Your Brain is Green
Of all the brain types, yours has the most balance. You are able to see all sides to most problems and are a good problem solver. You need time to work out your thoughts, but you don't get stuck in bad thinking patterns. You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the future, philosophy, and relationships (both personal and intellectual).

Friday, July 20, 2007


It's such an evocative word. Westward Ho! and Ward Bond (although most of today's immigrants to Israel were born after Bond died). Little House on the Prairie and all that. Building one's own home in The New (Altneu?) Land--the Holy Land. Gee whillikers, gosh darn, what could be more noble than that?

Thirty years ago, when I made aliyah, it was quite true that Israel lacked many American luxuries. Electrical appliances--those which were available, in pre-microwave and pre-VCR eras--were so highly taxed as to be almost beyond the reach of Israelis, with the exception of small refrigerators (not self-defrosting) and rather basic, and also small cooking stoves. Lots of women still did laundry by hand, although the washing machine (also small by American standards) was somewhere between "luxury" and "necessity". My sister-in-law, who lived on a moshav built to house Jews from Middle Eastern countries in the 1950s still only had one tap, for cold water, in her kitchen. Dryers and dishwashers were still regarded as luxuries. TV was black and white and there were only three channels anyway: Israel, Jordan in English, and Jordan in Arabic. All the channels closed down early enough in the evening to ensure you got a good night's sleep. To have one's own car--a "private"--was definitely a luxury.

So immigrants, clutching their precious "rights", prepared to abandon America for Israel as if they were going on a kind of Mayflower in reverse, bringing everything they could possibly want for the next 50 years with them. Lifts were packed, for example, with disposable diapers (unknown in Israel) and jars of instant coffee (expensive and although locally available, not very coffee-like to the American palate). Soft toilet paper was also a favorite. In the 1980s it seemed water filters were an indispensable item (tap water is safe to drink in Israel).

Appliances were bought en masse from export shops on the Lower East Side. The "rights" allowed you to import one of each kind of item from your country of origin without Customs duty or purchase tax (usually 110% for electrical items). The only way you could NOT pay tax on a German-made washing machine was to import it from a 220 volt electrical appliance shop in the US. Having "rights" for tax exemption had another consequence: it made you buy locally more than you needed, since you only got "one". I am lumbered today with a 2 X 3 meter carpet I can't begin to shift because it's so heavy, but had I bought two smaller carpets back then, I'd have had to pay tax on one.

And the Americans came with everything, from stashes of vitamin tablets to a five-year supply of sponge mop refills. Not just what they had owned in the Old Country, but everything they could possibly imagine needing in future. Questions on the Tachlis email list, which I joined in 1997, often were about items veteran Israelis had never even heard of, nor felt the lack of. Diaper Genie bags? GPS units? Pressure cookers?

In the past decade prices have plummeted on nearly all electrical appliances, and at the same time the shops all began to carry wider and wider varieties of brands, from excruciatingly expensive to el cheapo Far Eastern junk. My first PC cost me close to $2000; I replaced it a few months ago for a much better one for about $700. My first TV was also well over $1000 for a small, 14" B&W one; you can now get a 37" LCD one (HD ready; there's no HD in Israel yet) for about the same price and the average price for a 29" standard TV is around $500. DVD players can be bought for less than $100; my first (Betamax) VCR was about $2000.

It's ALL here, folks! You may not get the tax discount, but it hardly matters, when you add the shipping costs to the "cheaper" item you bought in the States, from a narrow range and without any certainty of local service.

Israel isn't the end of the world. It really annoys the heck out of me that olim are still being duped into shipping massive amounts of stuff in the belief that they are going to some benighted desert like sub-Saharan Africa and the "natives" sit around outside thatched huts, rubbing two sticks together to make fire. And it annoys me even more that, now that Nefesh b'Nefesh is giving money to olim, businesses are actually starting up to relieve them of it, by making claims that the services they provide will actually save the oleh money and/or distress. 90% of it is so unnecessary.

The latest cause for oleh panic was the reduction in the discount given to olim buying a new car. Life in the US (except maybe in central Manhattan) without a car is unimaginable. Here, it is a very mixed blessing. The cost of gasoline, insurance, and maintenance is extremely high. Local incomes, however, are relatively low, in most cases. A car is a convenience, no doubt of it, but once the grace period for income tax reductions, etc. ends, and the oleh is living on an Israeli income, a car can become a huge burden. Try telling this to an oleh; he won't believe it until it actually happens. So, to counter the payment of purchase tax on a car, olim now are increasingly attempting to actually ship their cars from America! Besides a huge amount of bureaucracy and regulations to cope with, it costs about $8000 to do so. But of course, those homesteaders in the Old West moved west with their wagons and livestock, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that today's olim want to bring their MPVs and vans with them...

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