Archive for the 'Josh' Category

KASHRUT ALERT – bakeries

challahUnfortunately, the Yardena / Condituria Beitit has reduced their kashrut certification to regular kosher only, not mehadrin anymore. This is identical supervision as the bakeries at the two Megas. The immediate repercussion of this is that everything in the bakery becomes ‘behezkat chalavi / milchik / dairy’ – and one should not eat the assumed parve stuff (breads, rolls, challah, and pastries) directly with / at a meat meal. The only challah at the Mega that is approved parve is the Angel factory mass-produced (and price controlled) rectangle or simple needed ones, and the factory-produced sweet challahs that come packaged in cellophane. Beware of in house Mega bakery challahs that also come wrapped with a bonjour sticker. If the bag is not sealed, then it was probably cooked on site, behezkat dairy. Behezkat dairy does not mean it actually has milk in it, and usually means that it was baked in a dairy oven, and might mean that it was cooked in a dairy oven at the same time as dairy products.
Around the country, regular rabanut certification means short random (daily?) visits by a mashgiach. Establishments are either labeled meat or dairy. For an establishment, in our case, a bakery, to recieve a parve status, it needs to agree to a mashgiach that is on the premises for a lot more, even if it is run by a religious Jew. The mashgiach is there to verify that the pastries are not mixed, and that the parve and daity ovens are used properly and baking trays not interchanged. Without this extra supervision, we know, from experience, that trays are interchanged and other issues arise.
FWIW, the bakery at the Hezi Hinam has absolutely no certification at all and depends on a framed photocopied ‘kashrut approval’ from Hanukah 2005. ‘Kashrut permission’ is usually a certificate handed out from the original factory that is often sent to customers (bakeries and restaurants) who might hang it up when they do not have a kosher certificate to post. The legal meaning of this kashrut approval is that the food was ceritifed kosher at the factory, and is usually meant to show the local mashgiach, not to hang up on the wall.  I suppose that this might be enough for A) many non-religious people who might not insist on rabanut certification yet want to eat kosher-style, and B) to fool people into thinking that the establishment is kosher (a word which is trademarked in Israel to the rabanut).
On the other hand, the ‘Lechem HaAretz’ bakery in the industrial zone (anyone want to coin a better name for that area) still retains its ‘mehadrin’ certification meaning a strict seperation of milk and parve baking and products. 24 / 6.
Shabbat shalom,
Josh

Pesach shopping guide

 

Seder plate

Seder plate

In a follow up to the Kosher for Pesach (KFP) shopping list that I put in the files section (on the yahoogroups site), here’s my attempt at giving you some grocery shopping tips for Pesach.

  

First and foremost,

check each package you put in your shopping cart. Most KFP packaging is similar, if not identical, to the regular packaging, some stores are negligent in not separating the two. Kitniyot and non-kitniyot – be careful to read the fine print.

 Chief Rabbinate guidelines

Note that products are certified Kosher for Pesach 5769. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has attempted to make some order by issuing some guidelines such as: must have date, must be printed as part of the package and not a sticker applied to the regular packaging.

 Date stamp.

While we can joke about why something might be kosher this year but not be KFP next year, this is supposed to protect the consumer from recycled products. The day after Pesach, hundreds of KFP items become almost worthless to the store and the producer. Israeli producers have an incredible returns policy where a lot goes back to the producer who has no choice but to destroy the worthless products like potato-flour sponge cake, wine-based coconut cookies, etc… In the past, without a date stamp, the stores/producers could merely resell the stuff next year. Not anymore, almost. I’ve seen this appear with KFP baby formula a month ago. Theoretically, some stuff has an extended shelf life anyways, but you decided your limits. 

Stores selling chametz

make sure that the store has a receipt for selling its chametz. This will be important during and after the holiday.

 Store design

Store management awareness to KFP has grown tremendously. Many stores will have entirely seperate sections for KFP products days before the holiday. During the holiday, they will close off the non-KFP sections, or cover the shelves up with plastic sheeting. The stores catering for the religious/Haredi market will relegate their non-KFP stuff to a small corner and the rest of the store is KFP – truly awesome!

 Store hours are usually extended in all branches.

 Many packages that are normally Badatz will have writing stating ‘l’yamot hashana bilvad’, or something like that. It means that while the product is Badatz certified, it might have kitniyot inside and/or the product might need extra stringency for Pesach that the producer is not willing to pay for. Most Badatz’s are Ashkenazi meaning that most Badatz products are non-kitniyot. Yeah!  I am not endorsing ‘badatz’ food (at this time), just that around Pesach time, them make life a bit easier for us Ashkenazis.

A non-kitniyot tip – salami and other packaged meats. Tirat Zvi (orange packages) offers the widest (and virtually only) selection of non-kitniyot meats, some of which is non-Badatz meaning that it will be cheaper too, You also support the kibbutz up north 🙂

 Okay another tip – if you do not eat kitniyot (and not to start a discussion whether Canola is kitniyot or not), you will need either Palm oil (about 10NIS / litre) or Walnut oil (24NIS / litre). These are only available at the Haredi stores (more info to follow).


 Store locations and features for Ariel residents based on my experience.

 

Mega Ba’Ir (2 X Ariel)

– best to come prepared with Rav Tav coupons so you can save some money. At these stores. be EXTRA careful to make sure you are taking KFP products, ESPECIALLY during the holiday. Even after many complaints over the years, there are problems. On Pesach, a ‘minor’ problem is a major problem. Hopefully, this year there won’t be any. Like most of the ‘regular’ supermarket stores, you’ll see that they cover entire shelves but cut out little windows for KFP products. Many times, adjacent to these revealed KFP products is pure chametz. Often, the sheeting tears, it might even fall down, some people take advantage and take out non-KFP items. To the store’s credit, I once witnessed one of the cashiers refuse to sell a customer a non-KFP product. I think it was ice cream with cookie chunks. I try to avoid Mega Ba’Ir during the holiday and afterwards for a few weeks. Very hard to find non-kitniyot food here.

 

Yesh (Ariel, Kfar Saba, BeErot Yitzhak)

-Yesh is theoretically the Haredi branch of the Shufersol chain so many products are badatz, less so at the Ariel store which also serves different consumers. The Ariel branch is relatively small compared to the other branches. Good prices, no packers in lines. I’ll tell you a secret: the best time to shop for a small order is 15-20 minutes before closing – the store is really quiet then. It’s somewhat risky because there might only be one of two cashes open.

 

### TOP OVERALL PICK ###

-The BeErot Yitzhak Yesh branch is my TOP PICK for KFP shopping. Massive (relative to Israel of course), all KFP food, kitniyot and non-kitniyit shelves/sections clearly marked. Mostly Badatz products. Very good prices too. During the week before the holidaym it is a madhouse. In the evenings and until closing, it might be hard to find a cart since there are many shoppers and some people load up more than one. You will have to stake-out people leaving the store and ambush them. Approach them ASAP asking them assertively to take their cart after they unload. Prepare a 5shek coin so you can make the trade at their car. Doors are open until almost midnight. Lines are horrendous, because of the masses and because people are making massive orders. I assure you that you will wait in line for no less than 30min, maybe even an hour. Take it with stride, be patient, talk with your new line friends, go back to search for more food. bring a book or MP3 player. It pays to drive here, car pool together, I promise that you will pay less here on products, but, but, but you will buy so much here – so take a shopping list. BONUS – frequent minyans in the shul at the back of the store. 

 

Yad Yitzhak (Yaynot Bitan) (Rosh HaAyin, Kfar Saba)

Good selection, many Badatz products but perhaps a small majority. I don’t do pre-holiday shopping here. Some baggers, not at every cash, long lines. Let the locals pack the place instead.

 

### BEST LINES ###

Hetzi Hinam (Yarkonim)

Tens of cashes, shorter lines than all other stores, ‘professional’ baggers at every cash, cashiers that work fast, good prices, large selection. Not many non-kitniyot stuff.

 

Bar Kol (Petach Tikva)

– Good prices, caters to Haredi/religious clientele so mostly Badatz food as well as non-food. Across from the Main Bus Station, but I think that parking is limited. I might recommend this store to people without access to a car because the store is much larger than the Ariel Yesh and size means thousands of more products. ‘Non-mobile’ folks could load up a trolley suitcase or two and put them on the 186 to Ariel and easily cover the return bus fare with the savings on food.

 

Bnai Brak

Shaul HaMelech road (Bar Kol, Yesh, and Ezra V’achva)

– the feeling of Pesach in Israel is just too incredible here on this street. PACKED, tons of Jews getting ready for chag, fighting for parking spaces in Yiddish. SO exciting. Virtually all Badatz food meaning large selection of non-kitniyot food. Even though we now do our major KFP shopping at the BeErot Yitzhak Yesh, I still like to visit this area to stock up on non-food items and for the atmosphere.

 

Others:

‘Supermarket Feely’ in the mercaz

Shufersol Deal (Segula)

Habiv (Segula)

 

Avoid the local Russian cornerstores. While awareness might have grown, there is no stringency. Some will openly sell chametz during the holiday. The 24hour stores should also be avoided. They ‘might’ cover up their pretzels, but still offer you whisky. One is notorious for selling bread and pitas. Hashem yishmor.

 

 

My family and I wish you all a kosher and happy Pesach.

Josh

 

ATTENTION SHOPPERS!

The shekI must have missed the news of this law passing. It must be a law because there’s no way they’d initiate something like this. I had thought that, maybe, it was just one supermarket chain going one up for the customer, but I have now seen it at a few different chains. 
In Israel, while we have already gotten used to seeing price stickers on all products (by law since only a few years ago), and also by the same law given legal chutzpah to demand any discrepancy in price if the cash register charges us more, we now have a new weapon in the struggle to keep costs down and save money too.
After the stores were forced to ‘price’ every single item, they seemed to neglect displaying the prices on the shelves themselves. It seems this is a thing of the past.
While some of us took this for granted overseas, we can now rejoice in the birth of the right to know the price per volume. Companies coming out with all these weird sized packages, others downsizing while keeping the original price. No more. Now we can compare the price per 100ml of Danone yogurt with Mueller. Need some ready made ‘ugat habayit’? Instead of trying to ‘break your head’ (Israeli experssion), you can know compare easily between the 400mg, the 450mg, and the 500mg sizes. Trying to choose between the Mallawach package with 5 units inside or 8 will be much easier now. I now discovered that Colgate costs double the price of Aquafresh (both mehadrin kosher BTW).
I urge you all to go try it out. This lesson in smart shopping works best in cookies section. Can’t decide which chocolate chip cookies are the best deal? Now you can choose the best deal between the Osem, Elite, or those 37% chips cookies from Holland.

Housing shortage in Israel – personal story

This is a personal story, not expert financial advice. Please do your own due diligence.
 
A few weeks before I got married in ’99, my wife and I came to Ariel to look for a rental. It was pre-war and hi-tech was ramping up, the college was gaining momentum and the massive building projects next to the college were being completed. The real estate market was heating up. We drove around looking for rental ads or signs on balconies, nada. We were relegated to the agents.
 
We went to three agents and saw some potential places but mostly ‘old’ places or different sizes, nothing that grabbed us. I’ll give credit to the secretary at Eli Arbiv, after we came back to the office, disappointed about not finding something ‘nice’, she gave us advice that is once again relevant today, “what you see today is not going to be on the market tomorrow. You do not have a few days to think about your options. See something decent and suitable, take it. Start negotiating with the owner and maybe you can get some touch-ups.”
 
We went to the next agent, saw three apartments and chose one with a nice (sorry, awesome) view, a 2 metre kitchen counter, no balcony, and overlooking a strip mall with restaurants open really late, a parking lot which was active 24/7 and lived there for about seven years.
 
The market in Ariel, in fact all over central Israel right now, is one of a major housing shortage. During the mini-recession in 2002-2006, many builders went out of business or reduced building starts. The financial papers talked about the supply of apartments running out in a few years and here we are; the amount of new apartments does not match the demand. And rising prices have speculators in the market as well buying ‘investments’. Some areas in Jerusalem, Ashdod, for instance, are suffering from heavy buying by foreigners who in trying to do a mitzvah of owning land in Israel, are a) raising the prices for us Israelis, and b) not living in the apartments year round and not renting out either consequently driving the shortage to epidemic proportions.
 
The time is not one to be picky and certainly not one of looking at some decent homes and sitting on it for a couple of weeks or even a day or two. You never know when a ‘better’ home will get put on the market, but that dilemma can drive anyone crazy, and that’s why it’s good to have faith in God to send you the most suitable options to choose from.
This is advice for many places in Israel now, not only Ariel. The new market valuations in shekels has also wreaked havoc with the market, so try to get immediate advice from others who might have an idea of value comparison.
 
Of course, no one can be assured of anything. One might find a nice place, but have lousy neighbours and vice-versa (preferred, IMO). One might feel like they’re really compromising, but end up with a nice landlord who agrees to make improvements and does not pester.
 
If you know you want to live in a certain place, whether Ariel or not, it’s not a buyers market right now.
 
The preceeding is also more geared towards renting, though relevant towards buying real estate as well. I could not tell you if the continued boom will last, and certainly if, or when Israel’s economy will hit the downturn and prices will drop.
Josh

Hanukah is a school holiday here

Even though I’ve been here for about 14 years, I still get reminded occasionally that I’m still an ‘oleh hadash’.

Last year was my first experience with the Israeli school system. The teachers are pretty lucky because I don’t know how things are run back in the old country so I can’t really compare them, or the system, to anything else, like is inevitable with many other issues here. I hope I’m not being apathetic, but I think the whole thing of my kids in Israeli nursery and pre-k is a traumatic experience just for me.

Our daily routine is that my wife leaves for work early in the morning with the car, and I’m responsible for gettting the kids ready and walking them to nursery and daycare. Drop off is from 7:30am to 8:15, after which they lock the gates for security reasons (anything from whacko parents and drunk idiots, to wandering kids and stray dogs). If the gate is not locked by 8:15, then it will definitely be by 8:30. After that, to get in, you need to ring a bell and have a teacher physically come out, unlock the gate, and give you the inevitable ‘nu, nu, nu, you know you should come on time’ or anything else from the Israeli repository of sayings to make sure that you don’t entertain the thought of going through this humilating experience again. So you understand, that when one is running late, it is a major accomplishment to get to the nursery before the gate is closed, and a small miracle if it is already past 8:15 and you get there as the gate is being locked.

So first day of Hanukah 5767 last year is just a regular day of being late and rushing to get the kids to their destinations, of course mainly the oldest who has to get past that infamous gate. Normally, it’s usually a ten to fifteen minute walk and I’m trying to get the kids to know the neighbourhood so we walk different ways, while they get to choose the directions. Of course, when we are late, we don’t have time for that, and they refuse to accept that. So this time, we’re late, virtually running, and the kids are ‘frustrated’ because I’m not listening to their directions, and we get to the street where the nurseries are located and we’re the only ones. No cars, no kids, and no other late parents (we have an informal club). What is happening?!!

So I call the wife and discover that she forgot to tell me, well, everyone knows that there is no school on Hanukah. I accept her apologies, though she didn’t (Israelis rarely apologize) and baruch Hashem, I can drop off my oldest with her other siblings at their nanny/daycare (she’s an angel).

It happened again a few months later on Shushan Purim, like d’uh, everyone knows that the school system around the country also identifies with the employees in Jerusalem.

Hanukah sameach!

A bit quiet here lately, we know. Avi is in the States now on a whirlwind tour with the MiniRav Shmuel Eliyahu bringing torah into Shvut Arielstry of Absorbtion and my wife gave birth to our fourth, a boy. I have a few things to blog about and I’m also wondering where to do it, here or on the facebook ArieliAliyah group. The ‘bris’, the nurseries, the sefer torah ceremony, the ‘American’ ‘shabbaton’ that Ariel hosted a few weeks ago, the weather, miluim…

Expand the building or construct a brand new one?

When I moved to Ariel in 1999, we barely had a minyan on Shabbat, virtually the only day of the week the synagogue was used. The garin had just started to use the main sanctuary for daily studies, but there was not really a demand for much else.

Now, over the last few years, our “Shvut Ariel” synagogue community has gone through a major increase in families. There were about fifteen families/singles paying membership dues that year, this year I think we’ll pass forty. While that number is not incredibly large, that tripling in size of paying members is significant in that we’ve also witnessed a tripling in size of ‘non-paying’ visitors made up of students staying for Shabbat, non-religious people from the neighbourhood that show up less frequently (as opposed to our regular non-religious members), and guests of families.

The current building is not sufficient anymore. Friday night is standing room only, and occasionally so is Saturnday morning services. While we (members of the community) have been toying with the idea of expansion, it hadn’t been a priority in the past, and we also were skeptical of raising the funds to do anything about it. But we can’t ignore the problem any longer because the community continues to expand.

Along with the relatively overcrowded feeling comes the dream of building a large ‘American’-style synagogue/community center. It’s a concept that is foreign to Israel and even to most Israelis. A synagogue here was built for praying, other social and cultural activites had other venues (we’re all Jewish here :-). Nonetheless, the demand for ‘Jewish’ oriented culture and studies is going through an upswing, and a ‘real’ synagogue would provide the solution. Many factors seem to make this dream unreachable including the price tag, rezoning land, and the concept itself which, like I said, is foreign to most ‘Sabras’.

So we’ve decided to expand the current building and started some prelimenary planning to see what lie ahead. We figure that we could double the size of floor space and the price tag might be about the price of a new house. Certainly, we could raise the funds, and it will probably mean taking out some sort of community mortgage. But if we’re already getting ready for this challenge, shouldn’t we go for more?