Archives for category: Roy

Last week was a week of national holidays full of celebrations & remembrances: Yom HaZikaron (memorial day), Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day), and Yom Huledet shel Roy (Roy’s birthday).

As with other holidays, the city starts getting ready weeks in advance.

Decorations at the zoo...

along the highways,

and lit up on buildings.

These were taken around our neighborhood.

Memorial Day has a completely different feel here than in the US. Since almost everyone has served in the military here, its an important part of their life stories and most people know someone who served in a war, or who was killed, either in war or terrorist attacks. In the US its easier to ignore the meaning of Memorial Day because its only a small proportion of the population who currently serve and whose friends & families are directly affected. Here most of the population has shared in the responsibility of defending the country, whereas at home, the demands placed on non-military citizens are minimal; certainly real sacrifices are made only by a few.

Noah’s school held a tekes (ceremony) on Sunday which we attended.

All of the children wore blue & white...

the building was decorated...

each class presented an art project, there was singing...

and Israeli dancing!

There was only a half day of school on Monday and no school/work at all on Tuesday so that people could participate in and attend the various ceremonies and special events held all over the country. We went to a small memorial service Monday afternoon a couple of neighborhoods over that the mayor of Haifa was participating in. There were some prayers and a reading of the people from that neighborhood who had died. We didn’t stay for the whole thing because we didn’t understand everything that was going on and Noah was getting antsy, but we wanted him to understand why he had an early day and show him what was going on throughout the country. Noah’s teacher told him that he could see soldiers on TV, so we let him watch a bit. Most channels had no programming at all out of respect and throughout the day the state channel broadcast profiles of soldiers who had died. In the evening there is a ceremony broadcast nationally from Har Herzl in Jerusalem that is a transition from the solemn Yom HaZikron to the festive Yom HaAtzmaut. We were told that everyone watches it & then goes outside to celebrate. In Haifa, there were music festivals in several neighborhoods & fireworks, so as soon as the show was over we ran outside & saw a fireworks show right above our heads. One of the music stages was at the bottom of the hill where our neighborhood is, so all we had to do was go to the edge and look down & we could watch the whole thing.

And it was Roy's birthday! Maybe those fireworks were actually for him.

Noah decided that we needed to bake Roy a chocolate cake with strawberries, so "we" did.

The next day we had the whole day off and there were so many things going on.

First, we went to the Haifa port, where the navy had ships on display.

Then we went down to Tel Aviv and caught part of the flotilla that sailed down the coast.

We went to the Namal (the old port), which is now a boardwalk lined with shops & restaurants.

There was a pottery activity - Noah made a candlestick on the wheel.

And a juggling/acrobatic act which Noah thought was fantastic.

Another pleasantly re-imagined former working waterfront!


Sarah and I are about the meanest parents in the world with respect to TV and computer games.  As a result, Noah will watch absolutely any movie that he can.  As I’m looking up how long to roast beef bones for stock, he sees the site’s list of cooking instructional videos and asks to watch this video teaching you how to make an apple swan.

Two days later, I ask what he’d like for a snack.  Without hesitation: apple swan.  Okay, why not.  He took a picture of it which we put up on his photoblog.  Here’s the happy customer nibbling on the head and neck.

Galgalatz continues to make car trips baffling.  It’s like listening to an iPod set to shuffle, but the iPod is maybe only 15 gigabytes, so the owner keeps deleting recent hits in favor of new ones.  He never gets around, however, to deleting the older songs, so it keeps playing a few minor hits from the past 40 years while leaving out songs that made a lasting impact.  Maybe he only has The Who on vinyl, so he never ripped “My Generation.”

Yesterday, I heard “The Age of Aquarius” from Hair for the umpteenth time, then last night, it was “Summer Nights” from Grease.  Sarah still fantasizes that one day she’ll play Sandy, or at least Rizzo, on Broadway, so that I couldn’t hear much of the actual radio over her enthusiastic vocalizations.  We were almost home when this came on, so she was very glad that we got stuck at a red light. This was followed without pause by “Grenade” by Bruno Mars (really, this is what passes for lyrics?). Then today, You Don’t Own Me, by Lesley Gore, for the third time since we’d been in Israel–in my previous life, I only knew “It’s My Party,” but her deep cuts live on in the cars and shopping malls of Israel.

Driving around in our Chevy Optra More, I always have the radio tuned to Galgalatz, which I’ve mentioned in a previous post.  I cannot describe how ubiquitous the station is.  You hear it coming out of multiple stores at the mall. You have it on in the car, and stop at security outside the Technion, and can hear it coming from their speakers as well as your own.

The foreign (mostly US/UK) music they play is pretty bad, as is some of the Israeli music, but some of the songs are really good. It’s frustrating hearing the same songs over and over and not even being able to figure out the name of the singers or the songs. There were two songs in heavy rotation that I really wanted to know about, one of which all three of us know and which Noah even translated spontaneously: “Kama ze koev, that’s ‘How much it hurts!'” which we generally refer to as the “ba bada da bop ba” song, for obvious reasons. It features a raspy male voice. Galgalatz has a rule that this song must be played at least once per car trip over 20 minutes.  I have no particular desire to hear this song, but it’s very frustrating to not understand the language well enough to pick up the name of the singer and song.

There was another song, however, that I really wanted to hear again. Just as I realized how much I enjoyed it, it disappeared from the airwaves. It features a woman singing with slowly growing jazz backing music, a voice that I just find beautiful and sad and sultry.  It reminded me in some vague way of Astrud Gilberto.

When we were on our culinary tour of the Galillee, we went to a dairy that, of course, had Galgalatz on in the background.  The “ba bada da bop ba” song came on while we were tasting sheep and goat cheese.  I immediately asked our tour guide Orly if she could name the singer for me.  She consulted with the dairy maid (okay, the woman working at the dairy) and they agreed it was Yirmi Kaplan.  I searched for him on youtube, and eventually found this compilation of Israel’s current top domestic pop hits (youtube user ronnn111 makes such a mix every six months!).  It identifies the song as מעבר לגדר (Me’ever Lagader –Over the Fence).  Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be available on iTunes.

I also asked Orly if she could identify my mystery woman, and she suggested the singer might be Efrat Gosh.  Youtube revealed that wasn’t her, but I recognized her name on the radio a few days later and loved the song that came on.  I found the album, “Ah Ah Ah Ahava!” (Ah! Ah! Ah! Love!) on iTunes.

Fortunately, YouTube always displays related videos down the right edge of the screen, and clicking on a few with pictures of women revealed the singer I longed for to be Avigail Roz, singing a song called עוד מחכה לאחד (Od Mechaka La’echad–Still Waiting for the One).  It’s from a new album that’s not on iTunes, but her first album is there, and she covers Desafinado, so it was Joao Gilberto I was reminded of!

In putting together this post, and listening to the semiannual “Best of Israel” youtube videos, we found two other songs we recognize from the radio that we want to buy and iTunes makes it all so easy…

For 8 weeks in October through December, I shared my office at the Technion with Sergio, an optical physicist from Spain, who was here collaborating on a project on adjustable eyeglass lenses. (Cool, right?)

Sergio makes all his own soap and the night before he left Haifa, he invited his host Koby and us to see how it’s done. Koby found him a kilogram of NaOH (aka caustic soda or lye) and a very accurate kitchen scale. Sergio provided water and canola oil, as well as some bits of pine needles for scent. He had a book with tables of the relative amounts of all ingredients, which Koby and I, as the mathematicians, were expected to compute in our heads. We all had to stand back while he dissolved the lye in the water water, and then used a wooden spoon and electric mixer to combine with the oil.

Then, wait two days for it to harden, and another month for the soapmaking reaction to complete.  I brought the soap back to the office to cure.  After a day or two it remained liquid, and now, three weeks later, some of the bars are still liquid, and some are half-solidified, although the top solidified first, and then buckled.  Sergio believes that the problem stems from his use of liquid oil instead of wax or animal fat, which would harden at room temperature.

Here’s some pictures of the process:

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When we got back from the trip to Istanbul, I had a new officemate, who found 7 little molds filled with a gelatinous liquid mixed with pine needles on his desk.  Fortunately he took this in stride.  Now I just have to wait a few more weeks for the soap to be ready so I can start showering again.

If you were to ask me a few weeks ago what I miss most from the US, the answer would be simple: cheese.  We’ve been told that for many years, there were two types of cheese available in Israel, גבינה צהובה (yellow cheese) גבינה לבנה (white cheese, almost like yogurt). The white has some character, but the yellow is industrial and flavorless.  Today’s supermarket cheese here is much more like Kraft American Singles.  There is good Feta and something like creamcheese with little black nigella seeds like in Armenian string cheese, but not much in terms of harder European cheeses.

We’ve now discovered several sources of alternatives:

  • There’s a sort of shuk in the Grand Canyon Mall on Thursday and Friday mornings. One table sells cheeses from Israel’s fledgling artisan cheese scene, made on small farms and kibbutzes, including a local Manchego that’s very good.
  • Suidan, an importer on Haifa’s Allenby St, right across the street from Konditory Allenby, which Sarah has written about. They also have really good salamis. They’ll let you taste anything.
  • Eden Teva, Israel’s answer to Whole Foods, which has a branch in the Krayot–the suburbs northeast of Haifa.  In addition to Cheddar, they also have flour tortillas and locally made salsa.  We can do Mexican!  On our first visit, they were giving out samples of a sharp hard goat cheese with herbs.
  • Pasta Carrolla, which has a restaurant downtown and a shop near us in Ziv, had a stall at the otherwise unimpressive Haifa Farmer’s Market, where we were able to find real Gruyere yesterday.
  • Eat hummus instead.  When in Rome…

Dinie, Noah’s preschool teacher last year, asked us if Noah learned any new Hebrew songs that he could teach her new class.  We also heard from his friend Olivia, that she liked the video of him singing in the car.

Here are two new songs we think you’ll like.  He even enlisted me to assist him.  I put on a nice shirt in order to appear on the internet.

After I write stuff down and publish it to the greedy eyes of the entire world (or at least to my mom’s eyes), I realize that stuff is wrong, or at least could use some clarification.  Here goes:

  • The mold and mildew are not as bad as all that.  When we arrived, Haifa was in the final throes of a heat wave, with temperatures in the mid to high 90’s (American) and severe humidity every day. Since then it’s been hot and humid, but life is not such an uphill struggle.
  • The armed man who inspects the bus is not a soldier, but works for a private security company.
  • Getting a bank account has been more work than I originally posted.  Since it took an hour to fill out the paperwork, I was ready to leave and didn’t worry about actually transferring money into it.  They also said it was no rush for me to order a checkbook.  I wanted Sarah to get an ATM card and to be able to write checks, so I waited to do it until we had added her to the account. Sarah came to Technion with me twice to visit the bank branch. The first time it was Sukkot and the bank had closed early.  The second time was a Friday morning, and the bank was open but had limited service.  I gave up on adding Sarah, but each time I came to the bank to order checks, the people I needed to see were busy and I ended up leaving without seeing them.  Finally I ordered the checks and transferred some money from the US.  Then I went to the ATM and tried to make a withdrawal, but the money had not been converted into Shekels, so I had to go inside and wait to speak to an officer one more time.  Finally, it was done. Moral of the story: take care of everything the first time or spend half your life waiting to speak to someone at the bank on 5 different occasions.
  • When we went to haGolan, we wanted a 3 day auto rental, but Tamir only delivers the car if you keep it for a week.  Okay, then, a week.  Then we realized that Noah had half-days of school throughout Sukkot, so we wanted a car for halfday trips, and we added another few days. Then, he broke his leg and who wants to take a stroller and a walker on the train to Tel Aviv? So we want the car a little longer. Oh, forget it, what started out as a 3-day rental is now a 9-month rental and the final answer is “To Car.”

When Sarah’s friend Anat had us for dinner, she put out some ring-shaped crackers on the coffee table in addition to the standard


Israeli spread of olives and skinny pickles.  They were so good that I mentioned them to Sarah a few days later, and she agreed how good they were.  She emailed to find out what they were.  Anat said they’re called Abadi (עבאדי) and are available in every supermarket. I’m eating one right now! So, when you go to the grocery store that first day, ask for them by name, and tell ’em Roy sent you.

What to do about a cellphone?

Since we’re subletting and have to pay for the owners’ home phone, the cell is not our main line, and we just want a pay as you go plan.  Our research said the thing to do is to by an unlocked GSM phone and get a SIM card.  Had we done the research before arriving, we’d have learned the way to do this is to buy the phone on E-bay before coming for about $50.  Failing that, we bought the cheapest phone available at Ace hardware in the Grand Canyon Mall.  At the ‘EasyLink’ store in the same  mall, they sell the SIM cards.  If you have an Israeli bank account, you can get a SIM card that has a better per-minute rate, but we didn’t have one at that point, so we’ve got the Orange “BigTalk” card which charges a whopping 1.5 NIS/minute (about $0.39).