Retivut? Get Riduvit!

Olim from Western countries get very upset when they find their home in Israel is beset with retivut. Often they are ready to pay any price to a shiputznik who promises to get rid of it. Or if they are renting an apartment, they may do their darnedest to break their lease and move. Are such dramatic reactions necessary? Actually, the answer is a qualified “no.” Retivut is generally not an unsolvable problem. There are a number of ways to prevent and/or clear up this issue.

What is retivut?

Retivut is a Hebrew word that is related to the adjective ratuv, meaning wet. It is sometimes used to describe its evil cousin, mold, which is more correctly called ovesh. However, retivut refers to dampness in walls or ceilings, or beneath the floor tiles, of a property. Signs that it may be present include:

  • Surfaces that are damp to the touch
  • Watermarks or discolored paint
  • Cracked, peeling or bubbling paint and plaster
  • A musty or other unpleasant odor
  • Dripping water
  • Mold or mildewMold

Where does it come from?

Dampness may come from a variety of sources inside or outside your building, such as:

  • A leak from a neighbor’s plumbing or balcony (in this case, the neighbor is responsible for repair)
  • A broken pipe – even a pinhole crack can cause a mini flood when water is rushing through the pipe at high pressure
  • Improper sealing of, or cracks in, your exterior walls which admit rainwater
  • Faultily installed windows causing condensation in cold weather
  • Poor insulation and/or ventilation
  • Other structural problems, such as poorly built windowsills that slant downward toward the window


Before you buy or rent a home

When you are considering an apartment or house to buy or rent, check carefully for signs of retivut or potential sources of damp, as just described. Do not be shy about inspecting in depth for this serious problem. Concealing retivut from a potential property buyer is illegal in Israel, so it is important to ask the owner explicitly whether there is a retivut problem even if you do not find any indications.

Engineer inspection

When you are planning to buy, you may want to consider having the property inspected by a professional engineer. He or she should use a special device to test for dampness, as well as checking for structural issues. Be aware, however, that there are potential problems with using an engineer.

There have been cases of suspected collusion between engineers and potential sellers, so be sure that you are present every minute if you go ahead with an inspection.

The fact of having had an engineer check the property will tend to work to your disadvantage if retivut is later found in the property and you wish to sue the seller in small claims court for your repair expenses.

Engineers often include in their inspection reports a clause absolving them of any responsibility for problems, whether reported or not.

Preventing moisture build-up

Once you are already living in a house or apartment, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent moisture build-up:

  1. Air out the rooms by opening the windows daily for at least 15 minutes if at all possible.
  2. Install electric vents in high humidity areas such as in bathrooms and over stovetops. You may also use an electric dehumidifier or inexpensive humidity absorption pellets*.
  3. Do not keep the inside of windows covered with furniture or heavy drapes.
  4. Close the trisim (blinds) during heavy rainfalls.
  5. Use humidifiers sparingly.
  6. Wipe condensation off window frame and surrounding areas with old towels.
  7. If you need to line dry laundry indoors, put it in an airy part of your apartment.


Dealing with mold

If you notice mold forming, photograph or make a sketch of where it appears in case you eventually need to consult a professional to deal with it. Infants and small children, elderly people and anyone suffering from a respiratory problem like allergy or asthma should stay away from the moldy room. Scrub off the mold as soon as possible – before it spreads – with a strong bleach solution. Make sure the area is well ventilated while you are working, and wear rubber gloves, old clothes and preferably a protective face mask. Air the room thoroughly afterwards.

Once the mold is gone, try to track down and eliminate/minimize the source of the problem.

Using a retivut specialist

If the mold returns, you may want to contact a professional in resolving retivut problems. Because such a specialist does not require licensing, choose carefully; ask friends or community e-bulletin boards for “tried and true” recommendations, and stay away from anyone who recommends himself.  If the dampness is coming from outside the building, the professional will probably not be able to proceed until after a few weeks of warm weather have allowed the area to dry out. (As an alternative, if you have determined that the problem stems from inadequate sealing of your home’s exterior walls, at this point you can apply sealant to the outer walls yourself.)

Make sure that your resource person treats the source of the problem and not just the symptoms. Have him sign a contract detailing the exact procedures, materials and deadlines involved, with a guarantee on the job of at least one year (preferably longer) so that you can see how the work holds up next winter.

Good luck! Here’s hoping you stay dry and warm this winter!

I found this at the grocery store and this image is taken from

I found this at the grocery store and this image is taken from

* The humidity absorption pellets (מילוי סופג לחות ומונע עובש) are found in the cleaning products section of large grocery stores. Sold in a small dark blue cardboard box,  the pellets can be purchased together with a plastic holder (about NIS 26) or in a refill pack (about NIS 12). I have used them successfully to absorb dampness in small enclosed spaces such as in bathrooms or under sinks.


Geveret Bubbly Meets a Suspicious Olah

“You’re too _____________ (FILL IN THE BLANK WITH “American/Canadian/uptight/awkward in Israeli society/etc.).” This is a phrase that pushes insecurity buttons for many Anglos. Whether we came to Israel temporarily or on aliyah, in the process we’ve often left behind loved ones, homes and professions, and most of us try very hard to fit in to this bubbling multi-flavored stew of a society. Yet sometimes it doesn’t hurt to hang on to a little Anglo reserve … especially because we’re dealing with an unfamiliar culture and language.


A few months ago, I answered my door to a smiling Israeli woman whom I had never met. She greeted me effusively.

“Shalom, motek! I just bought the apartment in this building!”

Well, I knew that there was a place for sale and assumed that’s what she was talking about.

“So tell me,” she continued with a warm smile, “are you an owner or a tenant?”

Wanting to get off on the right foot with this new neighbor-to-be, I answered her civilly. But her subsequent question made me uneasy: “How many people living here own their apartments and how many rent?” followed up with “How much did you pay for your apartment?”

I started to hem and haw. She was bypassing my comfort zone in a big way. However, she wasn’t discouraged and blithely went on to say, “I just want to see how other people in the building have fixed up their apartments” – as she attempted to walk over the threshold and into my home.

Time for a good old fashioned Canadian hockey style body check. Call me uptight, but I have a strict rule: I don’t let anyone into my apartment unless I know their name or business, preferably both.

“Sorry, but no,” I told the woman who was acting as if she was my long-lost best friend.

“But I already looked at your apartment when you had it for sale!” she protested. That really activated the warning bells in my head – I have never put my place on the market since I moved in. Still, she could have been mistaken, I thought. After all, these apartments all look alike.

So I used my all-purpose (true) excuse. “I have to get back to work. Kol tuv,” I said, as I gently closed the door.


Yes, I felt rude, wrong and guilty about my North American style suspiciousness at the time. Quite a few months have passed since then, though, with no further sign of Geveret Bubbly. The apartment she claimed to have bought is still standing empty. And I’m feeling a whole lot better about hanging on to that little part of me that is still too … well, you know.


Editor’s note:  Do you have an Israeli Army story — or other personal story of life in Israel — that you would like to share with us? We are always interested in stories that will inform, uplift and inspire our readers. Of course, we reserve the sole right to publish or not, and to edit before publishing. Please submit your story, preferably including (non-copyright) photos as well, to forward to hearing from you!

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Canadian, Eh? Some Important Information on Passport Application from Israel

Your Canadian Passport

Summertime, and the Anglos are traveling. But if you’re an Anglo of the Israeli-Canadian persuasion, it’s important to prepare early if you are planning to travel out of the country this summer. Applying for a Canadian passport has become quite involved, with a number of new requirements, especially if your old passport expired more than a year ago. NOTE: Please see the bottom of this article for more information about office hours and requirements for processing your Canadian passport.*

I just visited the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv. The first thing you should know is that if you’re coming from Jerusalem, the embassy is very easy to get to. Take the 405 from the capital, and get off at the LaGuardia Interchange (the stop before the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station). From there, it is a five minute walk to Beit Canada; you do not have to transfer to a Tel Aviv city bus – or pay 40 shekels for a taxi the way I did the first time I went there as a new olah!

Inside, the passport office is a clean and pleasant place. Be aware that you will not be permitted to use your laptop, cell phone or iPad, but instead will have to check your electronic device with the security guard. You are also not allowed to bring in large packages or luggage items, or to eat or drink in the office. There is a water dispenser for your convenience.

I had left my home in Jerusalem at 6:30 in the morning to get to the embassy soon after it opened at 8:00 AM. There were just two people ahead of me, so I only had to wait about fifteen minutes. Apparently the passport office does get quite crowded later in the morning, though, and it is especially busy on Fridays.

Although I had checked the passport application requirements in advance with the embassy website, I was a little nervous, afraid that I had missed some detail. A friendly fellow Canadian who had arrived after me (but just to pick up passports that were ready – lucky her!) went over the list with me. She seemed impressed that I had brought a certified check rather than cash, and that I had gotten an acceptable guarantor.

When it was my turn to meet with the passport clerk, I felt fairly self-confident. She looked over my application. Proper form? Check. Filled out in black ink, all in capital letters? Check. Proof of citizenship? Check. Professional photos taken within the last 6 months, of the right dimensions and with the proper facial expression? Check. Payment? Check – and a certified one, at that.

Canadian Passport Photo Specs

However, if an applicant’s Canadian passport has expired more than a year ago, as mine had, an additional form of official identification, with signature, is required. I had my slightly – ok, very – battered Canadian social insurance card in addition to my old passport, but apparently that was not sufficient. The clerk asked for my Israeli passport or driver’s license (an Israeli “teudat zehut” is not acceptable). I don’t drive, and my Israeli passport had also expired. In fact, updating that was the next errand on my list.

Although the clerk was sympathetic and took the time to double check with her supervisor, my ID was just not good enough. So I’m off to renew my Israeli passport and then to head back to the Canadian embassy to prove that I am who I think I am.

Oh well … at least I got a walk on the beach out of the whole excursion.


The Canadian embassy in Israel is at 3 Nirim, Tel Aviv. Passport applications and renewals are accepted 8:00 to noon, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, except on Israeli and Canadian holidays.

Tel: (011 972 3) 636-3300

Fax: (011 972 3) 636-3380


If you are living in Israel, you will need to complete and submit the correct form for a Canadian applying from abroad – simplified renewal (if your passport is still valid or expired less than one year ago), adult application or child application. See for detailed information and to download the form needed in your case.

For an application, the form must be signed by an acceptable guarantor (judge, lawyer, physician or signing officer of a bank) after you yourself have completed and signed it. In addition, you will need to submit:

  • Acceptable proof of citizenship or immigration status
  • Acceptable proof of identity
  • Names & contact details of 2 references
  • 2 photos according to the specifications in the passport instructions. (Read them carefully and make sure the photographer is familiar with them as well.) One of these photos must be verified and signed by your guarantor. IMPORTANT NEWS FOR MANY ISRAEL RESIDENTS: In the past, photographs which showed the applicant wearing a head covering were not allowed; now they are permitted if the person wears a head covering every day for religious or medical reasons. According the requirements: “your full face must be clearly visible and the head covering must not cast any shadows on your face.”
  • For both application and simplified renewal:
  • The current fee in either Canadian Dollars or New Israeli Shekels, in the form of a certified check (“check bankayit”) or postal money order only, payable to “Canadian Embassy Tel Aviv.” THE EMBASSY DOES NOT ACCEPT PERSONAL CHECKS, CREDIT CARDS, DEBIT CARDS OR CASH IN ANY CURRENCY.

Processing time is approximately 15 working days.

Bon voyage!






Marking Special Birthdays

Special guest post. We welcome back, Daveed Shachar. As usual, opinions expressed by guest bloggers are not necessarily that of the management of AACI.

On Sunday I turned 63, and got to thinking about why 63 is such an important birthday.

The birthdays marking many of the major transitions in our lives occur regularly, once every 21 years. These dates are rare, as the first digit is exactly double the second digit. If we extend this to include numbers in which the final digit is equal to half of all preceding digits, we have the following ages:


At the age of 21, we finally exit full stupidity and begin to reach understanding. As Mark Twain wrote, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” We’re old enough to start having children and impart what we know to the next generation.

At the age of 42, we enter maturity. Since it takes around 25 years to train a person to be a fully functioning member of 21st Century society, a 42-year old has had 17 years to move up the ranks and become both knowledgeable and experienced enough to be a useful and contributing member of society. Many of us are becoming grandparents, watching on horrified as the 21-year olds demonstrate how little they know about child-bearing, and, by example, how little we knew when we were in our early 20’s.

At the age of 63 we enter middle age. (editor’s note – I really want to agree with this) Most people, although at the peak of their professions, are being replaced by young whippersnappers. Almost all men and most women are past child-bearing age. The ones who aren’t becoming grandparents are becoming great-grandparents.

At the age of 84 we enter old age. We’re watching yet another generation get born, terms like great- and great-great becoming both satisfying and scary.

The ones who enter the world of triple-digit age become irrelevant. When they turn 100 they get a check from the president of Ireland, or a birthday card from the Queen, or sometimes a letter from the American president, and then when they make it to 105 get their pictures in the paper and sometimes even make it into the Guiness Book of Records. At family gatherings, they are either applauded for living so long, something they usually had very little to do with, or ignored completely as too old to be either useful or even interesting. And this at precisely the age when many of them have accumulated vast stores of knowledge and interesting stories about life going back so far that sometimes the century has changed twice within their lifetimes.

Personally, I’m happy to take all the joy of watching my grandchildren grow, while leaving the lion’s share of responsibility to the parents. We hope that they get much joy from their children, while secretly hoping their children annoy them at times as much as they did us, when they were tykes.

In gematria, the Jewish system of assigning numerical values to the letters of the alphabet, 63 is equal to 27, khaf and zayin, which turned around spell zach, which means pure, plus 36, which is the number of people keeping the world from coming to and end, also known as the lamed vav, or lamed vavniks.

“This widely-held belief, this most unusual Jewish concept is based on a Talmudic statement to the effect that in every generation 36 righteous “greet the Shechinah,” the Divine Presence (Sanhedrin 97b; Sukkah 45b). ”
–Rabbi Raymond A. Zwerin, THE 36 – WHO ARE THEY?, Rabbi Zwerin’s Kol Nidre Sermon, Temple Sinai, Denver, Sept 15, 2002/5763

Therefore, a person who turns 63 is imbibed with the combined qualities of righteousness and purity. May the Almighty give us the wherewithal to maintain them for as long as possible.

Daveed Shachar
April 3, 2013

Food Shopping in Israel

This is a guest post used by permission of the writer. Perhaps you have already been reading Bat Aliyah, written by AACI member, Rivkah Adler. Thank you, Rivkah, for allowing us to share it on the AACI Blog.

This is a great example of crowd-sourcing (meaning that Rivkah posted in several places – facebook etc. that she wanted to compile some collective wisdom about a topic, and voila, people responded.) Kudos to Rivkah for turning all of their comments into a coherent guide. Since the blogpost was published and shared, there have been even more comments. Please be sure to visit Bat Aliyah for the original and the comments that follow the original post which are not included here.

If you are interested in seeing the additional post-publication comments from facebook, etc., please be sure to post your comments below to let us know, and add your wisdom to the collection. We are considering revisiting this with an update and compiling the addtional comments and perhaps adding more photos for a future post, but it all depends on you, dear reader. Tell your friends. Let’s take this great idea and run with it.

Whenever I have questions about how to translate it, where to buy it or how to prepare it, I find the people in my circle of olim incredibly helpful.

When I asked fellow olim to share their tips for food shopping in Israel, I was overwhelmed with hundreds of Facebook messages and emails. I went to work, culling the duplications, deleting the personal opinions (unless they were mine) and dividing the responses into information about specific food items and miscellaneous tips about food shopping in general.

This took many, many hours more than I intended, but there’s some really quality (and money-saving) information here.There is nothing about this post that pretends to be scientific or comprehensive. It’s information that a very giving group of olim thought to share. I did my best to organize it. In some cases, Hebrew names are transliterated and in some case they are spelled in Hebrew letters. It depends on how I received the information.

My deep thanks to the members of the anglo olim community who responded so generously.

And now, here are some things we have learned along the way that might make things easier for you, whether you’ve yet to make aliyah or have already been living here for some time. Naturally, I take full responsibility for any errors.

Apple sauce: Canned resek tapuchim is not actually apple sauce.  It has pits and skin. It can be used
for baking.
Baking powder: Avkat afiya (אבקת אפיה) is baking powder, but it often says it in English as well.  Some advise importing baking powder. Sold in little packets, usually 10 per cellophane wrapper. One packet is about one scant Tbs.
Baking soda: Soda leshtiya (drinking soda) is baking soda.  It comes in little blue boxes next to the vanilla sugar. You can also find baking soda in decent-sized plastic containers (clear plastic, like the spice jars). It is sometimes labeled as Sodium Bicarbonate in English.
Bananas: It took me awhile to get used to Israeli bananas. They are slightly different. Although bananas are generally available year round, summer bananas often go from green to overripe without an edible stage in between. Winter bananas are much better. Also, Israeli bananas may look more brown and bruised than you’re used to on the outside and still be perfect inside.
·        There is great bread in Israel, but it’s not always possible to find an exact duplicate for what you are used to.
·        There are a couple of brands of packaged, lower calorie breads that are widely available.
·        There is no such thing as white bread in Israel. The closest is called לחם אחיד,  a government subsidized light rye.
·        There is also a government subsidized challah. It’s very plain and very inexpensive.
·        Real Jewish rye bread is almost impossible to find unless you go to a special boutique like bakery such as Teller in Machane Yehudah (the shuk) in Jerusalem.
Bread crumbs: Come in cellophane bags, not cardboard canisters.
Brussel sprouts: Frozen only. Imported. Not widely available.
Buttermilk: Rivion is the closest substitute, but you can often substitute with gil or leben. Or use milk and a bit of lemon juice.
·         It’s often cheaper fresh than frozen.
·         If you buy frozen, check the date it was frozen.
·         Whole chickens cut in quarters or eighths are not sold here.
·         Buy a decent pair of chicken shears and learn to cut up whole chickens.
·         White meat is often cheaper than dark.
·         There is a difference between chicken wings for cholent and normal ones.
Cooking cream:
·         Called shemenet l’vishul.
·         Comes in 250 ml and 500 ml cardboard boxes like juice boxes.
·         Comes in 23%, 15%, and 10%.
·         There is also a pareve version, though that’s harder to find.
·         Half and half doesn’t exist here. If you want coffee cream buy 10% cooking cream.
Cornmeal/Cornflour/Cornstarch – “Cornflor” can be either cornmeal (sometimes called kemach tiras and sold in the same section of the store as beans) or cornstarch (sold in the baking aisle).
·         Lots of people mentioned that it was scary to use to cheese counter but so worth it.
·         Sliced and grated cheese are significantly cheaper when purchased from the cheese counters.
·         The cheese counter is also likely to have types of cheese that you won’t find in packages – like cheddar and feta.
·         If it’s not crowded at the cheese counter or the cheese stand in Machane Yehudah (the shuk), you can ask to taste different cheeses.
·         You can ask at the cheese counter to slice your cheese thin.
·         Tnuva makes cheddar but it’s very very mild. Ask for something “charif yoter” (sharper).
·         Many supermarket deli counters have pre-sliced packages of popular cheeses, such as Gilboa and Emek. This obviates the need to wait in line and is the same cheese that you have sliced to order at the counter. There are also pre-packaged grated cheeses, such as mozzarella and parmesan.
·         If you go to the cheese counter and ask for a mix you get shredded scraps of whatever’s left over at the time.
·         Gvina levana (white cheese) is like soft cream cheese, with a little less tang.
·         Hermon is like a salty farmers cheese or a way less salty feta.
·         Baby belle cheeses in the red wrappers are not kosher in the US but are kosher here.
·         The cheese market in Machane Yehudah (the shuk) in Jerusalem has amazing white cheddar cheese from England that is OU.
·         Israel has lots of other cheeses that you can’t get kosher in the US.
·         Tiv Tam cheese can most closely be described as pressed cottage cheese, but it’s actually strained gvina levana. It is also used as a substitute for Philadelphia cream cheese in cheesecake. It comes in a block wrapped in plastic see through wrap. It spoils quickly so buy it close to use.
Cream Cheese:
·         Philadelphia is occasionally found here, but it’s expensive.
·         Gvinat shamenet which is the cream cheese sold in the rectangular containers has a softer consistency. There is one in a black and white speckled tub that looks like a cow pattern and spreads like light cream cheese from the US.
·         The one most like whipped cream cheese here is Napoleon brand (gold & white container)  gvina shamenet b’signon Tzarfati and comes in cups in a few varieties. The one with the yellow daisy is plain.
·         Some people make their own cream cheese.  Take a cheese cloth and hang Israeli 5% cream cheese over night and in the morning you will get the cream cheese you are used to.
·         Another way to make your own cream cheese: add 1/8 teaspoon salt to shamenet and let it strain. You are left with whipped cream cheese.
·         Some use Israeli gvina levana instead of American-style cream cheese for cheesecake
Crembo: A marshmallow, cookie and chocolate confection that’s ubiquitous in the winter and nowhere to be found in the summer. Comes in chocolate, vanilla and possibly mocha.
Dairy products: Like milk in the USmany dairy products in Israel come in different fat percentages. This is true for sour cream, hard cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt and, of course, milk.
·         Pastrama is not pastrami. It’s turkey breast in different incarnations.
·         Try קטף בקר as an affordable beef cold cut.
·         Pastrama cafrit is close to American turkey bologna.
·         There are two dates stamped on eggs. The earlier one is the freshness date if the eggs are unrefrigerated. The second is the freshness date when they are kept cold.
·         Egg shells are not, ahem… pristine here. Washing them introduces bacteria into the egg. They are, however, generally much fresher. You’ll get used to it.
Egg noodles: Called itriot beitzim
Fish: A great chart by fellow oleh Marc Gottlieb on the different kinds of fish available in Israel.
·         White, whole wheat and 70% whole wheat are widely available.
·         Flour is sold by the kilo to avoid infestation.
·         Pre sifted is very expensive. Consider buying an electric sifter.
·         I have found the texture of the flour somewhat different, requiring that I add a bit more flour to some recipes.
Grains: Grains should not be bought in a corner store, but rather in one with a large turnover. When buying grains in cellophane, lift up one corner and check for webs, an indication of infestation.
Hawaij:  a Yemenite spice blend to give soups soup/cholent/stew a rich flavor.
Herbs:  Some herbs, including parsley (petrozilia), dill (shamir) and celantro or coriander (cuzbara) are highly perishable.  Cut them up and put them in small plastic bags and freeze. Use as needed.
Hot dogs:  Israeli hot dogs are generally chicken. Beef hot dogs are harder to find. Chofetz Chaim (a Jerusalem butcher that might be worth getting to know) sells beef hot dogs that are the closest to tasting like an American hot dog and they cost the same as the Israeli beef hot dogs. Also try the Tirat Zvi brand beef naknik americai which come in a package of six.
Ketchup: Israeli ketchup is sweeter. Heinz is widely available. We buy cheap Israeli ketchup for cooking and Heinz for french fries and burgers.
Lasagna: Comes in boxes about half the height of a 1-pound box. Dry lasagna is completely flat (no ruffled edges) and is both wider and thinner than lasagna in the US.
Leben: The pink and orange Yotvata brand leben tastes just like yogurt, is one-third the price and has natural colors  from carrots and beets.
Lemon syrup: Try Prigat brand lemon syrup to make lemonade and sweetened iced tea.
Margarine: One stick of American margarine/butter is 100 grams (half an Israeli stick). Blue Bond stick margarines are widely available and come in yellow wrapper (unsalted), blue (salted), red (butter flavored). Yellow is best for baking.
·         Meat cuts in Israel take awhile to master. Here’s Marc Gottlieb’s great chart of the meatcuts you’ll find in Israel.
·         You can get basar chamim (chulent meat) already cut into chunks.
·         Check that meat is kashered–sometimes it’s sold without soaking/salting.
·         Ground meat is often mixed with soy.
·         Osher Ad and Rami Levy Mehadrin, both in Givat Shaul, have great selections of the OU Kashrut Israel line called “It’s Fleisch” frozen meats with the names we are familiar with, such as brisket, corn beef, etc.
·         Skim milk is hard to find.
·         Generally, you can find 1% (red) and 3% (blue). Whole milk is basically 3%. These are the opposite colors from the US.
·         Sometimes 1.5% is available.
·         Milk comes in liter cartons and plastic bags. The bags are 1 liter, which is basically 4 cups.
·         Milk in plastic bags is price-controlled and should cost the same anywhere. It is also cheaper in bags than in cartons.
·         There are clear produce bags near the tubs of milk bags. I have found that the produce bags begin to tear if you put more than 2-3 bags of milk in them.
·         Milk doesn’t have vitamin D added unless you buy Yotvata or Tnuva brand 3% milks.
there is a coffee “creamer” that you shake before you use it to make it foam a little.
shake and use in coffee
Milk drinks: are milk with water and other flavors added
Oats:  Plain oats are found next to the sugar free stuff, or granola bars, health food, but never with flours, cereals, or grains. Instant oats can be found in almost any supermarket, but the price is around twice that of in the Machane Yehuda shuk, where you can also buy coarse oats. This is called Qvaker (from Quaker Oats.) There is Qvaker Dak-instant oats and Qvaker Ave-the coarse oats. You can also find these at a health food store.
Onions: Yellow (though they are called batzal lavan) and sometimes red onions are available. Raw onions are very strong here and peeling them is a challenge. I have never seen Vadalia onions in Israel.
Paprika: Paprika is sold with and without oil and hot and sweet. Hot paprika is not a bad substitute for cayenne pepper.
Parsnip:  Occasionally available in winter in limited markets.
·         Sufganiyot in Israel are not the same as American style donuts.
·         Herby Dan, Mr. Donut and Brooklyn Bake Shop have American style donuts.
·         Brooklyn Bake Shop has awesome black & white cookies (and a black & white cake) as well.
Pickles: come in brine or in vinegar. Brine is most familiar to Americans.
·         Thin-skinned red and white potatoes are widely available. I hardly ever peel potatoes anymore.
·         If a grocery store sells potatoes in a mesh bag, it’s perfectly acceptable to open the mesh and take only the size and quantity of potatoes you need.
·         I have seen fresh new potatoes (small) in the gourmet produce section. They are expensive.
·         Since canned potatoes are hard to find here, I just use sliced fresh potatoes in my brisket.
·         No russet/Idaho potatoes here.
Poultry: Marc Gottlieb’s poultry chart.
Pizza sauce: יחין makes great lasagna and pizza sauce and they are very affordable.
Rubbing alcohol: comes in a tiny bottle and looks exactly like nail polish remover (acetone).
Salsa Rosa – a combination of sour cream and tomato sauce. Very common pasta sauce in restaurants.
Shamenet: Generally refers to sour cream (shamenet chamutza). But the word also refers to cooking cream (shamenet l’vishul), cream cheese (gvinat shamenet) and whipping cream (shamenet lhaktzafawhich is 38%).
Silan:  Date syrup that makes a great substitute for honey or molasses.
Soup mix: Available in 1 Kg bags as well as the more familiar plastic tubs. Chicken soup mixes are available pareve and meat. Osem makes both without MSG.
Sour cream:
·         Called shamenet.
·         Comes in 4-pack of small plastic tubs (200 ml each) or in 1/2 liter containers.
·         Sour cream is a perfect substitute for ricotta in baked pasta dishes such as lasagna.
·         Spices are often located close to the meat counter and not the baking aisle
·         Here’s Marc Gottlieb’s chart of the names of spices in English, Hebrew and transliterated Hebrew:
·         Here’s Jacob Richman’s spice chart.
Strawberries: Strawberry season in Israel is winter.
·         Sugar (white and brown) is a bit coarser than Americans are used to.
·         White sugar comes in paper or 1 Kg clear plastic tubs. A kilo in a paper bag is much cheaper so I buy in paper and refill the plastic tubs.
·          I reuse the tubs to store bread crumbs, rice and other grains.
·         Brown sugar comes in the same 1 Kg clear plastic tubs.
·         Both dark and light brown sugar are available.
·         Dark brown sugar can sometimes be found in large plastic bags.
·         Light brown sugar is called demerara sugar.
·         Confectioner’s (icing) sugar (אבקת סוכר) comes in small packets. One packet is 3/4 c.
Sweet red pepperGamba
Swiss chard: the mehadrin packages of what is called alei selek is actually swiss chard.
Techina: buy plain techina paste, add water, lemon, olive oil, garlic and spices for techina. Add water and honey for halava spread.
Tomato paste:
·         Comes in cans and small red plastic tubs, generally two or four together.
·         There are codes on tomato paste that refer to the thickness of the paste.
·         Tomato paste concentration is measured in BX (pronounced ‘bricks’). The higher numbers are more concentrated (less water).
·         Tomato paste is typically sold in 22⁰BX or 28⁰BX. 22⁰BX is less concentrated than 28⁰BX.
·         Some say 22⁰BX is tomato sauce.
Vanilla: Imitation vanilla is widely available. Real vanilla is very expensive. If you’re a baker, you might want to import real vanilla or learn to make from vanilla bean and vodka.
Vanilla sugar: This is sugar made with vanilla beans or mixed with vanilla extract. Comes in small packets. One packet is a scant Tbs.
Vinegar: White vinegar here is synthetic. Natural vinegar here is light brown but tastes exactly like natural white vinegar from the states.
Yeast: Yeast comes in many different forms. Fresh yeast comes in 4 ounce cubes or in granulated form in packaged from the company Shmirit. Dry yeast is sold in the baking department, generally in 500 gram vacuum sealed foil packages.
American products: Some stores in neighborhoods that cater to American immigrants carry a lot of imports that are not otherwise generally available.
Cartis Moadon: This is a store loyalty card. It’s usually the first thing a cashier will ask you in any grocery store. “Cartis moadon?”
Cleaning the kumkum: If you use your kumkum (electric kettle) for a long time you will get calcium deposits inside.  Put in a few tablespoons of lemon salt (melah limon), boil the water and leave over night. In the morning, rinse it out and it will be all clean with no scrubbing.
Cooking from scratch: You will likely do much more cooking from scratch since many prepared/convenience foods are not available in Israel. It’s often healthier, and definitely cheaper.
Grocery stores:
·         All grocery stores offer delivery service in Israel, but stores in charedi areas in cities will often automatically offer delivery, without you needing to ask.
·         Supersol (Shufersol) is a very good store brand and their products are worth trying.
·         It’s a different culture. In Israel, people will leave a half-empty cart on line, holding their place, while they finish their shopping. This annoys some people.
·         You have to visit a fair number of stores to understand the lay of the land in terms of what is available. Many interesting items can be found in health food stores such as Eden Teva Market in Ramot.
·         Prices are not the same in every branch of a store chain.
Kitniyot at Pesach: Oy! This is a whole separate discussion. Suffice it to say if you don’t eat kitniyot on Pesach, you’re going to need to take a knowledgeable friend to the store with you when you shop for Pesach. And you’re going to need to learn the words, lo chashash kitniyot which means there is no suspicion of kitniyot and you can buy it and l’ochlei kitniyot, which means it’s kosher for Passover for those who eat kitniyot.
Stores in certain neighborhoods in Jerusalem, in Modi’in Illit and other cities that specifically cater to American and/or Ashkenazim will have more options than in most of Israel where the majority are kitniyot-eating Sefardim.
Learn metrics.
Make friends with your grocer. He can teach you tips about how things are used in Israel with which you are unfamiliar — and you can get a Hebrew lesson in the bargain.
Packaging: Many more things are packaged in cellophane than in cardboard (e.g. bread crumbs, pasta, etc.)
·         Eating seasonal is a new concept. You can’t always get what you want when you want it. On the other hand, it’s always a joy when new fruits come into season.
·         On Sunday evenings, the fruits and vegetables at the Jerusalem shuk are cheaper than usual.
·         The internet is a great resource for learning how to use ingredients with which you are not familiar (e.g. kohlrabi, dragon fruit, etc.).
·         Packages are generally much smaller in Israel. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that people have less room to store things and there are no warehouse clubs here.
·         The one consistent exception is toilet paper which seems to come only in large quantities.
·         Certain common spices come in very large containers.
·         If you are buying something that sells in packages of 1 liter or 2 – check the price. People assume that per liter, the 1 liter will be more expensive. Amazingly enough – a lot of times, it is cheaper to buy two or three ONE liter bottles than to buy the two or three liter bottle.
Receipts: Look at your receipts after finishing grocery shopping. Sometimes you are entitled to free gifts that you can claim from the kupa rashit (service desk).
·         Sale price signs on grocery store shelves generally list the last four numbers of the UPC code for the products that are actually included in the sale price. CHECK THE CODE. Do not assume the merchandise above/below the sign is actually connected to the sale.
·         Look at the sign. See if it says mogbal l’ – restricted to x number of items- that means, you can buy only that number for the sale price; after that, it will be priced at full price.
·         When something is on sale “2 for…” or “3 for…” etc., you only get the discount if you buy that number of units.
·         1+2: This means, buy two, get one free, NOT, buy one, get two free as I once thought when buying pasta. Remember, Hebrew reads right to left 🙂
Translations: A GREAT tool in the grocery store is a smart phone and a translator app so you can translate words on packaging.
I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted now. Comments, corrections, clarifications are most welcome.
Thanks again to Rivkah and don’t forget to visit Bat Aliyah for the original post.
And of course, we always like to see you at AACI.
AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center
Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)
Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop  at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.

Preparing for an emergency

Special Guest Post by our own David London, Executive Director. And this time, I can safely say that the opinions expressed in this guest post DO reflect the opinions and policies of the AACI, The Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, serving English speakers from countries all over the world for over 60 years who have decided to make Israel their home!

And now, without further ado, a few words from David London, as it appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

As we know, life in Israel can be fraught with challenges. That is why AACI has been caring for and supporting Israel’s English-speaking community for over 60 years. In today’s Jerusalem Post (page 7), you will see the first in a series of articles reprinting the latest AACI Emergency Handbook.

Making aliyah, living in Israel and being part of Israeli society is, for most of us, the ultimate expression of our Zionism and Judaism. We should be proud that we have made our homes here and have raised our children here.

We live in a vibrant and vital society where life is never boring.

I made aliyah 22 years ago with my wife and year-old son – immediately after the Gulf War. Over the years three additional children – two boys and one girl (in that order) – were added to our family.

My oldest is finishing his third year of compulsory military service and the others are on the way to serving; thus, one of my children will be serving in the IDF for the next 10 years.

After over 20 years of living in Israel and having worked intensively on the production of the AACI Emergency Handbook in English, I should have been well prepared when the sirens went off in Jerusalem and its environs for the first time last Friday evening. However, I initially froze, like everyone else. Then, after that initial fright, I immediately took action and found a safer location and immediately gathered the frightened and skeptical around me.

Only after we heard the explosions of the Grads did everyone understand that this war was also on our doorsteps.

When I returned home and calmed down my family, my wife complained to me that everyone else had an Emergency Handbook but the family of the director of AACI did not. Obviously, it was because I was focused on getting the handbooks mailed out to all the members of the AACI family, country-wide.

For those who are not members I encourage you to join. However, we have made a free on-line edition that you can find at the websites of the AACI or The Jerusalem Post.

New immigrants always ask when they will become real Israelis. My answer (as well as that of AACI) is that “aliyah never stops.” No matter when you made aliya or how long you have been here, we will always be olim (immigrants) even if we speak perfect Hebrew. I know that when dealing with major issues such as health, finances or, in this case, security I prefer my information in English.

Even when the issue is not life-threatening, many of us prefer their information in English.

For over 60 years AACI has been providing information in English. Information is power, and AACI works hard to provide the latest and most up-to-date information in every area – health, housing, schooling and higher education, employment, military service, finances, tax reporting requirements, voting in Israel and abroad. This material is gathered by AACI’s amazing professional aliyah, klitah and employment counselors, assisted by volunteer experts. We are proud that we offer our services in all of Israel’s major cities; Beersheba, Haifa, Netanya, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

You will find our branches filled with a small, dedicated and professional staff and thousands of wonderful volunteers.

Our volunteers are great and they are there to help no matter your gender, religious or political beliefs or where you live. We believe that the English-speaking community deserves an address to turn to. That place is AACI.

In times of national emergency or just everyday living, AACI is your home and provides that safety net when things don’t go right. I encourage all of you to join AACI and be part of our community.

Our hope and prayers are that you will only read AACI’s Emergency Handbook as anecdotal material and never have to put the recommendations into actual use. May the whole house of Israel return to a somewhat quieter existence, and may the next big lights we see be in our homes during Hanukka.

sample page:

Download the handbook at

Editor’s note:  Do you have an Israeli Army story — or other personal story of life in Israel — that you would like to share with us? We are always interested in stories that will inform, uplift and inspire our readers. Of course, we reserve the sole right to publish or not, and to edit before publishing. Please submit your story, preferably including (non-copyright) photos as well, to forward to hearing from you!

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center
Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)
Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop  at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.

Buying Appliances in Israel – Washers and Dryers

This article is written by Binyamin Katzman (of Dr. Fix It Appliance repair ) who specializes in the repair of US and European/Israeli Appliances including washers, dryers, ovens, refrigerators, and dishwashers.

Opinions in this guest blogpost are those of the author and not policies of the AACI.

So you are looking to buy a new appliance but you’re not sure what to buy? This seems to be a hot topic among new olim and prospective olim and can often be found being discussed online. The simple fact is that the choices of appliances is very different in Israel than the choices in the USA & Canada.

Some people in the planning stages before their aliyah ask, “Should we bring our old appliances or purchase new 220 American Appliances and send them on a lift? Or should we purchase Israeli and/or European Appliances?” On arrival, which appliance should you buy here? Maybe you had an American Appliance which needs replacing and you’re not sure if you should spend a small fortune locating a similar appliance here or just go with a standard Israeli/European Appliance?

To answer these and lots more questions that people are asking let’s take a brief but in depth look at the various kinds of major appliances. In this article we will be focusing on Washers and Dryers. Future articles in this series will discuss Ovens, Refrigerators, Dishwashers, etc.  Lets look at the kinds of criteria you should consider when acquiring your washer and dryer.

thanks to for this picture. glad we don’t have to do laundry this way anymore…

Washing Machines & Dryers

Nowadays, a washing machine and dryer set have become appliances that we can not live without. A decade or two ago many homes in Israel often did not have dryers, but this has changed and it is rare to see a home without a dryer. This does not mean that people do not take advantage of the incredible sun we have here, especially in the summer time.

The first thing you will need to know when deciding between the standard USA/Canadian  washers and dryers vs. the Israeli/European ones is what the differences are between them.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Size: The American washers and dryers have the clear advantage here. Most are about 10 Kilo (22 Pounds) and probably just what you have been used to if you are coming from America or Canada. The standard European washers and dryers are 5 kilo (11 pounds) but larger sizes such as 6 kilo, 7 kilo, and even 8 kilo are becoming more common.

Time to run a cycle: Again the standard American washers take the cake. They are much quicker. A load of washing usually takes about 30 minutes, whereas the European washers often take 1.5 hrs and more. Drying time is also considerably less with the bigger and more powerful American Dryers.

Eco (and pocketbook) Friendly: European Washing Machines use much less water than the average American ones. Generally speaking, European washers use more electricity as they heat the water and run for a longer duration, but neither are high electrical consumers. With dryers it is a bit different and more confusing. An Electric heating US Dryer uses a lot more Electricity than a European dryer, though many people opt to purchase American gas dryers which heat up via gas.

Washers Only

Do they heat their own water?  While this may seem trivial it is worth keeping in mind that the European Washers heat their own water, so not only do they not need a hot water tap, they don’t use up precious hot water from the “dud shemesh” so you don’t need to worry about doing the laundry on a Friday afternoon when the whole family will be showering! Of course the process of heating the water takes time and this is just one of the reasons why the European machines take longer. Unless time is a major issue the European ones are the clear winner in this category.

How well do they clean the clothes? It is widely believed and accepted that European washers do a better job of cleaning the clothes. This is mostly due to the way the drum is located and therefore how it agitates or alternatively spins one way or the other. There are people who after using a European machine will never go back to an American one because of this. My personal opinion is that there likely is a small difference but American machines still do a great job of cleaning. I don’t see Americans importing too many European machines. So I would say the European washers have a slight edge here.

Dryers Only

How well do they dry the clothes? There is also no great science to drying clothes so European dryers have no advantage here. If anything, the bigger American machines usually have much more power and dry much faster.

Washers – Quality

Last but certainly not least – Quality: No matter where your machine is made, if you are buying a new machine today the quality has almost definitely decreased since 10-20 years ago. Some of the best machines in terms of quality are the older maytag and whirlpool washers. If you can locate a used one it may very well be a great buy. (Other than these models, buying a used appliance is rarely ever a good idea, especially when we are talking about the standard European machines).  In terms of new appliances, Most of the American Maytags and Whirlpools will last on average 10+ Years (please note this does not apply to some of the junk Maytag has been putting out – in particular the Neptune and Performa. STAY AWAY from these models unless you wish to be seeing me or your local friendly repair person a lot!) The Average European Machines usually average about 5 years, sometimes less. If you go with the better European brands (we will discuss this later) the average is closer to 10 years.

European Washer Brands to Avoid:  Beko, and most other machines made in Turkey, China, Korea and East European countries. Stay Away. This is a general rule based on what I have seen, there are exceptions of course. In particular the quality is usually better if the machine is made by one of the better companies overseas in a cheaper labor country, though usually not quite as good as if the machine was made in its home country (i.e. AEG in Germany).

Average European Washers:  Most of the Italian models are average, they are decent but not usually high quality. In many of the cases there are numerous brand names which all are made by the same company and just about exactly the same except for a knob or dial here and there. The average life of these machines is about 5 years.

Best European Washers: The best models are usually the German and French models. In particular AEG, Bosch, Siemens, and Miele.  Please note that many of these are now being made in cheaper labor countries and the quality is not as good (see above). Make sure to check where the machine is actually made.

In terms of American Machines, the most common brands available here with 220 Volts are Maytag and Whirlpool. Quality wise the traditional top loading Whirlpool and Maytag models are the best. The Maytag Atlantis with a steel drum is also pretty good. Maytag Neptune and Performa models have had many problems and are to be avoided! Most of the front loading models are more similar to the European models in terms of quality and function.

Please keep in mind there are American and European Whirlpools and they are not at all the same.

Dryers – Quality:

While theoretically everything above about washers is true for dryers, there is less need to purchase a high-end model dryer, especially if it is an electric one (gas dryers are a little more complicated). The reason is that a dryer is a much simpler machine than a washer and even the cheaper brands will usually last longer considerably longer than the washers.

One final consideration

If you are considering purchasing an American washer or dryer, you must take into account a few things. First and foremost is that you will have room to place it. In many Israeli houses the space that is designated for the washer and dryer is not big enough for the larger US Appliances. Do your homework before you purchase. You also have to consider whether you will have a problem getting it in through the doorway.

For U.S. washers you will also need a separate hot water connection, often not standard in Israeli houses. If there is no hot water connection you will need to call a plumber to connect a hot water line and tap near the washer.

For Electric Dryers: You will need a special electrical outlet to be installed by a Licensed Electrician. If you live in Ma’ale Adumim, I would be happy to recommend you one. Please see more about this on the Megavolt site.

For Gas Dryers you will often need a gas technician to bring the gas line to where your dryer is as gas dryers are generally not standard here.

I am Dr Fix-It Appliance Repair. I see both junk and well-made quality appliances on a regular basis. One of the most important criteria in choosing a new appliance is quality! My name is Binyamin Katzman, an oleh vatik from the U.S., trained and certified here in Israel, who believes in providing excellent and friendly service and enjoys many repeat customers in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. If you have further questions, you may contact me at 054 6457 994 and make sure to join his facebook page for monthly tips.

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center
Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)
Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop  at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.