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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.

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Categories: Israel Tags: ,

The First Job – Episode II

Being fluent in English is a marketable skill in Israel.  Over the last few years, I have toyed with the idea of writing a novel, but I never expected I would work as a professional writer.  Fortunately, I’m not.

I am working as a software engineer in Jerusalem.  I’m primarily using good old-fashioned C with Java on an embedded platform.  The C and Java I’ve done for years, although I have never actually been directly involved with embedded systems. Also, for the first time in my career, I am not actually doing software development.  Instead, I am working as an integrator. I don’t think I want to do this long-term, but it is interesting in a hectic, convoluted, mind-numbing, head-spinning sort of way.

My employer is NDS Israel.

Who?  You know…NDS…the world leader in digital pay-TV delivery services.  You can read about the company here: http://www.nds.com/about_nds/about_nds.php

At the moment, I’m working on an effort to bring a brand new IPTV service to the customers of Vodafone in Germany.

The effort is distributed among teams in Israel, France, and India. All the technical work is done in English and, obviously, English is used as the common language across the teams. However, that doesn’t make it easy for me. Normally, the Israeli team members speak in Hebrew and only use English when talking to non-Hebrew speakers.  With me around, everyone tries to speak in English, but it sometimes appears almost painful to watch because generally they cannot express themselves easily in English. Also, I am discovering that it is really difficult to communicate with someone in a precise manner when you cannot natively speak the same language.

So far, I have not had to do any traveling, but I’ve been warned.  Frequent trips to Paris may be necessary.

Paris? You’ve got to be kidding me.  Paris?

I think I would rather visit Tripoli then Paris.

Categories: Israel, Work 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: , ,

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: ,

A Rough Couple of Weeks

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks.  I guess the honeymoon is over.  I’m dealing with feelings of doubt and homesickness.  I had a huge emotional crash after Sukkot.   Thankfully, the last couple of days have been much better.

I’m told that this is “normal”.  It happens to everyone — especially Americans. Even though I was told to expect it, I didn’t really think it would happen to me. I guess I’m more normal than I realized.

It is a very pleasant 90 degrees with a nice breeze.  It is also the middle of October.  That makes me happy!

I started looking for work. Part of my doubts are financial.  Things are very expensive in Israel — including real estate. While real estate prices in the States have been tanking over the last few years, housing prices here in Israel have doubled.  The falling value of our US dollars just makes the problem worse.  Over the long term, I think the US dollar (and the Euro) are heading much further down. My outlook is very gloom and doom. I feel sad about what is happening to my homeland. The United States is the greatest country that has ever existed, but I really believe that her best days have already come and gone. I hope it will be a slow collapse, but I fear that it might be faster than people can imagine. Obama didn’t do it, he’s just the finisher — the closer — the destroyer. It is just a matter of time before Japan, Europe, and the US collapse under a mountain of fiat debt. I have a suspicion about who will get blamed. So, I’m glad to be here, but the doubts linger.

I had an interview last week. Actually, I didn’t have an interview last week. I thought I was having an interview, but I really wasn’t. This is all a good thing, because after the interview I thought I didn’t want the job, but now that I know it wasn’t an interview, I think I do want the job. Because Shabbot is approaching, I don’t have time to explain.  Stay tuned….

Categories: Israel Tags: , ,
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