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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.

Concerns about investing

The following is a response that I wrote to a family of olim that is considering moving to Ariel. They, as others before them, expressed their concerns about moving beyond “the green line”. So, how DOES one approach the question of how to approach the geo-political issues related to investing in a home in Ariel?
I would suggest approaching the issue at hand in one of two ways: “practically” or “faithfully”.
 
1. Practically – certainly an intelligent approach. The reality of the situation – at least as I see it – is that everywhere in the world there is a degree of uncertainty about what the future may hold. There is a sense (not a statistical fact but a “sense”) that the degree of uncertainty is greater in Israel than in America. Indeed there is a “sense”, influenced and fed primarily by media coverage and framing and somewhat by governmental policy (or lack thereof), that the degree of uncertainty is even greater within certain regions of Israel. One such “region” is none other than the nation’s capital – Jerusalem. Another such region is that of Judea and Samaria.
 
The informed analyst will take things even further, and examine the subdivisions of “degree of uncertainty” within the aforementioned regions. As such, there are what I would consider “indicators” – no guarantees, but indicators as to what may be in the future. The foremost indicator is what’s termed “the security fence”. The fence is seen by most as an initial form of a border between the State of Israel and what may some day become a Palestinian entity – if such an agreement is ever reached. Accordingly, those areas that are on the Israeli side of the fence, also referred to as “on the inside”, are considered safe from the threats of land concessions in any final agreement. There are 3 regions which are beyond the “green line” (as the 1967 borders are often referred to) and yet within the fence: Ma’aleh Adumim, The Etzion Bloc and The Ariel Bloc. Though the fence hasn’t yet been completed, with a question mark remaining regarding certain communities, the fence around Ariel has already been built and the city is “within the fence”. 
 
There are other indicators, one of which is building permits. Building beyond the “green line” currently requires central government permission. Those communities granted permission to expand are considered to have a lesser “degree of uncertainty” concerning their future. Due to the complexity of Israeli politics building permits require a lot of effort, however the City of Ariel continues to build with permits (currently there are several projects throughout the city, 4 of which are new residential developments).
 
Yet another indicator is the infrastructure in the region. Perhaps Israel’s best highway, highway 5 which goes from Tel Aviv to Ariel, has just been completed. Most of the highway has been in use for several years, but the work on the final 3 kilometer stretch was opened on November 10th. Many consider this significant investment to be a strong indicator of Ariel’s promising future.
 
2. Faithfully – personal beliefs are no less a part of a decision making process than rational thought. For example, no logical assessment of the situation will convince those who are diametrically opposed to living beyond the “green line” due to their political views to consider Ariel as their home. If their belief system is antagonistic to the city and everything that it represents then they will most likely feel uncomfortable here. However, those who are committed to the Jewish Homeland, the security of Israel and the right for a Jew to dwell in areas of Israeli sovereignty will naturally lean towards building a home in Ariel.
 
Beyond the natural magnetic pull of Ariel for Jews from around the world, there are those who are drawn for idealistic reasons. More than any other place, the City of Ariel embodies each of the primary objectives of the modern Jewish movements that see the State of Israel as a meaningful aspect of Jewish history:
a. dwelling in the Land
b. advancing a healthy orientation towards Jewish practice and belief amongst the residents of Ariel
c. creating a healthy interpersonal and inter community dynamic amongst Israelis, notwithstanding their different views and lifestyles.  
 
For some, the city’s idealistic pull may overshadow other considerations, because their decision making process is primarily driven by their inner commitment which may either supersede or perhaps even tint their theoretical analysis of the geo-political situation.
 
 
As mentioned, it really depends on how you approach the subject. If you’re looking at the dry facts on the ground it certainly looks like Ariel is here to stay. The “degree of uncertainty” is very low, though it does exist.
 
It is my opinion that olim need to keep both the practical and the faith-oriented considerations in mind. First I suggest asking yourself if you’re comfortable or perhaps interested in moving beyond the “green line”. In the event that you are you’ll then want to consider what “degree of uncertainty” you’re comfortable with. It is my belief and understanding that Ariel really is safe from the concerns that you mentioned,  due to the points mentioned above as well as others. My wife and I purchased our home here as many others continue to do on a daily basis. Indeed, Ariel has even become a hot spot for real-estate investors and the demand continues to grow.
 
So, to sum up – I suggest coming here and seeing for yourself. It’s by far the best way to get a real feel for what life is really like here.
 
Awaiting your visit,
Avi

Telfed in Ariel

Telfed

Telfed

With the growing popularity of Ariel’s Community Aliyah Program word has a way of getting around. True – North American olim and South African olim are not quite the same.  Still – they have a lot more in common than their mother tongue, and for one reason or another the South African community has begun to take an interest in Ariel.

Telfed (The South African Zionist Federation) has been pushing aliyah to the land of Israel for their constituents. Back in July Telfed brought a flight of 100 new olim to Israel. They’re taking a serious interest in stepping up their operation, and as such it was just a matter of time until they made their way to Ariel.

During their visit this past Thursday, mayor Ron nachman showed the group around the city. The guided tour included thorough visits to the up-and-coming Performing Arts Center, the brand new Sports and Recreation Center and the Ariel University Center. As with all of Ariel’s visitors, the delegates were very impressed.

A few months back, after a series of inquiries from potential South African olim about Ariel, I approached the Ministry of Absorption and suggested that they add the South African community as potential benefeciaries of our Community Aliyah Program. The response was that they’d rather leave things status quo… unless the South African community makes an organized request to come to Ariel. Well – Telfed is now in the process of issuing that request – we’ll keep you posted as things move along. 

Oh- by the way- my wife is originally South African. So – when the time comes I think we’re going to have to issue a dictiionary that translates South African terminology to American terminology. Don’t worry- it’s not too bad. Just keep in mind not to hold your breath if a South African says “just now”.

Life is Greener on the other side of the Green Line

As all of you know, this blog does not focus on geo-political matters.

We do not avoid politics, though it is clearly not the focus of the discussion.

We deal only with the facts that pertain to life in Ariel, and the personal perspectives that are experienced through life here.

Keeping that in mind, I turn your attention to an interesting demographic study which was recently publicized by the Ariel University Center. I have quoted an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post which touches on some of the statistics presented. The purpose of quoting the article is to provide some depth to the otherwise dismissive approach to life beyond the green line often presented in the media. Enjoy:

The settler population in the West Bank is growing three times as fast as the population in the rest of the country and has doubled over the past 12 years, according to an extensive demographic study published Monday by the Ariel University Center in Samaria (the College of Judea and Samaria).

Settlement residents tend to be healthier, have a higher income and are more likely to be employed than other Israelis, and their children are more likely to do well on the matriculation exams than their counterparts who live within the Green Line, according to the 240-page study.

The report is filled with statistical tables to support its conclusions, many of them based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

On the demographic front, the study states that in the last 12 years the settler population has grown by 107 percent, from 130,000 people in 1995 to 270,000 people in 2007, compared with 29% growth in the rest of the country.

In the last three years, from 2005 to 2007, the growth has been three times as high as elsewhere, 5% a year compared to 1.7%.

Most of the population increase is the result of new babies born to residents. In 2007, of the 14,500 new residents of Judea and Samaria, 9,000 were newborns.

Of the remaining 5,500 new residents, 800 are new immigrants and 4,700 are Israelis who moved from within the Green Line.

The settler birth rate is higher than within the Green Line, with 35 children born to every 1,000 people as opposed to 20.

Overall the settler population is younger than elsewhere. The average age is 20 compared to 28 outside of Judea and Samaria. Residents who are 65 and over make up only 2.9% of the population compared with 10% elsewhere.

Most of the settlers are native Israelis, 82.6%, compared with 69.5% in the rest of the country.

In 2006, 3.9% of new immigrants went to live in Judea and Samaria, of whom 38.8% were from the United States, 25.8% were from the former Soviet Union while 19.7% came from France or England.

According to 2006 data, the settlement with the highest number of immigrants was Ariel, where 42.2% of the population are immigrants who came to Israel after 1990. In Maaleh Ephraim 24.7% of the residents are immigrants, in Kiryat Arba, 17.9%, in Efrat, 15.5% and in Maaleh Adumim, 15.1%.

Haredim, who have been populating fast-growing West Bank cities like Betar Illit and Modi’in Illit, make up 30.7% of the settler population, compared with 7.5 % of the population within the Green Line.

Settlers are more likely to work. Some 62% of the population participates in the work force compared with 56% elsewhere. Similarly, unemployment is lower – 6.5% in Judea and Samaria compared with 7.3% in the rest of the country.

Some 71.2% of settler teens who take the matriculation exams earn a matriculation certificate, compared to 65.8% in the rest of the country.

Settlers make more money, NIS 13,566 on average per family in 2006, compared with NIS 12,343 in the rest of the country.

Per capita income, however, is 13% less than elsewhere because settler families are larger.

Settlers were more likely to describe themselves as healthy, 91% compared with 73% within the Green Line, and to state that they were satisfied with their lives – 92.3% compared to 83% in the rest of the country.

On the negative side, there are proportionately 22% more criminal files in Judea and Samaria than in Israel proper.

 

 I’d like to thank Jerry and Sylvia Dortz for sending this article to the blog.

The Best Olim

I’ve finally returned from miluim and I couldn’t be happier.

When I left the office about a month ago I was concerned. Not scared, but concerned. After all, Ariel’s new olim have begun arriving and all of a sudden, at a very early stage of their aliyah, I can’t be around to give them any assistance. Sure – there are phone calls here and there – but there’s alot that can’t be done long distance.

And what about the brand-new olim that arrived? Two families arrived a matter of days before I was off to serve, and a single guy came after my departure – what would they do? How would they manage?

True- olim have always handled things on their own in the past. Yes- usually things were rather sloppy and not everything got taken care of, but olim survived before the innovation of Ariel’s Community Aliyah Program… And yet – it didn’t seem fair – leaving our olim hanging without the support net that we strive to provide them with.

So – we held a meeting with some of our volunteers. It was the “how are we going to pull this one off” meeting. It was no surprise – all of the positions were manned and every responsibilty was accounted for. Still – how would things turn out…?

While on miluim I witnessed (from afar) things coming together. From the arrival of a new oleh to the assistance necessary for the “old timer” olim (=those here for maybe a month or so), from opening bank accounts to Shabbat meal invitations, from starting new schools to getting into ulpan- our recent olim were all making it happen.

It didn’t happen by accident. Some very good, caring and capable people stepped up to the plate to get the job done. In general, when thanking our volunteers I avoid “mentioning names” so as not to seemingly overlook someone by not mentioning them. In this case, however, I will request forgiveness for mentioning only three of the outstanding volunteers. I mention them due to the significance of their assistance and the degree of their investment, without which I don’t know how things would have worked out:

Jenny – Kol HaKavod!!! Jenny put her secretarial skills and never-ending energy to work by taking the position of “central comand”. Hours on the phone, tying up loose ends, constant initiative and endless care and concern for the olim are only a small taste of what it took for her to get the job done. And indeed, the job got done – without a flaw.

Yisrael (aka Eric)- I was a bit surprised when Yisrael showed up at our volunteer meeting before my departure. After having made aliyah less than two months earlier, I certainly didn’t expect him to take an active role. By the end of the meeting he had essentially volunteered for almost all that had to be done. He was the one to greet our newest oleh when I was away, take him from place to place, show him the ropes and basically show him what it means to come Home.

Yocheved – Some people only know how to give. Yocheved wasn’t at the volunteer meeting – because she wasn’t invited (she wasn’t invited because she herself was one of the new olim that hadn’t even arrived yet!). Both when I stopped by on my leave from the army and now that I’ve returned from miluim I’ve witnessed only a few of the things that she does to help the olim: doing their wash (by hand!), running all over town to get olim things that they need and shlepping things around for a whole day to help an oleh with their move to her new place. One thing’s for sure- she’s done alot more than I have any idea about.

So – to each of the volunteers – those mentioned and those not mentioned – THANK YOU. Your true reward is an eternal one. 

I think the bottom line is that I’m both pleased and impressed. Pleased – because our olim continue to get into life in Israel – one step at a time. Impressed – because they and the volunteers who assist them are doing such an EXCELLENT job.

Thank you all for being the best.