The Big Felafel


The Jerusalem Marathon and You! (Next Year in Jerusalem Indeed!)

Picture yourself somewhere in this crowd!

If you weren’t one of the 10,000 people that ran in the Jerusalem Marathon, Half-marathon, 10k or 4.2k race this past Friday, I am here to tell you that you better be next year. If you want a challenge, if you want to be healthy and if you want to eat pasta like it’s nobody’s business then sign up for the 2012 race now.

I am writing this to you, sore legs and all, to say that everyone has the potential to run in a race like this, and if you don’t do it then you are missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime. And to run the Jerusalem track, that’s the cherry on the top. Running through the streets of Jerusalem, hills and all, is an incredible feeling. Running with others who are sharing in your excitement and pain as you climb yet another incline, is so amazing I wish I could do it again this Friday!

Let’s get this straight. I don’t consider myself a runner. I am a woman who became a mommy and didn’t have the time or money to go to a gym with a newborn to take care of. So I made it my goal to get back in shape with a few DVDs (those postnatal workouts with cheesy trainers telling you you’ll be as fit as ever) and a light jog every now and then. No matter where you run in Jerusalem you are bound to face a hill, so I figured a good twenty minute run was plenty and would keep me healthy. Continue reading this entry »


Guide to Childcare in Israel and 15 questions every parent should ask


If there is one thing harder than birth, we would say it is trying to register your child for day care. Unlike the birthing process, there’s no Lamaze class to teach you breathing techniques as you try to register your child for day care in Israel.

But lucky for our readers, you can learn through our mistakes and questions as we  navigate the childcare system in Israel. And let us say right off the bat, that we encourage and beg you to add info in the comments section in order to help the new parent community.

It is barely spring, but according to Israel you need to secure a place for your child for the fall. You must sign up before spaces fill up, and that means that even if you don’t know what part of town, or even what part of the country you are living in, well that’s too bad.

Check out our guide below that explains the different types of daycare options in Israel.

Public/Government Run Childcare:

Maon (Daycare)

Definition: This is large-scale daycare run by various organizations (usually women’s organizations).  The government supervises and dictates policy.  You must register for these and be accepted (registration starts April 27, 2011). Full-time working mothers have top priority.

Groups:

  • 3-15 months: 1 adult for every 6 children, maximum 15 in a group.
  • 15 months – 2 years: 1:9 ratio,  maximum 23 in a group
  • 2-3 years: 1:11 ratio, maximum 27 in a group

Opening Hours:

  • Sunday-Thursday: 7:00am-4:00pm (though some go as late as 5:00pm)
  • Friday: 7:00 am-1:00pm
  • Holidays:  Government policy: three weeks in August (of which you pay a full month’s worth of tuition), a week before Pesach and the whole holiday, the other major Jewish holidays and the week of Sukkot.

Prices: NIS1550- NIS 2050, scale-based subsides payments based on household salaries and siblings

What is included: Food (and sometimes sheets)

What you need to bring: diapers, baby wipes, clothes, pacifiers, bottles, (sheet for the bed)

Maons in Jerusalem:

Mishpachton (pre-nursery in someone’s home)

Definition: This is daycare that is run out of a private home.  The government supervises and dictates policy.  There can be a maximum of 5 children (without getting special permission for more)  and  no more than 2 children under the age of one.  If there are more children an additional caregiver must be present.

Hours and Holidays:

  • 6 Day a week Mishpachton: Sun-Thur 7:00am-4:00pm, Fri: 7:00am-12:00pm
  • 5 Day a week Mishpachton: Sun-Thur 7:00am-4:30pm or 7:30am-5:00pm (although some places are only until 4:00pm)
  • Holidays: They must abide by the government set holiday schedule.  This includes taking off three weeks in August (of which you pay a full month’s worth of tuition), a week before Pesach and the whole holiday, the other major Jewish holidays and the week of Sukkot.

Prices: More or less the same price as a Maon, approximately NIS 1550, scale-based subsides payments based on household salaries and siblings.

What is included: Food

What you need to bring: diapers, baby wipes, clothes, pacifiers, bottles, sheet for the bed

Continue reading this entry »


Running in Jerusalem or How to Make Buns of Steel!

As I train for the Jerusalem half-marathon, I have come to realize that the Holiest city in the world was meant to be a land filled with extremely fit people. You cannot run five minutes without finding yourself climbing up another hill or flying down one. And when you’re running in your first half-marathon – that’s 21.1 kilometers or 13 miles – you realize that maybe Jerusalem isn’t the best place to start. Then again when you live here, there isn’t much of a choice!

Thanks to the new Gmaps Pedometer, creating my running routes has been easy— but there’s nothing easy about the actual runs. Every route has hills, it is unavoidable. Not only that, Jerusalem doesn’t have a beach, a lake or a boardwalk (I know there is the Haas Promenade in Talpiot, but really not the same as a boardwalk), that could make the run more visually exciting. Sure there is the Jerusalem Forest, but that is just more of the same, with crazy hills and inclines that my legs, butt and thighs will just not accept. And true, we do have the Old City which is a cool place to run through, if you like thousands of tourists getting in your way, cars trying to squeeze through the narrow streets, and broken roads that make for embarrassing and painful (being embarrassed hurts more than bruises) falls.

But I have challenged myself, body and mind, to run this year’s Jerusalem half-marathon and March 25th I hope to achieve my goal with thousands of others. While I am super excited about the half, the real deal is the first full Jerusalem marathon taking place the same day. With over 10,000 people registered, it looks like this will be the country’s biggest marathon, so take that Tel Aviv (with your beautiful beaches, boardwalks and HaYakron!). Continue reading this entry »


Hadassah Baby Hotel = heaven

Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital

A while ago I wrote about finding maternity clothes in Israel and as you might have figured out, after buying the maternity clothes and going through pregnancy, it was time to have a baby! You can read Molly’s guide to giving birth in Jerusalem here. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl at Hadassah Ein Karem in Jerusalem. My experience at the hospital was mixed – I had a great experience in the delivery room (if such a thing is possible) with the amazing midwives but my experience in the maternity ward afterward was disappointing. After going through the craziness that is labor (I’ll leave out the gory gory), my emotions were as stable as the Scream Machine roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure, that is to say, not very. When I arrived in the maternity ward, I hoped for a welcoming party with balloons and cake, a birth-day party, if you will. But no. We were temporarily placed in the hallway and greeted by a handful of unfriendly nurses who could have been a little more helpful and informative about what the heck a new mother is supposed to do – how to breastfeed, how to take care of the umbilical cord, etc. The other non-welcoming party was the cafeteria. It felt like high school all over again with cliques at the different tables – mostly determined by what language you speak. And the food was nothin’ to write home about – large chunks of cucumber for breakfast, smaller cubes of cucumber for lunch, and cucumber pie for dinner. So, as you can imagine, I was more than eager to leave the hospital when the time came and head over to the Hadassah Baby Hotel. (By the way, Molly wanted me to let you know that she was on the rooming-in floor in the hospital and had a great experience.)

Hadassah Baby Hotel

The Hadassah Baby Hotel was just up the elevator, up the stairs, down the hall, down the escalator, and down another elevator away from the hospital, but it was a whole different world. When I arrived to the hotel’s special baby floor, the nurses smiled, sat with me as if they had all the time in the world, and listened to all my questions.  To top it off, the hotel rooms were complete with a changing table, diapers, a nursing pillow, and other baby items. They also had a 24 hour nursery so that you can run up to the delicious buffet and eat, or run to the bathroom, or do whatever it is you need to run to do and know that someone is watching the baby and will call you when they are crying and need to eat. The nursery also offers to give your baby formula at night so that you can sleep a few more hours and speed up your recuperation. Also, a doctor comes every day to check on your baby and tells you if there’s anything you should be concerned about. From Sunday to Wednesday, the hotel offers a workshop each day for a few hours on baby development, nutrition, breastfeeding, and baby massage. I thought the workshops were a nice way of meeting the other mamas on the floor, and asking an expert any questions I had.

Since there is a floor of the hotel dedicated to babies and mamas, you can imagine my surprise when I walked back to my room after feeding my daughter, the lights dimmed low at 1am, only to bump into a Greek Orthodox priest in his jammies praying next to my door. I guess they ran out of rooms on the other floors of the hotel. Maybe he was praying to move to a different floor so he wouldn’t have to hear crying babies. In the morning, I awoke to find the same priest and 5 of his priest friends now fully dressed in long black robes, hats, and larger than life jeweled cross necklaces heading to the elevator. We stepped into the elevator together, 6 priests and a nursing mother, trying not to make eye contact, eager to get to the breakfast buffet.

Continue reading this entry »


The New Hannuka Miracle: American Doughnuts in Israel

Normally this time of year, starting about a month before Hannuka, the bakeries place their finest, sweetest and most oily sufganiyot in the window display so that passers-by have no choice but to indulge in the million calorie treat…several times. However, this Hannuka there is a new market on the oily goodness, in the form of real American doughnuts.

It seems that the already successful Jerusalem based Aldo ice cream shop on Emek Refaim is now cornering in on the doughnut world. With a huge sign at the front door, the store invites people to their new display of doughnuts, which happens to look exactly like Dunkin Donuts. In fact the company behind this year’s Hannuka miracle is Mr. Donuts, which have already been selling doughnuts in their Alonit stores.

The doughnuts come in all different flavors, sugar coated, chocolate with sprinkles, strawberry, and banana (really not a fan). A single doughnut is NIS 6, but Aldo is currently running a deal, six doughnuts for NIS 30 (that’s almost a doughnut for each day of Hannuka, if you can really pace yourself). I’ve already bought a box full and I won’t tell you how many are left as I write this post!

The man behind the doughnut vision is Zohar Norman, owner and CEO of Cocoa Mr. Donuts. The business guru has been back in Israel for 3 years after conquering the hummus market in America with Sabra Salads. His bakery in Yavne is behind the real doughnuts, using an American style recipe which fries the doughnuts at much higher speeds and best of all are only 180-240 calories a doughnut (another Hannuka miracle). If all goes well, Norman plans to also import American style pizza and muffins, OMG!

And in an exclusive report to The Big Felafel, a source at Holy Bagel has revealed that they are also going to begin selling doughnuts in their Jerusalem stores. I can already smell the doughnut sale wars! Now, we just have to get Norman to buy into Mexican food. How about some burritos and tacos in time for Purim?


GroopBuy, Get Your Deal On.

Like any good Jew, especially one living in Israel, I love deals. Deals complete me. A dress that was on sale seems more valuable somehow. Going to the shuk and bargaining over fruit leaves it tasting better than ever. And discovering a new website that brings the promise of amazing deals day after day, well friends, that is priceless.

May I introduce you to GroopBuy where deals are daily and that makes mamma happy. The concept is simple: everyday there is a new deal and if you like it you sign up and then you make sure your friends do too. If enough people sign up for the deal then we all get to enjoy the benefits. And again mamma is happy.

The deals can be for restaurants to dance classes and today it was for a dentist (not a bad idea since my teeth have been feeling sore lately, and I was just ignoring it but now I don’t have to). The deals come to your inbox so I imagine that this is what it feels like when the Christians say, “Everyday feels like Christmas.”

The website is super user-friendly and in English, in fact they even had Anglos in mind when creating the site according to the ‘about us’ section: GroopBuy is a response to the frustrations Anglos may experience when integrating into a new country. This cuts the Israeli learning curve right in half—now we just have to figure out a website that makes the banks and bureaucracies open for more than two hours a day and we might just see a spike in Aliyah.

Who is excited to get her deal on? It’s me and I hope it’s you because it only works if we all join in. And remember mamma wants to be happy.

Check out the deals at www.groopbuy.co.il
Join the Facebook GroopBuy Group


Where to shop for Maternity Clothes in Israel

You’d think that with Israel’s relatively high birthrate, and every woman you pass on the street being pregnant (doesn’t it seem that way?) there would be far more choices of maternity clothes in Israel than there are. As my belly, and most noticeably, my belly button, start to protrude, the hunt is on for nice maternity clothes in Israel that aren’t too expensive. Ha! As it turns out, this is a contradictory request, right up there with other things in Israel that are  totally overpriced like cottage cheese, organic milk (only in health food stores), decent sheets, and deodorant. Here is a review of the maternity wear that I’ve come across.

What I learned along the way

My first piece of advice would be to ask all your friends for maternity clothes.

My second piece of advice is to invest in long tank tops or the belly band to keep your  belly covered, especially for tall ladies like me.

If you have the opportunity to go to the United States or can have someone bring you clothes, I recommend ordering from Motherhood MaternityTarget, and Old Navy (sign up for the email and get discounts).

Note about sizes: I thought that as my belly grew I’d start wearing bigger and bigger sizes. But apparently that’s not true and you’re supposed to get your regular size when ordering from a maternity selection. I ordered a pair of pants from Old Navy that I thought would be my size but they were huge! Try ordering one size lower than you normally are if you’re ordering from Old Navy, their stuff runs big!

Warning about stretchy pants: I think it may be hard to go back to regular pants. I don’t know yet, but I am lovin’ me the stretchy pants, stretchy skirts, stretchy everything and will be very tempted to continue wearing my maternity jeans after giving birth.

Here’s my review of maternity clothes in Israel:

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Ramilee: Probably the  most well-known maternity shop in Israel, they have ok clothes, nothing special or trendy, and the prices are moderate to high. I did splurge on a really awesome pair of jeans from Ramilee. List of Ramilee stores in Israel

foxlogo

Fox – Mom-to-be line Often compared to the Gap, Fox conveniently started carrying a small maternity line, just as I became pregnant! What are the chances?! i found a cute shirt and some long tank tops, but the selection is pretty small. List of Fox stores in Israel. Call first to see if they carry the mom-to-be line.

hm

H&M Mama line. The excitement has finally calmed down, and you no longer have to wait in line to get into the store or a dressing room at H&M in Israel. I wasn’t so impressed with their maternity clothes, but did notice that they had some good basics like nursing t-shirts and nursing tank tops. All 3 branches (Malcha Mall Jerusalem, Azrieli Mall Tel Aviv, and Grand Canyon Mall, Haifa) carry the Mama line. List of H&M stores in Israel

tamnoonlogo

Tamnoon Although they don’t officially have maternity clothes, I have found regular clothes that are very flattering on a pregnant belly, at really good prices. Almost all the clothing in the store is under 100 shekels and the quality is pretty decent. They have good deals on long tanks tops. Here are pictures of 2 things I  got from there: stretchy skirt and flowy top – each under 70 shekels. The Tamnoon stores tend to be tiny with all the shirts stacked to the ceilings so you can’t actually see anything and feel bad asking somebody to get on a ladder for you. However, a new branch opened in Jerusalem’s Hadar Mall in Talpiot which is the biggest and roomiest branch I’ve seen yet. Tamnoon is in just about every mall, but you can check out their website to see the full listing of stores.
s1 tshirt

avishaglogo

Avishag is a high end, designer maternity store. The truth is that I haven’t been inside because I’m afraid I’ll like something and it’ll cost me a month’s rent. store listing

ml

Matimli features larger sizes and a maternity line, for2. Their clothes are very Israeli style. i took a peek but couldn’t find anything I liked.

Jerusalem
If you live in Jerusalem, there are  a few cheap clothing stores in Talpiot that have some pants with stretchy waistbands – Big Shop (on HaOman) and World of Fashion (on Hatnufa across from Kanyon Ahim Yisrael in Talpiot).

You can also try the hippie-type stores like Autenti on Yaffo St in downtown Jerusalem for stretchy skirts and dresses.

Also, there are some stores in the religious neighborhood of Mea Shearim area but I didn’t exactly think they’d have my style so I didn’t venture over there. Here’s the listing in the yellow pages.


Leave comments about where you’ve been successful in finding maternity clothes in Israel. Thanks!


A Green Light for ‘Ramzor’- A Must Watch Sitcom and Ulpan!

With Srugim winding down its super depressing season (writers, what the hell happened, not only do I feel sick when I watch the show, I don’t want to be friends with any of them, being religious looks like the worse life decision anyone could make- marriage seems like a death trap- and still not a single Anglo character), I have found a new show to love and one that makes me laugh.

Ramzor (Traffic Light), an Israeli sitcom, focuses around three 30-something male characters living in Giv’atayim (near Tel Aviv). While I enjoy the characters, a family man, the ‘living-together’ guy and the bachelor who is a bachelor all the way, it turns out that according to Wikipedia each relationship represents a color of the traffic light, hence the sitcom’s name. The family man, Itzko, is the red light since he is married with a seven-year-old daughter. Amir, the ‘live-together’ guy is the yellow light because he lives with his girlfriend, and of course that leaves the bachelor, Hefer to be the green light because he has no partner and is free to go. However you put it, the show is damn funny and a great ulpan tool for those of us that want to embrace Israeli culture and slang.

The shows are a smart funny and very similar to the current hit in America, ‘Modern Family’. The stories revolve around humorous concepts like an old woman taking over a swimming lane, the friend that only calls you when he walks his dog, getting a housekeeper who ends up making you work for your money and a dog therapist. The characters are all kooky. I personally enjoy Amir (that’s the live-together guy) the most, who is a private show choreographer. Basically he goes to companies and teaches their workers a dance which is themed around their type of work. He deals with the strangest people and yet loves his job and makes the musical numbers work! He alone is worth watching for a half-hour. There is also Itzko’s wife, Lilach, who oddly enough is also the wife on Srugim, yet plays a completely different character on this show. Here she is a self-absorbed journalist who always has the phone by her ear and is ready for her Pulitzer. Her relationship, if you want to call it that, with her husband is more like a great bickering match and makes for good TV. Hefer gives the show its dirtier moments and thus the sitcom has a little something for everyone.

Actor Adir Miller, who plays Amir the ‘live-together’ guy is also the show’s creator and can now add businessman to that list since selling the show to Fox in America. The US version will be written by Bob Fisher who was the executive story editor for “Married with Children.” The series is set to start this Fall.

Check out Free episodes online


Satire video on flotilla best PR Israel has ever done

The Israeli government “accidentally” let a satirical video of the Flotilla “slip” out to journalists recently.  Like other viral campaigns that have “accidentally” slipped out, they tend to the be the biggest successes, and the YouTube video already reached 1.2 million views and is growing. Finally, Israel has put together an English video that gets its message out in the most effective and entertaining way possible. Well done.

Flotilla Choir presents: We Con the World

Flotilla. Where did this word come from anyway? And why is it so awkward to pronounce? Does it rhyme with a Mexican tortilla? Luckily, I found out how you can show your support for Israel’s elite navy unit without having to say the word flotilla. There is a facebook page where you can order a free bumper sticker that says: “We are all unit 13” in Hebrew. Unit 13 refers to the elite Israel navy unit that intercepted the flotilla.

The site and the form are in Hebrew, so here’s what it asks for:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email
  • Cellphone #
  • Street
  • City
  • Zip Code
  • If you want updates by email or SMS
  • Comments

Israeli cooks giant falafel for NY Parade

Thanks to @davidzstein for alerting me to the most important news of the century!

According to the Jpost:

In honor of the annual New York ‘Salute to Israel Parade’ on Sunday May 23, an Israeli chef cooked a 30 lb (13.5 kg) falafel ball, setting a world record.

Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and an engineer certified the ball of chickpeas and spices for the Guinness Book of World Records. The ball was cooked in over 40 l. of water, and has a circumference of over a meter.

It seemed only appropriate that we report on a giant felafel here on The Big Felafel.