A few months ago I heard that Merkaz Hamagshimim was sold and moving to another location. All because of scumbag Madoff who lost $90 million of Hadassah’s money. I started reminiscing with others about what a wonderful “soft landing pad” The Merkaz was and how chaval (a shame) that it won’t be there in the same format for the next olim or would-be olim who come to Israel. The Merkaz was a combination of absorption center and community center located in the German Colony of Jeusalem. A place where you could live for a year on the cheap after making aliyah or while figuring out what to do in Israel and seeing if you want to move here for good.
If it hadn’t been for Merkaz Hamagshimim, I don’t know that I’d still be in Israel. It was while living in The Merkaz that I got to go to ulpan, work at an internship-turned-job, do Jewish learning, meet my would-be husband, meet co-blogger Molly and other friends, and the list goes on. In order to get a real sense of coming to Israel through a newcomers eye, I dug into group emails I had sent and found hilarious observations from my first year in Israel in 2004-05 while living at The Merkaz. Enjoy!
I’ve arrived!!!!!!! Merkaz Hamagshimim is unbelievable. I love my room but am still slightly nauseous from the ride from the airport. Replace ride with crazy israeli driver. i think he thought it was six flags great adventure and that we were on a roller coaster. he was the only one that went weee. oy.
Walking to town
We timed the walk to town today, and with our new carefully planned route it takes about 20 minutes to the Conservative Yeshiva and 30 minutes to town. I know the time, not because I have a watch, which I don’t, but because I’ve been carryng around my clock. Every time I want to check the time I pull out a clock from my bag. Maybe I should tie it around my neck. Or get a watch. We’ll see.
My room is really cute, airy, breezy, and right across from a camp (I hope) where Abba’s “dancing queen” has been playing since 9AM. Sometimes they listened to it in hebrew for variety and sang along. To say the least, its been in my head all day. My room also has a stove top and a fridge. the stove top was SOOOO nasty, so i bought some cleaning spray, only to find out later it was really to polish wooden furniture. yeah for hebrew and the english i failed to pay attention to. way to go. but actually it cleaned the grime nicely and also turned it into wood, which was an added bonus.
Only two computers at The Merkaz
Thank you for your emails, i read them over and over (you know who you are who have been emailing) because i miss you and because i love staring at this computer screen, i have been at it for (gasp) the past 2 hours almost. i am hogging the computer at the merkaz (there’s more than 1) because i am far too tired to be social So last night after scrubbing my stove for 3 hours (or so it felt) i tried to fall asleep to the beautiful sounds of cats meowing. oh jerusalem, you will never cease to live up to your reputation of being infestd with stray cats, even for me.
The no-shake internship
This morning I met with the people that I will be interning for. It took me less than 20 minutes to walk there, which is great. The walk to work is so nice, with lots of flowers, and cute stores, and fruit stands, and i’m sure i won’t be able to resist the little bakery with fresh, warm, baked goods (my biggest weakness) so i’m really looking forward to it. The guys that I’m working for are really laid back and seem very nice. They are religious so there was no handshake (in case that was on your mind, now you know)
Speaking of hands, I am sooo awkward, well in general, but more specifically at the supermarket, I extend my hand for the change but they always place it on the plastic counter. next time i will remember. woooops.
I went to the supermarket and pretty much bought everything in sight. How could I resist those sesame pretzels, and ‘vaflim’, and nutella, and cucumbers that I thought were zucchini. Woops.
Hebrew and Japanese
Ya caught me- i got nothin on japanese, but my hebrew is improving drastically. I love the people in my ulpan- i went to lunch with them and spoke hebrew for an hour. it was ‘fantasti’ .
Israel. week 25? Maybe. whos going to check.. honestly
What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been here for a while and am still very unsure of the future.
one more thing- food item called sabeech— amazing! ‘madheem’ wowsers. i hate eggplant but not sabeech eggplant, so fried and delicious and the pita and the hardboiled egg and wow. come visit and i’ll show you the best place.
Going on tiyulim
so i’m going on a Merkaz tiyul this weekend with hiking and biking and raking and caking and poking and soaking (?)
Rak Rega. (insert hand motion here which makes me want to curse out Israelis every chance I get)
Returning after a trip to the States
here i am. back in israel. as an israeli. more agressive? don’t think so. better hebrew? yes. better than an israeli? ehhh…
so i’ve gone and i’ve done it. the big A word. not the curse word, the other one. aliya. or aliyah. depending on how much you like silent letters.
As we celebrate our fallen soldiers throughout the many wars and plights for the state of Israel, it’s important to remember, on this day of remembrance, not only our fallen soldiers but our everyday heroes as well.
As a new immigrant, the move to Israel is more turbulent than just the plane ride. In fact, that may be the easiest part. It’s like you are suddenly playing the board game of life, but you keep landing on the squares that screw you. You jump from bureaucratic offices stumbling through conversations in Hebrew and not understanding a word, to trying to open a bank account, contract a cell phone and maybe even get internet. All the while you are crying, pulling out your hair and wondering what the hell you are doing here.
So maybe you didn’t cry as much as me (my tears could fix the water drought!). And maybe you didn’t pull out as much hair (with the right tools I could create my very own shaitel – wig). And just maybe you are more of a Zionist than me, so you didn’t want to pack your bags and take the next plane back. But I know you have fought many a battle with one of the above mentioned. I know you have had small victories and bigger defeats. I know the man has gotten you down.
But do not give up. Do not lose faith. And do not move back. We are here to make a difference. Each one of us will find his or her calling. I now know mine is to fight for consumer rights in Israel. My battle with Pelefone is over and I am the victor. Me! Me! Me!
In a previous post I wrote two months ago I told you about my ensuing battle with Pelephone. My complaints seemed simple enough: stop charging me for internet since I don’t use it or want it. And where is my contract because I never agreed to pay NIS 50 for this phone! My complaints were met with yelling matches between the customer service agents who do not believe the customer is right and managers who would rather belittle you then admit their faults. I was angry and deflated like a shriveled balloon. But somehow rather than exploding I came to my senses and decided to fight for my rights
I searched the web for consumer rights organizations and filed complaints. I demanded Pelefone for my contract and told them I would sue if I was not heard. I wrote my post and through the gift of social media, found support and help from strangers that have also struggled like me. And finally I found my Israel Israeli that could give me the confidence and will to fight until the end.
Everyone needs an Israel Israeli on their side. Israel Israeli is the person that comes into your life just when you are about to throw in the towel. He or she will not only encourage you to fight, but to fight hard. And they will even get on the phone and speak on your behalf, write letters and give you a high five for the small triumphs along the way. They will be there for you and never ask for more than a thank you for their efforts on your behalf. They will never give up. They will restore your faith. And you will not want to move back.
My fight with Pelefone is a not just a victory for me but a victory for all new immigrants who don’t believe the system works. Ok, so most of the time it doesn’t, but if you just commit to the fight and hold on to your Israel Israeli then you have a chance.
At the beginning of my battle with Pelefone, the manager told me I would never be able to cancel my internet charges. Not only have I successfully cancelled them, but Pelefone is refunding the last several months of charges. Also, my fight against paying NIS 50 a month for a phone that I remembered the customer service agent telling me would cost NIS 15—which at the time was a big deal for me since I was paying NIS 5 a month before that—was an accomplishment. Since Pelefone does not keep contracts (a standard practice for all cell phone companies) they had no proof of the original agreement. They told me they had given me a copy, which they did not, and said it was my responsibility to keep it safe. And what about them? Why didn’t they properly file a hard copy of the agreement? Well, after several letters, emails and phone calls (all with the help of my Israel Israeli) I stand before you today the proud owner of a phone that I now pay NIS 15 for!
Get empowered! Get help! And get an Israel Israeli! If you have issues, write them here and you will find that others will come to your aid. And since I believe this is my calling, I too will help you (and hopefully my Israel Israeli will be by my side).
Just like the heroes on the battlefield, there are also our everyday heroes that make a difference when it comes to the field of life. I thank my Israel Israeli for giving me the strength and knowledge to fight and win my rights as a consumer. I thank all those that have let me cut in line at the supermarket, slowed down their car to let me cross the street, gave me directions when I was lost, or just smiled when there was no reason to even make eye contact. Our country has survived because of the fallen soldiers that died for our right to live and because of our everyday heroes that give us the strength to battle on.
I was reading Life in Israel’s review of blogs during the “Bush week”, I discovered a new blog, wayeshevyaaqov. It’s been a while since I’ve had the attention span to read an entire post – especially when it’s a long one. But I had no trouble getting through Ya’aqov Ben-Yehuda‘s brutally honest account of being unemployed in Israel. Despite his despair about finding a new job, he decided to share valuable advice with others on what employment sites to look at, especially if you’re an English teacher (drushim, jobcentral, English Teaching Network, etc.). Ya’aqov, if you’re reading this, I put together a list of employment sites – maybe it will help you. (Just so you know, I tried to leave a comment on your blog, but I don’t have a blogger account so it wouldn’t let me.)
Ya’aqov also pointed out what seems like an unbelievably helpful website – a free faxing service within Israel. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks awesome. As we know too well, Israel is forever stuck in the 80’s and believes that faxes are the wave of the future. Thank you, Ya’aqov, for your great tips, good luck finding a job, and I’ll pass your resume around to whoever I can.