Sunset on the Mediterranean

Click on any picture to see a large version.

At sunset, my husband and I walked the boardwalk of Dado Beach in Haifa. Surfers waded out to catch the waves that splashed the pebbled beach.

The sun bathed circles of Israeli dancers in long yellow light. Down the beach, drummers beat as others swung legs in the Brazilian martial-arts dance, Caopeira.

We passed life-guard towers and restaurants, glad the heat of the week was finally breaking.

We settled in lounge chairs at a cafe to sip drinks and watch the sun sink low. One young surfer rode out in the waves. (On the right side of the photo, my husband's toes!)

Waves rippled with flame; clouds melted gold.

Just an Israeli evening.


How to Wash Dishes like an Israeli

As promised, here's my no-holds-or-pictures-barred view of how to wash dishes in a water shortage. Read at your own risk!

As Mark pointed out in response to my last post, the best way to save water while washing dishes is to own a dishwasher. However, I don't... as I'm reminded daily when I walk into the kitchen hoping the dishes will have magically washed themselves.

Back in the US, I'd wash dishes with a soapy sponge and a stream of hot water running constantly. To me now, that seems almost like, oh, barbecuing by feeding my grill a constant stream of dollar bills. Here in Israel, I've learned to wash dishes the the minimum of water running. There are some more complicated techniques than this: I've heard of people rotating three bins of water of various degrees of cleanliness, so that they first scrub in water that has been used twice, then rinse in water that has been used once, then rinse in water that was freshly poured that day. Then they throw out the dirtiest bin, shift the other two bins over, and start again the next day. However, this is what I've seen most Israelis do.

STEP 1: Fill a small bowl with warm, soapy water. Our water takes a while to turn warm (our water heater is on the roof), so instead I tend to use hot water from our electric tea kettle. The point of this water is simply to keep your sponge clean and soapy.

STEP 2: Use a sponge and this small amount of warm, sudsy water to soap up all the dishes. (Scrape off any remaining food before you do this step.) Set the soaped dishes on the counter while you're soaping the rest.

STEP 3: Rinse off all your dishes, turning off the stream of water while you put each dish on the drying rack. Bonus points if you can rinse several dishes at once. I usually manage to rinse big clumps of silverware at a time.

STEP 4: Clean off your counter. It gets very soapy.

That's it! Ha, I avoided the Step 2 picture of my dirty dishes. So this post ended up not so graphic after all. (My dirty dishes aren't unusually disgusting-- no mold, I promise-- but still, isn't it gross to see someone else's half-eaten chicken?)

This, btw, is my drying rack:

It slides down (making a sound like fingernails on a chalkboard) as it gets heavier with dishes, and it can be hidden from view behind cabinet doors over my sink. I'm not sure if this is a uniquely Israeli invention, but I know I never saw build-in racks like this in the US, and I've seen them in several apartments here.

Anyone have a different dishwashing technique to share?


Living in a water shortage

Yesterday, I was doing something in my kitchen when I heard a crack, then what sounded like someone dragging the sheets from our clothesline to the ground. But when I looked out the window, I saw that a branch had snapped off the tree in our courtyard.

Twigs from the branch were brittle like dead, dry wood. I don't know this for sure, but it seems as if our water shortage is so severe that live wood is drying out. A scary thought.

Israel is a dry country, but this water shortage is more severe than normal. We're like people who live off of credit cards and realize they're nearing their credit limit. We've taken for granted that the red line on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) can move lower and lower, but now we're beginning to wonder if the water left might not be enough.

In the US, I sometimes experienced droughts-- the spring on my family's farm would dry up and we would switch to well water, and then we'd get a big storm and the water would return. But what we considered a drought in rainy Pennsylvania is a way of life in Israel. We don't get rain all summer here, so we depend on winter rains... and continue to live beyond our water means.

Next time, I'm going to post about how to wash dishes in a water shortage-- complete with pictures of my dirty dishes! (Actually, you might not want to check back for that.)

For now, one of our favorite new water-saving tricks: we put a bucket in our shower to collect the cold water that runs while we wait for the water to turn warm. (Not "gray" run-off water-- clean water that otherwise goes wasted.) Then, I've been using this water to water plants and mop floors. Honestly, there's too much of it-- I now have a full bucket of water that I'm not sure what to do with. We might start using it to flush our toilets, although that sounds a little tricky. Or I might just buy more herbs for my window boxes and revel in the fact that I don't need to feel guilty when I water my plants. Any other ideas?


Evangelizing aliyah doesn't work...

My sister is back in America (right? Please call or e-mail! :) and we had a great visit. We didn't do anything spectacularly touristy while she was here-- it's nice to have a guest who lived here for 9 months already and got most of that out of the way. It was wonderful just to slip back into being sisters again. We both keep changing, yet the moment we get together we renew our language of shared experiences, sarcastic humor, and bad habits (like trailing off at the end of a sentence and speaking too quickly).

It's hard to move to far away from my family, but being close to my sister has nothing to do with geography. In a weird way, it was almost hard to value our time together because it just felt so normal. I miss her already, though!

Sadly, my attempts to brainwash my sister into making aliyah were largely unsuccessful. I'm not sure why. Certainly, it had nothing to do with the "incentives" my husband and I offered:
  • If she makes aliyah, she can babysit our hypothetical future children ALL the TIME!! (Hmm. Are we self-serving much?)
  • If she makes aliyah, she gets aliyah benefits, so surely she can put off getting a real job after college graduation.
  • If she makes aliyah, she can watch American TV shows WITHOUT ADS!
  • If she makes aliyah, she gets much better-tasting fruit and vegetables. (That one almost convinced her.)
  • If she makes aliyah, she too can buy baggy pants with built-in fake underwear from FOX!
  • If she makes aliyah, we'll let her stay with us for a whole two weeks before we make her move out and find her own place.
  • If she makes aliyah, she can buy cute little cars unavailable in the US, like the Madza 2 (you just thought there was a Mazda 3, didn't you?) and our Hyundai Getz:
(Ok, so that's not OUR Hyundai Getz. Ours is... well...
a lot more dusty and dented. But it's the same idea.)

  • If she makes aliyah, she can get a scooter license! (She took one sample scooter lesson while she was here, so she's already on the way. What? They have scooters in Boston, too?)
  • If she makes aliyah, she can... umm.... wait, it's coming to me...
Seriously, I would love it if someone from my family or my husband's immediate family would make aliyah, and obviously there are better reasons than those. You know-- the whole living-in-the-Jewish-homeland thing. The fact that this is a beautiful nation with warm people, rich history, and almost any experience you want within driving distance. The fact that life here is vibrant and real. And even my selfish reasons for wanting family nearby have nothing to do with free babysitting-- I would love to have sisters and brothers in the area without a time limit, to share holidays and weekends with them and have it all be no big deal.

But this did make me realize that ultimately, you can't evangelize aliyah. You can't entice family and friends to leap into a different culture, different language, different life. Something about desire to make this crazy journey bubbles from within. And my family is there for me-- even if "there" is across an ocean.

Original content: http://howtobeisraeli.blogspot.com


Post vacation until Wednesday...

Hi everyone! My sister is in town, and I'm on vacation. :) Just wanted to let you know that there will be no posts until next week. Be Israeli in my absence!

P.S. I really love this post from A Soldier's Mother about "what Israel is really like"... enjoy!


If an Israeli calls you "big," it's a compliment

When I traveled to Brazil in college, men would shout at women in my tour group "We love your beefy thighs," and I'm not so sure that was a compliment. But I digress.

One of my favorite Israeli idioms is "atah gadol," you're big-- conjugated appropriately, of course. (Ani gdolah!) And this doesn't have anything to do with size or weight. Rather, it means you're a "big" person-- you are bigger than your surroundings, bigger than your limitations, extraordinary. Similarly, to be big-headed ("rosh gadol") in Hebrew doesn't mean that you are full of yourself, but that you're a visionary. ("Katan alai"-- "small on me"-- is another good expression, meaning that something isn't big enough to handle you or take you down. In other words, you're "big," it's small.) I have to wonder if a lot of these expressions stem from the fact that we live in such a tiny country.

Last night, on the finale of the Israeli Amazing Race, Maya and Amichai came in a close second to Shai and Guy (real names of the winning pair). It must have been an agonizing defeat, because Maya and Amichai-- through synch, intelligence, and guts-- were ahead the entire final day, only to fall behind at the very last challenge when they had to push quarter-ton globes uphill using logs as rollers. It honestly seemed unfair. Shai and Guy are both very physically fit young guys, and either one of them probably weighed two of Maya. I really think the Amazing Race should make heavy challenges proportional to participant weight.

As Maya and Amichai reached the finish line, all the other contenstants chanted, "Hem gdolim, hem gdolim," a soccer cheer-- and I couldn't have agreed more. The greatest thing about the Israeli Amazing Race was that some of the physically smallest contestants (the blondiniot, Maya) were the "biggest" in the Israeli sense. Or, as they would put it, they are "fighteriots." Maya and Amichai were disappointed, but not disappointing.

Anyway, a few days ago I said that Maya was awesome because of her name (which is doubly awesome because she spells "Maya" mem-yud-hey, like I do, prompting total strangers to explain to me that my name is spelled wrong. It's not). However, that isn't the only reason Maya (ok, and Amichai... we liked him too) are still #1 in my book, and probably for most people who watched. A few other reasons:

-They played an incredibly fair game, never screwing over any other contestants
-Like any couple, they fought a good deal along the way, but they always made up and seemed to really care about one another. They bickered about each other's actions, but they never attacked each other's selves, if that makes sense, and they supported each other when it counted. (Personally, I could never have been as nice if I were in Maya's position during that final swing challenge!)
-I really admire Maya's physical toughness. She's got to be some kind of athlete, and as a past marathoner, I admire Israeli women who compete. (Israeli races are mostly men.) I think she's a runner too! See her blog.
-Maya made aliyah after spending almost her entire childhood in the US (with at least one Israeli parent). In some ways, I think this is harder, because you come to Israel sounding like a native Israeli, yet missing so many cultural references, Israeli life skills, and vocabulary words. I get away with a lot because I sound like a clueless olah.
-They gave EVERYTHING they had to try to win the race... and by "they," I probably mean "Maya." :)

And, of course, the biggest reason why I now think Maya is amazing...

-She commented on this blog!! Seriously! Read it here! (This really is a small country. I saw another team from the Merutz leMillion through the window of a bus in Tel Aviv a few weeks ago, and I'm pretty sure I saw a girl from "Mifratz haAhava" at a pizza shop around the corner-- although I'm glad to say I didn't watch enough "Love Bay" to be sure.)

So Maya and Amichai, you're "gdolim." Mazel tov on making olim proud, and good luck in all you do in the future!

Ok, I promise that my Israeli Amazing Race obsession will release its grip on this blog now... at least until next season. :)


Get your Israeli driver's license!!

Getting my Israeli citizenship? Easy. Opening Israeli bank accounts? Piece of cake. Signing up for Israeli health care? Easier than getting a doctor's appointment in the US.

Getting my Israeli drivers license? The most traumatic experience of my aliyah.

This story starts way back in August, when my husband and I bought a used Hyundai Getz. We found it using the Israeli buy/sell website www.yad2.co.il, and to save a few thousand shekels, we bought a manual transmission car. I knew how to drive stick, but my husband didn't, so test driving was all me. I was TERRIFIED to drive on the Israeli streets... I stalled twice when I tried to start the car, then crawled around the block once at about 10 kilometers per hour and finally said, "Great! We'll take it!" Worst test-drive ever, but the car has turned out to be fine... despite the fact that my husband regularly curses the day I convinced him to buy manual. (He's learned, though!)

Flash forward to January. We'd both been comfortably driving all around northern and southern Israel in our little Getz (affectionately named "the Munchkin"). My husband and I were seated in the "Misrad haRishui," our local branch of the Dept. of Transportation, to start the process for my husband's Israeli license. We knew that I could drive in Israel for up to a year after aliyah on my American license, but my husband's license had expired. As we waited for some forms, my husband suggested we check the expiration date on my license. Oops. It had expired in August. We decided not to mention this to the Misrad HaRishui, as there we were with our car parked in the lot outside... and no other way to get home. But after that point, I didn't drive the Munchkin.

Luckily, because my license had expired so recently, I could skip the written test. While this test is the bane of many Israelis' existence, I actually think it's easier for olim. To pass, picture how Israelis drive and then answer the opposite. Sample question:

What should you do when a car cuts you off on the highway?
(A) Honk repeatedly.
(B) Accelerate to pass the car.
(C) Tailgate and flash your lights until the car moves out of your lane.
(D) Reduce speed so that you are following behind at a safe distance.

Israelis would engage in choices (A)-(C), possibly simultaneously, so the correct answer is (D).

I was still required to take lessons with an instructor and then a road test. In March, I finally started my lessons with "Avi," an instructor who talked incessantly on his cell phone while students were driving and whose basic motivational technique involved lecturing when students did something wrong and telling them the secret to good driving was doing exactly what he said. As long as he wasn't actually talking on the cell phone to someone else at the time. In other words, he was very Israeli. In retrospect, I think I would have done better with a different teacher-- I tend to like a softer, dare-I-say "American" touch. (My husband worked very well with Avi, and passed his test on the first try after just a few lessons. Men.) But Avi excelled at working the system, and after pushing me through a few weeks of lessons, he took me down to the Misrad haRishui to argue for a test "chutz mehamisgeret," which would allow me to avoid the waiting period of about a month for a normal test.

Now, let me interrupt this to say that taking a driving test in Israel is not as easy as in the US. For one thing, we must know how to navigate traffic circles (or "roundabouts"), and we must identify the difference between what IS a traffic circle (meaning that whoever enters first has the right of way) and what looks like a traffic circle (meaning that you sometimes have to stop and yield in the middle). To make things extra fun, just before every roundabout and at random spots along the road, we have pedestrian crosswalks, and you can fail your test for not stopping when an old lady nears the edge of the crosswalk as you sail through. Then you have a random spattering of yield signs and stop signs, often with no logic telling you that this should be "yield" and this should be "stop." You also must deal with the Israeli penchant for lanes ending randomly or for the "straight ahead" lane to switch from the left to the right side of the road twenty times in a row. And you regularly come to intersections like this (my own picture):

Oh, and did I mention that because we own a stick shift car, I have to take the TEST on my instructor's stick shift car? And that I can fail the test if I don't shift smoothly enough (or use the clutch too much, or stall, or brake too sharply, or slow down in neutral, etc.) And I HATE driving lessons. I hate the passivity of only turning when the instructor tells you to, I hate trying to relearn skills that are automated, and I hate having every little part of my driving criticized. And it's extra stressful to me to not understand my instructor when he tells me (in Hebrew) to parallel park after the pile of brush in front of the yellow trash can, near the cat. And driving tests are far worse than lessons. I'm good at paper tests... not so good at driving tests when I can't go back to change an answer, and I might accidentally kill someone in the process. Plus, it's way more embarassing and frustrating to fail a driving test after driving for nine years.

To top it all off, I had already driven in Israel for months, so I'd internalized a lot of bad Israeli driving habits-- for the test, I had to learn how to drive not like an Israeli but like a promotional video for road safety.

Finally, getting a license in Israel is EXPENSIVE. Every lesson cost me 80 shekels. The test cost 350, plus a fee of about 100 shekels payable to the government. Plus probably other fees that are slipping my mind right now, like a fee to pay when I actually get my license. (New drivers have to take a minimum of something like 24 lessons, so Israeli parents can do the math-- not everyone gets a license at 17 here!)

My test was April 1st, which I should immediately have seen as a bad omen. I did everything perfectly... except for one little detail. I, er, didn't see a red light.

The examiner slammed on the breaks on his side of the car.

With our thudding halt I realized that I'd failed my first test. Another "chutz mehamisgeret" test was out of the question, so I had to wait... until "achrei haChagim," after the holidays, a catch-phrase signaling that nothing will get done either during the High Holidays in September or the string of holidays starting with Passover in the spring.

After Passover, I called Avi again... and was told to call back after Yom Haatzmaut. After Shavuot, Avi informed me that his car had burnt up. (Really.) Finally, two months after my first test, he called me back with my next test date: June 10. The morning after my sister was supposed to arrive in Israel in the middle of the night. And we were only able to schedule three quick review lessons before that, and after not driving for two months, I needed them. Something about a stick shift reveals every bit of driving discomfort.

Anyway, yesterday I took my second test, attempting every zen relaxation and focus technique possible during the test. I didn't do anything as horribly wrong as I had on my first test, but I also know plenty of people who have failed three or four times for far littler offenses. I took the test at 9 AM, and then I had to wait until 4:15 to find out if I had passed.

Finally, the call came. Avi: "Mazel tov, avart!" I passed. No more thousands of shekels spent, no more trips in my instructor's car. Now I just need to wait for my paper temporary license to arrive, pay a few more fees, and finally... I'll be just another Israeli driver. Unleashed onto the Israeli streets.


"Medusa" is not a Greek monster...

... although they do lurk in the Mediterranean.

(You can see the family resemblance.)

Sorry fewer posts than normal this week. My sister is about to visit, life is busy, and... it just got hot! I'm excited for hot weather, although as sweat poured down me today while I was strenuously sitting in my apartment (ha), I also remembered why I was SO excited for cool in the fall last year. Israeli weather in the spring and fall is absolutely perfect for life in general. Israeli weather in the summer is perfect for the beach! With almost 100% certainty, I can say that it won't rain for the next hundred days... blue skies, sunny weather, and the beach a ten minute drive away.

The only problem with this picture is that "meduzot"-- jelly fish-- also love the warm water of the Mediterranean. I've never actually hit a "medusah" in the water, but even the slight sting of medusah venom in the waves is enough to convince me I never want to get any closer. Surfing friends have welts to prove that they HAVE gotten closer, and it's no fun at all.

So listen to the Israeli life guards if they tell you to stay out of the water on a hot day. Instead, stay home and watch Meduzot the movie-- it's an artsy (i.e., beautiful but confusing and depressing) film that I wasn't crazy about, but many people love.

Happy summer!


Don't give away information!

Because Israelis are wonderfully concerned about each other (i.e. nosy), they have also developed super-strength defenses against each other's concern. Which means that if you are on the Israeli streets, you should act as if you are in the witness protection program and are being approached by Mafia goons.

I first realized this just a few weeks after we arrived. The great thing is that I was actually with an Israeli in a cell phone store at the time, and the person asking questions was actually a Pelefone employee--a Professional Authority to whom Americans would gush out their Social Security number, bank account tracking information, and birthdate of firstborn child without hesitation. However, with an Israeli involved, the conversation went like this:

Pelefone Employee: Where do you live?
Me: Well, if you're coming from the Haifa direction, turn right at...
Israeli: (to me) Let me handle this! (to Pelefone Employee) She lives around here.
Pelefone Employee: Where, in the Krayot?
Israeli: Somewhere around there.
Pelefone Employee: Which one? Kiryat Motzkin? Kiryat Bialik?
Israeli: Something like that.

Basically, Israelis disclose information on a strictly need-to-know basis... and others don't need to know. In fact, the Israeli only disclosed that I lived in the area because otherwise Pelefone might not have helped me. This is closely related to the concept of not being a fryer. If you assume that everyone else is trying to pull something or stick their nose into your business, you play your cards close.

Now, this backfires when you are not, in fact, trying to pull something. I have another friend whose checks list an address in Tiberias. Haifa-area stores refuse these checks because they assume she'd only travel so far from home (one hour) to pass bad checks.

Another example: delivery guys regularly try to give me packages that aren't mine. When I insist that I am not, for example, Miriam Lipshitz, they assume I'm lying. If I point out that the name on my door doesn't say Miriam Lipshitz, they locate similarities between the name on their package and mine ("Maya! It must be short for Miriam!") or propose that I must have recently changed my name to avoid paying bills. Finally, I demand to see the address on the package, which is inevitably for a different apartment or a different street. The delivery guys flee.

So if you want to be Israeli, give vague answers to personal questions (and that includes not writing your phone number on the receipt when you pay with a credit card, even though there's a spot for it). Assume that every person you meet is trying to steal your identity and spam your computer, and you'll be fine. :)

P.S. If you don't believe me, look at the Facebook accounts of your Israeli friends. How many of them allow "wall" posts? How many of them use their real names? Exactly.


Learn "Israeli" from the Amazing Race

First, a random question-- why does Egyptian President Mubarak appear to have a seder plate in the display cabinet behind him during his press photo meeting with US President Obama right now? (Finally-- proof for Egyptian extremists that Mubarak is a closet Jew!)

The big news of the day today, of course, is that the Israeli version of the Amazing Race will air the first part of its finale tonight. I never watched the American version of the Amazing Race, but when episodes of it do show up on Israeli TV, I'm struck by how comparatively boring it is. In the American version, the couples seem serious, focused on their tasks, competitive, steady... they are in it for high-minded reasons and they patronize non-English speakers in the countries they visit.

Israelis, on the other hand, struggle through with English not always better than, say, the Japanese businessman giving them directions. They teach Kibbutz cheers to South Africans. Israelis are used to dealing with genuine hardship, so they combat challenges on this race with senses of humor and willingness to wring as much enjoyment as possible out of the experience.

My two favorite contestants were Hadas and Inbal, the "blondiniots." (Well, after these women.) Yes, the blondiniots' official race portrait shows them posing in pink bikinis. But Hadas and Inbal are also two blondes who have served in the Israeli army, and they define themselves as "fighteriots." They gained my respect when I saw them shoot down clay pigeons one after another-- yes, Inbal screamed when the gun kicked her back after each shot, but she wasn't at all shy about pulling the trigger. I love this about Israeli girls... it's hard to explain, but there's something tough about even the most girly girl with pink nail polish riding the train... in her green army uniform. Whereas American girls can get by on pretty if they choose to, Israeli girls know to carry their own weight.

My favorite moment from this reel of "blondiniot" highlights is when they try to cut a rope by spraying it with perfume (containing alcohol) and lighting the perfume on fire... and eventually succeed by smashing a makeup mirror and using the shards to saw through the rope. Yes, they chose to carry perfume and mirrors with them in their race backpacks, but at the same time they don't hesitate to use these substances innovatively to get ahead. That, to me, sums up the superior toughness of "girly girls" in Israel:

Sadly, the blondiniot didn't make it through a recent elimination, although they were the last all-female team in the race.

Right now I'm rooting for Amichai and Maya, in part because Maya has a truly awesome name and is an olah from America... kind of. (I still can't figure this one out. She speaks unaccented Hebrew, but her vocabulary isn't very good. Maybe she has Israeli parents?)

I still think an all olah-chadasha team on the "Merutz" would be amazing. Anyone want to apply with me? :)

P.S. More evidence that Israeli girls have superior toughness... and this one is only 6! Wow!


For the best view in Israel, visit Muhraka

Muhraka monastery is one of those places that makes me feel Israeli-- it's the perfect place to take out-of-town guests, yet mostly locals know it exists. Muhraka is a Carmelite monastery on the Carmel Mountain (hence the name), and it is at one of the spots that Elijah is supposed to have fought with the prophets of Baal... hence this dramatic statue:

Elijah stomping out worshipers of Baal. Click to see a larger version.

For a ridiculously small fee (I think it was four shekels), you can climb onto the monastery roof, where you get this AMAZING view:

Different Israeli cities-- all of which you can see from this
roof-- are marked on the floor. Click to see a larger version.

When I stood on the Muhraka roof in December, I turned around to see the most beautiful sky I've seen in my life, complete with a glimmer of the Mediterranean in the distance:

Amazing sunlight. Click to see a larger version.

It's a bit hard to get the Muhraka-- with a car, you essentially turn right just before you reach the Druze village of Dalyat al Carmel (if you're coming from the east) and drive until you're convinced you're on the wrong road-- and then you're there. This site suggests a bus and then a taxi from Dalyat al-Carmel, which sounds like a good idea.

So if you really want to be Israeli, take your guests to this little gem on the Carmel mountain!


For some balance... "What's Missing in America"

Ok, so I'll admit that I talk a lot on this blog about things that are "missing" in Israel. Drip coffee makers, apple cider vinegar, molasses, actual vanilla extract, natural peanut butter (you can barely find the unnatural kind), M&Ms, swiffers, graham crackers, and more. It's not that there aren't excellent Israeli alternatives-- I'd take hummus or date butter over peanut anyday-- but, well, we all miss familiar things when we move.

So for a bit of perspective, my husband directed me today to this article in Maariv's website, www.nrg.co.il. The author (Nofar Chaimovitch) writes a column about living as an Israeli in NYC, and the article's title translates to "The Things You Won't Find in America." The article's first two paragraphs say it all about the Israeli attitude towards America, really. Here's my rough translation (please correct me if I get any parts wrong):

There is no doubt that America contains many good things. After all, it's America-- the country of capitalism and free enterprise. Every good idea is enough to turn an ordinary person into a millionaire, and everything here is big and beautiful and new and innovative and sophisticated-- but nonetheless, some things are lacking in America.

And true, it is possible to find these things in your local Israeli supermarket or specialty shops not far from Manhattan, but not in your neighborhood store. So we, the Israelis living in America, have to convince family and friends to send us what we crave or even to bring it with them (yes, it's legal). So here's a list of a few basic things that are missing here [in America].
Here's the list of things missing in America:
  • Scotch Brite. From the article: "Just as Americans don't know how to wash floors, so they don't know to use Stotch Brite when they wash dishes. Basically, Americans have too much water-- so they put all the dishes in a full sink of water and wash them with a different kind of brush. ..." Personally, Scotch Brite looks to me like just another scrubber that DOES exist in America... can anyone enlighten me? Is this something I should be using?
  • Floor Rags. I find this one really entertaining because one of my earliest blog posts dealt with the difficulty of using Israeli floor rags to mop the floor. Apparently, the author thought it was hillarious that a friend of her parents who had moved to New York City in the 70s asked her to bring floor rags with her when she came to America... until she arrived in the US and discovered, to her shock and horror, that "in the 21st century, there are no floor rags in America and Americans still think that to pass a dry mop over the floor is considered cleaning."
  • Laundry. What the author really means is that laundry detergent powder is almost impossible to find in America... however, she actually decided that she likes liquid detergent. I remember trying to wash my clothes when I came to Israel for the first time during college, and being utterly unable to find detergent in the grocery store. I was looking for liquid! The author also talks about needing to bring her laundry to a laundromat-- almost every Israeli apartment contains at least a hook-up for a washing machine. (You often bring your own washing machine with you when you move.)
  • Bamba. For the uninitiated, "Bamba" is essentially peanut-flavored Cheetos. And I agree with the author here-- it's kind of bizarre that Americans "spread peanut butter on every existing thing, including cookies and chocolate and sandwiches with jam" but are disgusted by Bamba. I wonder the opposite, though-- how can Israelis love Bamba and not be into PB & J?
  • Chocolate Milk in a Bag. (See picture at the top of the post.) Ok, this is just one of those Israeli things that my husband remembers with great joy from his childhood... and that I just don't get. But yes, you can buy chocolate milk in little bags here. (In fact, we buy milk in bags in general-- I should post about that some time!) "Shoko beSakit" (Chocolate [milk] in a Bag) is a bit like a juice box, except that instead of using a straw, you simply bite or cut the corner off the bag and kind of pour it into your mouth. It's an art.
  • "Mekupelet." This is a kind of Israeli chocolate bar (called "folded" because of its wrinkly texture), and I have to admit that I don't like them very much. To me, they taste like what happens when you leave chocolate in the sun too long and it melts and then re-hardens. And they look like... er... never mind. But according to this ex-pat Israeli, "There's no denying that mekupelet is one of the most brilliant inventions that there is."
  • A4 paper. Yup, the 8 1/2 by 11 inch printer paper we use in America doesn't exist in Israel... and the Israeli (probably international) A4 paper size is hard to find in the US. I finally caught on to this one after a few months of wondering why there would be white space and cut-off margins when I printed here. If you're curious, an A4 page is 8.27 by 11.69 inches. As Nofar says, "America has to be special."
  • Canned mushrooms. (By the way, I'll admit to cheating with the help of Google Translator to help me understand this page, and according to Google Translator, this entry is about "A box of mushrooms Gambling." But trust me, we don't have gambling mushrooms in Israel.) Is this really true, though? You don't have canned mushrooms in America? It took Nofar months to find canned mushrooms, but I seem to remember seeing them in Giant Eagle. Of course, there probably wasn't a whole end-of-aisle display of canned mushrooms as there are in our supermarkets here.
  • Daxemol. This is a kind of pain killer/fever reducer/cold remedy available only in Israel. I have to laugh when I read this and remember all the panicked e-mails on the Nefesh b'Nefesh list-serve: "What?? There's no Tylonel in Israel??" True, but there's also no Daxemol in the US!
  • Vegetable peelers. Ok, I'm mystified by this one, because I definitely did use vegetable peelers in the US. But according to Nofar, American peelers rust in two weeks and don't work nearly as well. Plus, if you go to look at the picture in Nofar's article, you'll see that Israeli vegetable peelers are a different shape than your average American peeler-- and I'll agree that they work much better.
  • Cotton wool. In Israel, you can buy a bag of cotton-- not cotton pads, not cotton balls, not pretty little square cotton makeup removers, but just a bag of cotton that you can tear off and use as you wish. And that's the kind of thing Israelis miss in America.
Personally, this article gave me great perspective-- just as I miss some things I could easily find in the US, Israelis miss a great deal when they leave this country. And the fact is that people in both countries manage to survive-- Americans with their dry, dirty floors and lack of Dakesmol, and Israelis with their powdered laundry detergent and lack of M&Ms.

So if you really want to be Israeli but still live in the US, start grousing about the quality of American vegetable peelers!
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