Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tisha B'Av in America

I've been in Israel pretty frequently since 2008, and yet I've never been there for Tisha B'Av. I think that is the only...major Jewish something I haven't experienced in Israel yet.


Like every Tisha B'Av, I go to shul [synagogue] and hear the Megillat Eichah [the Book of Lamentations] being read. Then I go home, try to stay up as late as possible so I will sleep late the next morning (so as to pass the day better...), go to sleep, try to figure out something to pass the time until it's nighttime and I can eat.

It seems like a pretty pathetic way to pass the day. I'm not a horrible faster, but I'm not usually great either. I get grumpy and snappish and just not a lot of fun to be around.

Tisha B'Av should be a day of mourning, reflection, and introspection. The Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, and you see all tons of articles and posts on Facebook written about how to increase the love within the Jewish community and "baseless love."

It;s hard to imagine the world with a Beit Hamikdash. Maybe that's a tragedy, and maybe that's also what we should be mourning, but I just...can't seem to get there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


In the past approximately 20 days, I have spent an obscene amount of money. It's-- stuff we will use, and the things we are buying we can't get in Israel or are two to four times the price.

For example, I got a 12-cup muffin tin for $5, which is approximately 20 shekels. No way can I get that quality in Israel for 20 shekels. I got storage containers-- a set of Rubbermaid containers for, I think, $20. They are non-disposable, high quality storage containers. Good luck finding them in Israel. At almost any price.

Underwear that lasts more than 6 months. Socks that are comfortable and don't cost a fortune. Ziploc bags. A king-size sheet set for $30 (120 shekels); twin sets for $13 (52 shekels). $20 (80 shekel) jeans that look normal, fit comfortably, feel good, and are good quality, wooden puzzles for $8 (24 shekels).
I can continue with the food-- Devil Dogs, Ring Dings, English muffins, 3-lb. brick of American cheese, curly-edge non-cook lasagna noodles, granulated onion. I can just go on and on.

It's frustrating. There are lost of people who don't come to America every year and stock up on clothes, cheese, and ziploc bags. And I know that what we bought is going to last us for a LONG time, but it's still hard to look at the credit card bills (then think of that in shekels...) and justify it. I know that the amount of money I spent here is probably 1/3-1/4 of what I would have spent, had I bought these things in Israel (if I could even find them...) But it's frustrating to feel that disparity, just to look at numbers.

I spoke to occupational therapy students at the school I graduated from about occupational therapy in Israel, and they had a lot of questions. Inevitably the question of salary came up, and when I answered it, I'm pretty sure I (a) dissuaded a lot of them from wanting to live in Israel and work as an OT; (b) killed their day. Like in a previous post, the salary is very disappointing. It was very frustrating and shocking to them, as it was to me.

Do I really need ziploc bags? No, I can live without them. Do they make my life a heck of a lot easier? Definitely yes. 

It's frustrating that things-- almost everything-- heck, even some Israeli products!-- are less expensive in America. And I want to live in Israel and not rely on American products, but as far as I can remember, I have bought ONE item of clothing (excepting mitpachot) and TWO pairs of shoes (mine were dying and these were on sale). Why? Because I know that I can get the clothes I know I like at Old Navy (decent quality, very good prices) for about $5-$10 (20-40 shekels, depending on the sale). So why should I spend 50 shekels a shirt for something that is going to last me half the time (because the quality is lower)? I'll wait a couple of months, and someone will be coming in and will bring it to me.

Oh, and I just saw packing tape. That an packing boxes are two other things that are very expensive for inferior quality, or you can't really get them in Israel.

My mother-in-law (weird to use that term; I prefer Eli's mom) worked really hard to raise her kids Israeli and not have America be such a part of their lives (other than they are from there and have relatives who live there) and I feel like I've come in with this neon sign above my head that says, "American!" and have brought in more America in the year-and-a-half since I met them than they had in the approximately 17 years prior. I I kind of feel bad, because she tried really hard to not raise her kids American-- and no way would you look at them and go "Americans" but I don't, because I am American and my children will be American-- not the same way I am, nor the same way Eli is, but in their own way.

I want my kids to know the "oldies" and folk singers I was raised on. I want them to know the American anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, and to be able to say their Social Security numbers the same way they will know their Israeli identification number. I don't know how, but I want my children to feel their American identity as strongly as they will their Israeli; I have no idea how to do that, nor how it will play out. All this, of course, to be filed under "future."

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Loneliness is nighttime, waking up inside a cold and empty bed...then I'm reminded of what's beautiful..."

It's 7:30 am (Israel time...12:30 am NY time). I'm about to call my husband to wake him up. It's lonely, being half a world away from him. It is, as we put it, a game that we are not playing again.

Scratch that, I just woke him up sort of; he woke up about two minutes ago actually.

It's lonely, waking your husband up by phone half a world away.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Salary Comparisons Make Me Cry

In NY I make $55-130 per hour, working as a contract/independent therapist (salaried it varies depending on what area of practice you're in). In Israel I got offered 70 SHEKELS as a contract therapist.

And people ask my why I come to America to work. Because as an occupational therapist in Israel, I can't made a decent salary. As a single woman I could support myself-- sharing an apartment, bills, paying for food and transportation. But as a married woman, looking at my salary alone-- it can barely support myself and my husband, forget about any expansion of our family in the future.

As a school-based therapist working for Misrad Hachinuch I made about 55 shekels/hour, which is pretty good. And add in the vacation time and seemingly good hours and it seems like I have it pretty good. However, there were so many other things around it-- all the preparatory work that you do at home (treatment planning, reports, etc.), the continuing ed that you HAVE to go to that takes place in the evenings, the fact that you rarely get to meet with teachers/other staff-- that it was about 55 shekels for every hour that I was at my school (I think); I don't know how many hours I spent on the other things, in continuing ed, etc.

In a hospital that is looking for therapists they pay minimum wage. My husband, working as a security guard, makes that or maybe a shekel or two per hour more. That hospital has an excellent rehab department, which is why therapists are willing to work there, but they work there for a year or two and then leave because the pay is so bad. In a health fund they pay 25 shekels/hour (and just for more comparison-- a family friend who is a doctor get 37 shekels/hour).

Israel has socialized medicine, which is a major part of why healthcare pays so poorly. There is some sort of reform starting, or at least that's the rumor, but if you look at the numbers, something has got to change in order to make the salary in the health care system something that one could live on, as a family and not by working 80-hour workweeks.