I began 2012 by moving into an apartment in Tel Aviv.
I was paying an outrageous sum to live in the dorms at Tel Aviv University, and the campus is north of the city- not far by any means, but the location presented certain problems in the way of accessing and truly experiencing the city. Also, it may go without saying, but after having lived on my own in Boston for six years, moving into a dorm-situation was not ideal. I was happy to have a soft place to land upon moving overseas, but it was time to grow up and move out.
My semi-adult life has included several moves. This was by far the easiest. I think it may be because I got to Israel with all of my worldly possessions in two (skillfully packed) suitcases. Granted, I did not get everything back into those two suitcases- but it really only took a couple of trips on the bus...
(I spent a few days as that girl on a crowded bus shlepping cumbersome luggage, and I think my fellow bus patrons really appreciated it).
I moved into an apartment right in the center of Tel Aviv with my friend from school, Nicole. It took a couple weeks of stressful searching to find, but we finally went through a broker recommended by a couple of friends, and found a place in a great location that suits us just fine. Our street, Merkaz Ba'alei Melaha, is quiet and pleasant, but steps from everything we could possibly need. We've already made friends with the owner of our favorite cafe- his name is Roni, and he offered me a job the other day. We'll see.
The broker, Shay, was very cool, and happens to also be our new neighbor! He's the guy we call when we need help figuring out how to turn on the dud shemesh (yes, the hot water tank is called the "dood") or when our shower door shatters into a thousand little glass shards all over Nicole (yes, that happened).
Nicole was standing IN the shower when this went down.
There are a couple of distinct differences between American and Israeli life that I observed during my apartment search, and I'd like to share them with you here:
1. People take appliances with them.
When an apartment here is listed as "unfurnished" it literally comes with nothing in it. Shay gave us a fridge, thank heavens. The guy who moved out left us a microwave. But if we want to cook anything that can't be nuked, we're gonna have to buy a hot-plate. Can you imagine moving into an apartment in a major Americcan city without it at least having basic appliances??
2. Everything is negotiable.
Leah, my landlord, gave us 100 shekel off of the advertised price after she met me- because she liked me. I was fine with this, but a little confused because other than complimenting her boots and asking about her family we could hardly communicate (her English is about on par with my Hebrew). Maybe it was because my hair looked so nice that day.
3. Apartments here are owned by individuals rather than management companies.
Now, I'm sure that not ALL apartment buildings in the US are managed by companies, but that has been my experience, or at the very least one person owns a whole building and is in the real-estate business. My landlord here owns only the apartment I live in. Each apartment in the building is owned by different people, and they pass the property down through generations. Leah doesn't live in Tel Aviv, and does not want to be bothered with problems. When I called her about the shower she simply said "replace it and I'll pay you back." Ugh.
So, Nicole and I have been here for a little over a week. We still have no furniture except our beds and a few chairs that Shay also donated (I think he feels bad for us). We'll get furniture in February, when the rest of our loans come in. We spent our first Shabbat in our new home assembling Nicole's Ikea furniture, and breaking bread with one of our first friends- Jared. Perfect.
I'm certain that we will make many more memories together here, and it will be the perfect base of operations for us as we continue to stretch our wings and explore what Tel Aviv has to offer us.
Living in an apartment here makes me feel like I'm really doing this. I have a lease. I have a neighborhood. And slowly, slowly...a little piece of Tel Aviv will become mine- and inevitably become a part of who I am.
If you're ever in town, come on over for a visit!
We only have one extra chair, but it's yours.