When a family makes aliyah, each member is allowed to take three suitcases on the plane for free. These bags are stuffed to capacity with must-have items to get you through your first six weeks in Israel – at which time, hopefully, the balance of your possessions will arrive by boat on your lift.
For most olim, the bulk of their lift consists of large furniture items, such as American mattresses and bed frames. Some bring along expensive appliances such as washing machines and dryers. And then there are the boxes of clothes, pots and pans, a lifetime’s worth of mementos, and personal “must-have” luxury items.
For many, these items include silver foil and Ziploc bags, as the quality of these items are simply not the same in Israel. For others, it’s favorite pantry staples such as duck sauce and Kedem grape juice – as they just can’t be found in Israel.
While our lift was packed with all of the above (and accidentally a diaper pail still containing my daughter’s dirty diapers…), our must-have luxury items also included lots and lots of books. From my husband’s love of economic philosophy tomes to my son’s never-ending thirst for fiction books, you can say that my family reads a lot.
We were forewarned that English books would be expensive and hard to find in Israel. So for months prior to our move, I emptied used bookstores and collected books from co-workers whose children had outgrown them. As boxes of books were loaded onto our lift, I felt confident that I had enough books for the near future.
But those books didn’t arrive for six weeks. And after our two-week quarantine in Israel upon our arrival, my family had already read – and reread –all the books we had brought with us. With an indeterminate period of lockdown ahead, I knew I had to find more.
Friends recommended ordering from a British website, which ships books free to Israel. Generally, orders arrive in a matter of weeks. Little did I realize that due to coronavirus-related postal delays, our lift would arrive weeks before the books I ordered from this site!
Another drawback was that when the books actually arrived in Israel, they were not delivered to my house. Instead, I received a slip notifying me that the package was being held at a local post office and that after 14 days it would be returned to the sender.
Further complicating matters was that post offices are only currently open for very limited hours. As I stood in line with tens of other Israelis, I couldn’t help but miss my Amazon deliveries that arrived at my door, just days after ordering.
Of course, when all else fails, I have learned to turn to the Modi’in Moms’ WhatsApp group. (While I have yet to meet these fabulous moms, I fear they have all gotten to know me all too well via my desperate posts for help.) I asked if anyone had books to lend to tide us over. Moms from across the city offered us their collections and left them in bags in front of their door so we could pick them up in a safe and socially-distanced way. I learned my way around the neighborhoods as I navigated from home to home, picking up and returning books around the city.
With the coronavirus restrictions lifted, we were recently introduced to the ESRA Secondhand Book Shop. Located in the parking lot of Modi’in’s Azrieli Mall, the store carries a treasure trove of used books – both in English and Hebrew. Book costs range from 5 to 20 shekalim and proceeds go to ESRA, an organization devoted to helping immigrants adjust to living in Israel.
The store is run by English-speaking volunteers who are equally eager to help you find a book as they are to provide you with practical advice about the city. Leaving the store this Sunday, I found myself with a bagful of books as well as the location of the best Shabbos park.
It’s funny: When our lift finally arrived in the country, we chose to send it straight to storage rather than move it into our current short-term rental. Thanks to the well-read residents of Modi’in, we were not in desperate need of books. The Israeli mattresses we’ve been using have been comfortable and, other than the stove, the appliances have worked great. We even are making due with Israeli Ziploc bags and silver foil.
While life in Israel is a bit more modest than what we were used to in New York, we have not found ourselves wanting. Well, except perhaps the duck sauce and Kedem grape juice. Some luxuries cannot be abandoned so easily.