Thursday, April 5, 2007

My Apartment: Avoiding the Passover Premium

It wasn't until I'd been in Israel for a week that it dawned on me that prices for hotels and lodging during Passover, as if propelled by fast acting yeast, go way, way up, and that's if you can find something. Many visitors to Israel at this time book their trips months in advance.


With three weeks before Passover, and nothing lined up, I was determined to avoid the Passover Premium. I knew I wanted to be in Jerusalem for the holiday, yet at the time I was in Netanya, so I had to make my plans remotely. First I looked for a simple bed & breakfast. No luck. Then I thought I'd rent an apartment for a week. There was a bounty of Pesach rentals on Craigslist, most luxury units with multiple bedrooms, complete with kosher kitchens and costing a few thousand dollars. Ouch. Googling yield similar results.


In a moment of clarity I realized that I might have more success if I were to rent for a whole month. Perhaps there would be greater supply, and a monthly rent might be less inflated, plus I'd have a home base within Israel. My extensive Internet searching and querying yielded three possibilities: a) a tiny but charming studio in the Old City; b) a bigger but less charming studio in an American section of the modern city and; c) a studio - the tiniest of all - a bit farther away than b), also in an American part of town.

I ultimately based my decision on who I wanted to be renting from. a) A fluttery French woman who claimed she had no bank account and wanted me to give her friend cash to reserve the apartment; b) an aggressive management company or; c) a Canadian couple with two kids. I chose c) and was pleased to discover that the apartment was nicer than it had appeared in photographs. For those who know the city, it is in Katomon, not far from the German Colony. It is just big enough to comfortably be in, but not so big that I don't want to leave. It has plenty of light and two working heaters, one which blasts hot air in the bathroom, a luxury after the dank rooms of the Ulpan.

While this apartment would rent for less at other times of the year, the owners are not assessing an exorbitant Passover Premium. However, the unit has a kosher kitchenette which I don't need but have agreed to honor while I'm there. I'm trying to view it as an experiment, rather than an inconvenience (no salami and cheese sandwiches, alas!). For a month, I can certainly pay the non-monetary price of kashrut in exchange for a comfortable and affordable place to live.

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