I.O.U. – Ra’anana

I can’t believe three months have already passed and I haven’t told you all about our new home in Ra’anana. I do apologize for the delay and for the fact that this is going to be a long one!

Work

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that we left our beautiful and happy home in Ma’ale Adumim (along with our settler status :() and moved to Ra’anana for employment in July.

Michael is working at Delek where he is re-learning Oracle database technology (in recent years he specialized in Microsoft SQL databases). Because of his limited Hebrew skills, and his need for retraining, he has pretty much started at the bottom in a junior-level position, but that’s okay with him because he likes it there. Delek treats their employees very well – he especially likes his co-workers and enjoys the Thursday afternoon beer and nosh treats that signal the end of the work week.

Ra’anana/Kfar Saba is home to many hi-tech companies, so if you’re looking for work you might want to consider this area as a potential new home.

School

I did previously tell you all about Yisrael’s first day at his new school. Fortunately things have improved a bit since then; he has managed to make friends at school and shul, and he tested out of ulpan! The school is providing him with 45 minutes of afterschool homework help four times a week assisted by a sheirut leumi girl (national service), mainly to bring him up to grade level in Hebrew reading comprehension.

I’m happy to report that schools are very secure here with entrances security-guarded and police surveying cross walks. Another perk is that Yisrael’s teacher and vice principal are bi-lingual which sure helps with communication (when I’m able to get through to them).

On the social side, Yisrael started a blog (that he needs to update soon – hint, hint!) to reconnect with friends and family in the U.S. and stay in touch with Ma’ale Adumimers. He has also become the Bakugan Master at school (that’s what’s in the photo) and quite the champion at Monopoly Deal. And he became very popular with his classmates because they enjoyed the cupcakes, gift bags and game we brought to celebrate his birthday. He has a great teacher. In this video the children are passing a package while the teacher is singing “Yom Huledet Sameach” (“Happy Birthday” in Hebrew). As Yisrael signals (he’s got his back to the class) for her to stop (like in musical chairs) the child who has the package has to remove a layer and read/follow the instructions (which require a silly act of some sort). When the last layer is removed the child holding the package receives the gift (candy). But don’t worry because they all received candy and a toy in their gift bags.

For the Record: It looks like the cost of books, supplies, field trips, school fees, t-shirts/sweatshirts, and English-for-English speakers program for the entire year is coming in around $1700. That’s for the YEAR, not monthly like American Hebrew schools.

Ulpan

My Ulpan – Ra’anana class has grown in size and numbers of countries represented (with France producing the largest additions lately). Between being infected with viruses from fellow classmates as they’ve arrived from their old countries week after week, and the loud and rude classroom behavior (reminiscent of the first day of elementary school in the U.S. before the teacher sets a standard of expected behavior) that makes it impossible for me to discern the correct answer/pronunciations, I’ve decided to drop out of my Alef Plus class and go back to the Alef level because I’ve missed so much that I feel lost. I will, hopefully, be returning on Wednesday after receiving the okay from my doctor for this latest infection – swine/H1N1 flu.

Michael is also attending ulpan in Ra’anana three nights per week at the Alef Plus level in an effort to significantly improve his Hebrew skills, and he is fortunate to have a frum instructor and a smaller, quieter class than mine.

For the Record: All new immigrants are entitled to 500 hours of FREE ulpan classes to be taken anytime during their first 18 months in Israel. Michael completed his 5 hours/5 days a week/5 month ulpan in February and when we moved to Ra’anana he decided he’d like to continue learning. The cost? 55 shekels every TWO months – that’s just under $15 for 2 months (at today’s exchange rate) for approximately 60 hours of classroom instruction.

Beit Knesset/Synagogue Life

Ra’anana offers an abundance of options in synagogues and we are fortunate to live close to so many of them. On Friday nights we like to attend the Carlebach-style Kabbalat Shabbat services at Kehillat Kinor David on Ahuza St. at HaSharon. We’ve met many wonderful families there and find the experience to be a spiritually uplifting way to begin Shabbat.

On Shabbat morning Michael enjoys davening and attending a kiddush/shiur at Lechu Neranana on Rehov Herzl. He also enjoys joining Yisrael and I at Kehillat Shivtei Yisrael where Yisrael attends a Psukei Dezimra Kids Shabbat Program followed by Minyan Noar (a fully structured minyan for boys and girls that follows the format of a regular adult minyan, though heavily abbreviated. The children take active roles as chazanim and gabbaim, giving Divrei Torah, etc.). They have multiple minyans on Shabbat morning and after each they put out a very nice kiddush which also makes Michael happy as he feels kiddush is all about herring and whisky (and they haven’t let him down yet) – this too is followed by shiurim.

We also visited the rooftop sukkah at Clevelander Rebbe’s shul during Sukkot – all the time we were in Cleveland we didn’t know there was a Clevelander Rebbe, did you? Additionally, we have benefitted from the wonderful programs and resources put out by Ra’anana’s Kollel, Chabad and the Ohel Ari Jewish Outreach Center – all within a 5 to 10 minute walk of our place.

For the Record: our holiday seats and annual membership combined totaled 1440 shekels – that’s under $400 – less than half of what we paid during our last year in Cleveland. I note this for those of you who keep worrying that you can’t afford to live here.

Health Care

As in Ma’ale Adumim, Maccabi doctors continue to provide us with very good health care services – and they’re only a 5 minute walk from our apartment. A benefit of being in a larger city is that this facility provides comprehensive services. Last week Michael was sent down to the first floor for a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia and the recorded voice in the elevator also stated that this was the floor for mammograms (in case I ever decide to have another)weeks before that I went to the second floor for blood tests. Michael has been referred to a physical therapist on another floor. And the dietician center is 1 block away. Appointments are scheduled twenty minutes apart here (as opposed to eight in Ma’ale Adumim), and last week Michael’s doctor spent thirty-five on his exam and called in another doctor to consult. Today my doctor took the time to review the report prepared by a homeopathic practitioner (outside of Maccabi services) for me last week using a BioMeridian machine and wrote down the web address so she could investigate the results further. I’m impressed with how efficiently these centers are run, and especially the personalized, holistic services the doctors provide.

For the Record: Health care expenses for the last 12 month period for the three of us – including insurance, office visits, maintenance medications, illness prescriptions, diagnostic testing, and over-the-counter meds – comes in at $2,793. How does that compare to your U.S. healthcare expenses?

Library

Ra’anana has a very nice library in the center of town (and just minutes from our apartment). The library is housed in the Yad Le’Banim Hall which is host to many musical performances that we get to listen to free of charge courtesy of the downtown acoustics (to the point that our windows often rattle).

In addition to a large number of Hebrew books, contains a very nice variety of English books as well. The first time I returned books to the children’s section without Yisrael with me, the librarian asked “aren’t you going to select more books for him now?” She then gave me a short lecture about the importance of children reading and walked me over to help me select easy Hebrew readers – he’s allowed up to 3 books each time and at least 1 has to be Hebrew. It was nice to know that she cares so much about my son’s future. 🙂

For the Record: In all fairness, I do have to report that most libraries are not free in Israel. I had to pay 15 shekels for each of us to be issued a library card (45 shekels = approximately $12.20 today) and sign an agreement for them to charge my bank account up to 50 shekels for each unreturned or damaged book. Sounds fair to me.

Matnas and Parks

Ra’anana is serious about fitness and fun parks. Unfortunately I haven’t had my camera handy when at the fun places but here are some shots of the sports/fitness facilities.


For the Record: I took these pictures to share with you. I was there too early in the morning to find an English speaker to explain the fees for using the facilities. And those of you who know me well, know that I’m not a swimmer, tennis player, or any type of exerciser. I walk for health – hey, it’s free!

Shopping

Shopping on Ahuza St. (the main street in Ra’anana)

Meatland is a rather expensive American shopping experience where if you must have American products like Libby’s canned pumpkin, Oreos, Birdseye frozen vegetables or meat that has the names of the cuts in English, you can experience that luxury at three to four times what you used to pay in the States. But hey, to each his own! To be fair, someone there told my husband that the meat is of superior organic quality. I’m not a meat connoisseur and wouldn’t mind if I never had another piece of red meat – ever – and I am more than capable of pointing to and asking for a chicken in the meat case of the regular grocery store (they all have hechsher’s attached here) for 1/3 to 1/4 the price.

Toys!
This is Yisrael’s favorite toy store, which happens to be right across the street – talk about convenience! He plans to blog about this soon as he has many photos to share with the children in “the old country”. Prices are comparable to Toys R Us and even Wal-mart on many items. Ra’anana has many, many toys stores and there actually is a Toys R Us in our neighbor city – Kfar Saba.

Groceries
Shopping at the Mega grocery store on Thursday night is a treat – seriously… they set up fresh produce “taste” tables as well as other sampling centers throughout the store. And there are plenty of American products for those who just can’t let go.

Malls and Shopping Centers

Ra’anana is also the home of one of the Renanim Mall, one of the largest and most beautiful shopping malls in the country with 172 stores (including a Home Center, Office Depot, Bug electronics, camera shops, clothing, and pretty much everything you’ll find in an American mall). For some reason I can’t locate any photos of it in my files, so these borrowed from Wiki and the Israel News Agency will have to suffice for now.

One of the really cool things about most malls in Israel is that the food courts are all kosher! In this particular mall you can choose from the familiar Burger King and Sbarros or get more adventurous at the sushi bar, falafel stand, chicken and meat roasting places or choose a healthy salad bar, or not-so-healthy ice cream or desert bar.

On the blocks surrounding the mall you can find an Ace Hardware, a very nice chef’s supply store, furniture stores, auto supply and repair shops, a strip mall with shoes and clothing at prices competing with the mall, and many business office buildings.

Our Apartment

We have more space than in our last apartment with the addition of a third bedroom/office and a larger kitchen, but we sure do miss our view. This is our apartment building and back yard.

Living Room/Dining Room Combo

Kitchen

Yisrael’s Room

Visit the Gallery for more Ra’anana photos. I’ll try to post about our wonderful Sukkot experiences and travels soon.

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