By Sybil Kaplan
Photo by Barry A. Kaplan / Jerusalem
So you’ve decided to move to Israel, possibly Florida, Palm Springs and Arizona don’t have the same appeal. Maybe the kids and grandkids are already in Israel? Maybe you were touched by a visit and see yourself or yourselves getting older in Israel, although not really ready yet to retire one hundred per cent?
We’ve done it, and we want to pass on some helpful hints, based on our experiences in Jerusalem, to make the move easier for those who come after us. Those going to other places will have to adjust the comments.
Forgetting the Zionism, the first issue of practicality for us was if we could make it financially? We wrote to all our friends of comparable age and asked them to share their expense details. The received information went into a spread sheet to come up with average costs. Most Americans have a budget in their minds, if not on paper. However, if one is moving to Israel and depending on American social security and savings, then knowing what things cost is essential.
First of all, we came from a large, 1800 square feet (167 square meters), three-level, nine-room, two-bathroom house. We had made two trips to Israel together over the previous eight years and had visited the homes of friends our age. I had made other trips in those previous years.
Because our house was on the market for 14 months, as soon as the for sale-sign went up, we began the cleaning out of the basement, the attic, the garage, and the shed outside. Then we had garage sales, gave things away, shipped things to our children and decided more or less what we wanted to take and what would fit into the apartment we had not seen.
Being a bargain shopper, I also began looking for sales on things I wanted to replace, and also things I wanted to take.
My secondary theme was: take everything we know will fit, so we will have an easy transition when the shipment arrives. That means you will have to do a minimal amount of hunting and shopping in Israel. (More about what you do have to shop for later)
Living room – we sold the tall bookcases and kept a couple of short ones. Because we had a huge art collection, we decided not to be like all new olim and fill our walls with bookcases, floor to ceiling. Instead we wanted to hang lots of art and keep the book cases low and less overwhelming. We also wanted a couch that made up into a bed because visitors are always going to be coming. We knew our lamps would work by replacing light bulbs with local bulbs and placing a plug converter on each cord. Three-way lamps come out one-way. We also knew floors are tile and washable, so we brought a number of scatter rugs.
Dining room – our dining table was not overwhelming and had capacity to open up for 6, 8 or 10 guests. Our wall unit was three bottoms with three tops, so we could be flexible in its placement. Our “Pesach buffet” was also in two pieces, so hopefully it would be a divider. It was always useful in the States and proved to be fantastic in Israel where space is at a premium. When Pesach comes, I open the two sets of doors, and there are my Pesach dishes, glassware, silverware and cook and bakewear. Since it’s only eight days, I did not purchase new kitchen appliances (food processor and hand mixer) but I use them on a transformer which I brought.
Kitchen – we decided to purchase all major appliances in Israel, so local warranties and repairmen would be available, and we would have no need for clumsy transformers or problems if something did not work or did not arrive with the shipment. We also decided to purchase all small appliances in the States 220v and bring them in one box with our shipment, so we did not have to do any extra shopping. This has not proven to be a terrific idea. One clock radio arrived broken; in a few years, we have already replaced the coffee maker, toaster oven and iron. My suggestion—buy the small appliances at one store once you arrive.
For the major appliances, we went with our apartment rental agent to an electrical store and did all one-stop shopping—stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer, television and microwave. All were delivered the day we moved into our long-term rental apartment. Mistake–we did not buy a dish washer. We should have. But the second rental apartment into which we moved had one.
Bedrooms – we brought all furniture and linens for a master bedroom and an extra twin bed. As it happened, the twin bed took up too much room in one of the offices, so we had to sell it. We use scatter rugs on the sides and foot of the bed.
Offices – our plan was to find a 3-bedroom apartment using one as a master bedroom and two as offices, so I had a home office from which to work and my husband had his own turf, and this is what we did. Fortunately for us, two bedrooms had floor to ceiling built-in closets, which take up a lot of room, so we made these our combination offices/dressing rooms.
Bathrooms – we brought all our bathroom linens. Interestingly enough, the toilet cover lids did not fit Israeli toilets, so we had to purchase a few new ones in Israel sand sewed ties on the others. We did have to purchase several units for linens and sundries.
General Furniture Comments
We were very flexible about furniture uses. The microwave table with doors below and two shelves became a storage unit for sheet sets and extra sundries in the bedroom, and it matched our teak furniture. Both plastic bookcases became storage units for tools and garden-type things on our glassed-in terrace. Three pieces of furniture did not fit into the first apartment– a bench, an antique cedar chest and a family heirloom of a small coffee table. They and a glass end table went on the terrace. The bench fit into our second apartment; the other things are in the machsan (a storage area). See you in Part Three!
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, book reviewer, food columnist and feature writer
Check out her remarkable walking tours of the Jerusalem shuk