Last week, while my family was in Eilat for a long weekend vacation, I made my way to a shopping complex just outside my city.
I was there to do some research for our daughter’s birthday party (check!), look for running shoes (nope!), and one or two other errands.
While I was there, I thought I’d pick up a spare SIM card, just in case (… one of our kids lost their phones).
I thought this was admirably forward thinking on my part, especially given that this was the only place I could buy this SIM card nearby (in some respects, we’re pretty backwards here in Israel), and it usually involves a nauseating 30-40 minute bus ride to get there. 🤢
As it turned out, when my family returned home, my wife informed me that they had left my daughter’s phone in Eilat.
Not to worry, I thought, we could replace her cheap Nokia feature phone (an 8 year old really doesn’t need a smartphone), and it just so happens I have a spare SIM card! 😁
I’m sure you can imagine how proud I was that I had the foresight to buy that spare SIM card!! 😊
My wife and I went off to the mall so I could get a snappy haircut. While we were there, we bought our daughter a cool, new Nokia 3310 phone.
When we returned home, I went online, and activated the new SIM card. I placed it into our daughter’s new phone, and congratulated myself once again.
Not long afterwards, our son emerged from his bedroom with his phone, and casually asked me why his SIM card had stopped working.
It didn’t take me long to realise what I had done. 😱 Pride gave way to shame, and dismay. I had switched our son’s number over to the new SIM, not our daughter’s.
Oh, and once a SIM is deactivated, you can’t reactivate it.
And I was fresh out of SIM cards! 💩
I took a quick look at my calendar, and realised that the only time I had to journey back to that store for a replacement SIM card was, well, today.
So, I tucked my pride, and sense of wonder at how well prepared I was just a few days ago, and started the journey back to the store.
I bought two SIM cards, just in case.
Thankfully I managed to activate the SIM card for the correct number, second time around. All it cost me was my Idiot Tax for not taking a couple extra seconds to check which phone number I was activating the first SIM card for, as I was basking in the warmth of my self-congratulation.
I started giggling at around 31 minutes when they were discussing how kids seem to struggle with this idea that their parents are not servants who exist to cater for their every whim. I had to share this:
I had another laugh at about 1:01:30 when Mann and Siracusa started talking about resolving inconsistencies in rules that parents make for kids. I definitely have a preference for Siracusa’s approach. As with terrorists, there are times when you just don’t negotiate with kids about rules.
This was probably one of the funniest discussions I’ve heard for a while on this show. Even if you don’t listen to the show (and it can be an acquired taste), definitely spend a few minutes listening to these discussions.
Today is our 10th wedding anniversary. Wow, 10 years. A lot has happened in the decade since Gina and I stood under that chuppah. Here are a few things that stand out for me. I’ll probably come up with more after this is published so I don’t make any promises that this post captures all the highlights.
When it all began
I met Gina in November 2003. I think it was around the 17th but that remains a little controversial. Our first date was a blind date facilitated by our mothers who met through a widows’ group (Gina’s dad passed away in 2001, mine in 2003). I had recently broken up with a girlfriend and my father had passed away from pancreatic cancer a few months earlier. I decided to spend some time on my own for a while.
My mother called me and told me about this woman she met (Lindy, my then-future mother in law) who, as it turned out, had a single daughter who her mother was pretty keen to introduce to someone. I wasn’t really interested but told my mother than if this girl is/was a Sagittarius, Leo or Ares, I’d meet her. If not, I wasn’t interested.
This may sound very weird or hippy but I’d had a few bad experiences dating people in other signs so this seemed like a reasonable compromise to me. My mother thought I was a bit difficult (she may have said I was “full of sh*t”) but she said she’d find out.
My mother called me back soon after and told me that this girl is/was a Leo. I’d basically committed myself so I agreed and took down her phone number. I called her, introduced myself and we arranged to meet at JB’s Corner in Melrose Arch a few days later. At the time I had a beard and when I told Gina this she apparently thought her mother had set her up with some religious guy (oy!).
I wasn’t sure what to expect so I staked out the restaurant from a public square across from it until she arrived. This was more to brace myself in case she wasn’t quite what I was expecting (whatever that was).
When I saw her she didn’t disappoint at all.
We started talking and didn’t stop until after we were asked to leave the restaurant when they closed. The highlight of that evening was our discussion about how Star Trek: Nemesis really disappointed both of us. A fellow Star Trek (and Star Wars) fan? I was hooked.
We had a second date a few days later (when she opened her door she was even more beautiful than I remembered from our first date). That was our beginning.
Then she said “yes!”
We dated for about a year and a half before we finally got engaged. I think about relationships in terms of an ocean metaphor. If your relationship’s depths are calm and life affirming, you’re off to a great start. You’ll need those quiet depths when the surface becomes stormy to keep you grounded and help you through difficult times.
I wrote about how I proposed a day or two afterwards:
Rabbi Rose married us at the Waverly Shul. I’m glad we did it there.
My bride was absolutely stunning. I think she actually took my breath away when I first saw her in her wedding dress just before the marriage ceremony. I know grooms often say something like this but she really was (and still is) beautiful.
Our wedding reception was at the HOD Hall in Orchards, Johannesburg.
We started our new life together with our honeymoon in the Drakensberg. We stayed at the Drakensberg Sun which is one of my favourite hotels/resorts in South Africa. It was a terrific break although I took my laptop in case I had to work (not the best decision but I had started my own business about 6 months before).
Starting a business is tough and I remember when I decided to leave Werksmans and go on my own how Gina supported me. She supported me for the 9 years I had my own businesses, through all the tough times that affected our family. I didn’t always appreciate how much she supported me when the easier thing to say could have been “Stop this and go find a job”.
The early years
I remember at least one conversation with Gina, some time around our wedding, in which she informed me that she expected to be in the labour ward a year after our wedding. I was a little taken aback but my wife can be pretty convincing. As it turns out we fell pregnant (by “we” I mean I made a contribution, she did all the real work) in early 2007. It was possibly during our first wedding anniversary weekend back at the Drakensberg Sun.
Aside from going off chicken entirely for most of her pregnancy, it all went fairly well. At least from my perspective.
Aaron arrived a few weeks early and, within the space of a couple days, my great love affair expanded to two people.
Our first year with Aaron was probably fairly typical for new parents: a lot of panic, having no idea what to do when he cried or had colic and also beginning to appreciate having this incredible little person in our lives.
2008 turned out to be a tough year with the Great Recession but we made it through with a few emotional bumps along the way. I think I learned a lot about how to deal with challenging times towards the end of the year and realised (a little more) what an incredible my wife is in tough times that doubtless stressed her out too.
2009 was an expansion year. Mostly for me, I seem to have ballooned a little. Gina, on the other hand, was as beautiful as ever.
Of course, 2010 was also the year our family grew again. We found out that we were pregnant again and we dubbed our baby “theSQL” (it is both geeky and a little funny).
Our little girl, Faith, was born in December that year (just a few days after my birthday). She brought a new dynamic to our family and joined her proud brother as my new great love.
Our life seemed to start moving really quickly after Faith arrived. I was trying to build a business and we had two growing kids, each with their own personalities. Just as figuring out how to be a good father to our children, being a decent husband to Gina has been an ongoing process. If anything I have learned how I let my own issues get in the way of a better relationship with my family.
In 2013 I was diagnosed with diabetes and Gina practically changed our kitchen over to diabetic friendly foods almost overnight. My diagnosis was a shock to me but she helped me adapt and probably did more to shift me onto a healthier diet than I even realised.
She helped me bring my blood glucose levels down to normal levels within a few months and I managed to remain pretty well controlled until late last year when something in my body changed and my levels rose again. We’re going back to some basics with my diet and, once again, she is making changes behind the scenes to improve our diet to help me regain control over my diabetes.
2015 was a challenging year. It was our first year in our new home in Israel and the changes weren’t always easy to process. It was also a year that really emphasised for me just how important my family is to me. My wife and our kids are basically what my life is all about. Practically everything else is in support of our new life here.
Being a husband takes a lot of work. For me, most of that work was on myself because I have a tendency to let my inner Crazy really get in the way of better communication with my wife. Communication really is so important. I see the difference when I get it right. Those are the times when we are back in sync like we were right in the beginning (and many times since then) when we agreed about that Star Trek movie.
This time 10 years ago we were at the Protea Hotel on Corlett Drive trying to stay awake long enough to eat an early supper. We didn’t get through the meal and passed out soon afterwards on our hotel room. The next morning we woke early and drove to the mountains to start our honeymoon and our new life together.
Every morning is an opportunity for me to be a better father and a better husband. I haven’t always made it easy for my family but if there is something worth working for every day, every moment, it is that. I hope we have many more periods of 10 years together. Each of the moments that make up those years are opportunities to spend with my wife and our children and that is what matters most to me.
Happy anniversary, angel. Much, with tons and stuff.
These tips are our hacks that worked for us (mostly). You’ll find other people have their own too (check out Adventures in Aliyaland and Welcoming Olim too). These may work for you, they may not.
We moved from South Africa so some of these are more relevant to South African Olim who are moving to Israel from there.
I’ll probably update this post as new tips come to mind and I’ll indicate the changes in the text. Feel free to suggest tips of your own in the comments and I’ll add them to the list and credit you.
Shipping your stuff from SA
Share containers are cheaper but make sure your container will ship soon or you could wait a long time for your stuff. Sometimes it is cheaper in the medium term to take a container for yourself if you have enough stuff.
Weigh up the relative costs of taking all your appliances versus just buying new stuff when you arrive in Israel. Think about how long you may need to wait for your fridge, freezer and washing machine.
Do your citizenship stuff at the airport if you can. It makes a huge difference and means you can start functioning effectively when you walk out of the airport building.
It is worth making sure you have the right Hebrew spelling of your names before you arrive so you can give that to the Ministry officials in the airport. Sometimes they come up with weird spellings of names and changing names afterwards is possible but a bit of a pain.
Make appointments to meet with the Absorption Ministry and schools liaisons as soon after you arrive as you can. It gets the ball rolling.
You will need to open a joint bank account before you meet the Absorption Ministry liaison so do that as soon as you arrive (we went with Bank Leumi and we’re happy with them – we also received our cards in a week which helped with other stuff).
Start ulpan as soon as you can. Knowing Hebrew isn’t essential but it really helps day to day. Check when classes begin and whether the ulpan schools in your area offer convenient classes.
You’ll need to pick a healthcare provider when you become a citizen so research the options before you arrive. We went with Maccabi and we are happy with them.
We went with 012 Smile/Mobile and they have been pretty good. Good coverage and pricing.
Mobile contracts are theoretically 12-24 months but, in practice, you can usually cancel on a month’s notice so changing isn’t too problematic as far as I know.
You’ll probably need a credit card to place your orders so open your bank account ASAP. We received a credit card in about a week.
Credit cards work a little differently. The whole balance is paid off on a day you can select each month. You’ll need to make sure you have enough in your check account to cover that payment and remember that your day to day card transactions don’t come off your cash balance as you go, only when the balance is paid each month.
Israelis use checks so order a checkbook and refresh your memory how to fill them out. Remember to use American date formats!
You don’t need a car as much as you did in SA, not nearly as much.
Cars are really useful for travel beyond public transport routes and when public transport doesn’t operate (like שבת).
Aside from that, get a Rav Kav card (you can often get one from the train station but ask around). Pre-pay money for your bus rides (each bus line/company may require a separate balance). You can also load train travel passes onto your Rav Kav card so it becomes a sort of universal public transport card.
You can pre-pay money for bus rides on the bus itself when you get on. I pay about 50 Shekels at a time. You’ll figure out how much you’ll need as you use public transport. I think the minimum deposit is 30 Shekels. A bus ride in Modi’in is about NIS 4,20 and about NIS 6,90 in Tel Aviv.
Getting stuff done
You don’t need to be able to speak Hebrew for most of what you need to do but it helps, even if you know 5 words. You’ll learn more.
Don’t be too polite. As helpful as Israelis generally are (some aren’t), they are also really busy and work hard so you have to be persistent and nag at times.
You may think that sending a text message or email will help move things along but, often, you just have to go to an office and deal with it in person.
Its ok to be forceful. You don’t have to be aggressive but be assertive. It isn’t that easy for ex-South Africans but it is an important life skill for us newbie Israelis.
Don’t take it personally when Israelis give you a hard time or are abrupt, it usually isn’t meant to be personal. Israelis aren’t big on patience.
Advice from other Olim
“If there’s one (general) suggestion I can make, it’s to leave your expectations behind – things work differently here (especially, for example, the education system). Don’t compare your new reality with your old one – just go with the flow and your life will be a lot easier. Also, don’t send out birthday invitations too early – parents just look at the day of the week and send their kids on the next relevant day (so you may end up with 15 kids on your doorstep 2 weeks early).” – Shely Mowszowski Cohen
“I don’t advise to apply or get your Israeli ID from the airport. Rather do it in the city you are settling in [Paul: I still recommend doing this at the airport, just remember it can be a bit chaotic getting the family through]. Due to the fact if you loose your id you can’t do it in your city but in Lod.” – Rael Jacobs
These sorts of posts help me understand the lessons I am teaching our kids every day, often just by how I interact with them and what they observe about my behavior and my relationships with their mom and other people we come across.
19. Don’t wait for the right moment to say I love you. Now is that moment.
At the same time, these posts also take me back to my relationship with my dad who passed away almost 12 years ago (coincidentally, also from pancreatic cancer). I think back to the things I learned from him, his experiences and how much more I understand them now that I have children of my own.
I think I make mistakes far more often than I get it right (whatever that is) but I hope that even when I make mistakes, our kids learn something positive from how I handle those mistakes. Sometimes that is the best we can do as parents, I think. That missing “How to be an awesome parent” manual still hasn’t been published so we’re all mostly figuring it out as we go.
Being a dad is a full-time, contact sport except its most about making sure your kids always win (or as much as possible) in this little game we call “Life”.