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entries tagged with: Aliyah Diary


Guy the lighting guy

Abigail Klein LeichmanWorld
Published: 21 May 2010

Dude walks into our house and looks up. Notes the bare compact fluorescents hanging in random spots throughout the living and dining areas. Stops at the ceiling fan over the dining table. Shakes his head grimly.

“That,” proclaims Guy the lighting guy, “is not a light.”

Aliyah Diary

Steve and I stare at him, not sure how to respond. We paid good money to have that one bulb replaced with a ceiling fan installed by Uri the ceiling fan guy.

“Yes, it is,” I protest feebly.

Guy shakes his head again. “Sorry. It is not. It is darkness.”

Steve throws me a tight-jawed look as Guy continues his visual survey. The lighting consultant is not pleased. Because our apartment sits on the bottom two levels of a four-story unit built into a mountain, we have natural light on only one side.

“You will need a lot of wattage,” he says. “A lot.”

I was told that Guy arrives at clients with a laptop loaded with images of fixtures he will recommend and procure. Today, he explains, he is under pressure because he must report for reserve duty this week and has left his computer home. He will call when he’s back from the army in a couple of weeks.

“I’m not sure I can work with him,” Steve says later.

“Oh, he’s just an artiste, like Shmulik the garden guy,” I reassure him.

Shmulik is fiercely proprietary about the spectacular garden he designed for us. He had reacted to our suggested changes as if we had insulted his mother. So we abided by Shmulik’s plan, with no regrets. Whenever he comes to tend his creation, he launches into a lengthy Hebrew diatribe against the neighbors who opted for Astroturf.

We heard about Guy from a neighbor who hailed him as the best lighting consultant around. He was also recommended by Uri the ceiling fan guy.

So Steve and I decide to swallow our reservations. After 20 months in our house, replacing the bare bulbs has reached the top of our to-do list.

Following reserve duty, a death in his family, and several gentle reminders, Guy finally returns, with laptop. We ask our daughter to sit in on the planning, as much to lend moral support as to add her creative two cents.

Guy begins by suggesting that we move our dining table and china cabinet, but he backs off when we demur. In rapid succession, he clicks images on his computer illustrating the perfect fixtures for each light point in our apartment. Rarely does he offer a second option. The three of us nod in agreement, immobilized by his boundless confidence in his own decisions.

Guy’s cell phone rings incessantly, interrupting his presentation. During one such interlude, Elana leans over to me and whispers, “You know, he really doesn’t need any of us here,” and takes her novel back out to the garden swing.

We assert our preference in one area only: the kitchen. Guy wants to install something very expensive and very high-wattage. Fairly sure that we will never be required to do surgery on the kitchen table, we instead suggest a utilitarian fluorescent model. Guy gives in reluctantly.

The downstairs accounted for, we take Guy upstairs and show him the bathroom light that Steve has jerry-rigged over the medicine cabinet. Guy does not try to stifle the giggle that unfurls from his throat. When his guffaws finally abate, he explains how he will turn this aesthetic nightmare into a visually appealing and useful fixture.

As an afterthought, we ask Guy to advise us on upgrading the fixture that came with the downstairs bathroom. “Why would you change it?” he asks rhetorically, with a touch of snark. “It’s not like you spent a lot to decorate this room. You’ve got a 20-shekel mirror underneath a 20-shekel fixture. They belong together.”

This being the Middle East, no transaction is complete without the bargaining stage. Steve is ordinarily good at this. But Guy isn’t budging. “You know that my prices are excellent,” he says. “No, I don’t,” Steve replies, “because we haven’t shopped around.” Guy crosses his arms across his chest. He smiles. “So shop.”

We sign the contract without another word as he calls Ibrahim the electrician to book an installation date.

After he leaves, we look at each other and confess simultaneously that we are, despite being thoroughly intimidated, pleased as punch. Guy the lighting guy has made excellent choices within our budget and in keeping with our taste. He has saved us numerous trips to numerous lighting stores, but most of all he has saved us from the perils of our own poor judgment.


Aliyah diary: Anywhere in Israel

Yeshiva University offers a terrific service called Anywhere in Israel. Kids here for a year of study at any school can sign up online and request Shabbat hospitality in the community of their choice. As one of the many families registered as hosts, we receive an e-mail when someone has requested a Shabbat in Ma’aleh Adumim, and we have the option of responding with an invitation.

Anywhere in Israel has been a godsend for young students looking for home-cooked meals and new places to explore for just the price of bus fare. They can specify their priorities (English- or Hebrew-speaking, lots of children, vegetarian cuisine, peace and quiet, great food, or “just a cool place”).

With two spare bedrooms and a nearly empty nest, we wanted to emulate the welcoming hospitality that so many relatives and friends had extended to our sons when they were here on their own. It’s really been a pleasure for us.

We’ve met dozens of young men and women from across North America and beyond. Over the course of sharing meals together, we’ve learned a bit about their lives and ambitions, coming away impressed and hopeful about the future of our people.

About a year ago, we started keeping a guestbook. Looking through it, I see that we have hosted students hailing from Detroit, Chicago, Monsey, Nashville, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, Silver Spring, Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston, Riverdale, Great Neck, London, Toronto, and of course the Five Towns and North Jersey.

The project provides participants with a human touch in the person of Rachel Nadel, a sweet and perky mom from Kochav HaShachar. Rachel monitors every request and response and steps in to make arrangements when necessary — for example, when a family has room at its table but not in its bedrooms, or when a request fails to get a response. Rachel gets on the phone to secure appropriate accommodations in a broad range of cities, and follows up afterward with kids and hosts to make sure all went well.

Recently, we readily agreed to Rachel’s request to “sleep” two friends, students at different Jerusalem seminaries, who had their meals lined up. On Friday night, we always ask our guests if they want to be awakened for services in the morning. Many prefer to sleep in. But these young women wanted to accompany me to shul at 8.

I put some thought into which neighborhood synagogue to take them to. On Friday night I had brought them to the “Happy Minyan,” a Carlebach-style shul where their dinner host had arranged to meet them. Because it is located toward the crest of the central hill of our neighborhood, the short walk there gives me a perfect opportunity to show off the breathtaking eastward vista (at sunset, no less) looking over the Judean Desert toward the Jordan Valley. I explain that this was the general area our ancestors first set eyes on as their 40-year desert trek to the Promised Land came to a close.

One of the girls confided that this very view was the reason she had invited her friend to come with her to Ma’aleh Adumim through Anywhere in Israel. She had seen it from the highway during a road trip the week before and wanted to explore it from within. Wanting to show them the view in the opposite direction as well, I therefore chose a synagogue the next morning whose windows overlook Jerusalem to the southwest.

“I want to live in Israel someday, and now I’ve found the right spot,” our guest told us in all seriousness before leaving on Saturday night.

She has already met with Nefesh B’Nefesh to help her plan the most practical approach to making aliyah. We were delighted to learn that spending Shabbat in our community had sharpened her focus on this admirable goal.

Most of our Anywhere in Israel guests see their time here as a meaningful and adventurous gap year between educational pursuits back home. For them, we hope to be a tiny part of a year’s experience they will remember fondly. For those students who are already laying the groundwork for their aliyah, we hope to provide encouragement that their dream can, with God’s help, successfully be fulfilled — because we, too, have found the right spot.

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