The Big Felafel

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.

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Consumer Rights Revolution? Return goods for cash in Israel starts December 2010

Israel is slowly but surely starting to come ’round and realize the importance of the (gasp) consumer! The Knesset finally thinks it’s about time to get rid of receipts that say “2 weeks to return for store-credit only”. If you’ve ever bought anything in Israel, you’ll know that you better be 100% sure that you like it or that you can rush back to the store and hopefully find something else instead. New regulation has been passed that you now have those same 2 weeks, but this time you can get your money back.

Still lightyears behind the US’s return policy, it’s a step in the right direction.

Some notes:

  • To qualify for a cash-back return, the item must be over 50 shekels
  • Consumers will receive funds via the same method they paid
  • Shoppers who purchase products from retail chains will be able to receive a refund at any of the chain’s stores.
  • Full refunds will be given for all items returned within 14 days, with several exceptions and provisos for specific items. Shoes and clothing, for example may only be returned within 3 days of the purchase and on condition that they weren’t worn.
  • All canceled deals will cost the buyer a 5% cancellation fee.
  • Returning an electronic product will entail a 10% or NIS 100  cancellation fee – the lower of the two – if the original packaging was opened.
  • Retailers are not required to provide refunds for purchases of lingerie, custom built furniture, food, medicine or foreign vacation package cancellations.
  • The regulations also cover service plans, such as mobile phone contracts, hotel reservations and gym memberships.
  • Companies will be forced to return the worth of the unused portion of the plan, but will be allowed to retain up to NIS 100 of the amount for services rendered or cancellation fees.
  • Keep your receipt, but you can also show the label or tag on the item.
  • The law goes into effect December 14, 2010,  delayed from the intended October 2010.

Sources: Jpost, Ynet

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:


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


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.


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


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


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


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.

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!

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

Learn Hebrew with jokes

If you’re working on your Hebrew and need a break from Sha’ar Lematchil, the easy Hebrew newspaper, you can check out Jacob Richman’s Hebrew Jokes site. Most of the jokes are pretty corny, but there are a few surprising ones, like the joke above.


What do air conditioning and computers have in common?

They both work slower when you open windows or Windows (depending on how much Microsoft-related issues you’ve been having lately)


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.

Beautiful Northern Israel: Ein Hod, Nir Etzion, and Zichron Yaakov

Like I always say when we leave Jerusalem — I love leaving and I love coming back. Living in Jerusalem, for the most part is wonderful with the ancient stones and the Jewish flavor. But at times, I’ve seen one too many ancient ruins and I’m ready to see some  greenery and breathtaking views. So we went north. I thought about renting a car, but opted for the 2 hour bus ride instead so we could sit back and relax.  Here’s how to use the Egged online bus schedule if you need it. For those who are members of the “I love driving” team, of which I am not, here’s a list of rental car websites in Israel:

Once we arrived in Haifa, we took a short 15 minute bus ride from Haifa to our hotel in Nir Etzion. We stayed in Nir Etzion for a few reasons – it was kosher, it was a good location smack dab between Haifa and Zichron Yaakov and because we had purchased a “deal” from Chufsha Chalomit (Dream Vacation) where you get 3 nights, 4 days (weekdays only) at one of the listed hotels for half price. You also need to pay a separate sum of money for the deal. So in the end, the “frayer (sucker) deal” only saved us a few hundred shekels, but it did get us out of the house and up north.


Nir Etzion


Nir Etzion is a religious Yishuv and feels very much like a kibbutz, with a cow shed and mini zoo (I hesitate to say petting zoo due to the monkeys, anteaters, eagles and other animals I’m not sure I’d like to pet). We were upgraded to a garden room which was like a tzimmer – a ground floor room that looked like our own little cottage. We considered going swimming and asked when the pool is open. They gave us a time sheet with separate men and women’s hours. I whispered to the concierge, feeling naughty, are there mixed swimming times for me and my husband? Yes, of course, we just don’t tell people unless they ask. Scandalous!

But most of all, I looked forward to the all you can eat Israeli breakfast. And Nir Etzion did not disappoint. Breakfast was delicious by the heapfuls, complete with pancakes, 20 different kinds of cheese, croissants, coffee machines, omelettes, and shakshuka to your heart’s desire.

Ein Hod


After we made our bellies happy, we waddled down the road from Nir Etzion to the wonderful Ein Hod artist village tucked away like a well-kept secret. In Ein Hod, you can take an official tour of the village and get access to all the artist’s galleries and participate in pottery and tshirt silkscreening. However, the tour was a little pricey for just the 2 of us (~200 shekels) so we decided to give ourselves a tour and meet artists on our own. We wandered in an out of the winding streets, enjoying the beautiful flowers, sculptures and views and occasionally stumbling across an artist’s gallery.

We met second generation artists who had preserved their father’s easel setup, complete with paints, brushes, and chair. A little creepy if you ask me since it looked like it was set for him to return any second, but very authentic. We met bronze sculptors who told us about their upcoming exhibitions and showed us bulls made out of bronze. And, when we couldn’t get access to the artists themselves, we made sure to peek into their studios at every chance. There was one studio with a broken window, so of course I carefully slipped my hand and camera inside and took this amazing shot of a glassblower’s studio:


The streets were so windy and roundabout, that any time we’d see a sign, we’d follow it until we got to the destination. It didn’t matter much what the sign said, but we knew if we followed it for long enough, we’d eventually end up somewhere. So, one of the signs we followed was to a pottery workshop. Having seen this on the website, I thought it would be fun to make a mug, paint it and take it home. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we were greeted by native English speakers who told us that the workshop is just to make the pottery but you have to leave it there. So you have to pay 40 shekel or so, make pottery, and then leave it. Forget it. So we turned around to start following the signs back to the Ein Hod entrance when the pottery lady told me that there was a small English bookshop next door. I perked up and we frolicked, or at least I did, to the bookshop. Well, I think it may win the award for smallest bookshop ever. It did have a few good books, but in the end I left empty handed.

Unfortunately, Ein Hod, as tourist-friendly as it is, didn’t exactly cater to kosher tourists — there was not a single kosher eatery to be found among the restaurants and coffee shops.  Luckily, we had stuffed rolls, yogurts, and pastries in our pockets before leaving the hotel. But if stuffing gooey items in your pocket is not your style, Nir Etzion has a food packaging company where you can get take away.

Zichron Yaakov


15 minutes south of Nir Etzion is Zichron Yaakov, a beautiful, quaint town with a cute-as-a-button midrachov (main pedestrian mall), wineries, and vineyards. And also apparently a Ner-o-mat:  yahrtzeit candle vending machines (what?!)


We also took a tour of the Carmel WInery, one of the largest wineries in Israel. I called ahead of time to make reservations to join up with a group tour since we were only 2 people. However, when we arrived, no one else showed up so we had a private tour! We learned so much about how the winery started and what the differences are between wines, and of course got to do a fabulous taste testing. Did you know that red wine can be made from green or purple grapes or both and same for white wine! It’s all just a matter of how long the skin stays on (and a lot more I’m sure, but that’s what I understood).

All in all,  a wonderful trip!

What’s your off the beaten path Israel travel recommendation? I’d love to get some ideas for our next trip.

The Big Felafel’s Guide to Passover Entertainment and Activities in Israel 2010

Lots of exciting Pre-Pesach and Pesach activities in Israel this year from art fairs to hippie festivals!  If you have more to add, please leave a comment below.

Dancing Camel Pre-Pesach Giant Keg Party
March 25, 2010

Known for their creative beer flavors like Cherry Vanilla Stout and clever beer names like Goliath and Beelzebub, Dancing Camel is hosting a pre-Pesach Party with one entrance fee that lets you taste all the beers to your heart (liver?)’s content.

Doors Open at 20:00 Sharp!
Cost: 75 NIS enter, Reserve your tickets in advance  click here to order tickets
Location: Hataasiya 12 (corner Hamasger) Tel Aviv. Tel: 03-624-2783

Osim Seder: A unique pre-Pesach crafts fair
March 26, 2010

Pesach crafts fair shopping extravaganza including recycled lamps, jewelry and fashion accessories, candlesticks, plants, kitchen and house items. There will also be huge second hand clothing swap! Feel free to bring your clothes to swap.

Location: Merkaz Hamagshimim Hadassah Beit Ar-El, 8 Gad St, Baka, Jerusalem.
Free Entrance.
For more information Deena 02-6722405*

Stage One- Amateur English Theater Festival
March 31 to April 2 2010

This Passover, Beit Avi Chai in collaboration with Merkaz Hamagshimim Hadassah will spotlight the finest English-language drama, music, comedy, opera, and more that Jerusalem has to offer.

If you can only make it to one event, make sure to come to Hahafuch’s hilarious improv comedy show on April 1, 2010 at 9pm!
More info

Bezalel Street Arts and Crafts Fair
March 31 – April 2, 2010

Artists show off their crafts, jewelry, photography and more at this funky street festival.

10am to 3pm
Shatz St., downtown Jerusalem
Free Entrance

Ahava Festival at the Dead Sea
April 1, 2010, April 3, 2010

The annual Dead Sea festival featuring big name Israeli singers such as Natasha and friends, Barry Sakharof, Ivri Lider, and more.
More info

Zorba Buddha Festival in the Negev
April 1 – 4, 2010

This is an hippie-esque festival where you camp out and can partake in meditation and spirituality workshops, yoga, dance and theater workshops, djs, and performances by Mercedez Bend, Avraham Tal, and more.

Cost: 319 NIS
More info

Boombamela Festival at Nitzanim Beach
April 1-3, 2010

Celebrating its 12th year, Booombamela is another camp-out,  hippie-type festival with big name music performers such as Geva Alon, Hatikva 6, and more.

The festival offers various workshops and entertainment such as street theater, body painting, interactive art, pottery, holistic and meditation workshops, and more.

Cost: 195 NIS
More info

Cherry Blossom Festival in the Golan
March 26 – April 10, 2010

Acitivites for the whole family including: Horse rides, origami workshops, kite building, Japanese makeup, Japanese food and drink.

Free Entrance
More info

Eco Social Awareness Festival: The World is in your Hands, Rishon Letzion
April 1-2, 2010

Festival featuring art and activities to raise awareness about the environment such as Noah’s ark made out of plastic bottles, and more.

Free Entrance
More info

For more fun ideas for Passover activities in Israel

[Matzah Kippah Photo from Flickr: Daniel Greene]

Happy Purim 2010! Special Jerusalem Festivities!

It’s time to put on your gigantic over-sized sunglasses, afro wig, fairy wings, cape or whatever it is that you’re planning for this Purim and start searching for the perfect place to hang out this Purim of 2010! My friend asked me to share a special Purim event this year in Jerusalem. For a full guide to Purim 2010 in Jerusalem, check out The Jerusalem Blueprint.

Special Guest Writer Nava Rosenbloom:

Purim is a time to flip things around, so do something a bit different this Year! Cafe Alexander is hosting a Megilla reading followed by a Purim party featuring the vivacious, soulful rock of Optimystical. Get all your Purim drinking, partying, grooving and costuming done with a classy ambiance.

There’s a bar, delicious food and indoor/outdoor seating. And if you think you have the most creative costume this year, Cafe Alexander will give you a 75 shekel credit at the cafe if they think you’re right.

Sunday, February 28 8pm-1am

Megilla reading – 20:00

Live music – 21:00

40 NIS entrance fee includes—

  • Glass of spiked Purim punch
  • Alexander’s famous gourmet coffee (coffee voucher valid for one week)
  • Hamantashen

Cafe Alexander is located at 3 Yanai St. Jerusalem which is up the block from Mamila Mall and Hotel. Its on the corner of Yanai and King Shlomo Street which is the continuation of King David Street.

For more info: 02 625 6018 or

To get you in the mood, here is Hahafuch’s hilarious Purim video!!

9 ways to order or download English books in Israel

I love walking into bookstores. I love the smell. I love rummaging and looking for great finds. I love the bargain bin.  I even love reading book spines until my neck is permanently stuck to my shoulder. But if you live in Israel, there is no massive Barnes & Noble – like store or well-stocked library with English books besides Hebrew University.  There are a few bookstores that carry English books but it’s very possible that you won’t find what you’re looking for.  So, as much as I love dawdling around in a bookshop, I find myself drawn back to the web to find more choices. The problem is that some online stores like Amazon charge a ridiculous amount to ship books to Israel.  Luckily, I’ve spotted a bunch of bookstores that ship relatively cheaply or even for free to Israel and a few websites where you can download books for free.

Note about shipping: If you order books over $50, you may be required to pay a VAT tax at the Israeli post office.

  1. The Book Directory Free worldwide delivery
  2. better world books
    Better World Books – $3.97 shipping worldwide; Bargain Bin has 5 used books for $15

  3. Books 4 Now
    – Israel-based online booksstore that sells used books in Israel. Order 4 books, get free delivery anywhere in Israel

  4. AngloBooks
    – website to trade English books with others in Israel
  5. hookabook-israel
    Hook A Book – focused on Israel although prices are in dollars. Free international standard shipping. The site is a little hard on the eyes and there is no search function which makes it a bit difficult to browse but maybe they’re still developing the site as it’s pretty new.  PayPal accepted.
  6. project gutenberg free ebooks
    Project Gutenberg
    Over 30,000 works of literature, cookbooks, reference works, periodicals, etc.  in the form of e-books and audio mp3s that you can download for free.
  7. sci fi books in israel
    42Scifi New and used English sci-fi books in Israel.

  8. Bookmooch – bookswap based on points sysem. For each book you want, you have to send 2 books to others
  9. read hebrew books free online
    Over 40,000 classical Hebrew books for free download. Mostly Jewish books and texts. Books in Hebrew and English.
  10. English books. Check the Shipping Destination and Rates for each book to see the rate to ship books to Israel
  11. – Mostly Hebrew books. Seems like only new books
  12. – Used and New Hebrew and English books
  13. – Used Hebrew and English books
  14. – Used Hebrew and English books
  15. – Used Hebrew books and small selection of English books
  16. – Used and New Hebrew and English books
  17. – New Hebrew books and small selection of English books
  18. Steimatsky – New Hebrew and English books
  19. Tzomet Sfarim – New Hebrew and English books