mini-sub-subcompact. With this wondrous vehicle, parking is dramatically simplified.

The wondrous mini-sub-subcompact in (non)action!

Categories: Israel Tags: , , , ,

Not Really Funny

I returned to the train crossing to get a photo.  Again, I had to ride on a nearly abandoned road that ends at a closed gate. Beyond the gate is a dirt trail through an orchid that eventually becomes paved and finally reaches the train crossing.

I was wrong about a couple of points. First of all, the manually operated gate is always kept closed. It is only opened when a vehicle (tractor, scooter, bike, etc.) arrives at the crossing and there is no train.

The gate is normally kept closed

The gate is opened if a vehicle needs to cross and there is no train

I was wrong about something else. The last time I only saw two workers — one for each side of the track. Today, however, there was a third guy — he must be the supervisor.

He started asking me a bunch of questions and eventually we discovered that we could communicate using this thing called English. He wanted to know why I was taking photos and I told him that I thought the gates were interesting. He seemed unimpressed with my explanation.

Anyway, I suspected that all the extra precautions with the extra gates and personnel must be because people on tractors or bicycles sometimes try to beat an oncoming train and don’t make it. I asked him if that was the case. He told me that all of the precautions on this nearly abandoned train crossing are because it used to be a popular suicide location. Hmmm, not very funny after all. So, now they have people monitoring the track. Having said that, you would think it would be easy enough to get to the track through a field without using the roads.

I don’t want to end on such a sad topic, so here is yet another flower picture that I took today during the ride.

Purple!

Categories: Flowers, Israel Tags: , ,

The Bike Trip

Last week, I started using my bicycle. I was riding north with my son. We were on a paved road that had almost no traffic. The road cut through fields of crops. Eventually, we came to an intersection — the road continued north and another road headed west.  There was also a paved bike path that followed both the northbound and westbound roads.  We continued north on the path and travelled for about a mile. Suddenly both the road and the bike path ended at a gate in a grapefruit orchard.

This seemed really odd that a bike path would end (or start) literally in the middle of an orchard — I always thought a bike path should both start and end at a place where people actually wanted to go.

We found a dirt trail around the gate and managed to continue through the orchard. This was much harder than it sounds because, in Israel, a dirt trail is mostly a sand trail with almost no traction.  We eventually found our way back to the Ra’anana industrial zone by traveling through the orchard.

Yesterday, I decided to spend a few hours riding west. I wanted to see if I could find a faster route to the sea. I wend back to that odd bike path with the hope that the westbound trail would go somewhere.

I travelled on this westbound bike path for about a mile. It suddenly turned south and ended in a road on the northwestern portion of Ra’anana. This bike path is really the strangest thing. It starts nowhere and dead-ends a mile and a half later at a place less desirable then nowhere. I guess there was extra money budgeted for a bike path and no one could figure out where to put it.

Anyway, I found another road heading west and I followed it for about half a mile until it turned into a sandy-dirt path through more fields. Eventually, it ended at a gate. The gate had a sign which I imagine said something like, “KEEP OUT” or “TRESPASSERS AT RISK OF ELECTROCUTION” or “MAD DOG RESERVE.” Since it was written in Hebrew, I had no idea what it actually said.

As I stood there trying to decide what to do, a guy on a moped drove past me and went around the fence on a little path. At that point, I realized that the sign probably said something like, “TWO-WHEELED VEHICLES WELCOME — TAKE PATH AROUND GATE.”

Persimmons!

Beyond the gate was another orchid — this orchid contained persimmon trees. The dirt path continued for a while and eventually turned into a paved access road. This road crosses the tracks of a commuter train. As I approached the train tracks, I was lucky enough to see a train pass.

The train travels quickly and it doesn’t take long to pass, so the wait is not a big deal. The crossing is a standard train crossing. It has the flashing lights and the ringing alarm bells and the gate that automatically drops on each side of the track to block traffic.

Keep in mind that this road is an access road to an orchard, so there really isn’t any traffic, but it is still really important to take adequate safety measures.

I guess it is really, really, really important to take adequate safety measures on this nearly deserted access road that turns into a dirt road through an orchid ending at a closed, chained gate, because in addition to the standard safety measures (flashing lights, ringing bells, and automatic gates that drop down over the road), there was also a second gate on each side of the road. The second gate, however, is not automatic. There is a little hut on each side of the track and when the lights start flashing and the bell starts sounding and the gates drops down, a man walks out of each hut, walks to the second gate, and manually swings it closed across the road. Later, after the train passes and the bells and lights stop, each guy opens his gate and walks back to his hut.

There are two guys, one on each side of the track, handling the important job of opening and closing the second gate by hand on a nearly deserted road. Incredible. In Israel, there is no excuse for not having a job.

Beyond the railroad tracks I found the communities of Shikun Rasko and Shikun Amidar. I continued west in my desire to find the sea. I knew that I would eventually run into Route 2 (a major north and south highway) and I assumed there would be no way to cross over it. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a pedestrian bridge crossing the highway. Unfortunately, I could see from the top of the bridge that there were no real roads (at all) on the other side.  The bridge exists because of a bus stop.

I went back to the east side of the bridge and started riding south. I travelled through a number of communities and parks until I finally reached a bridge that I could use to cross Route 2.  These communities are really beautiful.  Flowers in November!

Blue!

Purple!

Red(ish)!

Orange(ish)!

Pink!

Multi!

After crossing Route 2, I headed north into the community of Nof Yam and then turned west trying to get to the sea.  I discovered the sea at Apollonia. This is an Israeli National Park that protects the remains of a castle built by the Crusaders.  I had previously walked almost to this location along the shore, but I had no idea how to drive there.

I didn’t enter the park, but I found (yet another) dirt road that brought me to the edge of the cliffs that overlook the sea. In fact, I was located directly over the “Hermit’s House” that I wrote about last week.  There were trails running along the cliff edge, so I carried my bike along the trails for a bit.

The Hermit's House from above!

The sea from the top of the cliff

Looking down from the edge of the cliff

After I returned to the road, I continued south along the sea through Herzliya Pituah until I arrived at the marina.

After the marina, I continued south along (yet another) dirt road heading towards Tel-Aviv. This was actually a gravel road and after a while I became concerned about my tires. I turned around and headed back to Ra’anana.

The whole trip took about three hours and covered about twenty miles. I am more amazed by this amazing (and confusing and lovely) country every day.

Categories: Flowers, Israel, Trips Tags: , , ,

It Came Back to Me!

It came back to me — the Feeling. I had it for a few weeks after I arrived, but it vanished about a month ago.  It came back to me this week and I cannot help but feel blessed and awed by simple things that I see around me.

I was driving my daughter to an activity today at dusk. We drove past a little playground almost completely filled with little children playing on swings and running around acting like little children.  Parents were sitting on benches chatting while sort-of watching the children. It was a completely normal scene. As I drove past with the windows down, it suddenly struck me that all the chatter and noise coming from the playground was in Hebrew.  Well, obviously all the talking would be in Hebrew, right?  But I wasn’t really thinking about it. The Feeling just bubbled up from my emotional core, this feeling that these people are talking (more or less) in the language of the Book, here, at the focal point of creation, and that I’m here too.

It is a hard feeling to explain. You cannot really explain the feelings created by an amazing sunset or a magnificent waterfall. This is a similar feeling. I’m quite certain most people would not feel it, but I do.

היום יום טוב מאוד!

Today is a very good day. This just feels like paradise. This is November. Shouldn’t it be getting cold? This is my neighborhood.

 

A house in the neighborhood

I live on this road

This week, I really love being here.

Yesterday, my wife and I decided to take a walk on the beach. Ra’anana is not a beach community, so we had to drive 15 minutes to reach the beach in Herzliya Pituah.

An entrance to the beach

The weather was beautiful — absolutely perfect. We walked for about a mile along the shore. The beach started as a sandy swimming area (with swimmers). This portion of the shore has a cliff line. As we walked, the beach became almost deserted. We passed rocky areas that were difficult to cross (in sandals) and more sandy areas.

We passed all the things you would expect to find at the beach. Crabs running in the sand, sea shells lining the shore, and a local neighborhood mosque.

The local neighborhood mosque is just over the cliff.

We also passed the “Hermit’s House” (also called the “Fisherman’s House”). This is a crazy structure apparently built by a hermit from debris. We didn’t actually see the hermit, although we did see his dog. My assumption is that he doesn’t have a permit for his house. I guess it would get torn down if it was built in the West Bank, but here in Herzliya Pituah, no one cares.

If we had walked a bit further, we would have come upon the ruins of a castle built by the Crusaders. (I discovered this later using Google Earth.) I’m going to try to make a bicycle trip to the castle soon.

This is just an amazing place. Right now, I cannot think of anywhere else that I would rather be.

Categories: Hebrew, Israel Tags: , , , ,
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