The Big Felafel


A Guide to Birth in Jerusalem: The deals, The clothes, The bureaucracy

Baby Pasta for diaper rash! Welcome to Israel where new flavors of pasta are invented every day!

I was always so terrified to give birth. But had someone told me about all the free crap you get, I might not have been so scared. I’m just saying that there is light at the end of the tunnel (which tunnel…), and freebies are an awesome way to make the pain feel a little less painful in the days after birth.

The Big Felafel ladies gave birth just two weeks apart and through our experiences we would now like to share our knowledge of free stuff, cheap baby stores and paperwork with you. Save this list and save your time and money.

1. Money from the great State of Israel

When you give birth in any hospital in the state of Israel you are supposed to register your child and receive an Identification Number (Teduat Zehuot) as well as a little monetary gift of about NIS 1600 (if you have twins it is way more so keep that in mind), known as a birth grant. You should also receive a small monthly supplement thereafter, so make sure to fill out the paper work and give them your bank info.

2. Treats in the Hospital

As well as the free oh-so delicious meals you will have during your recuperation period in the hospital, you will also find that there are random women distributing gifts for your newborn. While in the hospital you may receive diapers, fresh wipes, breast pads and even a pacifier. Just realize that these gifts may come to haunt you as they will most likely get your home address and start sending you all kinds of stuff. I receive some kind of coupon or baby magazine every week (a nice change from the bills, but annoying just the same).

3. Betuach Leumi, National Health Insurance Pays Too!

That’s right, if you are a working expecting mother then make sure to collect your $200 after passing go. That is to say, that after you give birth you are entitled to 14-weeks paid maternity leave. My advice is to make sure you collect the past 10-months of pay-statements before leaving your job because you may need them when filling out paper work. The paper work will either be sent to you by your employer or you can get it at Betuach Leumi. It is pretty simple to fill out and your employer will also need to file. You can submit your paperwork at any time but it takes about a month for the money to be posted to your account so keep that in mind. The payment is supposed to be based on an average of the last three months you worked, so make sure to do your overtime if you can. Also, another tip here is to go to Betuach Leumi during afternoon hours when they are empty and more friendly since they are about to go home. One woman even let me breastfeed in their private kitchenette. I even started a trend when another nursing lady followed me in to the room. For more info from Betuach Leumi, check out their website.

4. Misrad Hapnim, Ministry of Interior, Make it Official

As I stated above, when you are in the hospital you should get an ID number for your child which will help when you need to get their passport. If you don’t fill out the paperwork there, don’t worry, you can always go to the Ministry of Interior to do the paperwork. If you go, again I recommend going during afternoon hours when it is less crowded. You will need to bring your baby’s paperwork from the hospital and the correct size passport photos (you can get them done anywhere) as well as the baby to prove that it is the same kid in the pictures. My advice here is to register the child’s birth and get their Israeli Passport at the same time, why go back twice? For more info.

5. SuperPharm cares

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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


From Rockets to Knowledge: The Difference We Can Make for Sderot Youth

Summer camp was the best place on earth for me as a kid (probably still would be as an adult). Being a camper and escaping from real life for a week or two at a time was just so needed from ages 7 to 15. I mean school was hard, what with all those math problems, and recess was already filled with drama, whether it was a fight about who would play mom in “house,” or boys with cooties; camp was always the much needed break and promise land away from my problems.

Every kid needs camp. But some kids need it more than others. While back in the sixth grade I stressed out about my boy problems, today the children of the city of Sderot are more worried about rocket fire and staying alive. For over eight years the threat of rockets and war has plagued the city of Sderot. That means that the children of Sderot have grown up with this continued danger, and some of them were literally born into it, making this the only life they know.

Sderot Knowledge Campers

This summer, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has opened up its doors and teamed up with The Canadian Friends of Hebrew University and Committee for a Secure Sderot to provide 200 youth with the opportunity to escape Sderot and the rockets and have a week of fun and learning in the Israel’s capital.

For one-week these kids can enjoy regular kid activities like swimming, bowling and going on hikes without worrying about where the nearest bomb shelter is or make sure their ears are alert for the warning of rockets. On top of the usual fun stuff they will also participate in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder workshops (PTSD) with trained professionals to help them with the trauma they have experienced and most likely will experience again. And to add to the experience the kids will also have the privilege of learning science in labs at the Hebrew University. This is a great treat for them, because coming from a periphery town these kids are barely getting a decent education let alone the opportunity to study at the top university in the country.

I met some of the Sderot kids that are at the camp and was taken away with their candid stories about living in a warzone. Even though most of them are 13 to 16-years-old, they talk like grown ups, speaking about the fear of death and life under fire. Each one of them has a story or stories about kassams (rockets) falling outside their homes, inside their living rooms and for one boy, on the pillow he had just been resting his head on before getting up to go the bathroom. They speak about these incidents void of emotion (due to the trauma); yet listening to them you feel their pain and understand the necessity of bringing them out of the city even if it is for one week.

While each youth is special, there was one that really stood out to me. His name is Daniel and he will be 16-years-old in a month. But unlike teenagers in America, he is not worrying about passing his driving test; instead he worries about surviving rockets. Daniel was a camper in this Knowledge camp but back in Sderot he volunteers helping younger children deal with PTSD as well as to cope with the stress and anxiety of everyday life. Daniel thinks he is just living life, but to me he is defining it. Everyday he survives his fear, he lives his life, and he supports others and wakes up to do it again, day after day.

If you want to help sponsor a camper like Daniel please check out my Give2gether page. It doesn’t take much for you to make a difference for kids like Daniel, and yet it’s all the difference in the world. I’m sponsoring Daniel or at least I am doing what I can, I hope you can do the same.


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


It’s Time for funny!

It’s happening again! My beloved comedy troupe, Hahaפuch, is once again bringing the funny and cheap alcohol to Jerusalem. What exactly can you expect: improv, comedy sketches about Israeli life, videos and our special fake news segment. Add to that our musical guest Shira Pruce and Orit Golan and special immigrant guest, as well as Paul Hyams of Bisbari catering who will bring free food with him!

Doors open at 7:30pm so make sure to get there for the cheap stuff and free stuff and grab a good seat. We sold out our last two shows so it’s best to call the box office at 052-603-9115 to reserve tickets. Check out the event on our Facebook group page. And check out our Hummus in a bag video from our February show.
HaHaפuch Comedy Variety Show:
May 13, 2010
Doors open at 7:30pm
The Merkaz Hamagshimim Theater, 7a Dor DorVeDorshav, German Colony, Jerusalem, Israel, the world
NIS 30: Students and soldiers
NIS 35: regular ticket


The Holy Crap! Scandal

Fresh off the press former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is corrupt… This can’t really be news. I mean I’ve known he was corrupt ever since he tried to hide his bald head with that ridiculous comb over. I said, “You can’t hide your comb over and you can’t hide the truth.” And here we are several years later suddenly (please read with a very sarcastic tone) breaking the news that the man is involved in a series of building scandals during his term as mayor of Jerusalem. Come on!!

First off, it is practically a national law to bribe municipality workers. I would do it if I had money to do it with. But that’s why young couples and students’ demands end up getting ignored by the city. Sure we want affordable housing, but we simply can’t afford to pay off the municipality workers who can make that happen. In fact, current Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat once gave a speech to a crowd of new immigrants expressing his shock when a young entrepreneur had his business shut down because he had not known to bribe the municipality workers. Bribing and power trips are old news.

What is shocking is to read about the other former mayor’s role in the scandal, Uri Lupolianski. I guess it still surprises me to see a super religious Jew fall so far from his holy teachings. Worse, Lupolianski allegedly laundered the money through million dollar donations to Yad Sarah, a charity for disabled and elderly people, which he founded in 1976. Is this a modern-religious man’s version of Robin Hood or did he end up pocketing the money and having hair treatments and spa time with Olmert? Time will only tell, since these men are obviously too corrupt to tell the truth.

But for those of us that live in Jerusalem and deal with the daily and disruptive construction (destruction), I think we knew awhile ago that something shady was going down. Or maybe it was just little-cynical-me. It just seemed like the expensive high-rises went up too fast but the pot holes on the streets never seemed to get fixed. In fact, the Holy Land Scandal is predicted to be just the first in a list of scandals. According to investigators the Mamilla mall, YMCA, Cinema City Project and Gilo Uptown project may all be linked to dirty hands.

While I may not be an official city investigator (who may also be accepting bribes by the above mentioned people), I have my own predictions about Jerusalem scandals. Mainly I believe that Project Light Rail is as dirty as they come- and it’s not from all the digging…The project was also initiated during Olmert’s term and continued on in Lupolianski’s reign. Mayor Barkat even stated that the train was ‘built in sin’. The project never seems to end. For years they have ripped the city streets a part causing painful traffic so that they can build a train that goes from one suburb to another. The rails are not convenient for the average traveler and probably won’t make traveling easier or faster. But will make it more expensive. Between Egged’s monopoly on bus transportation and the evil train, most of us end up walking or paying for a cab (that gets stuck in traffic). You can try the bike route, but since the city never made special bike lines then your simple ride into the city is more like a death march. I’ve done it plenty of times and every time I get off the bike I want to kiss the ground.

So when you read the news about the dirty evil sinful stupid light rail train scandal just know that The Big Felafel broke the story first! As for the other news, there’s nothing new about it.


I heart NIS 5 Ice Coffee- But here’s why

It’s almost summer, but if you’re like me then you’ve been drinking ice coffee (also known as ice cafe or froozen coffee) all year round. However, with the heat about to go up a couple of notches, the ice coffee craze will also make waves of its own.

If you get addicted or simply can’t afford the amounts of delicious goodness you are consuming then let me help you out. If you’re an avid reader of the blog (which clearly every person that reads our blog is) then you’ve heard this spiel before, but now there’s more!

Marzipan, a bakery known for its gooey rugelach has been selling ice coffee for NIS 5 for the past three years. Every summer I worry that they will raise their prices, but I am happy to say that’s never the case. In fact these are some of the smartest Israeli business people I have ever known. Without any advertising and just word of mouth, they have managed to expand their shuk operation to a bigger store and open up a shop just off of Emek Refaim. And now the smartness (is that a word, ironic) continues with the expansion of their ice coffee treat.

Instead of just one ice coffee machine, they’ve now taken over the adjacent stall and opened up a row of machines featuring different flavors from banana (not a fan) to lemon-nana to sweet vanilla. You can even combine the flavors and each cup is filled to the very top. This is about as close to a slurpee that we will ever get to! I’ll have to stop writing this now since the mere thought demands that I go out and purchase yet another treaty-treat of ice coffee!

Marzipan I thank you for your continued support in my ice coffee addiction. You’ve allowed me to continue purchasing my favorite drink at a consistent low price and, forced other vendors to lower their ice coffee prices as well. But have no fear my loyalty is to you. I promise I will always drink your ice coffee and sometimes vanilla and a few times lemon-nana and continue to spread the word about your smart business ethics and amazing deal. I only ask that you have the same low price at your Emek Refaim shop where you would no doubt win over the hearts of people forced to pay NIS 18 at the coffee shops throughout the area.

The next sip is on me!


“Olmert said what”- The Eavesdropped Chronicles

In case you missed the big news: former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has once again made the news, and it’s not because he is now too bald for a comb over (you would think that would at least make it to page six).

No, this time it’s about his close aide, Shula Zaken, that eavesdropped on his phone calls during his term as minister of industry, trade and labor (under then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon). How exactly was this plan masterminded? Well when Olmert was on the phone she would touch her ear to indicate to the secretaries to start eavesdropping and taking notes. Or if she couldn’t get her ear touch on she simply drew a circle on her notebook to cue the girls in. Not really creative but it did work.

However while we the public could only imagine the kind of juicy gossip and incriminating information Zaken must have about Olmert (not to mention the other side of the conversations which include Ariel Sharon and Bibi Netanyahu), she claims she can’t remember what the conversations were about. Of course I don’t believe that this info has been lost both in mental notes and the physical ones tucked away in her notebook, I’ve decided to guess what some of the conversations were about.

“Olmer said what”- The Eavesdropped Chronicles as guessed by Molly

  1. Olmert talks about his frustration with his comb over. The hairs are getting fewer and his hairstylist refuses to work with the thinning pieces. He’s pissed and venting his frustration to anyone that will listen.
  2. Olmert talks about his house that he plans to buy for a $1. Like any cheap-Jew he goes on and on about the bargain he’s getting and begs the listener to go with him to the $1 and furnish the house with him.
  3. Olmert plans another trip to the US quoting prices for the same flights in order to scam rich donors out of their money. The conversations sound almost exactly the same but just have different people’s name in it.
  4. Olmert talks to Sharon about becoming the then Prime Minister’s #2 (not the toilet kind) when forming the new party Kadima. They plan their announcement and Olmert suggests that with the new change maybe Sharon should lose a few pounds to really give the makeover of politics a new face. Sharon hangs up in anger. Olmert calls back begging for forgiveness, offering Sharon a back massage once a day for the next year. Sharon giggles but accepts.
  5. Olmert calls his daughter to check if she’s still a lesbian. She is and he asks if they are still on for their girls’ night marathon watching L-word.
  6. Olmert buys a toupee.
  7. Olmert buys another toupee.
  8. Olmert calls Sharon to ask him to come over and look at his toupees.
  9. Olmert and Sharon fight about his ugly toupees.
  10. Olmert calls his hairstylist.

 

What did I miss? Tell me what other conversations should be on this list. If Zaken can’t remember then it is our job to jog her memory.


Israel and the US: Fake Friends…Dude Accept it!

 Why is the US making such a big deal out of last week’s declaration to build more homes in Jerusalem? Is it because it embarrassed Vice President Biden during his trip in Israel? I mean dude get over it. No, what I believe we have here is more likely a case of Fake Friends. 

Here’s all I’m saying: I have friends that I really like and friends that are in my circle but I’m not so close to. If my ‘fake friend’ in the circle does something that annoys me then it drives me crazy. I can’t stop thinking about it, it changes the whole way I look at the person and makes me want to push them further out of my circle. But if a good friend did the same thing that annoyed me, I really wouldn’t care or make a big deal out of it. They are a good friend and I know them so it really doesn’t affect me and we move on. 

Let’s cut the crap and call Israel and the US what they really are: Fake Friends. The US is always bashing Israel for making minor mistakes and even when we admit to the mistake, try to fix the mistake and move on there seems to be an endless amount of repercussions even leading to Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren stating that our relations are the worst in 35 years. This sounds like a case of fake friends and not just bad relations. 

Case in point: Hey didn’t the Palestinians just fire kassam rockets into Israel this past week? Why yes they did. And where was the US- were they condemning their actions and telling them how this destroys any chance for peace and the process? Well I certainly didn’t read about it in the news and it hasn’t been coming out of Hilary Clinton’s mouth or Obama’s so I’m guessing they’re ok with it. 

And that is because the US is playing favorites in their friend circle. I get it and it’s clear, Israel is a fake friend. You don’t want us to prosper, you don’t want us to build homes and you get us in trouble for doing the most minor of mistakes while the other side has blatantly begun violent attacks from kassam rockets to rioting in the Old City, a classic beginning-of-the-Intifada move. 

I think good relations or bad relations, what does it really matter? As a fake friend you will always remain inside the circle and when you are needed then you edge closer to the juicy middle where you are appreciated but just know you will always do something to piss off your fake friend and end up on the outskirts again. That’s not diplomacy it’s just obvious. 

If Israel and the US were Facebook friends, then we would need to create a status called fake friends (to tell you the truth this should already be an option since I clearly have ‘friends’ that I never talk to, like ever). 

Israel needs to accept this status and go with it. Let’s focus on our better friends, the ones that like us, even if they are few and far a part (and I can’t think of any right now). Let’s hang out with them, have slumber parties, girl talk, bake and roast marshmallows. And as for the US let’s keep our distance, and continue to build homes for our people, protect our children and enjoy the fruits of our country’s success. Cause if we don’t, no one will.