Woo hoo I now have a bank account. Bank Hapoalim is now my happy little money-taker (and yes, they do seem to take more than they store!). For the banks, the only fee that gets waived is a 1.26 shekel charge a month for ...something. I discovered today that banks charge for everything short of staring at their building. It took two hours to fill out all the paperwork for it. My hand got so tired of signing my name --never thought my hebrew signature would get sloppy but yes! My card is coming in the mail next week. I went ahead and converted my dollars into shekels in the account and will leave the amount that I wire in in dollars.
I do not have the apartment. The woman at the bank told me not to agree to doing the insurance thing through the bank because it would cost me 4% interest over the year. Definitely don't want that.
I'm not stressed though. First, because I've now come across two really great apartments which means there are more of them out there, or will be more of them shortly, and so I just need to be patient. Patience is not my strong point but I'm working on it. Secondly, Natan (this guy is really a really nice guy) offered me the apartment in Yaffo until I find a place so that I don't have to pay the high cost of the hotel. He offered to let me stay there totally free but, of course, I fully intend to pay him for the days I'm there. The poor guy is working 80 hours a week and I'd so much rather him have the money than the hotel. So, most likely, on the first I will move myself and the cats to Yaffo for a couple of weeks. The one thing I am stressing about is that I start work in the beginning of October and really did want to be settled in, rather than moving in, by that time. I think starting to teach a brand new class in a completely new setting is going to be stress enough. Building desks and bookcases and unpacking G-d knows what (but a lot of it) is not what I wanted to be doing simultaneously.
A lot of people have asked about government assistance for rent. Yep, new olim do get some. In fact, we get a good bit. The first year you are here you get assistance in the form of the sal klita --when you arrive at the airport they put 1,250 NIS into your hot little hand. Then, every month, they put (I forget how much) into your bank account. The total amount of the sal klita is 15,000 NIS --or about 3,000 dollars. Definitely nothing to sniff at! After your 13th month you get what is called rent assistance --it works out to be, for a single person, about $30 a month. Now, if you choose to buy a place within your first 5 years (I think it is 5 but could be 7) then you also get assistance from the government with your mortgage --obviously in lieu of the rental assistance, and it works out to be a good bit more than the rental assistance amount (for obvious reasons they prefer you to purchase than to rent). The sooner you buy, the more assistance you get as well I believe because you haven't used up some of your benefits with the rental aid.
On Sunday morning I need to go to the Ministry of Absorption and give them my bank account information so they can start putting that money in :). Because it took so long at the bank, they had just closed for the day when I got there today (they close at 13:00 on Thursdays).
On not such a happy note, I am coming down with a sore throat and the sniffles and starting to feel like I've been kicked across a room :( I don't know why I always get a summer cold in August but it happens every time. I was sure I had escaped this year...just a few more days to the end of the month but those germs were just determined to squeeze in under the deadline! Well, at least it is the weekend and so I can rest a lot without feeling guilty :)