Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’

I’m Actually Living in Israel

It has been over ten months since I moved to Israel.  My life is pretty routine now.  I think I have already experienced most of the culture shock and things now seem normal to me.  And yet, I still have these odd, emotional moments when it suddenly dawns on me that I’m living in Israel.

It happens to me almost every morning like clock-work.  I’m inside my home desperately trying to get ready for work.  I have to meet the hasa’ah (company supplied transportation) at 7:35.  I’m focused on the things that I need to bring and making sure that I take care of everything before I leave.  Finally, I say good-bye to everyone, open the front door to leave, and this is what I see:

The view from my front door in Ra'anana

You’d think I would be used to it by now.  I’ve been doing this almost everyday for six months.  None-the-less, it hits me everyday: you’re not in Maryland anymore; those palm trees are in the Land of Israel. 

Awesome.  I still can’t believe I am fortunate enough to live here.  It is such a dream.  I cannot explain how ecstatic I feel.

It’s true that my Hebrew is coming along way to slow and I often have no clue what is going on around me.  Perhaps there’s a little bit of child-like innocence and naivety in this — I’m happy because I’m clueless.  But I don’t think so.  I like to think of it as being Born Again Jewish-style.

I work for an incredible, employee-friendly company.  A month ago, my organization went on a one and a half-day company sponsored trip to the Negev.  It’s a team build and every employee goes on one annually (different destinations for each group each year).

Last week, the company sponsored a brunch for our team at a restaurant in Jerusalem.  The restaurant was located in the Mamilah Mall outside of the Old City in Jerusalem.  Great food, good people, beautiful view,…in Israel.  It was really pleasant.

Afterwards, driving back to work,  I had another one of those moments.  I’m in the back of a car.  The car is driven by a Russian. An Israeli is sitting next to him.  They are talking in a language that I don’t understand.  I can understand the radio — it’s playing the song “Play With Fire” by The Rolling Stones.  We are driving through residential neighborhoods in Jerusalem.  It seems so surreal; something that you might read in a book or see in a movie.

Driving back to work is like the opening line of a joke: A Russian, an Israeli, and an American are driving through Jerusalem....

Looking out the side window listening to The Rolling Stones...

Sometimes, it is really hard to believe that we decided to take such a significant risk: closing my company, putting my career in limbo, and moving our family to a different continent where a completely different language is spoken.  I don’t really view myself as a risk taker, but I don’t want to live with regret.  It is better to pursue the dream and make it work then regretting not making the effort.

Categories: Israel Tags: ,

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: , ,

First Sukkot in Israel

Sukkot is different this year. It is not just a little bit different — it is extremely different in almost every way.

Unwrapping the sukkah -- no assembly required

Let’s start with the sukkah.

In the past, I have used aluminum tubing to construct a frame. A canvas was then attached around the frame to create walls and bamboo mattes were rolled on top to create the roof.

Our current sukkah is a bit different. First of all, it came with the house that we are renting — the sukkah is basically the patio. I had to “construct” the sukkah by removing the plastic cover resting on the roof. The walls of the sukkah are composed of the house and the wall on the property line. No assembly required. Just unwrap and enjoy!

Our old home in Maryland did not have a deck or patio, so the sukkah was built on the lawn. It was generally raining in Maryland around Sukkot, so the lawn would get muddy and we would always track mud and grass into the house.

In Israel, the rain has not arrived yet and the weather is pleasant all through the night. It is actually enjoyable to use the sukkah. No eating in the rain or shivering in the cold.

Sleeping in the old sukkah was virtually impossible because of the rain and the slugs. The thought of waking up with a slug on my face always drove me inside the house. Sleeping in this sukkah is easy. I am no longer worried about waking up with slugs all around me, although perhaps I should worry about waking up surrounded by Arabs. I guess, in a manner of speaking, I am sleeping while surrounded by Arabs, but that doesn’t really bother me as long as they are not in my immediate area. Out of sight, out of mind.

My sukkah is not the only big difference. The fact that so many other families also have a sukkah is also a bit unusual for me. I used to walk around Columbia and see only a handful of huts. Here in Israel, there are sukkot everywhere — front yards, backyards, hilltops, restaurants, balconies, and rooftops. It is really awesome being saturated with the holiday.

The tops of each sukkah can be seen

Sukkah under construction before the holiday started

Outside the Old City

My old home was basically located in a Judaic wasteland with a small oasis called Chabad. We would sometimes venture from that wasteland to the holy city of Baltimore where we could at least experience a Judaic environment. Yesterday, we traveled to Jerusalem to experience the holiday in the true Holy City.

Jerusalem is always an experience. Because of the holidays, major portions of Jerusalem near the Old City were blocked to automobile traffic by police. We managed to somehow find a parking space that was only a 30 minute walk from the Kotel. It was all very orderly. Apparently, the annual rock throwing contest where Arabs throw rocks on Jews from the top of the Wall was abruptly canceled a few days earlier when soldiers broke up the event. Afterwards, the area on top of the Wall was restricted to those over the age of 50. I guess throwing rocks down upon Jews is a young man’s sport in the Arab world.

Entering the Old City

The Wall

The Wall again

Today, I traveled into the West Bank. It was my first time in the West Bank since arriving 5 weeks ago, but I’ll discuss that trip another time.

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