Thursday, December 22, 2011

Keeping the Customer Satisfied...

In a city like Modi'in, which has thousands of English speaking residents, one would expect the local businesses to be aware of their customer base. Now, I know that the term "customer service" in Israel does not mean the same thing it does in the US. I have lived in Israel over three years and I get that. But, in today's economy and with more and more competition popping up in the market place, it seems that even larger companies should perhaps know their markets.
Today, I had an unbelievable experience with Israel's largest chain of movie theaters, Rav Chen. I have been a life long Muppets fan and I have been waiting for Chanukah vacation to take the family to see the new Muppets movie. In Israel, many of the popular kids movies are dubbed into Hebrew so that "everyone" can enjoy the content. So, when selecting show times it is always important to check in which language the movie will be presented.
Yesterday, I went online and checked the Muppets schedule and found that there would be screenings at 11AM and 1PM. The language listed for both was English. Just to be sure, I also called the theater and was told that yes, there would be English showings.
So, with that we took the kids to the mall, stood in line and got to the ticket counter, only to be told that there were no English showings until 7:30PM. Shocked, I responded that there must be some mistake, as I had called less than an hour before. The guy shrugged his shoulders, laughed and told me to either buy a ticket or get out of line. At that point I insisted on speaking to the manager, who they initially refused to call. It was not until I refused to budge out of the line that someone took me into the theater and into the manager's office.
I asked the manager why, on a week where all of the students are on vacation, they would have no English movies. He first tried to tell me that the Muppets was an old movie, therefore they did not need English showings. So, of course I then asked him what was the newest kids movie, and if there were English screenings of that film. Not surprisingly, he said no, and then tried to blame his boss at Rav Chen.
When I asked him how they could ignore the large English speaking customer base in the city, he basically responded by saying, "we don't need you."
I left the theater quite surprised and upset as at the end of the day, I had to go back and explain to the kids that there would be no movie.
It appears that there are two explanations for why Rav Chen would not add more English movie screenings. Either they are ignorant and have not done proper market research, or they don't care, as seemed to be the case with this manager. Either way, it does not seem acceptable.
I get the way Israel works. I understand that in terms of global population, English speakers are in the minority. I am not suggesting that businesses go out of their way to accommodate English speakers. If this movie was originally filmed in Hebrew I would never expect the theater to dub an English version. But, here was something so simple. They could have added one English showing of the movie, which would have most likely sold out anyway.
I would like to call on as many people as possible to send Rav Chen a message that the English speaking customers are indeed important. Ravit is in charge of scheduling for the chain. Her number is 09-952-6223. I urge as many of you as possible to call and complain that there are not enough English showings of the kids movies. Let Rav Chen know that in a city like Modi'in we are important, and that our business does count.
I will be bringing my movie business to the other chains, until I see a change in policy. I urge all of you to do the same.
Personally, I don't know who would want to see the Muppets dubbed in Hebrew. Part of the entertainment are the voices. Having some Israeli guy as Kermit the Frog wouldn't do it for me in any case.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Busy Vacation

For the past 10 days, I have been on my first "vacation" from work in over a year. Between getting ready for Sukkot, traveling around the country, and being witness to important world events, the last week has not exactly been restful. But, as the week winds down and we are about to start the last of this group of holidays, I can definitely say that not all vacations need to be restful. This break from the normal routine was a welcome opportunity to spend time remembering why we live in Israel. Here are a few highlights...

The weather cooperated this year and the first day of Sukkot was pleasant. After some enjoyable meals both in our Sukkah and with friends, it was time to begin our week long trek exploring the country.

On Sunday, we traveled North to Yemin Orde, which is an orphanage and youth village for children both without parents and who are new Olim and have no local support systems. My niece Chaviva, raised money for the center for her Bat Mitzvah project and we wanted to see the cause first hand. In addition to its regular needs, Yemin Orde was in need of help as it sustained heavy damages in last year's Carmel Fire. As we toured the campus, we saw the fire's path first hand. Campus buildings including homes and offices were literally burned to the grown. As we learned more about the center's mission and the work that they do to help the less fortunate children, we realized how lucky we all were. All members of our group, both children and adults learned first hand about the effects of the Carmel fire and its short term and long term effects.
On Monday, we traveled to Cholon. The younger kids, together with Aunt Naomi visited the Israeli Children's Museum while the older group went to the blind museum. In this museum, participants learn what it is like to live life unable to see. This was not the typical museum experience.
Tuesday, was a big day here in Israel, as Gilad Schalit was finally freed after over 5 years in captivity. There are many opinions about the deal which secured Schalit's freedom. Many feel that the price was too high. Even with the many opinions, everyone was happy to see Gilad Schalit step back on Israeli soil.
Our group traveled to Jerusalem where we spent the day giving back to the less fortunate and learning about our history in a unique way.
Last Sukkot we all helped back boxes of food for the needy at the Yad Eliezer warehouse. We decided to make this a tradition and we all returned to lend a hand. All of us from old to young spent an hour packing food that will be distributed to families all over Israel. Some of the younger members of our group were surprised that families were so poor that they could not even buy noodles and bread. After helping to pack and seal many boxes, we traveled to the Old City for the second part of our day.
We participated in a scavenger hunt that taught us about some lesser known landmarks in the Old City. After splitting into teams, (adults vs teens/kids) we set out to visit all of the destinations on our list. We sure did a lot of walking about I am happy to report that the adults won! We ended the day with a visit to the Kotel.
Today, I stayed home to do some cooking, while Debbie led a group to the Solar Gardens. This is an interactive hands on museum that teaches about how to live in an environmentally responsible world. The kids made their own paper and even made their own popcorn without the use of any fuel.
Now, as we head into Simchat Torah, the week of "vacation" is coming to an end. While it has not been restful, it has definitely been eventful and of course enjoyable.

To see more photos of our trips click here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thank God for Chayalei Tzahal

This past Shabbat we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to spend Shabbat with my cousins in Har Bracha, a Yishuv located a few kilometers from Nablus. We were a little nervous on the drive there, but thank goodness we arrived safely and had a great Shabbat. Mazel Tov to Yaffa and Netanel and thank you for providing us a reason to all spend Shabbat together. It was especially nice being able to spend time with my Aunt Edith and Uncle Walter, as well as with our cousins Benjy and Helen.
After a nice and relaxing Shabbat, we started our drive back to Modi'in. The first part of the drive after exiting Har Bracha is the most nerve wracking as we needed to spend about 10 minutes driving straight through a large Arab city that is not know for being too friendly. After a very serious Tfilat Haderech we set out on the drive home.
We made it through they city of Harura, without incident and we thought our difficulties were behind us. As we approached a major checkpoint called Tzomet Tapuach we suddenly ran in to a large block that had been placed in the road. This block was completely black which made it impossible to see at night. The car jumped but luckily we were all ok. I immediately drove the car over to the shoulder and cautiously exited the vehicle to see what had happened. Right away I noticed that my front tire had been completely flattened. I knew there was no chance of fixing it and that I would have to change it with the spare.
Now, I do know how to change a flat tire, but we had a small problem. The spare for our van was stored underneath the car and we did not know how to get to the tire. All of the instructions we had did not match the car. Since we were right at the army checkpoint, my cousin Racheli who had the misfortune of taking a ride with us, suggested that we ask the soldiers to help. At first I did not want to ask them, as I knew they had better things to do, but after a few more frustrating moments, I asked her to go over and ask for help. A few minutes later, she returned with 5 soldiers who were only too happy to lend a hand.
I did not feel quite as stupid, as they too had difficulties finding out how to release the tire. Finally however they figured it out and began to jack up the car. Here is also when I discovered how much I needed the soldiers. It took 4 of them to turn the wrench to loosen the bolt on the damaged tire. There was no way I could have gotten that off by myself.
After a long process and a lot of team work, the soldiers switched the damaged tire with the spare and we were ready to go. These guys could have just dismissed this as our problem, but they were more than ready to help. We also had the good fortune that one of the soldiers, just happened to be in charge of a motor pool on his army base. He made changing the tire look easy.
Now, keep in mind that while all this was going on, we were also joined on the side of the road my my cousin Tammy's family. Her nephew had graciously offered to come and help us but he too had a flat tire. Then Tammy's sister and family came as we had also been traveling with their daughter. At the end of the ordeal, we were very thankful for all of the help we received. I remarked to Debbie on the way home that I am not convinced that a US soldier standing at a checkpoint would have dropped everything the way these guys did. This shows that we can depend on our soldiers not just during times of war, but in our everyday lives as well.
While this incident was unpleasant to say the least, we do consider ourselves very lucky, as if this had happened 1 minute earlier, I honestly don't know what we would have done.
And, while I don't like to see anyone else suffer from the same misfortunes, it did help a little that 2 other motorists also blew tires in the same place. According to the soldiers, this has been happening all the time.
Eventually, we made it back to Modi'in, happy to be home. The trip took us 3 hours, so we didn't get home until very late, but it was good to be there.
Today, we brought the car to be fixed and thank goodness for insurance! At the end of the process, we are very lucky that this was no more than an inconvenience.
Thank you to all of the people who helped us through this episode.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Learning About Israel Through Experience

Last night, I was watching TV with my six year old son. He had on the Hop channel which is a popular kids channel here in Israel. Most of their programs contain some type of educational message. Whether it be reading comprehension, math skills, or just social skills, we know that what my son watches on Hop will at least be age level appropriate. Yesterday after watching together with my son, I received a new found appreciation for non-traditional education methods.

After his usual program was over, a special show started. This show, featured a puppet lamb and his grandmother. The grandmother showed the lamb a photo of her son Gadi. The lamb puppet, who was meant to be a little child asked why Gadi was only in the photo, and why he had never been to their house. The grandmother explained that Gadi was killed during the Six Day War. The lamb puppet did not know what the term “killed” actually meant. He asked, “so he’ll be coming later?” Grandmother explained that no, Gadi will not be coming home. She then began to describe the day of Yom Hazikaron and why it was so meaningful. It was so interesting to see the response of the little child and how he comprehended this difficult day. The program proceeded to show the drive that the grandmother and her grandson took to Har Hamenuchot. On the way, they discussed the miracle of the State of Israel, and how people like Gadi enabled us to be where we are today.

As we were watching, my son turned to me and asked, “Why does Israel have so many wars?” I talked with him further about how special it is to live in Israel and how God is always helping us to stay strong. It occurred to me, that this 15 minute TV program explained Yom Hazikaron far better than I could have ever hoped. My son was able to become part of the experience and left with a better appreciation of what it really means to live in Medinat Yisroel.

Education comes in all different forms. When I was working in the United States, I would always tell teachers that lessons could come from anywhere. With the Internet as a major educational tool, this is truer than ever. Teachers can use virtual technology to actually bring students into an experience. As a student, I can recall all of the countless classes on Zionism, Yom Hazikaron, and Yom Ha’atzmaut. While they may have conveyed information, none of those lessons actually conveyed the experience. This experience based learning however makes education happen. After 12 years as a Jewish day school student, I did not gain a true appreciation for Medinat Yisroel until I was here in Israel for Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atmaut. I can still recall the ceremony we attended in Jerusalem. They read out loud the names of all of the soldiers who had been killed that year. Then, the next day sadness turned to joy as we ran up and down Ben Yehuda celebrating the miracle of the State of Israel.

As we commemorate Yom Hazikaron and prepare to celebrate the miracle of Yom Ha’atzmaut, we must remember that it is not a book or lecture that makes these days meaningful. It is the experience that makes it important. As a six year old, my son learned about a concept that would have been very difficult to explain otherwise. I asked him if his teacher talked about it, and while he said she did, I know that in his mind, the importance of the day did not register strongly. Seeing it happen however, in those 15 minutes gave my son the experience. As we all commemorate those who have fallen for the State of Israel and celebrate the last 63 years, we should remember that it is the experiences that can truly impact our lives.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


So, it is not often that I get to take a true vacation day. Do not misunderstand, as I really like my job. I started 7 months ago and it has been a roller coaster adventure ever since. But, at some point everyone needs at least 1 day off every once in a while. About 2 weeks ago, I sent an email to my staff to tell everyone that I would be taking 3 days off from work. I figured if I could plan far enough in advance, nothing would get in the way.
Well, by the end of that week it became clear that vacation was not in the cards. I had three meetings scheduled for those "vacation" days that I just could not miss. They all turned out to be great meetings for the company, but it meant that vacation would have to be put on hold. I decided however at the last minute, that the chances of getting 3 days free in a row were limited at best. So, with one day this week with no in person meetings, I decided to take a one day vacation and make the best of it.
First, I knew I had to prepare. I proceeded to download some vacation entertainment. Some original series Star Trek, a few episodes of Family Matters (I love Urkel, what can I say?), and of course to make it a true couch potato day I needed some vintage Charles In Charge. I was all set. Nothing was going to stop me from filling my gut with salty snacks and hopefully falling asleep in my own drool.
Debbie had a great idea to go out for breakfast to start the day off right. I agreed, as even though it was a dairy meal, I do like going out for breakfast with Debbie. After a nice breakfast at the mall, we were already to return home, when Debbie's doctor called and informed her that her strep test had come back positive. So, off we were to the doctor's office for a prescription and then to the pharmacy. I was about an hour behind schedule on my binge eating, but hey these things happen.
When we got back home, I made the mistake of checking my email before turning on the TV. Of course I had 10 new emails waiting for me, some of which actually looked important. So, I decided I would take a few minutes and deal with them quickly. A few minutes turned into a half hour, but there was still time. I picked up the remote, turned on the TV and then... the phone rang. Now, I should have known better then to answer it so it's really my own fault, but the result of my decision was another 25 minute phone conversation. The good news is it produced a great business lead. The bad news, well this was supposed to be a vacation day.
OK, no problem. It was 11AM but I still had time. I decided to begin with some old episodes of Family Guy. I got in about 1 episode when Debbie decided to join me for some quality TV watching. So, we changed the show to the newest episode of Glee. Usually, I don't mind a completely absurd show about crazy high school students who have ok voices, but it just wasn't the same as watching Peter's fart jokes on Family Guy.
After Glee, I got some more time before I had to go pick up Avi and another child from school. When I came back, I again checked my email and right then I realized that a real vacation day was just not gonna happen.
I plowed through some emails and realized that I needed to pick up some things for a program we are doing on Thursday. I got through about half of a Star Trek episode and ran out to do some errands. When I cam back I finished the episode and started Charles In Charge. Yes, I know what you're thinking, but hey it was my day off. At 4PM however I had a conference call for work that I had to do so once again, the show got paused. Well, the 4PM call got postponed to 7PM, but Debbie took Avi to basketball which meant I had to take care of Eitan.
After a quick bath and dinner I once again tried to finish the episode I started earlier. I was determined!
Well, in the end I probably did about 4 hours worth of real work which I guess even with the interruptions made it a vacation day after all. Urkel, don't worry. I'm saving you for next time.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Only 15 Minutes Away

Last night we attended the Simchat Bat of our newest family member, Yael Bialik. Yael is Nechama and Gershon's newest daughter. It was great to see all of the family that was there. I even got to practice my Hebrew as most people there spoke both English and Hebrew quite well. We all enjoyed the delicious food and homemade deserts. I must say I was a little worried on the way that we would be feasting on dairy, but Nechama and Gershon did not let me down! I think I ate enough chicken and potatoes to feed a small army.
With all of the festivities, I still found time to embarrass my wife. It really wasn't my fault. I was meeting members of Gershon's family for the first time when I mistakingly confused his sister with his mother. It really was an unintentional flub, and in my defense Jewish dress does some times make it difficult to tell a person's exact age. I think the entire episode was really just a compliment to Gershon's mother, but Debbie did not buy that.
Debbie smoothed the situation over, as she too has been mistaken for other ages on numerous occasions. I remember when we were at a wedding a year or 2 ago, Debbie was asked which seminary she attended. Of course, being mistaken for someone younger is a bit different, but I think this kind of thing can happen to anyone. Maybe we should all wear name tags with our vital information displayed.
Well, despite this little snafu, the party was a lot of fun. One of the best parts about getting together with Tzivi, Atara, and the rest is that they still laugh at my jokes. Most people have tired of my lame sense of humor a long time ago, but they are always good for a laugh. We all agreed that Atara's new baby Etai, has a lot of Goldberg traits. For those of you who don't know, we are all from different branches of the Goldberg family. What was most funny however is that Atara's husband Snir, is as Yeminite as they come. So here we were looking at a Goldberg with a dark skinned complexion. I remarked that if he ever writes an autobiography, he can call it "Oy Gevalt Habbibi."
We noticed on the way, that it was only a 15 minute drive to Rechovot. It always seemed a lot further. Now that we know how to get there, we hope to see the cousins a bit more often. Getting back was a bit of an adventure but that's a different story.
Finally, my cousin does not like me to post pictures of her and her kids on Facebook. I understand the concern, so I am posting a link to another photo sharing online tool. It was funny, because I have not used anything other than Facebook to share photos in a long time. I knew I still had an active user account for as I seem to get a lot of junk mail from them. It took me a few tries but I finally figured out the correct username and password combination. So, here is the non Facebook link to the photos: Photo Sharing by MyPhotoAlbum :: MyPhotoAlbum :: Nechama and Gerson's Simchat Bat
Thanks for a great party.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What's For Dinner Daddy?

So, let's begin by reviewing a typical day from this past week. After getting up at around 6 and taking a quick shower, I then proceed to wake the children, get them dressed, give them breakfast, pack their bags, take them to school, and then drive to Jerusalem for 3 quality hours in the office. At about 11:30, I am back in the car to Modi'in. Instead of going home however, I begin the pickup list for Debbie's after school program or Tzaharon. After driving around in what seems like a circle for about an hour, I return home and try to keep 8 little kids happy. Those of you with little kids know that this can be especially challenging. At 4PM, I put the kids back in the car, and prepare for another seemingly aimless drive around Modi'in as I drop the kids back off at their houses. I need to make sure that I arrive at Eitan's school by 4:3o to collect him and his projects. Back home by 4:45, it is time to get ready for the next day. Lunches need to be made, chores need to be completed, and most importantly dinner needs to be ordered.... I mean cooked. Once the kids have been fed, changed/bathed and put to sleep, I get to go back to my official job, and spend another 3-4 hours doing the work that I did not do in the middle of the day. Then, the next stay, I start again.
No, I am not writing this to complain, as there are many out there who I know would take no pity on me. Rather, I am sharing this to give all the fathers out there an idea of what it really means to be a single parent. Normally, we get to go to work and come home at the end of a long day. We miss what happens when we are not around. This week for me has been an eye opening experience. There are parts of this domesticated living that I have actually enjoyed. I'll be the first to admit that during a normal week, I don't get to spend too much time at home. Last week for example, after coming home from work, I had to go out again for meeting 3 nights in a row. This week, for better or worse I get to stay home.
You may want to know where Debbie has gone. No, she did not run away. She is spending the week in Florida with her family, celebrating our niece's Bat Mitzvah. A week of sleeping late, shopping, and relaxing by the pool.... Sounds like a great week to me! Don't worry Dear, when you come home, we'll make sure you are re acclimated quickly. In all seriousness, Debbie works hard and deserves the vacation. The best part is, that in this role reversal, I have really learned what happens behind the scenes. So on one hand, I have a better appreciation for what Debbie does each day. On the other hand, I will now know when things are exaggerated. This could be a valuable experience indeed.
Most importantly, the kids seem to be doing fine. Avi keeps asking why he didn't get to go. I told him that's between him and Grandpa. Eitan does not seem to understand that America is far away. He always asks if Mommy will pick me up today. When I explain to him that Mommy won't be back for a few more days, he asks if I will pick him up. So of course I tell him yes. He then asks if he can have candy when he gets home. So, of course I tell him yes as well. By that point, everything is fine.
Thanks to the many friends who have offered to help us and who are hosting us for Shabbat. The truth is, we are doing well, and the basic routine of the children has not changed too much. And yes, as you can see, they are happily helping me with the chores.
More next week
Shabbat Shalom