Sunday, 30 November 2014

Shavuah Tov to Everyone!

Isn't the image above beautiful. I borrowed it from a friends F.B. page. To be it represents growth, beauty, colour, life. Wishing everyone a Shavuah Tov (good week). May it be a week filled with many blessings.

After a few days of good, solid rain, the Kineret has risen which is always good to know. We had a lovely Shabbat. We hope you did too.

What do you have planned for the week that is just beginning?

If you are new to Israel, are you used to the week starting on Sunday? 

We're preparing for our next post of Aliyah tips. Do you have a topic you would like to be covered? Are you enjoying the posts and tips shared so far? Do be in touch, we love to hear your feedback.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Does Israel Have an Allergy to Windows?

Can you see the image above? The building is in the process of having another floor added. You can see the pieces of wood stacked on the Mirpeset (balcony) on the end of one floor down. These pieces of wood make up the wall, with a layer of concrete and of course the stone facade.

Take a look at the top floor. Can you see the tiny window on the left and a large section of wall space with no windows? This wall space is actually one apartment. Can anyone explain to me what the resistance is to windows in Israel? Why not put in two wide windows or three if they will fit? 

If you take a look at the other walls visible here, windows are quite narrow compared to the wall space available.  This is something very common to see in most buildings I walk past, it is not isolated to the one we happened to photograph.

The way the walls are built, the walls can not breathe, at least I cant work out how they do. Many apartments do not have adequate ventilation.

Do you know that having sufficient oxygen intake is crucial for ones health, concentration and general functioning?

This blog post is prepared for you by Shoshanah Shear
Currently a Puzzled Occupational Therapist. Puzzled because home modification is a specialization of my profession. Health and wellness is a major area and one I work in. The environment has an important role to play in our daily functioning, health and wellness.

It would be wonderful to see an increased respect for health by those designing and building in Israel.

My late grandfather (who was a civil engineer) had a professor who taught the engineers that unless one considers who will be living in a building, you have missed out on the majority of the design. Apartments are for human beings to live in and people need to breathe. One of the best ways to have sufficient airflow is with adequate windows.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Aliyah Tips - Maintaining Your Committment to the Land

Next in the series of Aliyah tips, we have a few ideas to keep you committed to the Land of Israel. When things get tough, as they do for all at some point, what keeps you motivated? What gives you the drive to stick it out and make Israel your home?

We have ideas of what keeps us committed but we took this again to a FaceBook group and had some amazing responses. 

Once again attitude and ones motivation for coming in the first place play a part. For some, Hashem is what keeps them committed to being here. 

Regarding the current situation, a few mentioned
"Even with (G´D forbid) Piguim and a new Intifada, this is the safest place for Jews to be." (J) 

We had quite a few comments that it is not safe in other parts of the world. A few pointed out that one never knows what will happen anywhere. To a certain extent, if it is ones time to go, then it is time. You could get stabbed in many parts of the world for your wallet or valuables. There could be an array of natural disasters. Anything could happen anywhere. But somehow, most agree that one just feels safe in Israel. 

One Olah shared that she lives in Ashdod. During the summer there were rockets there. It was scary but one knows it will pass. The situation will improve. Keeping this in mind helps us to handle the tough times.

At the end of the day, everyone who is here, living in Israel, agrees that Israel is our home. 

One very special response as to what keeps us committed to being in the land of Israel, was posted as an image and hence we post it here. 

The Beis HaMikdash, our Holy Temple will be rebuilt. By being in the Land of Israel, you get to be here when the change happens and our Temple stands once more.

Please visit again for more Aliyah tips. We have more on the topic of staying committed to being here. We have many other tips too. 

What topic is of interest to you?

If you need some guidance in being here in Israel, do be in touch with Chessed Ve'Emet. We'd love to hear from you and discuss which of our services can assist you in your path to be successful in the land where we belong.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Aliyah Tips Continued

Last week, we began a series of posts on Aliyah tips. I have a number of great tips and yes, we will cover what keeps Yidden committed to being here even when life get's difficult. Before we get to those, our next tip from a few Olim is, ATTITUDE. 

You need to come with a positive attitude and a dedication to stay here no matter what. Some spoke of making a complete break so that you have no option to return. Keep focused on being here and look for the positive no matter what happens. 

It might sound like a simple tip, but it is one that most who are here are tested with from time to time or often. If you are committed to staying in the land where we belong, you can start right now by looking for the good in every situation and looking for the good in Eretz Yisrael. Remember, as we posted in the previous post, we might fight and argue but Am Yisrael is one big family. So if someone upsets you, remember they might have a tough outer skin, but inside, Israelis have a heart of gold. Mostly the dedication to each other is very inspiring to witness and to be a part of. 

So when someone tells you, you can't make it in Israel, think Positive and remember, as one Olah reminded us, except for a few who remained throughout the years, most of us are all Olim in it together. Whether it is this generation or one's parents or grandparents, somewhere is an Oleh or Olah who gave up their other life to come and help to settle the land. Many have succeeded to remain here for decades. If those of us here can do it, so can you.

If you need some guidance in being here in Israel, do be in touch with Chessed Ve'Emet. We'd love to hear from you and discuss which of our services can assist you in your path to be successful in the land where we belong.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

A Personal Response to the Har Nof Massacre

Everyone has their own response to what transpired on Tuesday in Jerusalem.

Please take a moment to watch the YouTube video by Rabbi Haber of Ramat Beit Shemesh

Connections and Aliyah Tips - Helping One Another

I have so many thoughts racing round my head right now. I have some posts to put on Aliyah tips but while preparing those, our life was interrupted by a horrible, horrible tragedy. What do those two topics have to do with the image at the start of this post? Well the image is of a large group, gathered together. Different heights, different sizes, different clothing but together in a group.

On Tuesday of this week, I received an email to please Daven for two of the injured from a horrible attack.  They were the first two names she had heard of. Having worked in poly trauma in a large teaching hospital, I asked how they were. The question lead to some discussion at the end of which she showed interest in our Bayit Chadash Gemach, assisting orphans at the time of getting married. Not much time transpired when she emailed back that the wife of one of the injured whose names she'd given me requested for donations to be made to Hachnasat Kallah in the merit of a Refuah for her husband. I was awaiting some final info on our latest two orphans but set to work for an hour, dedicating that time to the Refuah of those injured.

The next morning I received a phone call from someone who lives in my area. He is a friend of the man and asked to make a small donation. We spoke a bit and a little later I went over to his home to meet his wife and explain about the work we do. She explained that they had a double interest, 1) merit for her husband's friend of 25 years and 2) for success in assisting a friend's son who is coming to Chuppah. We spoke a little and I found myself asking "is your friends son in x part of the Gush and marrying the beginning of Chanukah?"

Lo and behold, she is the best friend of the Chatan's late mother and is able to help us obtain the final information to assist him with items for his new home. Touched by the connection she was very grateful to be participating in what we are doing.

This morning I received an email from someone with a new item to donate. It turns out she is a co-worker of the wife of the same man, fighting for his life in a hospital in Jerusalem. 

With each interaction, another piece of the puzzle comes together. Another member of the group. Another reminder that the Jewish Nation is ONE big family. It is time for us to unite. It is time for us to drop our disagreements and stick together because when Am Yisrael is united, nothing can touch us. Not only are we strong together but our united merit was strong enough to enable us to receive the Torah and will be the key factor to help us merit Moshiach. 

So let us link this post to my series I was going to post and begin by saying, if you are in the process of making Aliyah, if you have already made Aliyah or if you are considering doing so, my first tip is remember Am Yisrael is one big family. If you come on your own, you are not alone, you are coming to your big family. If anyone upsets you, remember they are your relatives and smile, be kind to them and you will be surprised how the kindness leads to another kindness and another connection. And if you have not yet considered making Aliyah, come home. We need you. We need every Jew united together in ONE huge family portrait.

Please Daven for a Refuah for the following, injured in the attack.

Eytan Ben Sarah
Avraham Shmuel Ben Shaina
Shmuel Yerucham Ben Baila (I think this is Rebbetzin Heller's son-in-law)
Chayim Yechiel Ben Malka (in a medically induced coma with severe injuries. His wife requests donating to Hachnasat Kallah in his merit and listed our Gemach as one to give to)
Yakir ben Galit

Yitzchak ben Chaya
Moshe ben Sara

For those wanting to contribute to our latest two orphans, please be in touch ASAP. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

How to Renew Your South African Passport in Israel

If you are from South Africa and have made Aliyah and now living in Israel, you are going to have to renew your South African passport at some time during your stay. You do not need to return to South Africa to renew the passport, and can easily do so in Israel itself. The South African Embassy can be found on the 17th floor of the Sason Hogi Tower located at 12 Abba Hillel Silver Street, Ramat Gan

They can easily be contacted by calling them at (03) 525-2566. Renewing your passport is easy. Follow the important steps below and be well prepared. Please note, as with all other posts on this blog, the final responsibility of checking out all matters rests upon the reader. It is always imperative to check with the authorities themselves what their current criteria are and steps that need to be followed. We provide an outline that is aimed at assisting you to make renewing your passport an easy experience and hope you will gain from it.

Here's some important info:

  1. Get ready to renew your passport about 6 months before it expires!
  2. Make sure to get 4 colour passport photos taken of yourself. You may not smile (sorry!)
  3. Call the embassy to check they are open and their times. (Usually Monday-Thursday 9:00-11:00am)
  4. If travelling from Jerusalem, the 480 bus will take you to the Arlozorof train station in Tel Aviv 
  5. The bus leaves every 10 minutes - so if you miss one - there will be another in just a few minutes!
  6. The journey takes almost an hour (so make sure you get your timing right and don't be late!)
  7. When you arrive at the Tel Aviv station, you can get a taxi to drive you to the main building (see image below) - roughly a 5 minute ride away or you can even walk. If you choose to walk - give yourself at least 20 minutes for the walk. The building is literally around the corner (according to all who you will ask) but in order to actually get there, you must walk all the way around and over the bridge above the railway. Give yourself 30 minutes for the walk - and you will be able to enjoy the scenery and get some exercise too!
  8. You may need between 20-30 minutes to fill out the forms - so factor this into your time schedule
  9. You'll need ₪200 (cash only) for the passport and add another ₪20 if you prefer they send the passport in the post
  10. They'll be taking your fingerprints too
  11. Your passport will be mailed to you (if you've selected this option) and can take as long as 6 months to prepare
  12. If you are married - bring along your original marriage certificate
  13. If you were naturalised in SA, you'll need your naturalisation certificate as well.
It's actually quite easy to do - and notwithstanding the length of time in travel and walking etc. the actual process is certainly doable and there is no delay of long lines of dozens of people waiting before you. The staff at the South African Embassy are friendly, polite and pleasant to work with. They are patient and helpful, so if you have a question, ask them. 

Are you new in Israel from South Africa (or elsewhere) and wondering how to get around, what you need to do and how to do it with information that will help you get the job done in as little time as possible with the least bit of aggravation? If you're looking for a team of dedicated people to assist you settle - to help you feel welcome in Israel, contact us today to discuss your needs, your concerns, your worries and your interests. We'll help you navigate your way, sharing the realities of living in Israel - and how you can make a success of your Aliyah.

Pictured above: The huge building  in the center is Bank Mizrachi Tefichot in Ramat Gan
It stands directly opposite the Sason Hogi Tower (left of image)
This picture was taken standing at the Tel Aviv bus station.
As can be seen it is not very far - but it is indeed a little walk to get there!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Can you spell Shabbat with an O

A reader asked if one can spell Shabbat with an "o" The word Shabbat is from the spelling in Hebrew שבת 

The vowels in Hebrew are as we spell Shabbat, with two vowels of "a", "a" sounding uh. 

If one wishes to greet someone in Yiddish, or with an Ashkenazi pronounciation then Shabbat is pronounced Shabbos, in which case there is an "o".

If you are now totally confused and wish to understand further, do visit us at Chessed Ve'Emet. We offer Torah learning online and in person and would be happy to answer your questions, including how to write or pronounce important words such as Shabbat.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Send a 3D Selfie to Family Overseas!!!

Just when it seemed like "selfies" were the in thing - it seems that a new technology is on the arise - and Israel is in the forefront. The two young men in the video are pioneering a project to make this new technology a lot more affordable for everyone.

What does all that mean? It means being able to have a 3D photo taken of you, allowing an exact "mini-me" replica of you and your family which you can either keep yourself (if you'd prefer looking at it rather than in the mirror,) or sending to friends (who you know probably can't get enough of looking at you,) or even to family - who may in fact enjoy having a new "photo" of you on the piano or other piece of furniture!

Enjoy the video and be a part of helping these young men achieve their goal! Check out their work here - 3DUSelf

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Minimum Wage in Israel - You Can Make It Here (But How?!) - Radio Interview Included

Questions and discussions addressed in this post include:

1. What is the minimum wage in Israel?
2. What does minimum wage mean for the average worker?
3. What will my financial situation be if I end up earning only minimum wage?
4. Realistically - will minimum wage - without any additional financial assistance from family / friends give me the freedom to be able to purchase my own apartment (ever?)
4. If I am too old for the main work force or if I lack skills will that mean I am stuck with minimum wage forever?

Minimum Wage: It's not the type of expression anyone wants to hear on a regular basis - especially when it has to with yourself personally! Somehow, it doesn't have a good sound to it. This article addresses the topic as seen by the average person. While the article explores the reality of what minimum wage means to you - a regular worker in Israel - it must clearly be pointed out that even with little skills, there are other avenues to earning an income in Israel - and these should indeed be explored with every effort possible.

There was once a headline in a top American newspaper which stated "Minimum Wage $0.00". Not everybody got the message. Economists pointed out that this was what the government needed to implement in order to bring some stability to the economy - to give more people the opportunity to work. They indicated that when the government institute a wage which must be paid as a minimum amount to all employees, that those who could not perform basic job work would not be employed because nobody would be prepared to pay them the minimum wage! As a result, these people - often older teenagers and those in their early twenties, would end up on the streets, committing crime and in general being a trouble for society.

Though such individuals may wish to work, even for less, Government would not allow the employer to employ them because by law the employer will be forced to pay more - which they are not prepared to do based upon the skills these young people have. But think about the "other side of the coin"... While it may be true that without a minimum wage, everyone could theoretically get work - it could also be true, that employers would be permitted by law to have a worker work for them at absolutely no cost to the employer!!! People - especially in desperate times - find themselves prepared to work for anything - a meal, a dollar, 20 cents - anything. (A general look at Internet sites offering "job opportunities" including Content Writing and other "If you can do it, we will employ you" work opportunities, show clearly how the average person is prepared to exploit the worker to an almost slave level of work - all for their own profit. Payment is also often not given, though work is done, leaving the worker feeling totally despondent and desperate, and prepared to now do even more, for even less!)

Those who do in fact work for minimum wage well know the many frustrations encountered. Are employers ever really prepared to pay more for those who lack the skills for highly specialist work? Once the employer is given a license to pay a worker "x" amount - does he ever have to pay him more? The answer is a resounding "NO!" It is also unlikely that the worker will ever get more. He can end up working in the same company for years on end - inflation always on the increase - with his being stuck at the minimum wage he began with ten years earlier!

This brings us to our topic. Currently, the minimum wage in Israel sits at about 23 Shekel per hour. For some reason the economists wish to express it as a dollar figure - $6 - even though this is Israel which works in Shekels. In Israel, a work week is 6 days. The week is a long one for those forced into working this entire time - for at least 8-9 hours (more likely the latter) every day. While they have no choice, such a lifestyle makes huge demands on one's health - and just taking a look at the news, it seems that most cannot cope!

As of today - the bottom line is that a full month of full time work will earn you just ₪4300 a month. It's impossible to explain to those earning the "average" salary of ₪9000 the impossibility to actually live properly. Incidentally, the "average" amount is simply a figure which only actually exists as average based upon the literal average amount between all income earners - and not the actual amount earned!) The average earner in Israel is not in fact earning ₪9000. The average earner is stuck earning minimum wage - and hence the reason why this topic is constantly in the media (and makes no sense to high income earners as being a problem for anyone!)

The good news (at least that's how I felt hearing it at first) is that Government do in fact realise that the minimum wage is below a minimum living amount. It's taken many years for them to see this. Sadly - as the radio interview (below) will make it clear - Government is  looking into increasing the amount by just ₪200 per month. I did not do the mathematics, but it translates to something at about just ₪1 more per hour of labour. While people may be ecstatic to hear the "good news" and how many weeks and months are being invested in terms of implementing this new (revolutionary?) law - it is sad to see the lack of regard for being able to live life in at least in a respectable manner.

I point out again, that in today's times - even if you purchase a home in a settlement area (far away from your workplace and a place you may feel uncomfortable in and not best suited for you) you may still be paying some ₪500 000 at least for a very small apartment. (See Yad 2 under the Nadlan section for a realistic view on the cost of housing in Israel.) While banks need at least 30-40% down-payment for a home (usually the latter) you would still need to save up some ₪200 000 in order to purchase a home to live in. 

A small calculation of your minimum wage earning will tell you that it would take you at least 4 years of earning without eating, drinking, travelling, speaking on a phone, buying clothes or paying for anything medically related - to save up. Of course it's not realistic, because there are still taxes of a variety of kinds on your actual income (Bituach Leumi - for example) which reduces your gross amount even further. Realistically - it would probably take some 15-20 years of full time work before being able to earn enough for a down-payment on that very small home in a settlement - if you are starting from scratch - like many in fact do. Realistically - it may in fact take longer - and may not even be possible at all - even for the "settlement apartment." Unfortunately in 15 years time, the home will have gone up at least 100% in price - leaving you exactly where you started! Those earning bigger incomes in Israel once again neglect to see the impossibility of this painful situation often offering "helpful" advice such as eating potatoes every day as your main meal - three times a day, and other often ridiculous alternatives that can apparently save one thousands of shekels a month(!) which can be used to save up for one's dream home.

If you're living in Israel or planning to live here, consider the reality of your financial situation. If you are still young (read: 20-30 years old) with decent skills that are needed - you may indeed stand a chance of being able to actually settle here with a job that pays a livable income. Keep in mind that past the age of around 40 - without the high skills and experience that are needed - it is extremely highly unlikely to obtain any work more than a minimum wage job (if lucky!) - in terms of the regular market. As a result - your quality of life just in terms of finance, must be assessed realistically.

I present a radio interview from TLV1 radio (which presents some great shows on a variety of subjects, including understanding the Israeli economy in a much clearer light). The link can be found at: Israel's Minimum Wage Has to Come Up... But By How Much? The interview is about the new law concerning the increase in Minimum Wage and it is highly recommended listening!

The REALLY Good News!!!

If you feel that a minimum wage job is the only recourse you have in terms of earning an income in Israel but would like to approach earning income generation - for your personal lifestyle - from another angle, feel free to be in touch with us directly. We will help to give you a realistic look on how you CAN make it in Israel - even if you cannot manage on your minimum wage job!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Renting in Israel: What to Consider (Realistically!)

For those choosing the option of renting in Israel, there's really a lot that needs to be considered. Of course, purchasing an apartment in Israel has its own numerous considerations - a topic for another post. The ideas in this post can assist in giving a few ideas for both - with an emphasis on those wanting to get a start in Israel, but who lack the funds to purchase their own apartment.

Lets make it clear from the start. This post is for those who are "strapped for cash" but (probably like everyone else) need to live in a contraption that has four walls and a roof. Lets also make it clear - from the start - certainly when it comes to lower rental units, the apartment one is looking for, is usually a lot smaller than what one may be used to from other countries. Not only the apartment itself, but even the way it looks and the condition it is in. It's usually safe to say that the cheaper the rental - the more likely the apartment would have been less cared for!

There are no general rules about what the landlord is required to do to make the lessee happy. In fact, it will ultimately be up to the lessee to do his/her own homework in making sure things are in the best of conditions that he/she can cope with. That's not the discussion for this post.

What is the discussion relates to who you are. It's a fact that may be overlooked when you arrive. Advice about renting from social networks and those who do not know you as a real live person who has a life of their own, will include points such as taking the cheapest place - if that's all you can afford. Advice may also include living in an area which is also cheaper (even if you really feel uncomfortable about it!) It sounds right - after all. If you cannot afford to live in Jerusalem (probably the most expensive area to live in, sharing this title with Tel Aviv,) you may need to move elsewhere!

Ideas may be suggested such as Tzfat, Beer Sheva - the Northern and Southern areas of Israel. If these areas do not appeal to you, you'll be lead into the next general choice - the Gush - a section of Israel known as Yehuda and Shomron (Judea and Samaria,) that by world standards is subject to dispute regarding Jewish ownership. As a result of world politics, not everyone wants to live there. On the other hand - those with strong Zionistic tendencies often choose to live in these areas specifically.

One of the highlights in living in these areas is the opportunity to hear the Muezzin which produces an awesome sound at least five times every day. Though not found in the towns themselves, they come from the very close Arab villages. Do see Judea and Samaria Area (especially bottom of page under municipalities) for more information regarding the cities found in the Israeli West Bank Settlements.) Indeed you will find rentals cheaper in all these places, and you should not feel you are lacking anything by being in any of these places. It is all Israel.

With all this - and really the focus of this post - a word of caution. Don't forget to be realistic to yourself. You see... you probably know yourself better than anyone else in the first instance. In the second instance, you may have a certain type of lifestyle that requires you to live in a particular place for whatever reason it is. Following the crowd - because you lack the financial ability to rent centrally may not always work. When it doesn't, you may even find yourself considering returning to your country of birth (or anther place on the map - somewhere!) To explain:

Let us assume you rent in the center of Jerusalem because your work is there. After much research, you'll probably find that if you need to seriously increase your income, you won't necessarily find it easy in Tzefat. That is just how it is! Jerusalem - being central - is expensive. But don't forget, now that your work is there, as a result, your transport will be a lot cheaper than having to live in an outside area in the Gush - which may be very cheap, but lack adequate transport to get you to work on time - let alone the additional cost of travel! In addition, the constant and lengthier travel will take its effect on your health (especially if this is important to you,) and will actually add to your financial expenses. It's something one only ever gets to understand after doing this type of routine oneself!

Let's take another example: Again, your health may be important to you. You may need to be close to a hospital - or at least be able to get to the hospital in a hurry (for whatever reason.) Living in certain areas of the Gush will not afford you the luxury of a bus when you need to travel. In addition since you are already strapped for cash - you probably won't have your own car! The only way you'll get to the hospital is via ambulance - an expense of some 1000 shekels. You'll need to pay that money upfront - before being treated - don't forget! Being in Jerusalem and closer to easier transport means you could take a taxi (many times) to get to a hospital, instead of paying the ambulance. Again - only those who know the urgency of such matters, value and appreciate the importance of having easy access to transport facilities when it counts most!

Here's another example: You may live in an area in the Gush which has one or two stores for food and general things. The price of the food may far exceed what you pay if you lived in a more expensive area which has its own supermarket which actually charges far less for basic food (and other!) items. As a result, you may as well consider living in the more expensive area - if in fact it meets your requirements better!

Are you still trying to purchase furniture (of any sort) for your home? Living in an outside area will mean paying a lot more for transport to get the things you need to you. It may sound like a once-off purchase! But all of a sudden, it's a heater in winter (often not available in certain cheaper areas), two fans in the summer, a large garbage bin - or maybe even a fridge, stove or cupboard! Not only will it be more expensive in transport - but there are many companies who will not even come out to your area because they do not consider these areas as a part of Israel!!! You'll be forced to using an outside moving company who will charge you double and triple the amounts the store would charge if you were situated in an area which is politically okay!

Are you religious? Do you fulfill the laws of Family Purity and need a Mikvah nearby? Don't forget, you may find yourself living in a cheaper area - at the expense of being far from the Mikvah. Is it important to you to live close to a synagogue? Are you prepared to compromise on a cheaper apartment (wherever it is,) and lose out on being able to pray with a Minyan on a regular basis etc. 

Have you considered the advantage of living near a post office? What of living close to your Kupat Cholim? Though it's not the hospital - if you're not well, it can be imperative that you live close by. Are their specialist doctors who frequent your Kupah? If you need a specialist on a regular basis - and find yourself renting where it's cheaper but much further from the specialist - have you outweighed the realistic costs of time and expense when it comes to visiting the doctor?!

There will always be people to criticize the concepts in this brief post. It's not for them. The post is here to show you how so many factors need to be taken into account before making a choice of where you will live. Relying on those who prefer to "shake you off them" with an approach of always going where it's cheaper, will not always bring you to your goal - a long term one of settling in the country.

While the actual cost of rent is vital - don't forget to add in the costs of your life! Don't forget your general transportation costs as well as the costs of food and items at nearby stores (places you will frequent.) Will you really save by living in the "cheaper" area after all? Do you know what type of lifestyle you will have by living in the cheaper area? Are you going to live there just because it's cheaper - or because you really want to live there?!

Did you know - for example - that many people travel to the Rami Levy superstore in Beitar Illit, from all areas of the Gush and even other outside areas too - just to do their shopping there because the prices are so much cheaper?! But consider this: If you are Torah observant, and money is tight - that by living inside this area, you would have immediate access to the store - and save on a daily basis!

Did you know - for example - that many people travel to the Kupot Cholim in Beitar Illit, from all areas of the Gush just to make a visit to a doctor or dentist - because they lack various medical specialists in their own areas?!

It may look like it's cheaper when moving to an area that seems cheaper - but don't forget to be realistic to yourself, because you know yourself best! Don't forget to ask yourself - are you actually saving money when you take your entire lifestyle into account?! Will the initial lower rent actually save you money, time - and even your health - when it comes to all your activity in Israel?!

For assistance in understanding the importance of these concepts in a more comprehensive manner and to make a detailed accounting of an area you are interested in - as opposed to another area, contact us directly and we would be happy to assist you to do a chart of comparison to assist in giving you a better idea of some things to consider. Our approach is centered on your lifestyle. It is clearly not a real estate approach to finding your ideal home.

Shavuah Tov

Shavuah Tov to everyone!

In a previous post we mentioned how to wish someone for the end of the week and a good Shabbat. Just as there is a greeting for the end of the week, so there is a greeting for the start of the week. Shavuah Tov
שבוע טוב is said from a few moments after completing Havdalah (the separate between Shabbat and the new week). 

We wish everyone a blessed week.

Friday, 7 November 2014

One Thing I Asked of G-d - Musical Video

If you had a wish to ask of G-d, what would it be?

David HaMelech, King David,  in his Book of Psalms shared his wish. The video below has put this wish to music with stunning photographs that demonstrate the beauty of our Holy Land.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Shemittah - Buying Your Fruits and Vegetables During the Shemittah Year

Food - Glorious Food!!!

Every seven years, there is a big change in the selling of fruits and vegetables in the Land of Israel. Starting on the first day of Tishrei and ending the next year first day of Tishrei, there are a variety of additional laws that apply to the Land itself, as well as to its fruits and vegetables. The laws also apply to the consumer who is purchasing those fruits and vegetables. Keep in mind, that although the laws of working the land during the Shemittah year will no longer apply in the new year, the actual fruit and vegetables that grow during the seventh year will still retain their status in the eighth year! This means that even though 5776 will come by, we will still need to be careful of the fruit and vegetables that were grown during this year 5775! 

This post will explore a variety of views in a very brief manner - with some practical photos to help you to understand more about what you need to be careful of if you are wanting to be careful about what you buy and eat this year - 5775 - a Shemittah year (otherwise known as the Sabbatical year.) You'll also learn some new Hebrew words - if you don't know them already!

The Torah in Parshas Behar (Leviticus 25:1-7) explains the commandment of the seventh year. "For six years you may sow your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard; and you may gather in its crop. But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land..." Though brief in the Written Torah - the laws actual laws as taught in the Oral Torah can get quite complex - but as with all things, there are the most necessary points everyone should be aware of.

For six years you will probably feel a little easier about shopping (if you understand the basic kosher requirements of food!) When it comes to the Shemittah year, however, you will find people speaking about a host of unfamiliar terms - deciding for you, whether the fruits and vegetables you are purchasing are actually kosher or not. You'll need to ask your own local rabbi what's important for you - but we present below some photos and explanations of the general flow of things. This post is just an introduction and is not meant to direct you in the full Halacha.

Remember, choosing a reliable store to purchase from will help you to make better decisions and assist you to purchase kosher food far more easily than by visiting any general fruit and vegetable store. The pictures below were taken at Rami Levi. Personally, I have found the store to have outstanding prices, and am also a fan of the fact that he so often takes an active part in assisting the community in so many ways. (I have not been paid for this advertisement - though this blog is always open for this purpose!) Just one week ago - Parshat Noach - Rami Levi sold his Challot for just one Shekel each in honour of his contribution to the now infamous Shabbos Project (launched by the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Dr Rabbi Warren Goldstein.)

I add my support to his store due to his thoroughness in making sure buyers know exactly what fruits and vegetables they are buying. I don't mean - of course - whether they are labeled "carrots" or "potatoes"! Rather that the fruits and vegetables are labelled in accordance with the different types of produce that can be purchased during the Shemittah year!

There are four types of categories you need to be aware of:

1: Chu"l (חו"ל): The quotes in any Hebrew word tell you that the word is abbreviated. This word can be read and pronounced as Chol, and everyone will understand you. It is, however, an abbreviation for the words "Chutz La'aretz" (חוץ לארץ) - outside the land - or better yet, the diaspora. If you should see this label above a selection of fruits and vegetables, you'll know that the food was imported from outside the Land of Israel! This means it was grown outside of the Land - which means it was not grown in Israel! Because of this, such food is permitted - even by the stricter opinions. You're safe! The prohibition of fruits and vegetables of the seventh year only apply to fruits and vegetables grown inside the Land of Israel. Take a look at the picture above. You'll see some Pilpel Adom (פלפל אדום) or "red peppers". The sign on the very right hand side of the picture tells you that the fruit / vegetable below is fruit / vegetable from outside the land - from Chu"l. 

There's another sign in the middle that helps customers to understand more about the produce in this store. It tells us that the fruit and vegetables in this store are under the kashrut supervision of the Eida HaCharedit - probably the most strict of all the kashrut agencies! The sign is also indicating that the produce (when not labelled otherwise) is produce of the seventh year - important to know too (see below)! (Note: Though this particular store can generally be trusted, such a sign is not in fact a proof of anything. The sign lacks a formal certification with stamp, date, signature and name and address of the store to certify that it really is real! A topic for another post. But there is in fact a certificate in the store which does testify and this smaller sign is here to just help the customer feel more assured about his purchase.)

2. Shishit (שישית): This type of produce was grown in the sixth year. Shishit - from the word Sheish (שש) - six. Since there is no prohibition to eating food grown in the sixth year - buying such produce is also safe! You can purchase this fruit and these vegetables and feel safe that what you are eating is okay! Did you know that the Ediah HaChareidit had already stored enough potatoes over the past year to be able to support the entire Israeli population for the entire seventh year without having to worry about potatoes grown in the seventh year?!!! Check out the picture above! You'll see that these juicy Afarsimonim (אפרסימונים) - Persimmons were grown in the sixth year - last year! This delicious fruit is an Israeli favourite in the winter season. Get it now - before summer comes back (before you know it!)

3. Nochri (נכרי): The word Nochri means "a non Jew." Such produce was produced on the land belonging to non-Jews. There are many who allow this produce to be eaten, and there are many who prohibit it. After all, if the actual Land itself should rest from all work, then even if produce is grown on non-Jewish land, that produce should be forbidden to eat because the produce itself was produced against the Halacha - irrespective of the owner. On the other hand, it could well be that since the land was not actually owned and worked by Jews, that produce should be permitted. It's really important for you to ask your own rabbi what the best is to do - for you. What's important when you do your shopping, is to pay attention to the signs so that you know what you're buying and if it's okay! 

4. If you find produce that has no label - you really won't know where the produce is coming from!!! As a result, the produce may well be problematic! Once you are partaking of produce of the Shemittah year, there are many laws that need to be learnt. It is important to learn the necessary laws from a competent Halachic authority. You can also download a chart of the growth periods for the various fruits and vegetables by simply clicking on the link. It will help you to understand when the various fruits and vegetables begin their new cycles of growth - to be considered a part of the seventh year produce.

While point 4 clearly applies to a store that has labels (and one shelf lacks the label etc.) there is another time to take into account the problems of non-identified produce. Take a look at the picture above. These are fruits and vegetables that are being sold at another general fruit and vegetable store (not the Rami Levi store in the pictures above.) What do you notice?! There are NO signs indicating any information to help you understand what produce you are buying!

This can mean a number of things:

1. The store may be selling "problematic" fruit on a variety of levels. (Were Terumos and Maaseros taken? Is it fruit of Orlah?) In this case, the chances are slight (though never impossible!) as I know the store to be selling in an area where people are watching everything going on in the community.

2. The produce may be: Chu"l, Shishit or Nochri (there's nothing to tell us anything here!) In this case, it really is unfair - as many people do not rely upon Nochri.

3. The produce may well be okay, but it may be Shemittah year produce, in which case one would need to follow the necessary Halachot involved. (See calendar above and listen to the Shiurim below.)

As a result, if one is purchasing from such a store, it will be vital to talk to the store owner for assistance - if he can be relied upon of course! If you're concerned about what you are purchasing and would prefer to find yourself in less of a problematic situation, do your best to purchase from a store with a reliable Hechsher (הכשר) - Kashrut Authority, which will also have labels over their produce making it easier for you to know what you can purchase and exactly where you stand with the produce in terms of its permissibility.

Below the following pictures, I have also attached three outstanding Shiurim given by Rabbi Dovid Fink - a master in Halachah! Spend some time listening to them - or contact him yourself if you're not sure about something!

Take a look at the picture above. You'll see labels for both Shishit (left and right) and Chu"l (centre). Be careful so that you know what is what. Don't forget - you may have guests during the year. They might want to know what produce you have and which category it fits into. It's fair to them to tell them what you're buying so that they feel comfortable in your home. Keep a record of the different produce or keep them in separate compartments so that you'll remember if you've purchased something which not all agree to, or that requires you to follow many Halachot when peeling or cooking it etc.

The picture above depicts another difference in the vegetables and the shelving. You'll see the sweet potatoes as being Shishit - but the white cabbage as being Nochri! Keep in mind the paragraph above!

Enjoy the video Shiurim from a most reliable source! If you're still not sure about something or don't know who to contact for assistance, contact us by clicking here.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Store Hours in Israel - Understanding Israeli Time

If you're new to Israel, there's one thing you'll need to get used to... Israel Times. Of course during the summer there's Zman Kayitz (זמו קיץ) better known as DST (daylight savings time) and in the winter there's Zman Choref (זמן חורף) or winter time - which would be considered ordinary time. While the additional hour in summer may throw you out of balance - there's another concept of time to be concerned about...

There's a joke about the expression Jewish Time. The Urban Dictionary defines "Jewish Time" as being "Not perfectly on time" (see link for more.) That may be an understatement of sorts. Jewish time has no real time to it. When you are told a meeting will take place at "x" time with the expression "Jewish Time" attached, you can expect the meeting to be at any time (theoretically) from "x" time to two hours later. Never be surprised at the time the meeting (event, ceremony etc.) actually occurs. It will always be "on time" when you understand what Jewish Time actually is!

A famous rabbi of the previous century, Rabbi Zelig Reuven Bengis well understood this concept - just as well as he understood time itself! He would complete the entire Talmud each year - and there were times he managed to complete it more than once in the year. On one occasion, however, he celebrated a Siyum (סיום) - a celebration for having completed a Tractate or the entire Talmud - just a short period after having already just completed the entire Talmud. Everyone was amazed that he could have completed it so quickly yet again, since his last completion and asked how he had managed to do it. "This time," said Rabbi Bengis, "is a most special one!" After a brief pause, he concluded, "I am often invited out as a guest to be present at a wedding, a Brit or the like. The events never seem to begin on time - at the time they are scheduled for. I decided very quickly that whenever I would attend such an event, I would open up my Gemara and begin studying while waiting for the event to begin. This completion of Talmud that I have now completed is due to all those "little moments" I would have had to have waited and wasted during those late events!"

Time is important - and because of that, not only is it vital to understand "Jewish Time". In Israel, it's important to understand "Israel Time." In Israel, you'll find that stores are not always open at all hours of the day (nor night.) It is rare - save for the biggest of supermarkets and other large stores - to find smaller businesses open at all hours of the day. Everyone's store has different hours to it. While many stores are open for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon (offering a wonderful siesta time during the hot summer months!) other stores will open for just four hours in the afternoon. Yet others will open in the morning and evening - but be closed during the afternoon completely. Yet others may only open during the evening!

You may wish to purchase a pair of shoes - for example! You know there's a great shoe shop nearby - perhaps just one bus trip away. You get there within 20 minutes - only to find it's closed! It had just been open for two hours before you arrived, and will open again in another 2 hours, but for now - it's closed!!! 

You'll need to get used to this. Be prepared, take down phone numbers of stores you'd like to visit and always check that the store is actually open - BEFORE going there. 

Don't forget, in Israel, people have a lot more faith in G-d than in many other places. They know their income is assured. There's no real need to be open all day! In fact, even the poorest of store owners will kick you out their stores at closing time - even if you tell them you're about to make a large purchase if they can just keep their store open a little longer.

There are probably two ways to see the situation. One can always get upset at the apparent lack of manners when it comes to store hours. On the other hand one can also learn to respect the store owners who have probably found people wanting to "pop in" for just a "few minutes" to browse and see if there's something they'd like - only to find there isn't - with the store owner losing out on the opportunity to get the needed rest he may need to manage his shop with energy! From the store owner's point of view - the "client" may well be a time waster for him costing him the ability to refresh himself for another few hours of hard work. As a result of the "time wasters", owners are forced to say "NO MORE!" when he so decides.

So don't forget. When you'll be in need of some serious shopping and not looking to be disappointed at the possibility that a store is not open - give them a call first and make sure they're open. 

TIP: If you own a smartphone with a camera, take a picture of the store's sign which displays it's opening times. This way you can easily refer to it any time and know if they'll be open... when you want them to be!


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