Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Since moving to Israel, I’ve learned to truly appreciate cell phones. With our family thousands of miles away in New York and Toronto, and social distancing the new way of life, our phones have become – more than ever – our essential connections to the outside world.

We video chat with our parents at least a couple of times a day, we message pictures and videos to our grandmothers, and we chat with our siblings in family WhatsApp groups. Of course, we also use our phones for Facebook updates on what’s happening in our neighborhood and continual advice on settling into our new Israeli lives.

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However, as I try to keep up with the kids, my phone inevitably finds itself tumbling out of my hands and onto Israel’s hard tile floors. Finally, after one fall too many, my phone last week began to crack with the tell-tale spider web lines criss-crossing the screen.

Uh oh.

Our aliyah research has taught us that most electronics are significantly more expensive in Israel. However, bringing electronics from New York means having to deal with the hassles of transformers and converters, which may or may not make the devices operable.

For example, we purchased a printer/scanner/copy machine in New York for my husband’s home office in Israel, but that turned out to be a huge waste of lift space as it literally went up in smoke when we plugged it into the transformer.

When we moved, we chose to sell most of our small home appliances (bread machines, blenders, microwaves etc.) and purchase them again in Israel. It’s true that the shopping experience is different here. In New York, you can walk into a showroom and examine a range of models; here, most stores carry a few show pieces and otherwise direct you to look through their catalogue to see if you like anything. Salesmen generally don’t provide much insight into the different available models other than to assure you that all the models they carry work fine.

I miss the customer service in the States, but I feel more secure purchasing appliances here as I’ve heard enough horror stories of olim unable to use their imported American appliances because they didn’t fit through narrow Israeli doorways, replacement parts weren’t available, or the item’s warranty couldn’t be honored in Israel. If I buy an appliance in Israel, at least I know it will work (or be repaired as needed!).

Among the only electronic items we purchased in New York for use in Israel was my new cell phone since it doesn’t require a transformer to work in Israel. It was also much cheaper than its equivalent in Israel and, of course, took up almost no luggage space at all. A problem would only arise if it broke…

I couldn’t believe that after just four months of use, I had managed to damage my cell phone so badly. Some preliminary online research revealed that replacing my shattered screen would likely cost me more than what I paid for the phone in the first place.

While I was resigned to purchasing a cheaper off-brand phone here in Israel, we decided to at least check into the possibility of repairing my American phone. At the recommendation of the “Our Modi’in” Facebook group, my husband brought my phone into the Fix Smarts Smart Phone Lab and Store in the nearby neighborhood of Re’ut, and was pleasantly surprised by the helpful and knowledge worker he found there.

The worker quickly assured my husband that it was the screen protector – not the screen itself – that had shattered (clearly I’m not tech savvy). On the spot, the worker removed the broken protector, inserted a new one, and, for 40 shekel, my digital life line had been resuscitated.

So what are my takeaways from this experience for other olim? Think carefully about what electronics you want to bring as they may blow up (literally) when plugged in. If you purchase large-ticket items such as fridges and stoves, make sure to work with a company that’s familiar with Israeli apartments and find out if the warranty will be honored overseas.

And, of course, handle your cell phones very, very carefully and invest in a good screen protector!

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Aviva Karoly made aliyah to Israel with her husband and two children on March 19, with Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, and JNF-USA. She can be reached at myaliyah2020@gmail.com.