Aluminum Foil and Aliyah
Before making aliyah people often go on huge buying sprees, purchasing goods that are much cheaper in America than they are in Israel. These purchases range from large-ticket items like washers and dryers (especially since new immigrants are released from import taxes), to basic household supplies like paper napkins and tissues. Some people seem to view it as a goal to go through a significant portion of their new immigrant life without buying a single household item. An acquaintance of ours was incredibly bummed out when she realized to her horror that, only three months into her aliyah, she had run out of bottle-liners for her baby’s bottles and had to go out and purchase some here. While normally it would not make economic sense for an individual to ship a roll of toilet paper to Israel, when you make aliyah you purchase the space of a large shipping container, and you are charged by volume and not by weight. Thus new olim rise to the challenge of stuffing every nook and cranny of their container with goods. Unfortunately, we only realized the difference between being charged by volume and by weight on the day that the movers came. Since every single item of furniture in an overseas move is wrapped up, you are often left with a lot of dead space--in bookcases, for example. When the movers said, “hey aren’t you going to use this space," we ran like mad to our neatly packed boxes of clothes and stuffed what we could, although we were too late for a bookcase or two. If we ever make aliyah again we’ll know what to do.
It therefore happened that in June 1997 I bought a very large supply of aluminum foil--enough as it turned out to last for our first 3 years here. It’s hard to say exactly what I saved on aluminum foil. I know that today a 200 sq. ft. roll of aluminum foil is about $6 in the States and about $12 here. Was it worth it? On the one hand, the price of aluminum foil hardly affects my life-style or the chances of my aliyah’s success. On the other hand, the aluminum foil and the other American goods that I shipped here represented a flavor of home--which is especially important at the start of one’s new life in a foreign country. Americans are one of the few groups in Israel who have come solely because of the pull rather than the push factor: that is, solely because they felt called to live in Israel and not because they were fleeing persecution and/or impoverishment in their home country. In many ways, the life we led in America was fruitful, stimulating, and satisfying, and those familiar American name-brands remind us of all the good that is America.
The shopping list that I send my parents and in-laws in anticipation of their visits has gotten shorter and shorter over the years. Today, in most cases, I obtain American products at local stores: Heinz ketchup, French’s mustard, Pringles potato chips, Special K cereal, and Crest toothpaste are examples of American imports available in Israel. Of course, there are certain very specific items that Israel does not import: Chex cereal, Pepto Bismol, A & W root beer, Trident gum, Chlorox bleach and solid white tuna (of any brand). When I receive a care package of these items (though I haven’t been able to persuade anyone to shlep bleach to me here), it’s more about a taste from my previous life and home than it is about saving money.
I am happy to say that for seven years now (ever since our “aliyah” stash ran out), we have been able to afford the purchase of Israeli aluminum foil. Still, if you want to bring me some sturdy Reynolds Wrap as a house gift, go right ahead.
Copyright 2007, Teddy Weinberger