Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Job

So I've started my new job, and so far, so great!  It's very startupish; I'm only the seventh employee, and they only got an actual physical office a couple of months ago.  There's plenty of potential for advancement, and a lot of risk as well.  If they're still here in three months, I might get to be a Project Engineer (my boss' job at my old company) as opposed to a Staff Engineer (what I am now.)  If not, I'm on the street, and it could go either way.  But it's an interesting project and I think it's going well.  The other advantage is that I'm interacting with some of the other companies we've partnered with here, so if I lose this job, I would still have an inside leads at other companies.  Unfortunately none of them are in Jerusalem, but we'll worry about that if it becomes an issue.
The other cool thing is I can show up whenever I want (9:30 AM for me) as long as I work a full day, I'm working in Har Hotzvim (a high-tech park in Jerusalem that's really happening,) there's a minyan every hour on the hour across the street, and there are endless places to get kosher lunch.  So it's an interesting project, minyans, kosher lunch, nice people, and I'm getting a paycheck in the middle of a recession.  Sure beats sitting around the house wondering what to do with myself!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shabbat Shetach

This shabbat was my first Shabbat Shetach. The first Sabbat Shetach was organized by local singles for college students all over Israel to have a little get together in nature, a relief after a month of being with families and sitting in shul over the holidays, and before returning to student life. Since the first Shabbat Shetach, some have graduated and begun the rest of their lives, and the group making the semi-annual pilgrimage to nature has grown. I heard about it via an email which led me to a Facebook site. At first, I was hesitant, since it was an Israeli crowd, but it has been my goal to break out of the Anglo bubble, so I took the opportunity, and had a great time.

The Shetach is an area in Gush Etzion, in the settlements south of Jerusalem. In the forrests surrounding the settlement of Alon Shvut, a family of pioneers built a home and inn, really more of an enormous open-air cabin, and constructed a small zoo with all sorts of horses, donkeys, emu, and more.

Horses walking around

The people arrive

The open-air cabin where we stayed.

Sunset through the trees

Sunset through glassIlana, who made it all happen

Ilana and Gadi, the organizers, collecting payment

Ilana (Center) and the gals

After Shabbat, packing up and moving out. Back to real life.

Jennifer and Sharon

Doron and Me

A night-time shot of Beitar, the Hareidi (Ultra-orthodox) settlement city in Gush Etzion

A closer-up of Beitar

So, I was a bit worried about going, being a non-native Hebrew speaker, but I seemed to do well, had a great time, and met many new friends. Hopefully, we'll all keep in touch, and this will be the first of many for me!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Big Day

Well, good news: I got a job!  I'll be working for a small start-up company which designs large-scale solar-thermal electricity generating stations.  The salary is a bit low, but with the world economy in a nose-dive, my own startup in on hold, and everyone trying to grab and hold what they can until things clear up, I figured it was a good idea for me to do the same.  I could have made more a year ago, but today isn't a year ago, today is now.  They promised me three or four months worth of work, and then more if the company were to continue growing, which is the plan.  The fact that there are only six other employees, and plans to fund raise and expand in six months, would also put me in good position for promotion in the future.  So there's a bit of risk in taking the job versus taking a more steady job, but the potential for reward is also great.  And anything is better than sitting in my apartment reading other people's blogs.
The offer came suddenly last Friday, and I start Monday, so all the tasks I've been putting off for the last few months; renewing my car registration, paying my back electric bill, taking care of my traffic ticket; suddenly had to be accomplished in one day.  I made it through security at the Israeli DMV at 10:15 AM.  I pulled a number as I strolled into a room stuffed with Jews, Arabs, Bedouin, foreigners, basically the whole world.  It would be a perfect poster for the peace process except everyone looked ready to kill their fellow customers to shorten the wait. I read my number: 501.  I looked at the LED display, "Now Serving: 238."  Oh no.  I have to sign the contract for my new job at 11 AM.  No way I'm going to be through this mess by then.  I walked up to one of the friendlier-looking patrons and asked him his number.
"And what number were they on when you got here?"
"And what time was that?"
"Quarter past nine.  An hour ago."
Okay, let's do some math here.  240-110 = 130.  And he got here an hour ago, so they must be going through 130 customers an hour.  501-238=263.  263 is about twice 130, which means I've got two hours until they get to my number.  I strolled out the door and did some shopping, drove to my new workplace, signed my contract, met my new co-workers, and headed back out to the  DMV.  I walked through the door at 12:10.  As I walked through the door, I glanced at my number, 501, and looked up at the LED Display.  "Now Serving: 499."  Oh, yes!  Thank you GOD!  Blessed be he who created a world governed by mathematics!
Strolled right up to the front counter and took care of my business.  As I walked out I glanced at the numbers being dispensed by the machine for the customers who were just walking in.  989.  Oh, those poor, non-mathematical creatures.  Feels great to be an engineer again.
I got home flush with victory, but the place was eerily silent and dark.  Not even the compressor on my refrigerator made no sound.  I tried a light switch: no juice.  It appears to be a power outage.  Took my daily hour-long jog, figuring the problem would be fixed by the time I got back.  Winding down my jog, as I approached the building, I looked through other peoples' windows and saw that their lights were lit.  Great, problem solved!  But when I came into my place, nothing.  Nadda.
I tried flipping the main circuit breaker in the hallway repeatedly.  Nothing.  I knocked on my neighbor's door and, when she opened, I saw that her lights were on.
"Anything strange about the power today?"
"Yes, it kept going off and on a minute or so ago."
Oops.  Apparently I had been flipping the wrong breaker.
Called the electric company and learned that my power had been disconnected due to my, um, tardiness in payment.
To make a long story short, once the power is off, you can't turn on your computer to pay the bill, so you have to go to a neighbor's house.  If you try to use your laptop from your neighbor's house, you realize that once your power has been disconnected you are considered a deadbeat and can no longer pay by Internet at all.  And if the whole reason you didn't pay was because you never got the paper bill due to unreliable mail service, then you have to go to the heart of the beast, the electric company building on the other side of the city, in order to print up a new bill and pay it in person to get your power turned back on, which "only takes twenty minutes."  Then you get home, the lights are still off, and you call the electric company, they will kindly inform you that it should be back on "Around ten tonight."
So now I'm sitting here at my friendly neighbor's house, well-fed, writing this post.  Of course, they realized that an adult is now in the house, and took the opportunity to take a night out, so now I've been drafted into babysitting while I blog.  What a day.  New job starts tomorrow. Gotta get ready here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Old City in the Morning

I recently had a chance to walk through the Old City of Jerusalem at sunrise. Just posting a few shots here.

Looking south toward Abu Tor and Armon Hanatziv

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Volunteering at Pnei Kedem

In my previous post on the Pnei Kedem kite festival, I mentioned that I had volunteered there last summer. It occurred to me that I never actually posted the photos on the blog, so it's time to remedy that mistake.

An areal photo of Pnei Kedem
Map indicating Pnei Kedem's location, somewhere between Jerusalem and Hebron, a bit to the east.

We all met at the bus station pretty early. The bus ride from Jerusalem to Pnei Kedem can take an hour. Unlike Efrat or Tekoa, Pnei Kedem doesn't have it's own express road into Jerusalem just yet. Maybe some day, once the place gets a bit larger.

Mail collection

One thing is for sure, if you like quiet, you'll love Pnei Kedem

Anyway, we set to work.
Guys in "Lawrence of Arabia" head T-shirts, looking busy.

Some of the outpost's smaller residents return home from school.

Looking east, toward the Dead Sea

You can't see it here, but the wind was so strong, it was pretty much impossible to paint while standing on a ladder. I would get halfway up and be blown clear. Locals report that sometimes the winds are so powerful they can tear the roof right off of a trailer.

Yours truly, painting the big green stripe over fiberglass on the molding of the shul.

The girls painted the playground.

And some of the soldiers on guard came through to do some pullups.

The sun slowly set as Shabbat descended over Pnei Kedem

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pnei Kedem Kite Festival

Yesterday, the last full day of Chol Hamoed Sukkot (the intermediary days of the Sukkot festival,) I had a chance to visit Pnei Kedem, where I volunteered a year or so ago painting the shul. It's a tiny "West Bank" hilltop settlement with twenty six families out in the Judean Desert. It's a great place to visit, but a bit forlorn. Except, once a year, they hold the Afifionada, the kite festival, and suddenly the place swells with thousands of people.

Pnei Kedem from a distance, kites hovering above
Pnei Kedem Closer up.
Kite flying atop the hill
Kids having fun
Live music
A massive fish-shaped kite

Kite gazing
More kite flyers
Sunset over Metzad, the nearby "mother-settlement" of which Pnei Kedem is technically a suburb.
A soldier tries to get his kite airborne.
The last kite flying in the sunset

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Hike Through the Hills

Earlier in the summer, I took a hike through the hills West of Jerusalem and took a few photos. The Jerusalem forest stretches from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem, and is dotted with small settlements, established in the 1950s, as well as small streams and springs.

Swimming in a small spring.

We passed a small scorpion scurrying across the road.

In the foregound to the right is the Hadassah Hospital of Ein Kerem. In the distance is the town of Mevasseret Tzion.
All of the small villages in the area; Bar Giora, Kastel, and the like, were originally agricultural. Eventually, as Jerusalem was built out, the settlements became modest villages, and housing prices soared ever upward. Still, the villages are dotted with chicken coops and small agricultural projects, from the old days.

Foreground: Jerusalem forest. Midground: Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. Background: Har Nof, Jerusalem's eastern outskirts.