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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Around the world in 14 days

It has been so long since I have posted on the blog.  It is not for lack of material.  However, this week I really felt compelled to update.

First, my adventure with passports.  Even though we have now been living here almost 4 years, I recently had a goof-up with my passport because I had read the date of expiration 8-3-2016 as August, 3, 2016.  Rookie mistake, but I made it. In Israel (like Europe) the system is day-month-year so that was actually March 8, 2016. I was headed to the U.S. for work on March 6th and asked Michael if he would mind checking me in early. I casually handed him my passport and he suddenly asked "Did you know your passport expires in a few days?"
WHAT?!
So, I threw my stuff in a bag, made a mad dash to the airport, and arrived at the branch of the Ministry of the Interior that is located in the airport for such occurrences. I was prepared for a fight.  Fortunately, the woman behind the desk, Orna, was quite lovely. She told me getting out was no problem as I still had a couple of days on the passport and since I had no other stops I could just use my U.S. passport when I landed. She told me to have the airline call her if there were any issues and to just renew it when I returned. Sure enough when I went to check in they became concerned about the passport. I told them to call the Misrad Hapnim.
Check in attendant on phone: "Hi, we have a, OK" and hangs up.
Literally it was a 10- second conversation where Orna must have just answered with "I know. hakol b'seder".
Anyway, now I know for the future but I would not recommend trying this at home as your host country may have different rules depending on where in the world you are reading this from.  America will not let you out if your passport is not at least 6 months from expiration, so I am told.

Speaking of travel around the world.
N is becoming Bar Mitzvah this month and we sent invitations to friends and family to join us in the celebration (we have reports that the US Postal service has not kept up its end of the bargain and delivered everyone their invitation.  Let us know, and we will send extras back with our moms.  Forgive us for not re-sending through the Israel Post, which is a very effective way of sending invitations for events happening 12 years after the time of sending.)  Locally, I hand-delivered invitations (to make sure they arrived before Nehemiah's 25th birthday).  I was working in the U.S. last month so I brought the U.S. invitations with and mailed them via the U.S. Post office.  Not even two weeks later, an envelope that apparently had the wrong zip code (sorry Mindy!), was sitting in my mailbox in Modiin.  I have had friends send cards that took 4 months to arrive.  I've had friends tell me they didn't receive cards I sent to them.  Others have received them within the week.  Can't seem to locate a pattern, but I was really shocked that with just a return label and a U.S. postal stamp that little envelope went from KS to NY and arrived in Modiin faster than if I had mailed it directly.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dewey decimal and apple pie

The other day, L looked up from a book she was reading.  "Ima (mom in Hebrew), what's a root beer float?"

Two things struck me from that question.

First is one I have thought about many times in the last 3 years.  Why did I have my children call me "Ima" instead of mom??  Yes, it was convenient in Kansas when I was one of a handful, but here in Israel everyone is Ima, and how I wish I had had the foresight to be "mom" so that my child's cries could be distinguished to me from the crowd!

Second, how does my 10 year old daughter not know what a root beer float is?  What a completely different childhood they are having.  I described the drink to her and made a mental note to make sure we had some floats this summer.  As luck would have it, N was with me at the grocery store a few days later and as anyone with children knows, they might not be able to find the math book, milk container, second shoe or whatever item they need that is directly in front of them, but when it comes to sweets and treats they have eagle vision.  My little bird of prey quickly descended upon the cans of root beer that apparently have been before me this whole time (one of our local groceries stocks loads of US/UK products because of the local population) so we had them at home.

But as we approach the end of our third year, I see that my kids, though American, and being raised by American parents and living in the digital small world age are having such a different cultural childhood which of course is ever-present in religious life, but extends to food tastes, songs (it doesn't get cuter than your first grader belting out Hebrew classics!), TV, books etc.

Which brings me back around to reading.  I have tried hard to keep up with N's voracious appetite for books and was fortunate enough to discover a used book seller that ships internationally for free.  (I have no financial interest but they do great things:  betterworldbooks.com)  I have resisted joining the library here because I thought that the English section couldn't possibly be up to par.   And how I miss the library!  I have always loved reading and taken advantage of the wonderfulness of libraries.  Not just for fiction.  When I developed my interest in screenplays I learned to write them from books I checked out at the library (shout out to any film students that are readers:  I have a great script for you!)

But now here I am 3 years later with my Israeli children, and they are reading Hebrew books.  The tide is starting to change.  Only A reads in both languages at grade level.  It's funny because while our friends in America may have their kids in a Hebrew school a few hours a week, we have A in English school a few hours a week.  The teacher has been incredible and took these kids from barely recognizing their English letters to (most of them) reading at first grade level.  I imagine that the first graders in the America will surpass these little guys with time but being here has also taught me that so much of the educational process is fluid and flexible.  N and L essentially skipped an entire grade when they spent their first year in Israel without much in the way of assistance.  When they started their second school year it was in a language they were far from academically fluent in.  And yet, they're making it.  And so are all the other kids in similar positions.  OK, it's more challenging for them at times, and sometimes you have to cover some math basics that may have been missed here and there but they do it.

N recently finished his third novel in Hebrew.  Some have recommended getting books the kids have already read in English, but my kids aren't interested in "working" to read a book in Hebrew that they've already read.  Before Aliyah, our wise friend Frankie S. told us to just wait until there was a book that they could only get in Hebrew and they wanted to read.  It will happen, he sagely reassured.  And he was right.  A book that had been translated from French that was interesting and funny got N's attention and once he finished I think he realized "hey, I enjoyed that.  I'll try it again."-- and he did.  Two more novels, and now I realize that it's time to join the library.  Fortunately, there is a library in walking distance to us so N and L can even go on their own to get books and I hope this will open up the world of reading to them even more.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Benjamin Franklin and my adventure

And just when I start feeling as if things are falling into a routine, the tax man cometh.  Yes, yes: death and taxes.  We all know the saying.  But little did I know that when I did my 3 month observation period in the hospital last year that long after my certificate of specialty recognition arrived, I would be seeking another form.  What form?  The tofes 106.  OK so tofes just means form but doesn't it sound more sinister when I give it the foreign name??

Since we live in Israel but earn income in 3 countries (M works for a European firm) taxes are somewhat complicated-- but hey, it's a modern world.  Lots of folks do it.  Anyway, between the US and Israel we have to stay somewhat on our toes with the paperwork for the tax man.  It's always a relief when we can check (here we say "v") off that we've completed the taxes for both countries.  This year the one thing outstanding: my Tofes 106 from last year's 3 month "job."  I put the word job in quotes because it is less a job and more a mandatory period wherein a department chair at a hospital observes your practice for 3 months and (hopefully) signs off at the end that you are actually a specialist in the field that the paperwork you've brought with you from your country of origin says you are.  But it's not really a "job" because though you do have to go and work, they don't pay you.  But it's not a volunteer thing because you can't do it without getting paid (I asked when I was sitting around waiting for paperwork to be processed) so the Ministry of Absorption pays you.  It's a stipend, not a salary.  None of this really matters to the tax authority.  They just want the form.

I started by calling the Ministry of Absorption to see if they could send me the form.  The conversation, though a most excellent Hebrew lesson, was a bit circular.  It started with me introducing myself and my situation.  This was followed by the clerk acknowledging that I had indeed been paid by the Ministry of Absorption but she had no clue how to provide me with the Tofes 106.  Bogus.  It seems they can only give one to employees of the Ministry of Absorption which I clearly was not.  Instead, I worked for the hospital.  But the hospital didn't pay me.  She granted me that point but still we got nowhere.  Then she switched to English, though our barrier was not one of language.  She suggested I check their website.  The website?  She thought maybe I could find out how to get my form from the website.  When I pressed her for where on the website she thought the category of "received a stipend but am not a salaried worker and just need to get a form so I don't get in trouble but wasn't even enough money to get taxed" section might be, she said she really wasn't sure.  The situation after that conversation looked most egregious.

So, next stop was the hospital HR department.  They claim they are able and willing to produce a tofes 106 even though I didn't get paid by them, which would be a most triumphant conclusion to this saga.  However, if I'm not successful there I don't know who I will get in more trouble with:  the IRS (for failure to report earned income) or the Israel tax authority.  Hmmm, interesting new blog series:  life inside an Israeli prison.  Never mind, I can't imagine the paperwork, which would be most heinous.

Monday, April 27, 2015

When Oys mix with Joys

The excitement leading up to Yom Haatzmaut  (Independence Day) celebrations here is palpable.  Flags and banners start appearing all over and naturally the kids have much preparation at school.  In the week before though, we commemorate the Holocaust and remember the victims.  It's true that we have "won" in the sense that we, the next generations, are still here, but of course we also lost.  And we lost big.  And they don't pull any punches in teaching the children about it.   I was raised by the children of survivors, so the Holocaust was always present when I was growing up.  It was something of a family joke that we could depend on our father to mention Auschwitz or the Nazis at every family gathering, including the happy occasions.  He certainly never forgot.  But--and I could be wrong-- I don't think most of my friends had the same experience. 

On the other hand,  kids here start hearing about the Holocaust in Kindergarten through stories, but A learned things in first grade that made her cry.  I'm not arguing that she can conceptualize what happened, but really who can?  It's so horrifically unfathomable.  Growing up here it becomes part of their consciousness from earliest memories.  A week later is Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) for fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terror.  This day purposefully falls the day before Yom Haatzmaut.  I've heard some argue that it's not right to make such a sudden transition from such sadness to such joy, and that it hurts them to see the celebrations right after the commemoration for their loved ones, but I can see how it works to have it that way.  Memorial day is a very somber and hard day.  The whole nation marks it, with ceremonies, stores closing and two one-minute sirens where even cars pull over and the drivers get out, and everyone wherever you are, stops and bows their head.  It's a hard day for the nation.  It would be impossible to grow up here and not be aware of the sacrifice that others have made for our privilege.  A has been taking care of one of her dolls who was "shot" while in the Army and was "saved at the Army hospital" but now requires full time care.  It registers.

On Yom Haatzmaut I took the kids to a free festival about 25 minutes from our house.  Michael had to work so I teamed up with another mom whose husband was working.  But in the car it was just me and the kids, and about 12 minutes into our drive we passed through a check-point over the "infamous" green line.  In the weeks building up to Yom Haatzmaut, flags for your car appear out of nowhere.  So as we passed the checkpoint I started wondering if it was such a good idea to be driving along with an Israeli flag flying on my car.  Like a target.  I mean, we have Israeli license plates so it's not like we're driving through anonymously, but in the moment I started to feel nervous.  The kids are not immune.  It doesn't take them long to figure out that all the guards (in front of their school, entrance to the mall, entrance to parking lots etc.) are to "make sure bad guys with bombs don't come in".  So as I started discussing with them whether perhaps we should take the flag down while driving through this area, I lowered the window and the flag flew away.  I felt like a traitor, and then I noticed that every 10 kilometers or so there were soldiers standing on the hilltops.  Clearly there was a need.  N remarked "One day in a few years that will be me standing on the hill guarding our nation." To which L replied, "No N, we don't want you to die."  So was I wrong to want to take the flag down while driving in my own country?

Well, a couple of days later a close friend called to tell me about her Yom Haatzmaut.  They had been invited to join Israeli cousins on a guided tour near the Kotel (Western Wall).  The bus driver took a "wrong turn" into East Jerusalem, and as he tried to turn around to leave, several young children were positioned in the  road to block the bus and force it to stop, and then a group of men ambushed my friend's bus.  They attacked the bus with metal bars, smashing the windows and sending broken glass flying inside, and throwing rocks. 

I work hard not to divide the world into "us" and "them" for all of the obvious reasons, but how can "we" negotiate with people who purposefully put their small children in harm's way and want their children to witness this type of brutality?  Fortunately, the only physical injuries to the families on the bus were some facial lacerations, but the unseen marks were left.  Their young son kept screaming "why do they want to kill us?"  After a harrowing few minutes soldiers arrived and evacuated them.  If you're thinking that you didn't hear about it on the news because you're reading this from outside of Israel, it wasn't on our news either.  Not sure why.

It turns out the scariest part of the day for me was when we arrived and I had to park the car.  After almost 3 years, I'm completely down with makeshift parking lots.  It's often like going to a country fair and parking in fields.  What I wasn't prepared for was being asked to reverse into a spot that ended in a precipice with a sharp drop.  I don't have specific phobias, but since I respect a good incline and I prefer to drive forward, I refused.   No problem.  The guard told me to just drive to the end and "find something".  Fortunately, two soldiers were able to move a couple of plastic chairs that were in the place of a perfectly good parking spot and all was well.  The kids had a great time.  There were so many activities to do, but the kids did note the prevalence of men in street clothes carrying guns.  When you drive past huge red signs that tell you that it is illegal to enter and that if you do your life will be in danger, it should not come as a surprise that in the areas next door where you can turn in, you might need protection. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Are we there yet?

One of the questions my kids love to ask goes something like "Is Israel big enough that we can drive for 10 hours and still be in Israel?" or some variation on this theme.  I think it's part of how they try to wrap their heads around how big Israel is because we're always telling them that it's a small country.   My answer "It depends on who's driving."  And so it goes.  This year's Passover break was such a great time.   Our Seder was very kid friendly and the kids had so much to contribute.  The younger kids' reenactment of the Jews leaving Egypt, complete with Hanes t-shirts tied around their heads, was quite a hit.

Sunday morning we headed out with friends to the Negev, in the south of Israel.  Our destination, Machtesh Ramon, is a giant crater--like a Grand Canyon of Israel.   It was supposed to be a 2 hour drive to our camping site, but somehow it took us 5 hours to arrive.  You know how it goes-- a few bathroom breaks, a stop at the Kibbutz where Ben Gurion lived, the two-hour estimate didn't include the 3 miles on a non-paved road, which 3 miles themselves ate up half an hour of bumpy, 5mph driving. . . of course, it depends on who's driving.

Yes, we went camping in Israel.  In the bit of research I did to prepare, I discovered that actually what we did is referred to as "glamping."   Glamping is for those who want to pitch a tent, roast some marshmallows and stare in wonder at all that nature has to offer,  but still be able to use a clean toilet, take a hot shower and buy ice cream.  I learned a lot while camping in the Negev.  For one thing, the Negev is really, really hot--until the sun goes down.  Then it progressively gets really, really cold.  I also learned that the sky full of stars is beautiful and the surroundings can give such perspective.  Another lesson was that I really like sleeping in a bed.  The padding and everything under your sleeping bag sounds great in theory, but . . . 

Naturally, about 10 minutes after pitching our tent, N looked up and saw a kid from his school and about 10 minutes later, our downstairs neighbors walked over to say hi.   What a small world!

Interestingly, we met a couple from the Pacific Northwest who were visiting Israel for a month.  They were a bit shocked by some of the cultural differences between Israel and the US.  Israel was a much more intimate affair than what they were used to.  We tried explaining that during the week of Passover much of the country is on vacation, so it wasn't such a fair comparison, but they hadn't realized that tents would go up so close to one another and they missed the rangers going around and telling people to be quiet and people being silent until 10AM.   That would never fly here.  Ever.  What we experienced instead was a bunch of families camping out side by side.  All facets of Israeli life, religious and secular camping out together and everyone had a box of matzah.  A real spirit of nationhood.  At one point, our kids noted a mom leading a big group of kids in a game.  They ran over with their friends, and maybe because they were speaking to each other in English, she switched to English and asked them if they wanted her to explain the game.  The kids in both families replied to her in Hebrew that they knew the game and joined in the fun.  Times like that I can not only see the progress, but also appreciate that my children are growing up Israeli.   After our morning coffee we went to a nearby site for a desert archery class.  The fellow running the course was an Australian immigrant from twenty years ago.  He asked me what I did and I told him I was an ER doc but that I am working in the urgi-care here.  N joked, "she got demoted."  He replied that "Your mother came for love of country."  And in deed I do love Israel, and traveling around and seeing more only deepens the love.

The next day we picnicked at a National Park about 10 minutes from our house, with totally different topography.  Forests and greenery replaced rocks and sand.  But again, it's the whole nation out with frisbees, boom boxes, soccer balls, kites and matzah.  Israelis seem to have the picnic thing down.  I'm talking table cloths and full on meals including spices for the food--and this was Passover!

The next day we went to the movies.  During the first year of mourning, it is customary not to go to movies but since we were seeing a children's movie and it was in Hebrew I decided to go.  Movies in Israel represent to me a huge marker of progress.  In our first month in Israel we made the mistake of taking the kids to the movies.  Language did not occur to us.  We've since learned that kid's movies are (almost) always dubbed to Hebrew while adult movies just have subtitles.   Makes sense.  Young kids can't read.  Our kids were so mad during that first movie that they staged a semi-revolt.  Almost 3 years later they don't even ask, and a few weeks ago when Lital went to a movie with friends and I asked her if it had been in Hebrew or English it took her a few minutes to remember.  As for me, I understood most of the film.

Final day we went up North with some friends to a Kibbutz that built mazes out of nature.  It was so much fun.  Again, the environment was totally different, with everything in a varying shade of green. Families were on the lawn playing tennis, jumping rope, playing catch and the mazes were really challenging and fun.   We never quite figured out the last one and when it started to drizzle we took the easy way out. 

And by the way, Ben&Jerry's Charoset flavored ice cream was really good.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Happy Passover!

Quick clarification for an astute reader, L.T. who asked about Sephardic Jews eating kitniyot.  Sephardic Jews and Ashkenazic Jews share the same Jewish legal system and the bulk of ritual observance and practice looks the same.  Essentially the variances you will find between the two are similar to variances in regional cooking and to completely oversimplify for the blog, if the Jewish nation or parts of it takes on stringencies in their practice, these adopted customs can over time take on the significance of law.  So Jews from Ashkenaz about 1000 years ago stopped eating things that either were mixed in with grains or could be mistaken for grain in order to ensure that they didn't accidentally eat chametz (made from grain) on Pesach.  Over time this custom became obligatory.  The Jews from Sepharad (Spain, Northern Africa) never developed those customs.  Perhaps grains in their part of the world were stored differently.  I don't know. 

Speaking of kitniyot,  not one single reader asked what our rats would be eating over Passover.  I know.  I know.  Most people are trying to rid their homes of vermin and we are researching and seeking out Passover friendly options for ours.   And no, the rats aren't obligated to keep Passover but since we can't own or even benefit from Chametz (leavened products) the week of Passover we can't own Chametz containing rat food or care for our animals using Chametz (which is a type of our benefiting from it, since the food sustains our rats ).   And while there are loads of options for dogs, we weren't fortunate enough to find any for rats.   Fortunately, those Ashkenazic ancestors of ours never adopted a custom to treat kitniyot like actual Chametz, where you can't own or benefit from it.   The custom is just for us not to eat kitniyot, but ownership and benefit is a-o-k.  So guess who will be eating kitniyot in our house?  Yes, Oreo and Kitty.  

The week before Passover is school vacation.   It's my sense that teachers have a very strong union here.  A spent her week at a backyard camp.  I think she mostly enjoyed herself, but when I picked her up the first day she gave me an accusing look and asked "Did you know it would be kids in charge of kids?"  Welcome to Israel.  Its very commonplace here for 7th and 8th grade kids to host these little camps during school breaks.  Essentially, for less than half of what you might pay a babysitter, your child joins a small group and gets entertained by teens for the week.  It's the entrepreneurial spirit and really is a win-win for everyone.

I did a little backyard camp of my own in the form of two birthday parties.  Both N and L had birthdays and I planned parties in the park.  In the park, outside. . . what could go wrong?  That's right, it poured.  Fortunately, in the age of Whatsapp we had an easy reschedule for the next day.  I planned a scavenger hunt for Lital's party where they had to find clues and then make a puzzle out of the pieces they found out at each stop.  It was actually a lot of fun and let me tell you, I don't care how many ulpans you've taken.  You haven't experienced Hebrew until you have 20, ten-year old girls shouting out questions at the speed of light. 

Tonight we join friends for Seder and it feels good to be celebrating with the same friends we had Seder with last year.  This is the first time in 4 years we are in the same spot on Seder night.  These wandering Jews are finally finding a home.  We have great plans for the week of Passover, travelling around the country.  Hopefully I can give a little travelblog on the other side.  And yes, we do have a pint of the "Charoset" flavored Ben&Jerry's sitting in our freezer.  I'll let you know how that is too.

My parents shared second night (obligatory only outside of Israel) Seder with two of their closest friends for 40 years.  I know my dad's absence at the table will be felt strongly this year. 

Next year in Jerusalem.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Trash talk

And then there was Osher Ad.  Friends had been telling me about the place but I never seemed to have the opportunity to venture out.   Since they have one near the clinic where I work in Bet Shemesh, I decided to pop in after work.  I got a really good feeling when I arrived and saw a big sign of a man with a "Kirkland Signature" lapel saying he was new to Israel.  The day after my blog about how I'm schlepping all of this stuff from Costco across the ocean, I'm standing face to face with a greeter from Costco (well more face to likeness-painted-on-stone, of a greeter from Costco, but you get the idea) .  Only at Osher Ad, you don't need a membership card to get in.  I can't actually imagine the "pay to get in" model being successful here.  Paying to shop somewhere.  People would call you a friar ("sucker").

Right now the entire store is turned over and only selling Passover inventory.  You can get anything you might possibly need for Passover.  Heck, you can get things you don't need for Passover or never even thought of needing.  The overwhelming variety for what ultimately is a 7-day event is staggering.  And why keep it simple?  Between the two main ethnic groups of Jewish people,  Sephardim (let's say Jews with Spanish and North African origins) and Ashkenazim (mostly Jews with Eastern European origins) there are different customs on how much is prohibited on Passover.  We all agree no leavened products, but after that there is parting of ways (come on--Red Sea!).  Sephardim eat everything in the category of kitniyot (ie rice, corn, lentils and depending on who you ask, the list could go on).  This becomes important if you are used to just checking to see if something is "Kosher for Passover" in the U.S., because now you have to also check if it has kitniyot.  Osher Ad actually had the aisles divided for those who eat kitniyot and those who don't.  Pretty amazing.  The majority of Kosher keeping Jews in Israel are Sephardim, so those of us who follow Ashkenaz definitely have to pay attention.  For Sephardic Jews, I don't think Passover is quite as overhwhelming.  Their Passover day could be corn flakes for breakfast, rice and beans for lunch and chicken with hummous for dinner.   Granted, it would be a challenge to find those items Kosher for Passover outside of Israel (because there are often actual issues of chametz--leaven-- added to many products that otherwise wouldn't seem to have them) but here, no problem.  OK, no pita, but have you tried their soft matzah?  It's pretty darn close.  Seriously, who are the friars?

Before Purim, when you're out grocery shopping, you can start to see entire aisles getting cleared away, or whole freezer sections getting cleaned out.  Think of all the work we put into just cleaning our own kitchens, and then imagine that on the commercial scale.  Daunting, but they do it.  You can start seeing the Kosher for Passover stamp on items from several weeks ago.  Part of what's fun about going to actual grocery stores in Israel (vs. on-line shopping which is huge here and super convenient!) is watching the transition from one thing to the next.  They could have a TV game show where they send Israelis into stores and have them guess which holiday is coming up next just based on what's for sale at the main entrance to the store.  Actually, it's pretty easy to guess.  Every contestant would win. 

 So back to Osher Ad,  they had tons of stuff from Costco.  Once I put that blue box of plastic cutlery into my cart, I was unstoppable.  When I got to the shelves of Kirkland Signature trash bags, my heart simultaneously took flight and sank.  It made me think of my dad and how he just sort of smirked as my mom and I rearranged suitcases and carry-ons to fit just a few more trash bags.  If only we had known they were sitting on a shelf in Bet Shemesh this whole time.  Not to give the impression that Osher Ad is just like Costco (it is smaller).  It's not even close, but it was pretty cool.  I also happened to meet a famous Jewish food blogger who was there shopping.  Israel really is a small country!  As I was leaving the store the man who checks the receipt was smoking a cigarette.  I don't think the greeters at Costco are lighting up, but he did wish me a "Chag Sameach" (happy holiday). 

While we're on the subject of trash bags, ours having been going a lot further lately.  A few months ago our neighborhood introduced a new initiative to put "wet trash" (essentially food and paper, regardless of whether or not it's wet or dry) into a separate bin from the regular trash.  I know from friends in other neighborhoods of Modiin that they've been doing this for awhile, but it's new to our neighborhood.  One night a woman knocked at our door, gave us the bin and explained that we were running out of room for trash and it was everyone's duty to participate.  I asked her if it was mandatory and she explained that the Negev was filling up fast.  Now I am all for reduce, reuse, recycle.  My mom was doing it long before it was hip but I think she could have had a stronger selling point.  I mean, have you been to the Negev lately?  It looks pretty wide open.  All joking aside, it's a very worthy initiative.  We put our wet trash into plastic sacks from the grocery store and put the sacks into the "wet trash" bins the city provides.  This has reduced our regular trash take out significantly.   I was frankly shocked at what difference it makes.  It's also interesting to watch this develop in real time.  As I understand, they have a machine that empties the wet trash bins and rips open and separates the plastic bags so that the garbage can be composted.  This led me to wonder what we would use once the grocery stores phase out plastic bags which I have heard will likely happen in the next few years.  If we don't get these bags from our grocery shopping, will we have to buy bags?  What?  Buy bags to put in a trash can?  That's crazy talk.   Well, if it comes to that, I'm sure they'll sell them at Osher Ad.