25 Tammuz, 5767
July 11, 2007
Dear Family and Friends,
Finally, after 6 1/2 weeks of living out of suitcases and 7 different places to unpack them: one hotel, 5 gracious hosts in 5 different cities, and a clean and simple studio apartment for 10 days of the journey and long wait; finally... the lift arrived. The lift. That is the 20’ container and a few extra feet of palettes with almost all of our earthly belongings. On May 3 the items left our apartment in Atlanta and arrived completely intact in the Old City of Jerusalem on June 18. A miracle.
Lots of people have asked in detail about the logistics and pitfalls of this operation. So, I thought that is what I’d devote this update to. Maybe its a dry subject, but so many of you want to know...
The honest truth is that we expected disaster at every turn, but only had to endure some high stress moments and were surprised by a few miracles.
How did you choose a shipper?
Back in March, I started combing the Nefesh b’Nefesh yahoogroup for shipping agent recommendations. I made a chart, a pro and con list and decided to contact two agents. My first choice got back to me, but the second, even after I tried again, never called. Mike from .... Movers showed up exactly on time to give me an estimate. It seemed reasonable, given the vast amounts of information I’d culled. This undertaking of shipping precious items 7000 miles is awesome for one who does not do this everyday, and Mike was patient, thorough and confident. He explained that there are four companies involved it the project (in other words, making money off our move):
1-the moving company in Atlanta who are responsible for packing to take up the least amount of container space and getting the shipment to the port.
2-the shipping line who oversees everything from port to port
3-the movers in Israel who pick up the goods from the port, deliver and reassemble in our apartment in Israel
4-All this is coordinated by the shipping agent. The shipping agent gathers all the information, what is going, where it is picked up, decides which shipping line, which moving companies, coordinates insurance, and covers of all the logistics including customs -as they act as our agent at the port. We could also purchase 220v appliances through them in the U.S., have them placed on the lift and delivered to our apartment with our shipment. Our shipper’s office is in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Is it better to buy appliances and furniture in the U.S. Or purchase it in Israel?
Honestly, I don’t know. We bought our refrigerator through the shipper because, after doing the math, it seemed like a wash and we wanted to have a fridge up and running the day we moved in. We purchased a dryer here in Israel because we did not know if the washer in the apartment was working and wanted to get the w/d at the same time if we had to. The washer is fine. I thought the dryer was a little pricey for a basic appliance, but it works great, the delivery guys were delightfully funny and prompt.
Did you hire packers or pack yourself? Why?
We packed all the unbreakable items, but the insurance would not cover any breakables that we packed. In addition to the estimate Mike gave me, we had to pay an extra $450 for which 4 women spent 8 hours and reams upon reams of newsprint packing our few precious heirlooms and many inexpensive drinking glasses in sturdy boxes.
Were you happy with your movers?
We were very happy with the crew that Peachtree Movers sent. They arrived at 8 am and by 11 pm, all of our furniture was dismantled and well wrapped, catalogued and numbered. We had about 160 boxes. Mike thought we’d fill a 20’ container and then some, he was right but I think it was quite a bit more than just “some.” The 20’ container costs about $7,000 and the “then some” 1.65 per cubic foot door to door.
That night, exhausted beyond belief, we bid goodbye to the crew, followed them across LaVista and down Sheffield. Ever so slowly and gently they drove, even over the speed bumps on Sheffield, giving us great security that our home would be in good hands, at least until the port.
The next day we had to deal with insuring all that stuff. It’s kind of a cart before the horse proposition. We had to list everything in all those boxes and every item of furniture with an estimated value customs and a replacement value for insurance with corresponding box numbers. We did not want to insure everything (i.e. boxes of office supplies, the kids’ stuffed animals and ceramics they made at camp) How do you list the box number before it is packed? This was a quandary because the shipping agent wanted the list before the movers took the load. I worked on it all moving day and got it in the next morning. Insurance costs 2% of covered items. In our case, $1500 that was not in the original estimate.
I should add here, that we were also charged an extra fee because the movers could not bring a container into the apartment complex. This meant they had to unload the truck they brought to us onto the container, entailing an extra move. I am not sure how much that was, because we were also charged a great amount because they could not bring a container into the Jewish Quarter to deliver. The total was another $1830 that was not in the original estimate.
That original estimate was beginning to seem not so reasonable.
Now begins the Suitcase Era. Or Eon. It was nice to be with our gracious hosts and we are just so grateful for their kindness and hospitality. But living in other peoples’ homes, our life in 6 oversized suitcases competing with us for space in guest rooms, became tiresome. And confusing. What bag was that skirt, important file, medicine, shoe in? Plus, I was really lonely for the familiar. Thank G-d for VOIP. The ability to make a “local call” during that time to continue keeping in touch with family and friends was more than miraculous to me. It was my lifeline.
What is VOIP, how does it work, how do you get it and does it really work?
Voice Over Internet Protocol works by connecting a box from the VOIP provider to any analog phone. We signed up with Broadvoice before we left. They sent the box to our address in Atlanta and we brought it to Israel. Our first day here, it was up and running. I spent several hours on the phone that day, I missed my friends so much! It usually sounds very clear, however, sometimes the call drops and sometimes it sounds garbled, but most of the time, it sounds like we are next door.
How did you find an apartment?
I am told that it was a miracle. We wanted to live in the Old City, so I contacted everyone I knew here, posted on yahoogroups for the Rova and yeshivot in the Rova, flathunting.com, luach.com and jangalo.com. I also emailed every agent I could find who had properties here. But it really was a miracle. One day, I saw the almost perfect place posted on luach.com. I talked to the agent, David “happened” to be here that week, took a look and knew it was for us. It has three bedrooms and a storage room, nice courtyard, a/c, renovated kitchen and bath...but only one bath. It has some problems, but that’s what’s nice about renting. They aren’t our problems. Number 7 Shvut is in a convenient, quiet part of the Rova and we really like it. Hope to have you as visitors soon!
Now comes the fun.
What happens when the ship arrives?
We were given an ETA of June 5 for the Zim Shangahi v17 to arrive at Ashdod. On June 4, I called the shipping agent to see that everything was in order. On June 6, they called needing documents -which we had already sent- and a signature on a document –which we had never received. And they needed it...yesterday, of course. The ship was not due in now until the 10th so we had time, but we still had to act fast.
June 7. Our documents did not arrive via the emails we sent yesterday to the shipping agent. We drop everything and take a cab with the documents they need to Talpiot where the shipping agent has an office in what was designed to be his living room. He had two employees there and at some point his daughter walked in from school. With a quick kiss for her dad she kicked off her little lavender crocs and crossed the office to go home. Very cute. The agent took a lot of time to quell David’s concerns. When will the move happen? Where is the truck parking? How are they going to deliver from there? What about the narrow stairway to our apartment? And did he mention the 90 degree turn in this narrow stairway? The shipper also expressed a concern. How are you going to make the final payment? Due before the move. Well, ok.
June 8: We took the cash to the shipper’s bank. It was open. (not always a given here) We stood in line a long time, got a teller who spoke no English, but we had the account number written down. She took the money, then surprisingly asked for more. The bank charged us 28 shekels for making a deposit!
June 9: Shabbos kodesh in Jerusalem. We have not a care in the world today.
June 10: no word.
June 11 Shipper: Where is the customs document? I need it NOW.
Us: We mailed it as per your instruction.
Shipper: We never got it. Who told you to mail it! I have to have it to get your lift released.
Us: Why didn’t you say something on Thursday?
We drop everything and cab it back to Talpiot. Sign the document.
June 12 Bad news. One in every 15 shipments is “randomly selected” by customs for a thorough examination. We are lucky number 15. We get to pay an extra $500 for this privilege.
June 13: We cleared customs without any taxes to pay. Now that, my friends is a true miracle. Not that we had anything to claim, but we have heard stories. Customs could have made us pay just about anything they wanted to charge us. They had all our money and all our stuff.
Now we hear our move will take place on Monday. But... there are more fees we have to pay. It seems there is a “congestion charge.” The day the ship arrived, the port was congested. It took more time to unload, and we get to pay for their inconvenience.
And um, also. There is a storage fee. It seems the ship really did arrive on the ETA of June 5 and not the 10, as we were told. And since we did not have our documents in...which we had mailed/emailed...which the shipping agent say did not arrive...we get to pay the rental on the storage for two weeks. Two weeks. We could have had our lift two weeks earlier and now we get to pay because no one told us it was here. See what fun? At least, after some tense haggling, the shipping agent agreed to split that charge with us.
June 14: Back to the bank to pay for the privilege of selection, congestion and storage in Israel. Another miracle, it was open again, and we were not charged for this deposit.
June 18: Moving day was sort of anticlimactic. It went without much of a hitch. We had to cajole the movers a bit to get the furniture into the proper rooms. There was a hamsin that week. So So HOT. Even the breeze was hot. The couch did not fit down the stairs, and the movers, hearing we were going to store it in a friend’s machsan, storage room, in Ramat Beit Shemesh, elected to leave about 20 of our boxes on the moving van rather than schlepping another load or two to our apartment. It was infinitely easier for them to pull the truck up to the machsan, unload the couch and “oops” look what we forgot. Now we have to figure out a way to get those boxes here ourselves.
June 19, 20, 21: I spent all day unpacking. Every box held a treasure. I have dreamed for so long of unpacking our belongings here, that I found myself savoring this chore. Each carefully wrapped heirloom and inexpensive drinking glass felt like a gift from Hashem- created, chosen and delivered especially for our home in Jerusalem.
June 22: Shabbat, our first night in our home in Yerushalyim. Now this is what I really call a miracle.
July 11: We’ve been here ar Sheva Shvut for about 2 1/2 weeks. We are developing a rhythm to our days again and learning how negotiate the necessities of life. Almost everything we need can be delivered to the Rova. I take the bus to the grocer, the butcher, the dry cleaners and they deliver for a few shekels. Fresh juice is dropped off once a week. And one of the highlights of my week is going to Machane Yehuda with my agala (cart) on Thursday morning to buy fresh produce and pastries for Shabbat. The summer visitors are dropping by, some for a short visit and a glass of lemonade, some for a liesurly summer meal. We truly hope you will be among them.
Come Home Soon,
Renee and David