Move back to Israel for the cheap plane ticket!

If you make aliyah and become Israeli, you get a free plane ticket. But if you're already an Israeli citizen and you live abroad, the only thing keeping you away is the cost of a flight, right?

That at least appears to be the logic behind El Al's new deal with the Absorption Ministry, offering cheap plane flights for Israelis living abroad who want to return home:

Prior to the State of Israel's 61st birthday, to be celebrated on April 29th, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and El Al came to a deal as part of the ministry's 'Coming Home at 60' initiative, which was launched last year.

Israelis returning from Europe will be able to purchase at ticket for $150 (not including tax) and those returning from North America will be able to purchase tickets for $300 (not including tax).
Oddly, the article doesn't specify that these foreign Israelis must return home for good, although I'm pretty sure that's the implication. It goes on to say that they must have "an authorization from the Immigration Absorption Ministry of their status as returning citizens," and to be a "toshav chozer" is (I think) a legal status akin to making aliyah without most of the benefits... and with some fun penalties, like a fine and waiting period to get health care.

I still think that my in-laws should look carefully at whether they can finagle a cheap plan ticket home in time for Yom Haatzmaut!

P.S. Does my blog load very slowly? I'm thinking I might need to cut a few of the images.


Clean for Pesach

Basically every Israeli cleans before Passover, even the Israelis who plan to sneak to Druze villages to buy pitas the day after Seder. In this spirit, I've been moving furniture, vacuuming rugs, and cleaning blinds in preparation for Pesach. (I discovered about 50 Q-tips and rubber bands-- Pixel's two favorite toys-- under our sofa.) And it's not just me. The trash bin beneath our apartment (which gets emptied every day-- a nice difference from weekly trash pickup in the US!) overflows daily with my neighbors' dejunking: pet sofas, vases, appliances. Olehgirl notes the proliferation of discarded TVs right now, although I suspect this might have to do partly with the huge Israel-Greece World Cup qualifier game coming up on Wednesday night.

I really love Pesach cleaning, actually... it feels great to know that I am getting rid of all that dust and dirt that I normally don't touch. I love the idea of a fresh clean start in the spring-- the air now smells better inside AND outside!

I've made a list of everything I think I should clean, but I get the guilty feeling that I simply don't THINK to clean some things that other people probably scrub on a weekly basis. I didn't get that neat-freak gene. I also suffer an inferiority complex when I think about those people whose floors simply NEVER have a cat hair, foot print, or kitty litter pebble on them, let alone a sticky spot (now covered in cat hair) where they dripped coffee. I only discovered yesterday that rugs get much cleaner if I flip them over and vaccum the underside... and then vaccum the floor where all the dust came off my rug when it was flipped over. So help me-- what are you cleaning before Pesach? Are you a just-the-minimum (no kezayit of chametz) person or do you launch into crazy deep cleaning?


Listen to Galgalatz!

If you are between 18-25 in Israel and driving in a car, you're probably listening to Galgalatz. You can also listen to Galgalatz (as well as a host of other Israeli radio stations) on your computer:


I just checked, and what you hear on the website is just a slightly delayed version of what we hear on, well, the Galgalatz broadcast via my cable TV. My husband has the car right now. :)

"Galgalatz" is one of the two major Israeli army-sponsored pop music radio stations. The "tz" is for "tzahal," the Israeli army. "Galatz" is short for "Galei Tzahal"-- the waves of tzahal-- which is a little odd because "Galei Tzahal" is the other big Israeli army sponsored radio station-- and which also seems to make this station the "Wave of the Waves of Tzahal." Also, "tzahal" itself is an acronym for "tzava hagana l'yisrael," or "Army for the Defense of Israel," so it's really "Wave of the Waves of the Army for the Defense of Israel." Israelis LOVE acronyms... I'll have to post about that some time.

Anyway, Galgalatz is essentially a cross between American college radio stations that play whatever the DJ loves and the huge for-profit stations like Kiss (or is that KIIS?) that endlessly play same top-15 hits. Israelis also don't ascribe to the rigid categorization of American music (G-d forbid if we play an 80s hit on a 90s flashback weekend, or a pop song on FROGGY country hits!) and go for free-association instead. This leads to an interesting mix of music: Bob Dylan, Arik Einstein and Julio Iglesias along side Katy Perry, Idan Raichel and, er, Ivri Lider uttering an embarassing bit of Engrish in a Galgalatz-sponsored remake of Perry's hit "I Kissed a Girl." (In another great post, What War Zone?? explores the hilarious internal logic guiding Galgalatz music combinations.)

Galgalatz has quickly become one of my favorite radio stations ever because I can never quite predict what will play next. (Oh, and it's better during the day. I realized this once I moved here and stopped catching only the middle-of-the-night mellow broadcasts online.) Enjoy!


Don't be a Fryer

Before I made aliyah, I watched a rather depressing Israeli movie that taught me a huge amount about Israeli culture-- specifically, how not to be a fryer. At that point I probably thought that "fryer" referred to a small chicken, but no... "a fryer" is the person who gets naively used while more savvy people make "combinas" (a post about that some other time). The best English translation is "sucker," but I'm pretty sure the concept of a "fryer" also has to do with passivity and a kind of naive niceness-- with being taken for a ride rather than driving the getaway van. A fryer pays double price, has faith in the UN, and gives out unecessary information to strangers.

In the movie James' Journey to Jersualem, James is an African Christian sent on a pilgrimage to Israel by his village, but then arrested for illegal entry and strong-armed into working illegally for very little pay. As he loses his innocence and comes to understand Israeli culture, though, he realizes that he's a "fryer" for earning a pittance while his boss profits. He then starts his own cleaning business in his time off, exploiting his fellow illegal aliens and under-cutting his boss. It's not a movie for anyone who wants to maintain a starry-eyed view of the holy land, but useful viewing for anyone who actually wants to move here.

I understand the concept of a "fryer" better when I look at our two cats.

Zeus, being born in America, is a fryer. When we try to clip his claws, he sits in our lap with a long-suffering expression... but makes no effort to actually move. He fully trusts not only our good intentions but that, if we're punishing him, he has probably done something to deserve it. Similarly, if Zeus jumps on the table to sniff at some chicken and we yell at him, he'll immediately shrink back with a guilt-stricken expression and try to win back our approval.

Pixel, on the other hand, is thoroughly Israeli, the product of rigorous natural selection on the Israeli streets. Clipping Pixel's nails is an ordeal involving me, my husband, and several thick blankets. Even so, we emerge scratched and bitten, and Pixel (who is otherwise a very sweet cat) emerges with his back nails still intact. Pixel trusts us-- to a point-- and is grateful for our protectzia, but he'll watch out for himself, thank you. If we attempt to do something not in his self-interest, well, we'd better think again. If Pixel jumps on a table to sniff at some chicken and we yell at him, he'll grab a drumstick on his way down. No fryer, Pixel.

I basically have "fryer" tattooed on my forehead, but according to my husband's aunt, I compensate by having "marpekim"-- elbows!

I think Americans actually reward fryer-like behavior: we love the steady worker, the anonymous donor, the cop who splits his winning lottery ticket with the waitress. Israelis, on the other hand, frown on this kind of behavior-- or rather laugh at it, incredulously. What do you think? Would you rather be a fryer or not?


Get Excited about Eurovision!

For uninitiated Americans, Eurovision is a fabulous competition involving European nations and a few nations that think they're European, such as Israel. Every country sends singers and elaborate dance routines to the competition, and then people in every country call in to vote for their favorites-- then each country awards points to the most popular acts proportionally.

Countries can't vote for themselves, which means people tend to vote for countries similar to their own... the breakup of the Soviet Union was the best thing that could possibly happen for Russia's Eurovision chances, and sure enough, Russia won last year with the combination of a sappy pop song, a violinist, and an Olympic figure skater pirhouetting around the musicians on a miniature ice rink. Other countries seem to figure that they have no chance of winning anyway, so they go bizarre instead-- I seem to remember seeing dancing parsnips in one Eastern European entry.

Because this is really an international popularity contest, Israel generally doesn't do that well, despite having had last year (in my humble opinion) the best entry: our cochav nolad (think "American Idol") winner, Boaz Mauda. Here was his performance last year. Bear in mind that Israel's most famous transvestite and former Eurovision winner, Dana International, not only wrote this beautiful song but also (I'm guessing) designed his costume and choreography. Despite this, it's an absolutely beautiful song:

Boaz Mauda finished in ninth place, which isn't bad.

At any rate, this year Israel seems to be trying to overcome the knee-jerk we-hate-Israel reaction by submitting a duet between a Palestinian and an Israeli singer. The one who looks like an Arab is the Israeli, Noa, while the one who looks Ashkenazi is Mira Awad, a Palestinian Christian. I think it's a pretty song, and its message is uplifting (and unspecific) enough to appeal to almost anyone. What do you think? Too politically correct, or inspiring?

The actual competition will air mid-May. Get ready!


To ensure your children stay in Israel, give them un-emigratable names!

Basically everyone in Israel has family members living in the US. (Israelis also believe that the US is approximately the size of, say, Jordan, when in fact even Jordan is smaller than my home state of Pennsylvania. "Oh, you come from Pennsylvania? My brother-in-law's cousin lives in Montana! That's close by, right?") To prevent our hypothetical future kids from joining this reverse exodus, my husband and I have come up with a brilliant idea: give them names that will be horribly embarrassing anywhere outside Israel.

Some of our favorites (these are all actually common Israeli names):

In Hebrew: pretty girl's name that comes from the tanach (Yosef's wife)
In English: gray matter that comes of nose when one sneezes

In Hebrew: pretty girl's name related to the ringer of a bell
In English: sounds like a painful medical condition

In Hebrew: nickname for guy's name starting with "d," just as "Bibi" is nickname for Benyamin Netanyahu
In English: sure to get child beaten up in kindergarten

In Hebrew: girl's name that comes from a pretty flower that blooms in the spring (see my wildflower pictures below)
In English: self-explanatory

In Hebrew: nice macho guy's name (possibly short for Avishai or another biblical name)
In English: would be especially embarrassing to an already shy person. ("Tal" is another name that might keep son in Israel if he's short.)

In Hebrew: girl's name meaning grace, pleasantness
In English: once readers understand that daughter is not Chinese and get past the pronunciation of chet, the hen jokes begin... (I also think it might not be so easy for a guy to be named "Dov," despite the fact that this is a manly name based on the word for "bear.") Right up there is the girl's name "Segal."

In Hebrew: nice boy's name meaning prophet
In English: I'll admit that this name sounds fine to me in English, but when one of my Brit friends gave this name to her son, her parents were shocked she would name him "oh-dead"

In Hebrew: common nickname for "Pinchas."
In English: er, right.

In Hebrew: evokes delicate waving of Dead Sea coral
In English: sounds like should be name of character in "Hagar the Horrible" (and I'm not talking about the biblical Hagar, another undesirable name)

In Hebrew: girl's name either based on Bible or on the name for a date palm
In English: might give people wrong impression

In Hebrew: nice, humble Biblical name

In English: sure to blow expectations out of proportion

In Hebrew: descendent of Noah
In English: means "idiot" and will result in too many Green Day jokes

In Hebrew: based on another name for Mt. Hermon
In English: may cause people to think you have an attitude problem

In Hebrew: pretty girl's name
In English: sounds like lyric from Bob Marley song

In Hebrew: Biblical guy's name
In English: sounds like a bodily fluid or character from a Charles Dickens novel

Of course, it's possibly for Israelis to turn unfortunate names into selling points. I mean, that model named Bar doesn't seem to be doing too badly. And once American celebrities realize they aren't being pranked, they tend to open up to our entertainment show host Guy Pines (pronounce that last name phonetically... it doesn't rhyme with "shines." If only we had that last name, we could definitely insure our children wouldn't make "yerida" to America without thinking their decision over carefully!).

There are probably a lot of American names that don't translate well into Hebrew-- any guy named "Noah" who doesn't want to pronounce his name "Noach" will find Israelis think he's female. Are there any American names Israelis think are especially funny?
Did I miss any fabulous yeridah-proof Israeli names?


Driving through a Druz Village = Extra Fun Challenge

Not Druish... Druzim!

The Druzim are an ethnic group found across Israel and Syria. They're generally Israeli citizens and fight in the Israeli army. They're nice people and friendly to the idea of a Jewish state that leaves them alone. However, there recently were riots against the Israeli army in the Druzi village of Pekiin-- which is where we got lost on our way to the Gan HaSela this past weekend.

The problem with Druzi villages (from a driver's point of view) is that they are built for horses rather than cars. In roads one lane wide (with stone buildings on either side in place of shoulders), cars pass in both directions, weaving between parked cars on either side. Drivers go full speed around 90 degree, 100% blind corners. Druzim also tend to have a lax attitude towards lanes; in Dalyat al Carmel, another druze village, cars came at me from every direction with a kind of mysterious internal logic-- "right of way" seemed to be a foreign concept. Pekiin is build on a steep hillside, which made driving in a stick shift car especially fun. And the roads in Pekiin wind mazelike up and down the mountain.

The Druzim appear to like bright colors, pagoda rooftops, roman columns, and whatever other architectural details they can think of

Eventually, we found ourselves at the bottom of the mountain and-- because we were willing to take any road that didn't lead back into Pekiin-- up the next mountain into Pekiin HaChadash, and a dead end in a new development of highly colorful houses. Way up on the ridge behind us, we could see the road that we had meant to take.

My husband didn't want to ask for directions for fear that we end up whisked away to a Syrian bunker somewhere, but eventually we decided that the risk of kidnapping was less frightening than the risk of climbing back up through Pekiin, so we asked a guy walking along the road how to get to the Gan haSela. "Turn around, I'll go with you!" he told us in very good Hebrew. (In America, this response would be unusual. In Israel, it's basically expected.) So he hopped in and took us straight to our destination-- which happened to be just a few hundred meters away.

On our way back, we got lost again and had to ask for directions again. A heavily-accented guy started to explain to us how we needed to go into the village, turn left, take a right, take a left, and go down the mountain side and then take a right to get to the main roads. "Just have them follow me," said a Druze man traditionally dressed in white hat and long robe. We were so glad we did-- the route to the main road straight through another village involved ducking into several unmarked alleys. Just before we reached the road, he pulled over and waved us on.

What about you, would you have asked for directions? Have you ever had any fun experiences driving through Druze villages?


New Haveil Havalim!

One of my favorite blogs ("What War Zone???") just put up an especially funny edition of the Jewish blog carnival, Haveil Havalim. This blog's in it! Enjoy browsing all the other wonderful submissions... I know I look forward to looking through the links!


Why Israeli women are named "Moran" and "Nurit" (get to know Israeli wildflowers!)

You can smell spring in Israel right now-- the air is light with the spicy perfume of blooming flowers. This weekend we went hiking in the "Gan haSela," a small park full of boulders in the lower Galil. The rocks were amazing (and fun to climb on)-- I'll post those pictures some other time. But on our trip, I annoyed my husband by spending most of my time photographing wildflowers. These are just a few of my pictures. I've tried to identify the flowers by their Hebrew names-- please correct me if I get any wrong!

Above: tofeach yerushaliym (left) and tzharon katan (right). The flower on the right is part of the iris family, obviously, but unlike the larger, showy irises, it's not called an "irus" in Hebrew.

Above: tiltan (good old clover, albeit a bit different from the clover I saw in Pennsylvania!)

Above: nurit (a "Jerusalem buttercup")

Above: rakefet (or, in the plural, rakefot)-- these are VERY common Israeli wildflowers. My husband bought me a pot of these as a houseplant last summer, but I promptly killed them. I guess they like Israeli outdoor conditions better!

In the picture above, you can better see how some of the rakefot are actually light purple!

Above: I'm pretty sure this are called nisanit (or possibly, nisnit). Does anyone know if the name comes from the month nisan?

Above: moran hachorash (I'm guessing this is why "moron" is an insult in English but a beautiful women's name in Israel!)

Above: Ok, so this is a foreign tropical tree (known as an "orchid tree" or bohenia) that has been introduced to Israel, and this flower is blooming in my yard rather than the Gan haSela. But isn't it beautiful?

Unfortunately, my picture of some of the most beautiful flowers blooming right now-- the calaniot-- came out blurry. I guess I'll just have to devote a whole post to them some other time!

I'm submitting this post to this site, which features more flower photography:


When you take driving lessons, try to understand your instructor

So I'm currently taking driving lessons to convert my American License to an Israeli one. There's no such thing as a learner's permit in Israel; rather, every new driver has to take about 24 expensive lessons before getting a license, and foreign drivers like me still must take a few lessons before getting official Israeli permission to venture on to the road.

My driving teacher, being Israeli, talks on his cell phone constantly while I drive. Today, he suddenly shouted,"Brrake! Brrake!" just as I was about to move through a traffic circle. I braked. Turned out he was greeting an Arab guy named "Berake" on the phone... oy.

But it could have been worse. He told me about an Argentinian-Israeli driving teacher who was speaking Spanish to someone in the back seat while an Israeli student was driving. The Israeli student came to a traffic circle, and heard her instructor suddenly say, "Si!" (As in, "Si, senora.")

The problem: in Hebrew, "si" is the imperative form of "drive," as in, "Get into the intersection now? What are you waiting for??" The student shrugged it off, because it obviously wasn't a good time to enter the traffic circle.

However, at the next intersection, she again heard the command for her instructor: "Si!" This time, she assumed that she must have done something wrong in stopping and looking to see who was coming.

So at the next traffic circle, when she heard "Si," she floored it-- shooting out into traffic and narrowly saved from collision by her instructor slamming on his brake.

This story almost comforted me when my driving instructor grabbed the steering wheel and tried to push me into a U-turn (I didn't understand the command to do a parsa-- horseshoe.)

Ah, the joys of living in a multi-lingual society!

Gilad Shalit is your son, too

Aviva and Noam Shalit, parents of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit

Last night, my husband and I watched Israeli news as PM Ehud Olmert announced that negotiations with Hamas over Shalit's release had broken down. Olmert's face, during the announcement, only filled about a third of the streen. The rest of the screen showed the faces of Noam and Aviva Shalit, Gilad's parents, as they listened on headphones. Noam bent forward, his face characteristically stoic-- affable, yet unreadable. Aviva pulled her sweater closer around her body. She glanced up at the camera a bit wearily, as if it were another sympathetic face when she would prefer to be alone. Just another hope dashed.

I cannot pretend to understand what it feels like to know (or at least hope) that your son is alive, imprisoned by captors who had this to say on January 11: ""Shalit may have been wounded [in the recent Gaza operation], and he may not have been. The subject no longer interests us. We are not interested in his well-being at all, and we are not giving him any special guard since he is as good as a cat or less." (Wikipedia)

When I was in America, I knew the name "Gilad Shalit" and thought I understood: a soldier had been kidnapped by Hamas. Let's bring him home! How? I probably would have said something vague like "increase pressure on Hamas," or perhaps I would have imagined an Entebbe-style rescue operation. (Israel has already tried this, carefully--kidnapped soldiers have been killed during botched rescue operations-- and failed. But it's not easy to find a soldier bunkered among millions.) I cared about Shalit's return in the same abstract way that I cared about saving Private Ryan or Jessica Lynch. He seemed fundamentally different from me. I wanted Israeli "strength" to bring him home-- without really thinking about what this "strength" would involve.

Now that cost of "strength" means more to me, I'm hesitant to fly a "Bring Gilad Home" flag. How many other soldiers' lives do we risk to bring Shalit home? Can we hinge a ground invasion on Shalit's return? How many terrorists--many of whom would have received the death penalty in the US-- do we return for this one innocent boy? In even calling for Gilad's return, do we raise the horrible price on his head? Does the trade of terrorists for an innocent soldier mean that more soldiers will be kidnapped in the future? (Hamas has promised this, on a full-color, professionally-designed poster picturing Shalit and promising that there will be more like him.)

But when Israelis watch Gilad Shalit on television, they see something different, something I won't really understand for decades. They see that Gilad could be their son, who also dressed in military green, smiled at the camera, and went off to serve his tour of duty. He could be the little sister who just left for basic training. He's the cousin who just signed up for combat duty. He's the bride who left to fight in Gaza hours after her wedding. "Soldier" is not an abstract profession in Israel, it's a rite of passage. And Noam and Aviva, sitting there fidgeting as they hear more bad news, could be you.

Looking at them, I cannot pretend to know what is the right course of action or whether any price is too high.

Gilad has been gone for 997 days.

May G-d protect Gilad and help us choose the wisest means to bring Gilad home alive.

UPDATE: Shlomo Artzi-- Israel's most enduring rock star-- must read my blog, because he wrote something somewhat similar in his recent editorial about Gilad Shalit in Yediot Ahronot: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3688803,00.html


Be Boycotted!

Hehe... I was trying to figure out how to translate a video entitled "How to Boycott Israel" into a lesson on how to be Israeli. This clever viral video basically says it all, though:

Being boycotted is actually an Israeli way of life. In the world of sports, for example, swimmers in the Olympics refused to enter the same pool as Israeli athletes and Arab judoka refused to fight our black belts. Recently, Israeli tennis players were banned from attending an international competition in Dubai. Contrast this with the Judo competition my husband and I attended in Haifa, in which teenage athletes from Israel, the Palestinian territories, Turkey, Jordan, and other arab nations all competed in a celebration of peace. THAT is how it should be.

We're in Haveil Havalim!

Actually, this blog was mentioned in haveil havalim-- a weekly roundup of Jewish blogs-- LAST week, but I didn't realize that until this week.

Here's a link to last week's roundup: http://therealshliach.blogspot.com/2009/03/haveil-havalim-207-very-trs-hh.html

Here's a link to this week's roundup: http://www.kvetchingeditor.com/2009/03/haveil-havelim-208-lingering-post-purim.html


P.S. I'm going to start working on brevity. And I'm not obsessed, I promise!

Secrets of Successful Bargaining

I'm convinced that this chasid outside a shop in Netanya used to have a red suit and a sleigh.

I will humbly say that I'm a pretty good bargainer. Better, in fact, than my Israeli husband. :) Ok, so I have those occasional slipups when I bargain and end up buying something that I don't want, but generally I can get WHAT I want at a reduced price. My secrets:

1. Depression. I'm not actually depressed, but acting depressed is a great bargaining chip. I learned this not in Israel but in Brazil on a college trip. At first, I would go into Brazilian stores and "ooooh" and "aaah" over everything-- what a beautiful pot! Wow, I love this hammock! The store owners figured if I liked the pot so much, I could pay full price. So instead I started to look downcast as I admired something-- "What a beautiful pot. It's too bad I can't afford to buy it at this price. Oh well, it will probably break anyway when I travel back home." Maybe the store owners just felt badly for me, but I started hearing lower prices. So when you're in a shuk or a small shop, try not to smile. Imagine your long-suffering Jewish grandmother. Observe wares with wistful sadness... if only prices were lower, perhaps you could afford to bring a few of them home.

2. Speak Hebrew. I know some "Anglos" who speak English to store owners because they feel they get better service this way, but I find that if I'm shopping in a touristy area, speaking Hebrew and demonstrating that I live here helps immensely. Part of this is that, as I said in my last post, Israelis know that all Americans are as rich. After all, they see Americans on TV-- you know, on The Hills, True Hollywood Story, Sex in the City, Oprah. So if you're an American tourist, it's only fair for you to pay a little extra. (I'd have to agree, actually.) They have far greater sympathy for Americans foolish enough to move permanently to Israel-- then they assume you are probably telling the truth when you say you only have 35 shekels to your name. Of course, if you want to speak Hebrew to bargain, you must have a good grasp of Hebrew numbers-- see Lesson #16.

3. Decide your price and be willing to walk away. This is very basic bargaining advice, but key. Decide the price at which you will accept the product, and then offer a price somewhat lower. If you really think you're being overcharged, be prepared to walk away. Often shopowners will agree to the price you offered as you walk out the door, but often they don't. And if they don't, keep walking. Remember: bargaining is an act of fighting for justice. If you are not being offered what you see as a fair price, do not pay more.

4. Ramp up your bargaining by appearing to grow more and more indecisive. If a shopowner knows you are determined to buy, they'll wrangle with you until you meet them in the middle or pay full price. But if they see you starting to waver-- for example, wondering if this food processor is actually going to hold up, or if you could just continue to chop vegetables by hand, or if this brand is good after all-- they'll try to close the deal quickly before you talk yourself out of it.

5. Point out flaws in the product (noncombatively). When I was shopping in Jerusalem, I found a beautiful embroidered shawl that had a huge stain on it. The shop owner assured me that it would wash out, no problem, so why should he give me a discount? I helpfully suggested that the shop owners themselves wash the shawl, because then they would undoubtedly get full price; after all, it would be such a pity to get less for such excellent work. In other words, I called their bluff in the sweetest possible way. I got the shawl for a third the stated price. (I did wash it and the colors ran, but it's still very pretty.)

6. Get the seller on your team. Just as shop owners try to connect with customers to get higher prices ("You from Pennsylvania? Ok, 15 shekel!"), you can connect with the seller to get a lower price. Never be combative with a seller; say "Lo, lo, lo" with a smile when you're offered a price too high, clicking your tongue, and giving the seller a look letting him know you're in on the joke. Don't bully the seller, but rather cajole him-- sadly and sweetly say, "Oy, that's a little too much for me. Can't you give me a good price?" I never outright disagree with a seller when they point out, for example, the beautiful etching on a kiddush cup. Rather, I say "Yes, that's really beautiful. Oh, well, I wish I could afford it."

7. Don't show a lot of money, and pay in exact change. Definitely don't hold out a 200-shekel note if you still have hopes of paying less. If you've already agreed to a bargained price, it's usually ok to pay with a bigger bill. But in a flea market in Tel Aviv, I once bargained a seller down on a second-hand belt. But then, when I counted my change (which she suspiciously handed to me almost entirely in 50 cent pieces), I found out she hadn't given me enough. She insisted that she didn't have enough change, and ultimately (after making a little bit of a scene) I decided to get the belt anyway-- the change she gave me already put the price below the price I was willing to pay. But in the future, it always pays to have small bills when you try to bargain.

8. Have a mean spouse. I actually have a very nice spouse, but one key to bargaining is the old good cop/bad cop routine, and both my husband and I have played Mean Spouse when we're trying to bargain. In fact, all of the above strategies can be amplified by a Mean Spouse. A mean spouse can splash negative thinking on a nice spouse's enthusiasm. If one spouse appears to be trying to talk the other out of the purchase, the seller will quickly try to close the sale. One key: develop code language to indicate when your spouse is playing mean spouse and when he actually doesn't think you should buy something. Trust me.

9. Say thank you! If you establish a relationship with a store owner-- even one who sells light bulbs and paint-- you can continue to get great deals from him for years to come. Plus he might come help you when you can't fix your dripping toilet or when your sewage overflows.

Important Hebrew phrase: "Ul-eye atah yechol laasot li mechir?" = "Perhaps you can make me a price" (i.e. cut me a deal).

Any strategies I've missed?


When NOT to Bargain

My successful bargaining attempt in Israel was with a taxi driver in Karmiel, about seven years ago. I had heard (like most tourists) that you can bargain in Israel, so I was determined to drive down the 15 shekel taxi fare that was clearly listed on the meter by the driver. I'll tell him fifteen is too much and ask for thirteen shekels, I thought, feeling smug that I would not pay retail like all those other tourists and that I was about to put my semester of college hebrew to good use.

"Lo! Lo chamesh-esrei yoter!" I said. "Shmonah-esrei! Shmonah-esrei!"

18 shekels? thought the Taxi driver, and took me up on it.

Moral of the story: don't try to bargain if Hebrew numbers confuse you. And thirteen is shlosh-esrei... let's all say that together slowly. On the other hand, I may be the only person I know to have successfully bargained with a taxi driver! (For the record, those little meters are pretty good indication that prices are non-negotiable. As are the posted fares in train stations, busses, and group taxis. You will not look all cool and Israeli if you try to bargain in these places.)

If you want to be Israeli, knowing when not to bargain is just as important as knowning when to bargain.

Case in point: our good friends went to Akko and bought fresh-squeezed orange juice from a vendor. When they were told the price, though, they felt it was too high. As they tried to bargain the guy down ("Lo! Lo twelve shekels!") the guy decided to intimidate the tourists and started shouting at them in a mix of Arabic and English. A crowd of giggling children gathered, and the drama heightened as the orange-juice guy started to pour the fresh-squeezed juice out onto the ground, possibly invoking the way foreign Jews have spilled Arab blood for decades. Our friends finally threw eight shekels at him and took half a cup of juice.

The reality is that they probably were over-charged, but it's not a good idea to try to complain after someone prepares food for you, because then you have already demonstrated your willingness to buy at the stated price. It's not generally a good idea to bargain when you buy food at all-- the check-out ladies at the supermarket don't care enough to charge you less, and prices are listed on pieces of cardboard at the yarkan (fresh fruits and veggies store) for a reason. Similarly, restaurants do tend to mean it when they list the price of falofel or Israeli salad. (If prices aren't posted, listen carefully to the price that the store owner gives to an Israeli before you ask for anything. I paid literally double for the jam in the picture on the right sidebar... but then I made myself feel better by going into the gift shop next door and driving the price of soap down by two shekels. :)

You should also not bargain at the drug store, the department store, or any stores in which bored teenagers work behind the counter rather than the store owner. The exception, of course, is if you know someone high up in the store-- but that's protectzia, not bargaining. If you attempt to bargain in one of these places as a tourist with no chance of building a lasting relationship with a store owner, you will most likely come across as annoying and stingy, because every Israeli knows Americans are all very rich.

The most important time not to bargain, though, is when you don't actually want what you're bargaining for. I've fallen into this trap several times, especially when I go some place with a lot of shiny objects like Jerusalem. I'll vaguely like something, and then get caught up in the battle for shopping justice that is bargaining, insisting that the vase should be only fifty shekels, not 100-- and then when the store owner actually offers me 55, I suddenly realize that I didn't want the vase in the first place. But by that point, I feel obligated to buy and I usually do.

And store owners know this-- they use bargaining as a way to guilt tourists into purchases. My parents and I went to into what appeared to be a consignment shop in a Druze village on the Carmel mountain. With mild curiosity, we asked how much, say, a pair of moccasin-style slippers cost. "Fifty shekel!" he replied. "Real sheepskin! Very warm!" I muttered to my dad that the plasticy fabric on the inside of the slippers was probably an indication they weren't skinned off the owner's own herd of sheep. "Ok, ok, forty shekel!" the owner said huffily, with an air of giving in, of acknowledging that these shoppers were clever. "Forty shekel! My sheep! I pack for you!" He hustled my father over to the cash register, packing the slippers into plastic bags, banging open the register tray. "They're very good! Very warm! You like them very much! Thirty shekel! Just Thirty shekel! You from America? Ok, ok, twenty! I give you two for twenty! Because I like you! Ok, we agree to fifteen. " By this point my father was under the dazed impression that he had been locked in long negotiations with the store owner. I guess I wanted to buy slippers, he thought, or I wouldn't have bargained so hard. And it would be rude to back out now after getting him to push the price down. At least I'm not paying retail like those other tourists! This is how my father ended up with a souveneir of polyester slippers made in China from his trip to Israel. What my father didn't realize was that the store owner was actually bargaining him down-- building a sense of obligation and trying to figure out what price my father would accept simply to be able to leave.

I'll post about when and how TO bargain soon! Any advice on where you can and cannot bargain? (Am I wrong, and can you bargain at the supermarket? :)


Carrot Sticks do NOT belong in Mishloach Manot

My origami-boxed mishloach manot

Just one more Purim-related post, for all my friends in Shiloh and Jerusalem who are celebrating Shushan Purim. :)

When I was trying to decide what to put in the mishloach manot (traditional gifts of food) that I would send on Purim, my first thoughts were to go for things like fresh fruit and crackers. This made sense based on what I'd experienced in America. My husband explained to me that this is NOT how things are done in Israel. Here, mishloach manot should contain nothing with more nutritional content than Bamba (which, for the uninitiated, are a lot like Cheese Whizzes only flavored with peanut butter). Ideally, mishloach manot contain chocolate, hamentaschen, hard candies, and more chocolate. Maybe a small bottle of wine, but the antioxidants in red wine might make it just a bit too healthy to include.

Therefore, I went nuts on Monday baking cookies. I also found an amazing recipe for hamentaschen in an Israeli cookbook. I've never seen a recipe like it in the US. Here's my best translation!

From the book Chagim (Holiday Entertaining), by Shai Li Lipa Angel. Apparently you can order it in the US through the Israeli bookstore chain Steimatzky-- http://www.stmus.com/prod/product_info.php?products_id=2595&language=en

This cookbook contains creative recipes for every holiday (including Israeli specialties for Independence Day), and the Hebrew in the recipes is quite easy to understand. I've only made a few recipes from this book so far, but they have all been fresh and delicious. (I love the simple recipe for goat cheese-stuffed dates!)

Disclaimer: this is my best translation of the recipe. And even if I misinterpreted parts, my version tasted better than any other hamentaschen I've made!

Oznei Haman
(Hamentaschen-- although the Hebrew literally tranlates to "Haman's Ears")
Makes 25

320 grams (2 1/4 cups) flour
200 grams butter, softened
100 grams powdered sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon smooth jam

2/3 cup jam (or neutella or chocolate spread, carob butter, or more-- I used date spread!)

For decoration:
Powdered sugar

Jam in the dough? Yes. It's true that it's just one tablespoon, but it makes all the difference. You get a pastry that is crunchy and melts in the mouth. Oznei Haman with the taste of "paam" (yesteryear, essentially), in the best sense of the word.

Click on the image to enlarge:

1. Preparing the dough: Mix together all the ingredients in a big bowl with your hands until it comes together into a ball. If the dough is sticky (mine was), add some flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (nylon) and chill in the refridgerator for an hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (about 360 degrees F)

3. Fill and bake: Roll out the dough until it is about a half centimeter thin. (I think I made mine a bit thinner.) Using the rim of a class or a cookie cutter, form circles about 8 cm across. Place a flat teaspoon of the filling in the center of each circle, close each "ear" (i.e., fold in the sides of the circles), and place on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper.

4. Bake 15-20 minutes, until the pastry browns slightly. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Keep in a closed container for up to a week.

Did I mention that Israeli recipes use odd measurements like grams, centimeters and celsius? Believe me, I'm still confused about how many grams of butter make a half cup. This is why the first half of the oatmeal cookies that I made from an American recipe spread to a crispy, lacy film on the cookie sheets... I think they were a little butter-enriched. If anyone can tell me how many cups are in one of our sticks of butter here, I'll be eternally grateful. The hamentaschen, on the other hand, turned out beautifully-- exactly like the picture in the recipe, just a little more brown than golden. I'm not so good at the whole "not burning food" side of baking. But it was nothing that a generous amount of powdered sugar at the end couldn't cover up...

If you're looking to entertain on the holidays like an Israeli, buy this cookbook! :) And remember, the more calories you can fit into your mishloach manot, the better. Feel free to treat yourself to your very own shushan purim hamentaschen feast... I know I'm still enjoying all those butter-enriched cookies. :)


Happy Purim!! (Now go to the mall.)

On Israeli TV in October, I heard Halloween described as the "American Purim." I thought that was a refreshing reversal of that old (equally inaccurate) line that Hannukah is the Jewish Christmas. But now that I've experienced Purim in Israel, I can say that it's actually much more!

First, Purim is celebrated here at so many levels. There was the Purim parade down the main street of our town on Friday, full of school children in matching costumes (see post below) and straggling teenagers who were too cool to dress up. There were clowns on stilts and Carnival-style dancers with feather tails. Kindergarten classes chorused by on the sidewalks a bit after the main parade, in pairs organized by their watchful teachers.

The teenagers themselves celebrated in malls. We went to the mall on Sunday to buy supplies for our mishloach manot baskets, and discovered this (click on the image to see a larger version):
What you can't see well in the picture is just how many of the teenagers are in costume. We saw countless brides, "punks," clowns. And in true American Halloween fashion, there were countless teenage girls who use this day as an excuse to dress, well, in less. We saw sexy angels, sexy policewomen, sexy cats, sexy ladybugs, sexy princesses, sexy soccer players, even sexy Santa Clause girls. And the mall was FULL. Parents took little kids (more often dressed as cowboys, princesses or muscle men) to the mall when they weren't sure what to do with a day off from school and kids eager to show off their costumes.

Even secular Israelis fulfill many of the mitzvot of Purim. Every grocery store is full of cellophane-wrapped packages of mishloach manot, sales on candy, boxes of hamentashen. At our megilla reading, costumed kids and adults drowned our Haman's name with headache-inducing enthusiasm, while a possibly senile old woman in front of me lazily shook her grogger through the whole thing. We stayed up last night getting our own mishloach manot ready-- we're about to go on a delivery. And of course, the rabbi reminded us of that other important mitzvah of Purim, giving to the poor.

I'm struck by the extent to which you feel Jewish holidays in Israel. To be a secular Jew in the US means that you barely know Tu b'Shvat or Purim happens. But here dried fruit goes on sale at Tu b'Shvat, and almond trees actually start to bloom. (Calling Tu b'Shvat the new year of trees always felt like a nasty joke in Pennsylvania, as snow and ice covered black tree branches.) For Purim, television ads show rock stars dancing in costume at parties, grocery stores sell plastic breastplates for little knights, and kids have off school. For better or worse, Jewish holidays are as commercialized and ubiquitous in Israel as Christian holidays are in America, and personally I'd say it's for better. I like that Purim isn't just a Hebrew school activity here; it's owned by those teenagers in the mall and the little princesses with groggers and the adults trading gifts of food. I look forward to someday explaining to my kids that Halloween is a kind of American Purim, but not as fun.

Happy Purim!


Everyone ELSE on the Road is an Idiot

(These are not idiots. These are children dressed up as
traffic signals in the Kiyrat Bialik Purim Parade.)

In honor of the fact that I'll take the first driving lesson en route to my Israeli license tomorrow, and the fact that the theme of the Purim Parade in Kiryat Bialik this year was road safety (really), a post about Israeli driving etiquette.

To drive in Israel, remember one simple rule:

Everyone else on the road drives like an [insert term: idiot/maniac/nephew of a monkey/Polish grandmother].

You, of course, drive very well. Every Israeli, personally, is a good driver. You keep a safe distance between yourself and the car in front of you, only talk on your cell phone in case of an emergency (for example, if your friend needs to figure out what plans are for Saturday night now), and pay close attention to all the cars around you.

On the other hand, OTHER Israelis are dangerous drivers who must be snapped into consciousness through skillful application of your horn. Other Israelis do not stop at intersections and pull out into streets without looking and must be honked at so that they do look. Other Israelis jabber on their cellphones constantly, even about stupid little things like Saturday night plans when their friends don't need to talk about them right now, and must be honked at with your free hand. Other Israelis must be honked at so that they notice you cutting them off. Other Israelis don't start moving when the light is about to turn green, so they need to be honked at so that they don't waste a precious second of potential movement. Other Israelis tailgate you, ignoring the "Keep your Distance" sign that you have clearly placed on your bumper. Other Israelis drive too slowly, and so you are forced to honk your horn, flash your lights, or tailgate them (safely, of course, because you're a good driver who pays attention) so that they don't keep you from making the next light. And other Israelis insist on honking their horns at you for no good reason, which is extremely rude.

To recap, if you want to be Israeli, you must be an extraordinarily good driver (like every Israeli) to make up for all of the crazy maniacs driving on Israeli roads.

If this doesn't make logical sense to you, bear in mind that the crazy drivers are not like you. Israeli men will tell you that women are the worst drivers, although of course they're wrong. Israeli women will tell you that Russians are terrible drivers, and Russians will explain that Arabs drive like maniacs.

So when you're on the road, remind other drivers to keep their distance and show a little bit of respect for the other drivers on the road! You may need to maneuver slightly into their lanes so they can hear you shout.

Sign on a rear window: "Keep your Distance-- Lawyer in Car"


Visit Achziv!

If you really want to be Israeli, you should go on "tiyulim" (trips) every weekend. Israelis know how to enjoy this beautiful tiny country of ours, and everywhere you go you see Israelis hiking (in Teva sandals), barbecuing, and photographing nature with ridiculously large cameras.

At ProphetJoe's request, I'll post some pictures of the Mediterranean today. :) This is Achziv, my favorite beach. It's actually part of a nature preserve north of Nahariyah. It's full of these gorgeous little tidepools that dance with sunlight and minnows. The sandy part (not in any of my pictures) is protected by a natural rocky cove. I took these pictures in December. Enjoy, and visit Achziv!


Tell "Jokes"

Years ago, an Israeli told me a joke that I didn't find funny. One Israeli meets another, and says, "Say, Dudi, how did you like that cafe last week?" Dudi replies, "Oh, it was a blast."

Get it? Get it? Ouch.

Yet I think Jews have always told jokes about the worst things that happen to us. For example, there's that old one about two Jews sitting on a park bench in Berlin, just before WW2, reading newspapers. One looks over at the other and says, "Yankel, why are you reading that paper?! It's Nazi propaganda!" Yankel replies, "Well, in your newspaper, what do you read? You read that the windows of Jewish shops are being broken, Jewish property is being seized, Jews are being worked to death in concentration camps, and no other country wants to let us in. Now what do I read in my newspaper? Jews control the banks, they control the media, they control the government..."

Instead of weeping, we prefer to laugh, I guess. Israelis take the security situation here very seriously-- the recent election results prove that-- but you have to laugh at an absurd world, too. Maybe it's a way to feel in control. An Israeli Soldier's Mother, at her blog, wrote a great post about a "joke" told by her son: http://israelisoldiersmother.blogspot.com/2009/03/circles-and-jokes.html
"What happens when a paratrooper makes a mistake?" he asked me.

I looked at him as he answered, "a paratrooper dies."

"Ouch," I answered, not really liking the joke.

"What happens when artillery makes a mistake?" he continued.

Well, if he was going to follow through and tell me an artillery man dies, I was going to be positively miserable those few days before he entered the army. "I'm not sure I want to know," I answered.

"A paratrooper dies," he said with a grin, knowing what I was thinking.

If you want to understand how Israelis have such normal, happy lives given the world in which we live, you need to look at Israeli jokes. Beneath them is a subtext: that's life. Life here involves some risk, but life also goes on. You just have to balance that dark side by living a little harder, laughing a little louder.

I'm struggling with whether I actually want to post this. This post is a little dark, plus I have a cold and my brain is fuzzy. I still don't consider these jokes funny, exactly, and I think Israelis are more sensitive than Americans realize-- I haven't heard jokes about Sderot, for example. But I'm trying to explain why it is that life here looks so much worse from the outside than it does from inside. Some of my friends in the US see Israel as smoking rubble, when here I'm sitting at my computer on a sunny day with my window open, my neighbor's loud music blasting, birds singing. The biggest decision I need to make today is whether to go grocery shopping. Life feels so normal. You sometimes only get a sense of how the "matzav" (situation) impacts Israelis in things like these bitter jokes. Israelis make the choice to LIVE. To get angry, to argue about politics, to laugh-- and then to go shopping and make Friday Night dinner or go dancing in a club. We live on the blade of that double-meaning of "blast," I guess, and most of the time we choose to celebrate.

My husband just pointed out the irony to me that this post-- about jokes-- is less funny than my others. But maybe that irony captures the contradictions in Israeli life better than anything else.


The Sales Person is Always Right

We all know that in America, the customer is always right. But in Israel, the sales person is always an expert.

An example: while my sister spent a year in Israel, her laptop computer mysteriously stopped charging. My father, visiting from the US, decided to buy her a better power adapter. Laptops have a converter in that power brick, so mostly you just need to buy a converter for the American plug, but my father decided to buy something more heavy duty.

When he went into an Israeli electronics store, on the other hand, the sales guy (being an expert) knew what my father should buy better than my father did. He insisted that my father didn't need a massive power adapter and was fine with the little plug adapter. In fact, he refused to sell my father the massive adapter-- despite the fact that it was more expensive!

In Israeli stores, I've often seen sales people push less expensive products because they're the "right ones to buy." Maybe it's some kind of reverse-psychology sales ploy, but more often it's because the sales people pride themselves on giving good advice-- and aren't pleased when customers don't take this advice.

Another reason why the Sales Person is Always Right in Israel is that more often than not, the sales guy in a little shop actually is the shop owner. They build relationships with their customers, like the guy in the Tambour hardware store across the street from us who actually came to help dredge out our bathroom when the sewer overflowed. Or the guy from the kitchen supply store down the street who sells homemade fig brandy underneath his counter. Or the manager of our local grocery store, who my husband's aunt pulled aside before Passover to ask when would be the best day to do her shopping. And actually, I think one reason American tourists often think Israelis are rude lies in the fact that, to the Israelis, the Americans are rude-- the Americans don't say "shalom" when they exit or enter a store, they don't appeal to the Sales Person for good advice, and they act as if they're entitled to good service rather than honored when the Sales Person decides to bestow it.

I got very good advice from an Israeli before I came to Israel: when you're dealing with a sales person or some other kind of Israeli professional, you must balance a little bit of kissing up (solicit good advice) with enough toughness to convey that you aren't a sucker (point out flaws, question prices). When you do it right, the sales person often cuts you a good price.

Have any of you had adventures in Israeli shopping?


Let's Spot Gila Almagor!

When my husband and I watch Israeli movies, we often play a little game we like to call "Let's Spot Gila Almagor!"

The great thing about getting to know Israeli pop culture is that basically the same six or so actors get recycled over and over. Gila Almagor, in particular, is one of the most famous of Israeli actresses, and her long career has resulted in roles in (it seems like) every major Israeli film from 1950 on. She's been described as the Israeli Judi Dench, but honestly, I don't think Dame Dench dominates English cinema the way Gila Almagor dominates Israeli screens.

Here she is in the classic Israeli immigration movie Sallah Shabati (1964), opposite Topol (Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof): (Btw, this is a great movie. Watch it if you want to understand Sephardi-Ashkenazi relationships in modern Israel; it's about the Sephardic aliyah. Topol plays an Iraqi or Iranian... a bit odd at first, since I saw him as the ultimate shtetl Jew!)
Here she is in The Summer of Aviya (1988):
Here she is with the cast of BeTipul, which was recently recast in America as HBO's In Treatment:

One of my favorite Gila Almagor movies is LelSeder (or "Seder Knight" in English), about a dysfunctional Israeli family getting together for seder.

Btw, the guy in the middle of the back row of the BeTipul cast-- Lior Ashkenazi-- is NOT Steve Carell. But doesn't he look like him? Or at least, Steve Carell if he got really depressed and also tan. Below you see Steve Carell on the left, Lior Ashkenazi on the right... and I rest my case:


Put Osem Soup Powder in EVERYTHING

When I first started dating my husband, we would often eat Friday night dinners at his parents' house (they're Israelis living in the US).

Anyway, every week my mother-in-law made the most amazing soup EVER. I would try to recreate it in my apartment with lentils, chicken, celery, tomatoes, dill, parsnips, parsley. Inevitably, my broth would taste like water or, at best, weak parsnip-flavored tea.

Once my future in the family seemed secure enough for the transmission of state secrets (i.e., for me to help cook Shabbat dinners), my future m-i-l told me the mystery ingredient...

Osem Soup powder.

You dump a few heaping tablespoons of this magic powder (available in kosher grocery stores in the US!) into water, and instantly you evoke soup simmering for hours in a shtetl kitchen, mixed with Cup-a-Soup and a lot of salt. Even better, Osem makes vegetarian chicken soup powder that tastes like the real thing, meaning that I finally have an answer to all of those recipes that call for chicken broth in cream sauce!

When I came to Israel, I realized that this fairy dust has infinite uses. My ulpan teacher told us about how she puts soup powder in everything (including her husband's soups, which he refuses to powder because of some silly objection to preservatives. As if parve chicken soup powder could be anything but all-natural). Soup powder is ideal in:
  • Casseroles (especially "pashtidot," which don't have a good translation in English)
  • Chopped liver (which I made for my husband on Valentines Day-- it's an unsung aphrodesiac!)
  • Stir fry
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Kugel
  • Matzo balls
  • Pasta sauce
  • hummus
  • mujaddrah
I have yet to try soup powder into Israeli salad, challah, or cheese cake, but I'm sure it would be delicious.

We had an Argentinian chef called Alberto in my ulpan class, who shared with us the recipe for French Onion Soup that he prepares at a fairly nice Italian restaurant in Haifa. Onions, butter, flour, water, white wine-- and Osem Onion Soup mix.

Are there any fun uses for soup powder that I missed?

Election Ads-- Apply Directly to the Forehead

Before the elections, my husband and I spent evenings curled up on our couch watching election ads. Government funding gives every party a few minutes to share their agenda on national TV. This means that parties with no chance of making it into the knesset-- featuring ads made on their nephew's imac-- are featured alongside the heavy-hitters like Likud and Kadima. Hilarity ensues.

The merger of the Holocaust Survivors' Party with the Mature Green Leaf Supporters is the most special Israeli party of all time (except for maybe the Men's Party, which for a while had zayin as its letter for voting and now uses fey-kuf. I'll leave people with good Hebrew skills to figure out those). My guess is that the merger of these two groups resulted from schisms within both the Retired People's Party and the other (presumably immature) Legalize Marijuana Party. This is their actual election ad, and there's something endearing about it. I repeat: this is not a spoof.


Sadly, these idealistic individuals didn't make it into the knesset.

This election ad parody is actually LESS ridiculous, but it captures the essence of the more serious ads on TV.


The jingle hits on every platitude possible: Israel wants Change, Leadership, and a Future for our Children! Avi Etinger loves peace, but he hates the Holocaust. He follows in the footsteps of Begin and Rabin and Sharon and plenty of other people who died in recent years. (Never mind that Sharon is, technically, still alive. I'm pretty sure.) So vote for Avi Etinger, because ma ze meshaneh: what difference does it make?

Right, that other Israeli characteristic-- cynicism about our leaders. I'm slowly starting to get that.

Update: I was trying to find a clip from one of the nephew-in-uncle's-basement style campaign ads, and I wasn't successful. However, I just found a good summary of all the election ads (and the way Israeli elections work) here: http://lisagoldman.net/2009/01/31/israeli-election-campaign-clips-seriously-hilarious/

Update #2: Ok, so for my Hebrew challenge of the day I decided to try to translate all of the parody election ad that I posted above. This is my best attempt. Er... yes... did I mention I've lived here less than a year? Also, the ad was a lot dirtier than I realized at first... ah the innocence of poor Hebrew skills. Read on at your own discretion. Please correct any glaring errors and PLEASE tell me what the fourth line means! :)

Israel is in need of change
Israel is in need of leadership
For the sake of a future for our children
We need a spicy step? We need on your march lions? We need mountains next to us? Er, I didn't understand this line. Help from better Hebrew speakers is appreciated.

Avi Ettinger speaking:
This is the knesset (parliament).
On a survey of international fun/pleasure,
that was advertised recently,
the knesset was ranked in the second-to-last spot.
This situation MUST be stopped.

It's time so say "cusomo" (I'm pretty sure that cusomo is a swear word relating to a certain body part of one's mother, or possibly of a male of homosexual persuasion? Either way, it's not in the dictionary:)
To the election of a different candidate
So vote for Avi Etinger
Because what difference does it make?

Avi Ettinger speaking:
Citizens of Israel
People, children, and tots,
(aside) children and tots are the same thing, no?
Habitu bi... habitu bi b'kipat havdela --hmm. The most I get from this is "look at me in a hat from havdela." Except that he seems to be gesturing at the dome of the rock, so I'm confused.
Who is more cute/precious?
You will have that responsiblity (or you will decide?) in the polls.

He is on the side of peace
But against the Holocaust
He loves the nation
That hates fecal examinations (maybe this means prostate exams?)
He supports Judaism and sodomy (!)
He will wage war with "avtala" and Chaim Etgar. Hmm. I'm not sure what "avtala" means. Maybe "purity" or "virginity" (betulah?) Chaim Etgar is a humorous writer.
He continues the voice of Rabin
And of Begin and Sharon
And many others who passed away in recent times

Avi Ettinger speaking:
The females (?) of sexual relations (Maybe another sodomy reference?)
We can put in order the goings on
In legislation, with pleasure (with "kef," the party's name)

So when you are at the polls
go to a different canditate
and vote for Avi Ettinger
Because what difference does it make?
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