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).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blog On! Part 2

Now, on to aliyah. Almost Eden made aliyah in the summer of 2008, via Nefesh b'Nefesh, with her husband and son. Her blog is subtitled "an aliyah handbook", and when she's not forwarding commentary on the weekly Torah portion, she writes about her experiences and offers her advice. Not surprisingly, she's still seeing Israel through rose-colored glasses. Why shouldn't she? Her family got a considerable sum from NbN [the loan converts to a grant if they stay in Israel for three years], they are getting another grant, called the sal klita, from the Israeli government, they aren't paying income tax [by now they are probably paying a small fraction of what a veteran Israeli pays], property taxes are drastically reduced, and there are a variety of other perks and discounts. Reality begins to bite when one is entering the second half of one's third year and all this dries up.

Almost Eden once posted a spreadsheet totalling the monthly expenses for two American immigrant families. One [I suspect hers] was for three people, the other for four. The expenses totalled between NIS 13k and NIS 18+k per month. The average gross income, for a family of four, with two wage-earners, according to the Bureau of Statistics, is about NIS 12k. The Bureau also publishes a figure for a "basket" of goods and services which it regards as average for the same size family, which says familial expenses are about the same amount. In other words, what comes in, goes out. Almost immediately. And more than half Israeli families are in overdraft.

Translated into dollar terms, neither NIS 13 or 18 k sounds huge, especially when one is used to a dollar income. A take home wage of either, however, in Israel, is huge. In order to have this sum in one's pocket one has to be making, before taxes, more than twice that amount. Income tax is computed roughly as follows: up to a certain ceiling, about NIS 4000, one pays no tax. Then, the next NIS 4000 is taxed at 38%, and everything after that is taxed at 50%. Further, there are two involuntary deductions at source: Bituach Leumi and "Health Law". Each is a percentage of gross income [5 and 4% respectively, I think; it changes from time to time]. So the tax bite is big. The new oleh barely, if at all, feels this. That NIS 15k income sounds very respectable indeed. But my sister-in-law, who had a gross income of NIS 24,000 per month because she was the head of an entire department in Bezeq [our Ma Bell], took home less than NIS 10, ooo. So someone who needs NIS 18k per month needs a family income in excess of NIS 40k. Compare that with myself: working half time for a Sick Fund, I get a gross income of NIS 3500 per month. Nurses who work full-time in hospital, all shifts and Shabbatot, will gross about NIS 9k per month.

Almost Eden also makes a big thing of just how similar Israel is to the US. Ace Hardware! Office Depot! Toys R Us! This is also classic "newbie" behavior, and especially where food items are concerned, nostalgia for the Old Country is usually acute in the beginning. But the answer, in my experience is not to indulge it, except on rare occasions, but seek local -- and cheaper -- equivalents. Or that adjustment to what I call "genteel poverty" will be all the harder.

I admit it's easy to scoff from a distance of 35 years to her one and a bit. But the naivete often amuses me. Stating that an immigrant child is eligible for 45 hours of free language tutoring in school ignores the reality that most schools simply don't have it. Comparing private Jewish education costs in the States with public education here [which is supposed to be free, by law, but is anything but] is comparing apples with oranges. My parents never paid anything for my education in the States, because when I was growing up, private Jewish education wasn't an option. Moreover, the Israeli school system becomes increasingly inadequate as the grades progress and it's a rare family that doesn't have substantial educational costs by high school. $1700 [Almost Eden often quotes prices in dollars] doesn't sound like much when tuition in a private school in the States is $10,000 or more, but when you've got 3 children in the school system and you're living on $2000 per month, $5100 sounds a lot more impressive [and I think Almost Eden's estimates of the cost of the "free education" are low, in my own experience, which is now a decade out of date and undoubtedly higher now.]

I often wish I could revisit olim 10 years after they arrive -- those who are still here -- and see how they've fared. Some, of course, do adapt. They either arrive with a degree of Hebrew fluency, or pick up the language easily. They have friends or family that can give them support and help them navigate an unfamiliar culture. Some are just too stubborn to consider the idea of failure. But a very substantial number cut their losses and leave*, because it just wasn't what they had expected, or prepared [assuming they prepared at all] themselves for. There is a certain hubris in attempting to be an expert on aliyah after a year; I've been here for 35, and I'm not one yet.

*There is an internet message board in the Jerusalem area called Janglo. I keep an ongoing rough estimate of "complete house contents sales" or "moving sales" which are obviously, from what's on offer, sales of people selling up and leaving the country. Now, I'm not saying that these are olim who came into the country via NbN. NbN maintains that 99% of "their" olim stay, but they do not publish any definite figures. But NbN these days is bringing in just about all the North American olim who are coming, and the number of families leaving, according to this rough and highly unscientific survey I'm keeping, is cancelling out more than half the families coming. Traditionally, there are estimates that somewhere between 30% and 70% of all American olim return to the US within 10 years.

Professional Advice

Scott Stantis
Birmingham News
Oct 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blog On! Part 1

I read a lot of blogs. Some are by midwives and nurses, some by doctors or paramedics, some by olim here in Israel [or getting ready to make aliyah], some are literary, some are about Judaism. (Reminder to self: update the blog list). One is by a woman who attempted a home birth with tragic results, and has subsequently, I am happy to say, had another, thriving baby. There are a few miscellaneous ones: Cranky Epistles, Respectful Insolence, Random Acts of Reality, A Little Pregnant. Some bloggers post regularly; some, like myself (yes, yes, I know -- stop hitting me!) blog only occasionally, and/or infrequently. Some have gone to that Great CyberArchive In The Sky, and are no more.

There are two which I enjoy for entirely perverse reasons. One is by a L&D nurse who's studying for her CNM as a Master's degree program through the Frontier Nursing School, and the other is by a woman who made aliyah with her husband and son just slightly more than a year ago. The reason I write "perverse" is that my own take on similar experiences is so different.

At Your Cervix used to be a very jolly-looking but very fat woman. When I began reading her blog, she was on the verge of having bariatric surgery, so I've followed her through not only the initial surgery, but the following operations (4, I think, so far). Between the descriptions of what she's gone through, and the photos she's posted that show the way she looks now, I am cured of any interest in having bariatric surgery myself. But, if she's happy, well, more power to her!

She works in a very large and high risk unit, and one would think that what she sees would temper her enthusiasm somewhat but she is what I call an "ideologic nurse" and will be an "ideologic midwife". I've never had this viewpoint. The only "failure" in obstetrics is when there is maternal or fetal morbidity or mortality, as far as I'm concerned. A vaginal delivery, preferably without any medication, isn't a "victory". It's nice when it happens, if the woman copes well with the contractions and the labor progresses normally, but it isn't something I feel is essential for the wellbeing of either the woman or her child, and it is that wellbeing that is paramount. At Your Cervix bemoans shifts where her patients are delivered by C-Section (in all fairness, some of the private attendings seem to rush to the OR, but let us not forget that women often choose doctors by word of mouth, and if they want oblivion in labor, they'll find a doctor who medicates heavily, or vice versa) and has stated that she wants to show "poor women" (i.e. those without private doctors, or on Medicaid,I presume) the "joy of natural delivery". In my experience, nearly all these women simply want to have their babies as quickly and painlessly as possible and get as much rest before they have to go home. They really don't want to be convinced to have what they perceive as a more difficult way to have a baby. (I once asked a neighbor where she intended to have her baby, and she named a hospital across town. Since my hospital, which was famed for it's advocacy of "natural" childbirth, was only about 2 blocks away, I asked her why she didn't register there. "I want an epidural as soon as possible. At Misgav Ladach, I've heard they don't give you anything". Of course, we did have an anesthesiologist 24/7, and any woman could have an epidural. But she would not believe me)

Call me old-fashioned, but I don't believe ideology has a place in good medical practice. There's no "one size fits all" and the art of midwifery consists of matching the treatment to the patient. I'm the midwifery professional, not the patient. Of course she can discuss things with me, and I'm willing to be flexible as long as the safety of the mother and baby aren't at stake, and of course the mother (and her partner) are entitled to full explanations of everything I do or propose to do (except in drastic emergency, when I can't take the time) but the bottom line is that I, and no one else, unless I bring in a doctor, is responsible for the woman's and baby's welfare. I'm frankly a little surprised at At Your Cervix. Radical direct entry midwives often espouse the "birthin's normal" philosophy out of pure ignorance of possible outcomes, but AYC works in a high-risk unit. (Mild snark: I wish she wouldn't use the word "birth" as a transitive verb. It's a noun.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Double Whammy

Mike Lester
Rome News Tribune
Oct 23, 2009

Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Solo Flight By An Amateur

This pretty much encapsulates the way I think about Obama. It's called inexperience.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize for WHAT?

Jake Fuller
Oct 10, 2009

A bit facetious, but with a solid grain of truth. Can anyone think of a concrete thing Obama has done in his 9 months in office that really advanced world peace? Perhaps the prize should have gone to his speechwriters.

Sunday, October 04, 2009