Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

The First Job

I started working about a month ago.  It’s a bit weird — not the job… having a job. I spent the last six months goofing-off, waking up when I wanted, getting out of bed when I wanted, doing what I wanted, with no worries and no concerns.  Okay, that’s not quite true.  After all, I live in Ra’anana.

Here’s an old joke:  How do you make a million dollars in Israel?  Start with 10 million.

Here’s my New Age, 21st century version: How do you make a million dollars in Ra’anana?  Start with 50 million.

No joke.  It is expensive here in Ra’anana.

Here’s a true story: My wife and I were in Ma’ale Adumim (which is a settlement east of Jerusalem) and we decided to buy some coffee.  The coffee was half the price of a similar cup in Ra’anana, plus we also each received a danish.  My wife commented on how the coffee was inexpensive; hearing this, the guy selling the coffee asked where we live.  When he found out we live in Ra’anana, he rolled his eyes and said, “That’s where all the rich people live”.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, I had one real worry: money. We were burning through money fast, so I really needed a decent job.

I don’t know the language and I don’t know the culture, so you would think finding a decent job would take some time.  After all, back in the US, the official unemployment figure is around 10% and that doesn’t count the people who stopped looking for work and those who are underemployed. (I figure the real unemployment rate in the US is probably closer to 15% or 16%).

However, I found a nice job without much effort and I have my wife to thank for it.

It all started months and months ago when I was still in ulpan (yes, I quit ulpan months ago). My wife drove to a local bagel shop to buy some bagels. She was concerned that the car was parked too close to the curb and that the tires might get damaged.  She asked a woman who was walking by and the response was something like, “I don’t know, I don’t worry about that because my husband leases a car from work”.  They started talking about her husband’s work and  soon the word “Java” came up.  Not “java” as in coffee — Java as in programming.  By the end of the conversation, they agreed that I might be able to fill a position at her husband’s office.

It sounded like a long-shot to me; even so, I spoke to her husband on the phone that evening.  By the end of the conversation, it was clear that I might actually be a good candidate to fill an open position in the company.  At the time, I was still in ulpan and I didn’t really want to stop.  I was invited to visit the company — just to chat — to see if I was interested.  The chat was interesting and I decided to drop-out of ulpan to pursue employment.  I had a technical interview and a few days later I had three more interviews. A week (or two) later I had a meeting with HR and then an interview with the CTO (Chief Technical Officer).  During the interview with the CTO, I described the position as a “dream job” for me.  Really.  That good.

The company is in an office building that overlooks the beach.  It is a twenty-five minute drive by car and a forty-five minute ride by bike from my home.  Just perfect!

I was walking on the beach with my wife a couple of months after this process started when I received the phone call. They wanted to hire me! YES! AWESOME!

This is probably a good time to point out that I am not actually working there.

The employment offer was perfect in every way but one. That one little problem ended up being a show stopper.

During this whole process, my wife kept strongly suggesting that I should have a back-up plan.  I really didn’t see the need to bother (in this case) with a back-up plan because it was so obvious that I would get this “dream job.” After a while, though, I realized the “strong suggestion” might not be such a bad idea after all.  A friend in Ra’anana had previously submitted my resume to his employer.  He called to tell me that for some reason no one had looked at it. He was wondering if I was still looking for work. If so, he would stir the pot a bit. I almost told him that I was not interested, but I needed a back-up plan to make my wife happy.  I asked him to do a little stirring just in case.

I received a quick telephone interview that evening.  The next day a real interview.  Shortly after that, two more interviews.  Then I had to do some sort of psycho-analysis testing.  I think I may have blogged about that. Soon after that, I received a job offer.  Then I had to take a polygraph.

Finally, I had to let the “dream job” go.

So what is this “real job?” The details will have to wait for some future post.

However, I will say that it is located in Jerusalem.  That’s about an hour drive with no traffic.  The drive actually isn’t too bad.  I can listen to Hebrew language lessons, read the news,  e-mail on my iPhone, watch movies, play games, read books, and even sleep. I can do all these things because I’m not doing the driving.  The company provides transportation for their employees.

I will go into details about the work in some future post.

Even though this is not my “dream job”, it is a really nice job and I am thankful for having it.

Categories: Israel, Work Tags: , ,

How am I doing?

Thanks for asking!  I’m doing great.  What’s not to like about a half-year vacation in a warm, sunny, beautiful, seemingly peaceful environment.

Well, there is the fact that it’s not really a vacation — technically, I’m unemployed.  Then again, it seems like 20% of Americans are unemployed (or underemployed) and at least I’m living on my own earning in a beautiful setting. At least for now, I’m not partnering with the Government in thievery.

It has been very sunny… except at night (of course).  That’s really not such a good thing.  There has been a drought here for five or six years.  Islands are starting to appear in the Kinneret (you know, the so-called Sea of Galilee) and that’s not a good thing.  Pray for rain!

Although it is seemingly peaceful, I assume it is still true that every bordering country is just waiting for the opportunity to kill everyone here. Since I cannot understand the news, I don’t seem to notice it.  In fact, I’m totally at peace oblivious to whatever is going on around me. That’s probably not a good thing.

Anyway, I have a job interview and I’m late.  That’s also not a good thing.

Why am I late? Because I’m writing this silly blog. So this is the end for now!

Categories: Israel Tags: ,

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: , , ,

Eggs

I guess I was sheltered. I always thought raw eggs needed to be refrigerated unless they were used right away. I was really surprised the first (and second and third) time I entered a market and discovered this….

Look Mom, no electricity required!

Just to be clear, these are egg cartons, filled with real eggs from real hens.  The cartons are wrapped in plastic and stacked on the floor in the market.  If you look carefully, you’ll see that the boxes contain a picture of a happy, smiling egg walking around waving.  The picture does not contain a sickly egg groaning and dragging itself across the floor.  The picture is clearly a healthy egg and, in fact, these eggs are fine.

Hmm, maybe these eggs are okay because they are wrapped in plastic…

Wrong! Take a look at this….

Egg cartons on shelves with no plastic

More eggs stacked in cartons, but this time there is no plastic. If you look carefully, you’ll see that there is some sort of device above the eggs. I’m not sure what the heck that is. It didn’t look important, but maybe it is some sort of high-tech anti-bacterial disruption field generator that keeps the eggs fresh.

More eggs just sitting around in the hot room-temperature air

You can’t get more basic than this.  Here in Israel, eggs are placed in cartons and stacked at room-temperature for sale.

If you think about it, this even seems reasonable.  Eggs must have a built in mechanism to prevent bacterial contamination. After all, the hen lays the egg and then sits on it for three weeks before the chick hatches. I bet that’s not a clean environment and it certainly isn’t a cool environment. If bacteria could easily infect the eggs, the chicks would not survive.

Even so, it still seems bizarre to me.  Eggs should be in refrigerators, right? Apparently that’s not the case.

I had to do a bit of research to figure this out. I discovered that there is a thin film surrounding each egg that protects it from contamination.  In the United States, the eggs are washed (and perhaps bleached or colored) so that they look nice. The washing removes the film and, as a result, exposes the egg to contamination.  That’s why eggs need to be refrigerated in the States — so that they will look pretty. In the United States, unrefrigerated eggs look nice, but they can kill you.

I wonder how much energy is used to process the raw eggs and then refrigerate them in the trucks and in the warehouses and in the stores. I guess people in California need to fear electricity rationing on their expensive, high-definition, televisions so that the egg shells can look pretty.

It seems like Al Gore should be doing something about this. I can picture him trying to explain it:

We have a vicious cycle. Pretty eggs are causing climate change because of all the electricity needed for cooling. As the Earth becomes hotter, we need to use even more electricity to cool the pretty eggs. Break the cycle by purchasing carbon-free dirty eggs from my company that I don’t own. Keep in mind, I don’t directly receive any money from your purchase. This is about saving the Earth… one egg at a time.

Anyway, we buy the eggs at room temperature and promptly put them in the refrigerator at home. I am, after all, an American.

Categories: Food, Israel Tags: , , ,
%d bloggers like this: