Academic coffee on Emek Refaim.

I just came back from a successful study session with myself. Those only happen when I’ve waited until the last minute.

Looking back over the last two years of school, I realize something: I’ve taken to studying in cawffee shops. Throughout American university, I had many places to study and work, depending on the nature of the work. I only started the Starbucks thing in my senior year, when thesis-mode was my life.

I attribute my full-blown coffee shop study sessions to the following factors:

1. Israel has a much larger coffee culture in general.

2. I live far from any university so the library isn’t convenient.

3. I’ve been drinking more coffee since I got here (refer back to #1).

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Here are my ratings of the Emek Refaim cafes according to my study experience:

Cafe Hillel: My go-to cafe. This one is reliable, since even when it’s packed, it’s still somewhat quiet. The tables are the perfect size for spreading out, and they never bother you about buying one drink to sit for two hours. This is where I go to start and finish a study term.

Aroma: I love Aroma, I really do. Best coffee, best look and feel. But it doesn’t work for studying. It’s great for socializing, and so I keep it at that. The layout is all wrong for keeping to yourself.

Coffee Shop: Not a fan for socializing or studying. Everyone is sitting on top of each other so it’s hard to get in your own headspace. Not the atmosphere for a space cadet like me.

Rivaleh: New cafe on the block, and I didn’t actually try to study there, but as soon as I walked in I realized it was all wrong. A bit too fancy for a student hangout. I turned my heels and went to…

The Coffee Mill: This is an excellent study cafe and a great alternative to Cafe Hillel overload… assuming you get a good seat. I qualify good seat as next to a back wall or the window. It’s a small place, so it’s not always guaranteed, which is why I reserve this for special occasions.

Am I a Mac or am I a PC?

The last time I entered this debate was in 2001. It was my sophomore year of college and it was time to buy my first laptop. I had been using a 5-year-old Compaq desktop, donated by my father for the greater academic cause.

I chose the iBook – it, too, was a sophomore (at least, the sleek white version we’re all familiar with today) . I had grand visions of becoming a graphic designer in my spare time. I think I really just fell for the clever marketing.

Here I am, six years later, asking myself: Am I Mac or a PC? And this time, the question is loaded.

Today, I can’t look at an Apple-produced laptop without an expression of disgust. The sophomore edition turned out to be a real loser after exactly a year, when the warranty ran out. It emerged with a permanently faulty logic board that had to be replaced by the company multiple times. The machine fell apart by its third year. I found myself contorting the monitor so I could see slivers of screen; restarting after crashes from overwhelming heat; simultaneously praying and cursing while watching that insufferable little rainbow wheel turn and turn and turn, waiting to resume activity – but it just never resumed.

I believe that a $1500 machine (including student discount) should last longer than five – never mind three – years. The machine I’m on now is a 7-year-old Vaio, still going strong (but, admittedly, not strong enough if I’m in the market for a new, trustworthy laptop; this baby is effectively a desktop these days).

Which brings me to my point. Aside from my deep trauma concerning Apple customer service in its handling of its faulty iBook effort, I do reside in Israel, where Mac-help is nowhere to be found from a proper Apple dealer or someone I can afford and trust.

What does an (Israeli) torn lover do? I am still attracted to the Apple philosophy, I am still wooed by beautiful design and concept. I am, on one hand, willing to give all to make this relationship work, and on the other, fearful of another abusive experience and of poor (or no) customer service.

Yet, occasionally, I see other Israelis using MacBooks. What makes them trust? Who heals their hurt? Can they help me decide if I truly am a passionate, yet volatile Mac over a dusty, yet trusty, PC?

P.S. If you’re also Mac-owner/victim, read this article for tips on beating the heat.

City feature: Akko

Akko, Acre, call it what you want. It’s a strange little city in my opinion, a strange little city that’s been through a lot: Canaanite, Phonician, Greek, Roman, Persian, Arab, Turkish, Crusader, Ottoman, British and Israeli rule. It was also the burial place of the founder of the Bahai faith (source).

And, of course, here are my photos:

akko city memorial

akko city residents

akko city writing

akko city sign

 

Living here is taxing.

Ah, the Israeli workforce. It can be quite taxing. Literally.

My aliyah counselor-husband came to my rescue and found this site (put together by MLL PayWay, apparently), that calculates for Israeli wage-earners what you get paid and what kinds of taxes, and how much of it, your money is being sucked into.

It definitely helps with the American-turned-Israeli first-of-the-month taxation blues.

The date I'll never forget.

We’re not the types for anniversaries but this one begs to be recognized, as we did mutually choose to get married on Tu B’Av. Which is lucky because if we hadn’t, we probably wouldn’t remember.

We’ve been married a year (technically tomorrow at around 7 or so) and they say that the first year is the most challenging. Somehow, I don’t believe that.

I think that while the first year has the potential for being the most challenging (it comes with its share of firsts), it’s also the dreamiest and the furthest removed from 100% responsibility. I don’t mean that in the parents-paying-your-rent kind of way. It’s just that, everyone around you seems to care during your first year, seems to offer advice and wisdom and good will during your first year.

I’m not worried, though. I feel very lucky. We’re people who dream big but are also entertained by the smallest things. I just hope it always stays that way; I think that’s just the key.

To kick off the second year, we went to a sushi restaurant in town to delve into a first I’m still exploring from about a few months ago, which is a growing liking of sushi. If raw fish wrapped in seaweed can be an omen of good things in the year to come, well, we’ll take that. As I said, entertained by the smallest things…

The hi-tech-ization of Israeli me.

If I hadn’t moved to Israel, I wonder if I would have ended up working in an internet company.

I get shocked when I think about the fact that the most experience I have now in anything is probably my day job (internet marketing for a healthy-sized website).

But let’s face it: I’m a writer. It’s pretty much at the center of anything I do. Internet marketing took the position journalism used to hold. And I even have plenty of offbeat marketing experience (if you consider my college activism experience).

What’s to be shocked at, then? Don’t most of us work/write for the internet anyway?

I guess Israel is such a fun place to be passionate about the internet business, what with our ridiculous engineering creativity and out-of-the-box lifestyles.

Yes, I’ve always been interested in being a tech geek. Yes, I know that the interest in itself makes me somewhat of a tech geek (or a geek at all).

But it wasn’t until I got to Israel that a career revolving around terms such as SEO, viral marketing and Web 2.0 became a possibility.

Essentials of a young start-up: sexy laptop and cushy poof.

'It's time to act.'

My newly-YNet-columnist husband presents us with his account of our Sederot volunteer day a month or so ago. One day of painting a bomb shelter doesn’t make anyone holier-than-thou, but it’s funny to see our words on ynetnews.com:

‘It’s time to act’
Ronen and Elisheva, a young couple who immigrated to Israel two years ago, answered our call to volunteer in Sderot. Here is their account.

‘It’s time to act’ – Those were the words my wife said to me one evening in late May. As relatively new immigrants in Israel, even after two and a half years, we have witnessed the disengagement (which we watched from our absorption centre), a second war in Lebanon (which occurred simultaneously with our wedding) and read about the constant Qassam attacks on Sderot. Since we no longer had personal excuses during the most recent and ongoing spate of attacks in Sderot, it was time to do our part and volunteer. We found volunteer information through Ynetnews, Ruach Tova and Lev Echad and one Friday headed down to show our support.

For the rest of the article, see here.

Harry Potter in the Holy Land.

Buying the newest copy of Harry Potter is just not the same in Israel. In America, the book stores were buzzing with customers chatting to each other on long lines… Everyone was filled with delicious, fluffy hype, the kind that I guess is only available in the capitalist of capitalist societies.

The two book stores I entered in the Jerusalem mall hosted minimal lines, though Steimatsky did have a section in the back set up with a clerk dressed in a witch’s hat giving me my copy.

Granted, the Hebrew version of the book doesn’t come out until December; I watched a dismayed teenager learn this news at Tzomat Sfraim, the second book store.

Then I was the first on the bus leaving from the mall. See, on a Saturday night, Harry Potter release or not, everyone is definitely going to the mall, not from it to begin zealous reading.

As I got on, the bus driver knowingly smiled.

Driver: “I know what’s in those bags.”

Me: “Ha… Definitely.”

Driver: “I don’t get it. What’s the big deal about a book?”

Me: “Well… Look at it this way: The author is now a billionaire… Something’s gotta be right about them.”

Driver: “Yeah, the author’s a billionaire… So what? What’s so great about the books?”

Me: “It’s… fantasy…”

Driver: “Fantasy. So what?”

Me: “Everyone needs a little fantasy… Don’t you think?”