}

Living Poor in Jerusalem 101

you're po kenny! you're po!I’m loving this newspaper pickup strike. I’m house sitting a place in one of Jerusalem’s nicer neighborhoods, Rehavia, where they actually have newspaper recycling bins, a far cry from the one huge purple dumpster for all trash, from all people in my last neighborhood of Nachlaot (still the coolest, funkiest neighborhood in J-town). So like I was saying, it appears the latest strike on the Israeli record is the newspaper recycling collection guys, because the bin has been overflowing all week, but in the mean time, I’m all up to date on yesterdays news.

A newspaper just isn’t a cost I can justify. That 8 shekels can buy me a whole bag full of tomatoes and cucumbers at the shuk instead. That’s Israeli salad for a week! See, I came to Israel with a whole lotta Zionism, but very little money, and my situation hasn’t changed much since. I bring in a ridiculously low, and rarely guaranteed monthly income. Having a couple of hundred dollars to my name means I’m feeling pretty flush.

But I’ve been able to find the cheap ways to live here, and save my money for things that are really worth it…like rent.

Case in point-there is a place in the shuk where you can buy American brand cereal for 10 shekel (compared to approx. 30 shekel in the supermarket). So what if it’s cheap because it’s slightly expired? Once you pour the milk in, you cant tell the difference anyway.

A friend once cut off the bottom of her wrap skirt. Score one cool, funky head wrap for me.

Who needs saran wrap? Just fold a plastic grocery bag over it. Instant ghetto-wrap. Plasic bags with rubber bands also make for good rain shoes by the way.

Walking everywhere saves you not only a gym membership, but also the 5.40 bus fare.
Luckily, most of my friends are in a similar boat. When we rent a movie, a few of us go in on it together and then all crowd around the pathetically small screen of someone’s laptop, pushing together so that we can all see without the glare.

People continue to wear clothes with small holes or stains to the point that you could almost call it a fashion.

Being poor forces you to get creative. My last Purim costume was this beautiful red and gold Indian Sari that I made by just learning how to fold and safety pin my bedroom curtains in the right way (total Purim costume, 5 shekels on bindi for forehead, somehow still looking good the first time you see your ex since the break-up: Priceless)

There’s a real beauty in a culture without much money to spare. It teaches you to use and re use as much as possible, and its immeasurably freeing to not be the relentless consumer my American upbringing tried to encourage.

And while every once in a while I think back wistfully at making $8 an hour (plus tips) to essentially goof around at a local coffee shop back in America, that golden land of opportunity, at the end of the day, I am so grateful to be part of this most romantic of national stories that I would rather be doing anything, as long as it’s here. I’ll take being poor in Jerusalem any day.

11 Comments

  1. Ex

    8/16/2004 at 2:14 pm

    Getting- totally- sloshed- on- Purim- and- still- somehow- looking- good- the- first- time- you- see- you- ex- since- the- break- up is only slightly more expensive than it’s non-alcoholic alternative, but many rate it as being incalculably more valuable.
    But there’s always next year! ; )
    (I couldn’t resist)
    With love,
    X

  2. ck

    8/16/2004 at 3:04 pm

    Luckily, laya would look good wearing a potato sack. Who needs money! Now there’s an idea for next year’s Purim costume! (of course it would have to be a potato sack that covers the knees and has sleeves, but whatever, you get the point…)

  3. laya

    8/18/2004 at 12:42 pm

    Knowing that your ex fancies himself to be attractive while sloshed…Puzzling. Maybe priceless too, but i’m still deciding.

    (PS Thanks CK 😉

  4. Stenis le Menace

    8/18/2004 at 10:40 pm

    C’mon, everyone knows that they are at their most attractive while drunk. Amazingly enough, while we are drunk, eveyrone else is at their most attractive as well. Why else would we all drink so much? It ain’t for the hangovers…

  5. Esther

    8/19/2004 at 4:43 pm

    I loved the photo of “Kotel Kenny.” Genius!

  6. Ex

    8/19/2004 at 5:09 pm

    Oh give me a break. The leopard skin was hot and you know it! .
    Guess we’ll have to fight it out next year….
    But this time bring a bottle!
    Good shabbos!

  7. eevee

    8/20/2004 at 4:04 am

    You’re kind of spooky. Are you actually stalking your ex on a blog? That’s kind of creepy don’t you think? And the leopard skin reference? I hope you’re not talking about a tarzan costume.

  8. Laya

    8/20/2004 at 8:28 am

    Dude, why the sense of competition?
    and for the record, i much preferred the privious years purple fuzzy costume. But still, kudos on the effort.

  9. funny

    11/23/2004 at 9:06 pm

    As ye sow, so shall ye reap. Not so poor now are you?

  10. hoho

    12/14/2004 at 9:43 am

    you deleted my last comment. the idea of compromising your values, does it strike too close to home?

  11. gilie

    4/6/2010 at 12:13 pm

    How excellent to house sit, how did you get into it I am olah hadashah from australia and would love to do this as rents are high here, any suggestions how to find a house sit????

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