Our Aliyah Chronicle
By Shmuel Katz
When we lived in the U.S. over a decade ago, online shopping was a thing of the future. Yes, there were shopping sites where we bought some things (mostly via eBay or Amazon), but the selection of products was not as broad as we have today. When we made aliyah, our selection became even more limited, as most U.S. sites did not then ship to Israel (and when they did, import taxes often made the transaction very costly).
A couple of years into our aliyah, the tax thresholds were lowered and Chinese shipping costs became so competitive that many Chinese vendors began to include free shipping in the cost of items, including shipping to Israel. We began to buy all of our chargers, cables, games, kites, even radios and some clothing online. Yet we still ended up buying many things in the U.S. (at Target) or had our online orders like cellphones and computers via Amazon or Best Buy delivered to U.S. addresses. We simply did not trust the quality of what was available internationally.
Within the last couple of years, much of this has changed. Many sites in Europe and even some in North America will now ship to Israel at reasonable rates. Furthermore, the global access to technology and information has opened our eyes to products we might never have considered buying ten years ago. Like our cellphones.
When we first arrived here, we were using the old flip phones, which we later upgraded via Israeli vendors to our first basic smartphones. As our kids got older and our needs increased, we began to buy phones in the U.S., where prices were much cheaper than we had here in Israel (this is still the case). It might have been a little tough to get the Hebrew installed, and warranty service was a pain, but the price differences were worth it and still are.
Each time we needed to upgrade a phone, I’d go online and find a range of phones available and do some networking to see which might be good for our needs. I’d eventually place an order and about a month later we’d get the phone. Eventually, the kids became more adept (certainly more adept than I am) at finding their own phones at the best prices, which saved me even more time and money.
But we always bought in America. Until this year.
We tend to be America-focused, meaning that we generally have more trust in things we buy from or in America than other places. We understand the marketplace there and have a certain degree of confidence. Yet our kids (with the exception of our oldest, who doesn’t live here) all grew up here and do not have the same preferences and prejudices that we have.
A couple of months ago, when Mordechai needed a new phone (having broken his year-old phone–again) and came to me looking to get the latest iPhone, I asked him to consider something a bit cheaper, even though he works and was paying for it out of his pocket. Despite it being my request, once his friends suggested the same thing, he went out and found a phone that was much cheaper than anything we had seen in the U.S. and was very highly rated.
It turns out that the company doesn’t even sell their phones in the North American market and focuses their marketing primarily to India (although they do sell phones here–for about 60% higher than the price I found online). He bought one and we had it shipped to the U.S. before Pesach so someone could bring it here. And he loves the phone.
So much so, that when I needed to get a new phone, I went back to the same site and got myself a Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 as well. They shipped directly to Israel, and with a cost below $200, there were no import taxes. I got the phone within two weeks; it was easy to set up and is a terrific value. And I would never have thought of getting one. Who buys something sold in India?
It is kind of amazing actually. The more we adjust to life here, the more we adjust our focus eastward. There are definitely still those conveniences that we bring in when we can, like deodorant, Crystal Light, and granola bars, to name just a few. Yet with the world shrinking, we feel our horizons expanding. If only we could get Krispy Kreme (Goldie would have said Dunkin’ Donuts).
Shmuel Katz, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July 2006. Before making aliyah, Shmuel was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at email@example.com.