The Aliyah Files #5: Doors, Light Switches, Toilets and Other Oddities of Your New Home

After you have arrived to your new home, you will soon discover a few things that need a brief explanation.  These things will seem odd at first but will then seem second nature.

Doors.  Made of metal or wood.  The front door and mamad (safe room) door are metal. Other doors are made of wood. The wooden doors have a key hole.  A skeleton key locks and unlock all of them.  In old novels where you read about key holes, this is what I’m referring to.  The doors have handles, not knobs.  It has been my experience the handles can have the tendency to get loose or fall off, so be prepared.  The metal doors are great for displaying magnets. Photo magnets and business magnets are highly popular here.  You will have tons.  Be sure to declutter periodically…

Light switches.  The ones in the USA are thin little projections sticking out of a rectangular switch plate. Here, they are square-shaped and you press down on the upper part of the square to turn on and the bottom part of the square to turn it off.

Toilets.  In America, there is one handle to flush.  Here there is either a lever or push button option.  If the toilet has a lever, there are two of them.  The smaller of the two is for flushing liquids only and the larger handle is for solids. For the toilets with the push button, the smaller of the two is for the liquid and the larger for the solids.  This will be lots of fun for those of you with young children.  Teaching them which one to use for pee and for poo (or whatever euphemism you prefer) is up to you.  Nothing detrimental will happen if you push the wrong button except maybe having to flush more than once, wasting water and increasing your water bill.Another word about toilets…the tanks may be attached to the wall and high off the ground.  It may be more challenging for little ones to reach…’nuff said.

Hallway buttons in apartment buildings.  There are two buttons generally in close proximity found in the hallway.  The first is the doorbell.  The second is to turn on the hall lights.  In many buildings it is necessary to press a button if you need light in the hallway.  The light stays on for a minute or so and then needs to be re-pressed if you have more flights to ascend or descend.  A word of caution:  some staircases don’t have natural lighting so you may find yourself groping the wall in the dark trying to find the switch.  You may accidentally push a doorbell instead of the hall light.  If this happens, you wouldn’t be the first nor the last person this has happened to.

doorbell on left light switch on right

Electrical outlets. They are shaped like a circle with openings for three prongs.  You can buy outlet plugs to at the hardware store to keep the little ones safe.


Light fixtures. If you are lucky, your home will have a decorative light fixture.  If not, you will become familiar with the light bulb hanging from the ceiling.  Yes, there are spiral-shaped bulbs here, too.

Floor drains.  In the Aliyah Files #1 I explained with doing sponga meant and how you can sponga water down the drain  This is what I am referring to.  You will often find these drains in the the kitchen, bathroom , and on the mirpeset (patio).  To open a covered drain cover, stick the flat end of flat head screw driver to pry off.

Metal ring thingy on wall of the bathroom.  If there is a technical name, I don’t know what it is.  Quite frankly, it wasn’t until recently I wasn’t sure of its purpose.  It was explained to me that it is a cup holder and people put their toothbrushes and tooth paste in a cup which will free the sink basin or counter of clutter.  This must be a good think if Israelis want to keep their counters cleared…

cup holder.jpg

Dud Shemesh.  Pronounced ‘dood sheh mesh’.  This is what heats your water naturally from the sun.  When it is cold in the winter or very cloudy you can turn on a switch to heat the water with electricity.  It is a good idea to have a time on your dud in the winter so you will have hot water for showers.  It can take at least an hour to heat up the water when it is cold.  Many ‘duds’ are on the roof of the building.  Some, like our are internal. Ours is located in the  cheder sherut (chey dare shay rute) which is the area which house the washer and dryer.  Not everyone has a dryer, as they are expensive to run, but we use ours only occasionally which is generally when it’s been too rainy to hang clothes outdoors.  Since many Olim arrive in the summer, they don’t give much thought to having hot water because there is always hot water.  Come cooler weather, you have to heat it from the electricity, unless your preference is ice cold showers.

Shower head.  Some homes do have shower heads, but in the event yours doesn’t, this is an example of what you might encounter.  In America, the spout where the water is attached comes out of the wall.  Here, there are often two pieces.  The first is a hand-held hose with the spout attached.  The other is holder which can hold the hose.  I can’t vouch for all homes or newer construction, but sometimes these two parts are in different places in the tub.  Some apartments have only a shower stall and not a tub.  I can’t recall if there are the two pieces or if the shower head is attached to the wall.

**For ladies keeping taharas hamishmacha, if you have chosen a dwelling without a tub, this can be problematic if you want to prepare for mikveh at home.  There are bathtubs at the mikveh, but what do you do if it is Friday or Yom Tov?  I have a friend who does not have a bathtub in her apartment and what she had to do was take her soak in the mikveh tub the night before immersion and return the next night to dunk.

The last thing which may or may not be new to you it is very common to have a welcome plaque outside the front door.  Many have the surname of the family indicating who lives inside.  This plaque says WELCOME–BARUCHIM HABIM

For those of you not already here in Israel, this is a very exciting process if you are planning aliyah.  I hope the Olim Files #5 has been a good introduction to the oddities of the home before you have actually arrived and will prepare your for a bit of the newness you will encounter.  Thanks for reading.


–Karen aka The Klutter Koach– March 5, 2017

Published by Karen Furman

Philosophy = Your home should be organized so you know where things are, to the degree that you feel relaxed and not stressed in your space. Method = A combination of Marie Kondo + FlyLady + my own style. YOU make the decisions. YOU decide what to keep and not to keep. I help provide clarity. Attitude = Positive, enthusiastic, non-judgmental

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