Archive for the 'life in Israel' Category

Work and pray in Israel high-tech

dina 1 (3)When I started working at my current IT company in 2000, we (the religious employees) would have an makeshift mincha prayer in the lobby of the company gym each day at 1:30pm, and we’d get a minyan of about 15-30 men. It wasn’t the idea place to pray, but it wasn’t possible to get a permanent time reservation for a conference room, and none were big enough in any case. We used a shoebox to hold the small paperback prayer books, a tzdedaka box and some kipas for the occasional non-religious guys. Someone later donated about twenty Sephardi mincha/maariv siddurs, which we had to put away after each session. The nusach style of prayer depends entirely on the hazan and tolerance is high enough to accept any flavour such as Edot Mizrach, Chabad, Sefarad and Ashkenaz as well even though that is a minority.dina 2

After a few years, we decided to try our luck with HR (human resources) and ask for the company to set aside a room or two for a dedicated synagogue. While we were officially ignored, off the record we were told that if we were given a synagogue, then other people might demand their own place of worship. We had to accept that answer, but nonetheless, all this time, we did appreciate the access to the area during off-hours the gym.

On fast days, we could not bring a sefer Torah, so we had to close down and recommend people go into the nearby cities for alternatives.dina 3 (2)

As we gradually grew in size, we moved into the actual training room with the gym equipment but later, the gym was closed and turned into more office space, and we had to move to a basement hallway in another building . Our new location was able to fit more people, and a combination of growing number of religious guys as well as a wish to offer an additional minyan, gave us the encouragement to open a new ‘second-chance’ mincha at 4pm. Someone donated a shelf and we were able to give a more proper display for the prayer books.dina 4

We never gave up on looking for some place else because this location had disadvantages of having the people come through (some would be considerate and wait, others could not [be expected to] wait 10-15 minutes), and we were continuing to grow, with overflow into side hallways as the company grew and adjacent companies began to populate the building expansion and their employees joined as well. Around 2011, we decided to go over the heads of the HR department and
approach our company maintenance / operations department for a better location. This time we were happily surprised beyond our highest expectations. The company was still not going to allocate any office space but they decided to relay our request to the building complex owners who happily accepted the idea with no hesitation.dina 6

Over the next few months, adjacent to a busy intersection, yet tucked discretely into a quiet side of a typical glass covered IT office building, a contractor closed off a section of the parking lot and turned it into a fully furnished synagogue that can seat over 50 as well as a women’s section (who also come), with aron kodesh (including a cage to lock in a sefer Torah), and a nicely stocked library with more siddurim and seforim – all donated by the building owners with no strings attached except the name of a family matriarch for this small chapel now called Ohel Dina. On fast days, a Torah is now brought by one of the workers and we can have a regular prayer with reading, and the attendance swells to more than double the usual (including standing room). During the wintertime when the sun sets early, we also organize a Maariv prayer. When there is a mourner, he does not need to search for a nearby synagogue, and there are never any struggles to be the hazan either. The synagogue is open to all people who work in the area’s office buildings and visitors. Having this synagogue at work is really convenient and another awesome reason to live in Israel.

dina 7 (2)dina 9 (2)

 

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.