I’ve been here almost three years, and the other day my mom forwarded me an email I wrote home a few weeks after I first got here in January 2005. Thought it would be fun to remember, especially since things are so different now. Here are some excerpts so you can get a feel for what I might have been like back then.
January 24, 2005
So I thought I’d try to paint a picture of what the daily grind is here since you’re probably not familiar with it. Here are a few strokes of color:
– New York has rats; Israel has cats. They’re everywhere. One eyed cats, three legged cats, fat cats, skinny cats, mean looking cats.
– A government ministry is always on strike at any point.
– The way we think of American Israelis in New York, Israelis think of ‘arsim’ here: greased hair, attitude, cheesy, sleazy, etc.
– Super religious: ‘charedi’, regular religious: ‘dati’, traditional: ‘masorti’, secular: ‘chiloni’. A ‘sabra’ is someone who was born in Israel, 100% Israeli.
– Jerusalem is all hills, so the weather is cooler than Tel Aviv or the coast. Right now you have to wear a coat in Jerusalem and layer up; in Tel Aviv you don’t have to wear a coat at all.
– You can get bourekas pretty much anywhere and they’re relatively cheap. Mushroom, potato, sweet cheese, not sweet cheese, eggplant, pizza…
– People walk a lot here. I walk to ulpan everyday and its about 20-25 minutes each way. You can do most of the city in an hour and a half (from Talpiot, a posh side of town, to the central bus station).
– At these ‘elite’ (chocolate company) machines, for two shek you get the best hot chocolate in the world. They have one at the ulpan and it’s our very own liquid crack.
– The gush hakatif issue is growing with time. That’s the settlement in Gaza that Sharon wants to dismantle in May/June. It’s going to be hell here when April rolls around. It’ll either blow over or there will be a mini civil war and it’s going to be ugly… I guess I’m hoping these religious settlers don’t have balls, but judging from the past, that just isn’t the case (after all, they live amongst some of the most hateful Palestinians in some of the most dangerous areas, for Christ sake).
– Ulpan is from 8:15-12:45, with two breaks. I walk to ulpan everyday alongside elementary school children who speak much better Hebrew than I do.
– Like Europe, days begin and end very early here. This goes along with the ‘work to live’ attitude of the people here, as opposed to Americans who live to work. Days start at 8 really and are over by 4. But they are actually over earlier; it’s not rare that people just duck out of government offices or offices are only opened half the day. Banks close by 1:30pm – try that for annoying when you’re busy all day with work or school. Many businesses actually close during Spanish siesta hours – about 1/2 to 4/5 pm.
– There’s a lot of respect for a guy who works in the tech industry. There’s less respect for a guy that is a bitachon guard (security guard) but there is still respect for those guys, though they get like 18 shek an hour for protecting the buses and cafes and stores. Most are new immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia.