Space Odyssey

When we moved to Be’er-Sheva we faced the usual problem of too much stuff and not enough space.  We did ditch about 10-15% of our worldly goods, much to the benefit of WIZO and the Netanya AACI bazaar.  But, we still needed to find space for a lot of things.  For example, we retained hundreds of books, but had no space for bookcases in the spare rooms, so we put them in the corridor.  Problem solved.

I have about 100 paintings, where to store them?  The single small room set aside for my studio did not seem to be big enough to accommodate them.  I was intending to put them in the shed in our front yard, but that gets very hot in summer and probably wet in winter.  Not a good environment for paintings.   By putting about a third of them up on our walls that reduced the load.  Then I designed a holder, a space-saver, using the high ceilings in the studio to store the paintings.  I  drew a kind of high table with paintings underneath and above.  It could hold even the largest paintings and still have room.

Through our daughter and son-in-law we met two very useful gentlemen, Geraldo the carpenter and Hananiya the handyman.  Geraldo is an immigrant from Uruguay and does not speak English, but we can get by on my poor Hebrew.  Hananiya is an American who has been here for 9 years, and does all sorts of jobs.  Between them they have helped me a lot.  Geraldo made the walk-in closet in our bedroom and recovered the kitchen cabinets for us.  Hananiya has recently put up the pergola that covers our front yard and serves as a succah.

Today Hananiya came over and put up the shelves in my study that has given me lots of desk space, and Geraldo brought his wooden construction of my drawing to store my paintings.  It is excellent, very strongly made and can store all my paintings without problem.  Altogther a good day for space-saving.


Bureaucratic battle

When I reached 75 years of age I was entitled to a free parking sticker for blue and white sections in Netanya.  So I went to the specific office in the old City Hall downtown and at first they gave me a temporary sticker to put on my car and then eventually I had to go back and collect my permanent sticker.  This had the year of 2015 clearly printed on it. Naturally I parked around Netanya and did not expect to receive parking tickets.

During 2016 and 2017 I started to receive parking tickets of 100 shekels each when I parked in various places.  Being particularly stupid, I assumed this was a mistake, that the parking police had ignored my “old person’s” sticker and that somehow this mistake would be rectified.  After all, why should I have to go to the dreaded parking police and deal with the terrible bureaucracy.  Over time the tickets began to mount up, until I received a registered letter from the City telling me that I owed them 1,500 shekels.  One of these tickets was for NIS 250 for parking on a red and white section, when I was in a frantic hurry and took a chance.

When my daughter found out about my negligence, she insisted that we must take care of this before I left Netanya.  She wrote an explanatory letter to the appropriate office, but we received no reply.  So we arranged to visit this office in the new City Hall on the outskirts of town to deal with the problem and she came as my translator.  When we got there she explained the situation to the clerk, who was very nice and explained that I should have renewed my old-person’s sticker every year, so I was not actually covered for the two years it was not valid.  But, I explained to her that I am an old man and misunderstood the Hebrew when they told me the sticker was “permanent.”  So she directed us to another office in the same building, and there the clerk was very helpful and said that if I renewed the “old person’s” sticker for 2017, they might be able to forgive some of my tickets.

She directed us back to the office in the old City Hall downtown where they deal with these stickers.  There we had to wait while the clerk played with her children who were on vacation.  Then she saw us and told us that she could give me a new sticker for 2017 if I came back with four pieces of paper, copies of my driving license, my car registration, my i.d. card (teudat zehut) that all Israeli citizens carry, and my municipal taxes (arnona) payment, to prove that I lived in Netanya.   I got three of these but I could not find my car registration.  However, upon further searching I found it still inside a blue plastic folder that the city kindly provided, and nearby was a shop that did copies.

So she immediately gave me a sticker for 2017.  The clerk in the previous office said that I could fax a note with a copy of this sticker to them, no need to go back.  A few weeks later I received a call from her and she told me that the case was now being sent to the lawyer who would render a verdict.  Yesterday I received the verdict in the mail, nearly all tickets cancelled (except one on red and white, which I knew were not covered).  Savings for this bureaucratic challenge ca. NIS 1,200.  Worth fighting City Hall!

Israeli experiences

We went to the doctor for our first visit here in Beersheva.  The address given was 6 Rehov Haim Landau.  I put this into Google maps and we got there easily.  Haim Landau Street was essentially a parking lot.  We drove down it, no. 12, 10, 8, and then there was a large metal fence separating the next building that was no. 6.

So we parked and tried to find an entrance thru the fence, but there was none.  So we walked around the building out to the street on the other side that was the main road Golda Meir Street.  There was a small shopping center there, but no sign of a doctor’s office.  We asked in the pharmacy but he didn’t know.  So we walked back to the car and drove all around the building and parked at no 6.  But there was no sign of a doctor’s office there.  So I called them. And she said they were in the clinic on Golda Meir Street.  So we walked around the building back to the shopping center and there next to the pharmacy we saw a sign saying “Asia” in Hebrew and in Russian.  That was the doctor’s office.  When we finally got there they were very nice and the doctor was pleasant, an older man who spoke English.  I didn’t get the impression that he was a great doctor, but he looked at our files on the computer and we chatted and he said no need for any changes and that was that.

I went to the gym Holmes Place, that is in fact an English chain.  It is just across the street, a few minutes walk from where I now live and it has a pool.  The exercise machines were bigger and more intimidating than the ones I am used to from my friendly gym in Netanya.  I had to bring a lock to secure a locker.  I put the key in the pocket of my shorts.  After exercising I undressed and went into the pool and then into the jacuzzi.  When I left the jacuzzi I realized that the air bubbles in the jacuzzi had caused my shorts to “blow up” and the pockets had become inverted.  With horror I realized that there was no key in my pocket. I envisaged having to call someone to cut the lock open on my first visit there.   I rushed back to the jacuzzi and fiddled around in the bubbling water where I had been sitting and there it was  –  the key – saved!

New Year Greetings

Since we are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I thought I would express some thoughts.  We Jews tend to be a pessimistic people, for good reason given our tortuous history.  But, the present looks good, with Israel flourishing and remaining a vital haven for Jews experiencing persecution around the world, such as in France.  Also, we are relatively fortunate, given the current world news.  There have been terrible hurricanes in the Caribbean that have destroyed many towns on vulnerable islands and have ripped up the mainland USA, both in Texas and Florida.  For the life of me I cannot understand why people whose homes are destroyed, rebuild over and over again in such dangerous locations.

Also, the terrible earthquake in Mexico has obliterated towns and brought death and destruction to Mexico City.  Please understand that I feel very sorry for the people caught in these natural disasters, but I am also glad that Israel is not subject to them.  We Jews need a break, a period during which we can recover and rebuild, and that may take a very long time, certainly decades.  However, most of our misfortunes were man-made not natural disasters.  Think of the Holocaust during WWII, the worst case of genocide in History.  I would rather put up with any natural catastrophe than that.  But, we generally don’t have a choice.  At least now we have the ability to defend ourselves in our own homeland.

This has been shown by recent IAF attacks against Hizbollah and Iranian targets in Syria. PM Netanyahu has declared that Israel will not allow Iran to establish any bases in Syria that threaten Israel.  And Russia and the US have been notified of this firm decision.  So we face the future with determination and hope.  From my new home in the Israeli hinterland I wish all my readers a Shana Tovah and a fruitful, prosperous and safe year ahead.  Welcome to 5778.


The Cabinet Puzzle

In our new home I have been looking for space to store things (such as empty suitcases) without taking up valuable space in the living area.  It so happens that there is some “dead” space between our bedroom (which is entered thru a sliding doors) and the new addition.  It seems that in Israel you cannot remove a window in a room that already has one, so there had to be a space left.  But, since the space is quite long and the sliding doors never open on the left that is a space that is never used.  I decided to fill this space with a plastic cabinet with doors.

I carefully measured the space and found that the maximum width of the cupboard could be 89 cm, not a round number.  I went to the Ace hardware store in Beersheva and looked at the plastic cabinets displayed there and there was one, the deepest they had, that was  – 89 cm wide!  If I were a believing person I would have taken this as a sign from God.  I bought the cabinet that came in a large cardboard box, to be assembled. Of course, the box was too big to fit into the back of my car, but I managed to get it in and used a bungee cord to keep the back door down.

When I started to assemble it that’s when the fun started.  There were diagrams in lieu of instructions.  I quickly found that there was only one way of assembling the bottom, the back and the sides.  Then I assembled the doors and they went together, easily, a central strip with top and bottom panels.  But I made the mistake of assuming that there was only one way to assemble the doors.  When I attached them to the cabinet, I discovered that in fact I had attached the door panels on the wrong sides of the central strips.  So I tried to remove the whole right door, but in doing so I managed to partially break a hook on the central strip that attaches to the cabinet.  Disaster!  But, after I had removed the door I fixed the hook with super glue and tape and when it hardened it was fine.  But, having learnt my lesson I instead managed to detach the upper and lower panels on the left door from the central strip that was still attached to the cabinet by the hook and then switched the panels and lo and behold it worked fine.  Then I attached the top and the cupboard was intact.

I still had to install the shelves.  There were some tiny plastic dohickeys, four for each shelf.  But how they attached to the shelf and then to the inside of the cabinet was a mystery.  The instructions showed only a fuzzy diagram.  After puzzling over this for two hours, I gave up.  The following morning I saw immediately how the dohickey fitted on the side of the shelf.  I put only one shelf in for stability.  Then I shlapped the whole cabinet into the bedroom, out through the sliding doors (I had checked that it would indeed go) and into the space intended.  It fit exactly, with barely a millimeter on each side.  Furthermore, all the large suitcases fitted into it without problem.  Now I can store some of my paintings in the place where the suitcases had been, and it’s inside the house so more suitable.  One more victory for order over chaos.

OK, So What’s Beersheva Like?

We’ve only been living here a week and I can already tell you it’s hot.  But, you know that and you also know that it’s a dry heat because it’s in the desert and not humid like in Netanya.  Today was the first day that we didn’t have help from our wonderful daughter Miriam and our equally wonderful (must be equitable) son, Simon, who came all the way from California to help us move.  Miriam did all the organization this end, with her equally wonderful husband Jeff, while Simon worked very hard to pack boxes and unpack boxes and do the heavy lifting and high work.  When he left yesterday he left us in a livable situation, almost normal.  We have paintings on the walls, a fridge filled with food, functioning air conditioners and a smart TV and wifi.  Who could ask for more?

Today I drove to the bank like any normal person and asked for money, and got it. I went to the hardware store (I know the way, been there many times) and bought some knick-knacks.  We are almost completely unpacked, only about 10 boxes left (out of ca. 120). But, these boxes are the intractable ones, the ones that have contents for which there is no known place.  I sit and look at them and sigh, but so far have not been able to unpack them.  I have developed an aversion to cardboard boxes, or cartons as the Israelis call them.  They make me feel insecure and itchy.  I can never face hundreds of them again taking over my living room, reproducing behind my back.

But, back to Beersheva.  It seems a much bigger city than Netanya, even though it probably is not.  And I notice a lot more Arabs around than in Netanya. Many of them, especially the young women, seem so modern and well-dressed.  There are several big malls here and there is absolutely no discrimination.  There are Arab shoppers and Arab servers. In the Ministry of Interior Building where we went to officially change our place of residence, there were Arabs waiting with us being served by a number system and there were Arab clerks.  The whole idea of an Israeli apartheid is rendered ludicrous by just one visit to Beersheva.

I must admit that up to now I have not actually engaged in any social activity in Beersheva.  I know the tourist sites (the Tel, the Negev Brigade Memorial, the Air Force Museum) and so on.  But, actually I am happy to live a quiet, retired life (yeah, how long will that last?) Meanwhile life goes on and we are enjoying it.  Best to all our friends in Netanya and elsewhere.



The Sixteenth Move

According to statistics the average person in the US lives in 11.4 places during their lifetime.  In the UK, I expect this number would be smaller, because people are less mobile than in the US.  Of course, the moves people make are not equally spaced during their lifetime, we tend to move most in the years between ages 18 and 30.   Since I have lived in 16 places that makes me somewhat above average.  Also, I have lived in three countries on different continents for long periods, the UK, where I was born and grew up, the US for thirty years, and Israel for over 20 years.  The move we have just made from Netanya to Beersheva, my sixteenth move, is probably the last move I will make in my lifetime.

Why move from the salubrious climes of Netanya, with its beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea and its bustling city center, to Beersheva, in the middle of the Negev Desert.  Frankly the major reason was because our daughter Miriam and her family live here and we are getting to an age when we need her help, especially due to my wife’s Alzheimer’s disease.  But, also, we moved to a slightly larger one-story row-house.  This gives us more privacy, easier access (no elevator or stairs) and is a lot quieter being on an alley (mishol in Hebrew).  Miriam has been visiting us in Netanya every Tues, traveling for 5-6 hours.

How did the move go?  On the morning before moving day, the movers were supposed to come at 7.30 am and take all the boxes we packed (my son counted 83).  But, they failed to show up.   When I called, the mover told me that it was because his Arab (Palestinian) crew had told him they could not come due to a Muslim festival.  It turned out to be a valid excuse, but he should have known in advance.  He said he would get an Israeli crew and come later, about 12-1 pm.  They actually turned up at 2.30 pm.  They loaded all my paintings (over 100) from my studio first and then all the boxes from the apartment, then drove to Beersheva (a 2-3 hour drive) where my daughter let them into our new house.  Each box had a number 1-6 on it to indicate which room to put it in.  They did not finish until 10 pm.

On moving day they came just after 8 am, and worked for hours moving things into the truck, but the large items, sofas, bookcases, cupboards, they prepared.  Then the elevator truck came and quickly everything was lowered down to the ground and into the truck. It was a real jigsaw puzzle, and the truck was absolutely filled, but they got it all in.

Now 5 days later it seems impossible.  With my wonderful son Simon ‘s help, who came especially from California to help us move, almost all the boxes (over 90%) have been opened and emptied.  With my son-in-law Jeff and grandson’s help the empty boxes were discarded and furniture was moved into its final position.   We are already settled and now taking care of bureaucratic matters (more of that later) as well as fixing things and making final adjustments.  We are in our new home and returning to life itself.