Example #1: I’m under the impression that all standard make-up is toxic on some level. So when I recommend a certain brand of make-up, I don’t take into account the safety factor, but just whether it performs as it should.
Example #2: My tastes in disposable tableware are definitely Israeli at this point. This means that a plastic plate that performs well for me may be a disaster for you, if you are freshly from the USA. Or maybe not....it depends.
Conclusion: You are expected to use your own intelligence and consult with whomever necessary before following the suggestions contained within.
And so on that happy note….
As a newly married woman in Eretz Yisrael, I remember standing before the shelves of cleaning products in my local grocery store at a total loss. Instead of an array of the familiar labels and colors I remembered from America, I faced an alien array of colors from companies like “Sano” and “Nikol” and “Cif” and “Biomat” and “Ariel.” Some of them were Israeli and some of them were European imports, but none were familiar.
What should I choose? What was most effective? Did they need to be used differently than, say, Lysol and Tide? And what about garbage bags—what were the largest and sturdiest?—and with everything in centimeters, how do I know what size I’m getting?
And there didn’t seem to be anyone to ask.
I felt that I couldn’t ask Israeli housewives because I assumed their opinions would be based on lower standards, unused as they were to what I assumed were the vastly superior American products. (This was faulty thinking on my part, but it seemed logical at the time.)
And American housewives couldn’t help me because they all seemed to rely on the products they knew from America—regardless of how expensive those same products were in Israel.
But the stores in my neighborhood didn’t always stock the familiar American brands. And even when they did, we were a poor kollel couple who couldn’t afford the priciest bathroom cleaner.
Ditto on anything else like cosmetics, fabric softener, and much more.
With a few exceptions, I’m finally weaned off of my reliance on American brands and have created this list to help both new olim and older olim who never made the switch.
(The following lists contains products common in Israel, whether Israeli-made or not.)
Disclaimer #1: I haven’t been to America in ages and I hope I never need to go back for even a short visit. So please forgive references that are new to me, but have been incredibly common in America for over 10 years now.
Disclaimer #2: You and I probably don’t eat exactly the same hechsherim. In other words, not all recommended foodstuffs here are Badatz Eidah Hachareidis. ;)
Disclaimer #3: The following list is based on my observations and tastes. Perhaps you observations and tastes are more refined than mine and something I consider great is below par for you. Conversely, maybe I’m unaware of a particular high-quality product available cheaply here or I’ve overlooked something.
So I ask your forgiveness in advance if you end up being misled by anything here. It’s unintentional as the following contains only my honest opinion.
Note: Due to the laws of lashon hara, I’m not recommending against a certain brand or product. For the benefit of your fellow olim, please feel free to add your own recommendations for in the comments, along with your own tips and suggestions for use.
So for a warm night's sleep, you'll want one of 3 kinds of bed linens:
- Fleece (fleez)
- Flannel (flah-NEL)
- Velvet (ketifah)
I've barely run across flannel bed linens in Israel, so I can't comment much about them. You can ask for flannel, but they will probably tell you that they don't have flannel, but that they do have fleece.
Fleece linens come in all levels of quality and prices. Regardless of price or quality, they are the warmest material of the three. However, one linens seller I know said that she no longer sells fleece linens because even the best and most expensive ones still ended up pilling at some point. Despite that, I've bought the cheap ones for myself and my children and we haven't been bothered by the pilling. They are just delicious to slip into on a cold night. Please note that the cheap ones tear more easily with use and the button holes holding the duvet cover shut end up stretching too wide too fast.
It's really a velveteen. There are two kinds that I know of:
- regular velvet
- thick velvet (ketifah avah)
Why didn't I do this years ago?!
(Because I didn't know. But at least you do now.)
Note: When shopping for bed linens at frum stores, they often include 2 sets in one package for one price. So just double check to make sure you know what you're getting before you pay. It's often a happy surprise to realize that the price you thought was for 1 set is actually for 2. On the other hand, you don't want to assume there's only one set in the package and decide to purchase 2 packages, only to find out you just bought 4 sets when you only needed 2.
Cif-Fantastik— All Cif-Fantastik products are good as far as I’ve seen.
Hepi—All Hepi products are good as far as I’ve seen.
Nikol—I’ve used Nikol sponges, paper towels, and sponja cloths and all has been well.
Rami Levi—Yes, Rami Levi is a supermarket chain that also sells its own brand of floor cleaner, fabric softener, and more, I've been very satisfied with their products.
R. Shamai/ר.שמאי —I only noticed this brand around Pesach 2016, so it's pretty new for me. As far as I can tell, this brand sells disposable items and cleaning liquids, like dish-washing soap and window cleaner. Their cleaning products haven't wowed me yet, but they hasn't disappointed me, either. Having said that, I definitely own and happily use cleaning products from this brand. If it's the cheapest or only available cleaning product in the store, don't worry about taking a chance on it.
The black rubber dust pans and sponja squeegees with the red sticks—Very good quality, last forever, and highly effective. The dust pan is a must. The smaller squeegee is more effective than the larger one and neither “catches” the water perpendicular to the wall as well as the regular squeegees do (meaning you need to maneuver it parallel to the wall to swoop the water along). Personally, I like one red-black sponja stick and one regular one around. The rubber “broom” is meant more for carpets than stone floors.
Sano—As far as I can tell, you never need to worry with Sano. All the Sano products are of good quality and effective. In particular, I like Sano’s Spark dish-washing liquid soap and all of Sano’s bleaches.
- Sano and Nikol’s higher-priced microfiber floor-cleaning cloths in a variety of colors really are better quality than their standard white and pilly cloths. They last much longer, too. In addition to removing stains, running a wet cloth over the floor will also pick up dust, just as advertised on the package, enabling a mopped and swept effect in just one go. However, you really do need to follow the package’s directions if you want to maintain this broom-mop quality. The proper maintenance for these cloths is to wash them on a gentle cycle at no higher than 40 degrees—and never add bleach or fabric softener when you wash them.
- Sano offers 2 Microfiber kinds under their Sushi brand: Matlit and Matlit Hapeleh. Both are great.
When buying a sponja or broomstick, check its height with your height to make sure you won’t have to hunch over every time you use it.
(Vertically challenged people can ignore this advice. ;)
A good, cheap way to clean standard Israeli stone floors and bathrooms is to use a combination of bleach (maybe ½ cup?) and laundry detergent in your bucket of water. But heck, I never measure. I just dump in the bleach to my heart’s content and then toss in a small handful of laundry detergent. I also haven’t been harmed or killed from this combination, but if there is any reason why you shouldn’t combine your laundry detergent with bleach, than please DON’T. Anyway, I’ve also never damaged my floors using this duo, but you should try it in an inconspicuous corner if you are not sure whether it will damage your floor. It could be that a bleach-detergent solution will damage certain floors, or damage floors with a sealant.
Cut a hole in the center of any floor cloth to allow for the spongja stick’s handle, and you have a sponja cloth that won't slide off.
If you don’t have too-big objects on the floor, vacuuming before sponja is even more effective than sweeping. In fact, a good vacuuming can even eclipse the need for hard-core sponja, and enable your floors to be clean and shiny with just a good wiping with a microfiber floor cloth moistened with a cleaning solution.
*You don’t have to sweep or vacuum before sponja. After removing any items that could be damaged by water, you can just dump the cleaning water on the floor and start scrubbing. Then you swoop all the dirt away with the water. (Be sure to have a strainer-cover over your sponja hole to catch potentially clogging debris. Strainer-covers can be found at most hardware stores in Israel.)
Alternative methods to disposing of sponja water:
- Squeegee the water into one of the floor-holes that is covered with a debris-catcher. (Can be bought at many Tambur/hardware stores.)
- Squeegee the water out the door, if you have an appropriate set-up for this.
- Squeegee the water into some large thick towels, which you can swish around to soak up remaining water.
- Squeegee the water into a thing resembling a gigantic dust pan, then dump that somewhere. (This thing is part of the red-handled black rubber brand mentioned above.)
- Squeegee the water into something called a nikuz (available at some hardware stores). It offers a wider opening, funneling the water into the hole in the floor so you don’t have to contort yourself for ages getting every last bit of water into that little round hole.
Many Israeli housewives resist using the 2(or more)-in-1 floor cleaners that wax your floor as they clean it, claiming that it leaves a residue that eventually builds up. However, these combos really do leave your floor looking nicer and easier to sweep. So you can alternate between cleaning liquids and waxing-cleaning liquids. Or use the combos, but give the floors a good scrubbing every so often with the bleach-detergent solution or non-wax cleaning fluid. Or something. Or just fearlessly use the combo cleaners as long as they work well with your floors!
Ohha/Milano are popular with chareidi men (especially young men) and boys. You’ll need to get exact instructions from your males before buying because details matter—like the Ohha logo placement, button color (white, clear, or yellowish), number of buttons on the collar (2 small ones or 1 regular one), and the desirability (or not) of a band of color on the inner collar, colored button threads, etc. Ohha comes in 60%-100% cotton and different widths. Even if you (or your boy’s school) consider tailored shirts to be too tight and modern-looking, Ohha’s tailored shirts tend to look much better on skinnier boys (i.e. not foppish). Ohha/Milano are good quality and while they have discount sales, you still need to pay for that quality.
However, Fabio is a good affordable alternative. One of my more active and adventurous boys (you know, the kind whom if dared during Sukkot Yom Tov Shacharit to grab onto an exposed electric wire that powers several surrounding pre-fab buildings, will actually do so and be both surprised and impressed by the resulting shock and cut on his palm) wears Fabio shirts with a colored band inside the collar and those shirts have held up amazingly well. But Ohha and Milano are considered more prestigious, so you may need to fight/compromise about this.
Thanks for the advice, Noa!
With BeautyCare, 11 NIS is already on the expensive side of things.
Isn’t that great?
You can get almost anything cosmetic there, including lotions, oils, hair dyes, shampoos, soaps, and hair accessories. They also have a men’s line of products.
Personally, I love their pressed powder (pudrah even or pudrah dechusah) more than any other brand anywhere. It provides foundation-like coverage and doesn’t melt off any faster than other standard powders. Even American drug store brands don’t provide such good pressed powders.
BeautyCare is also good for Purim make-up or for young women just starting out in the world of make-up or if, say, you want to have orange lipstick around for those times that you feel like wearing orange lipstick, you can spend 4.50 NIS at BeautyCare and there you go.
You can find BeautyCare in several malls around the country.
(Needless to say, not all the images on that site are wholesome.)
Golden Rose—I never heard of Golden Rose in the USA, but they are a Turkish company that apparently sells decent make-up. I’ve only tried their metallic eyeliners and they went on fine and demonstrated good staying power.
Bourjois Paris—The salesgirl claimed this is a branch of Chanel. Their mascaras are great, hands down. But like with any other cosmetics, you should try what you can in the store to make sure that the texture and color of whatever you buy are basically what you want.
Christina—As far as I know, this brand is only sold by private cosmeticians. It focuses on skin care products that are very, very high quality. Highly recommended, you’ll see that your local cosmeticians will often advertise which brands they sell and Christina is often listed. But when in doubt, you can always call and ask.
Dr. Fischer—Dr. Fischer is a good quality brand of skin care products and more. Some of their products are just decent and some are really good. You’ll notice they have a line called Body Shop. But when I asked if it was the same as the The Body Shop in the USA, I was told that Dr. Fischer had worked with The Body Shop and that they shared technologies, and that his line is like The Body Shop, but isn't actually connected with The Body Shop. What does all that really mean? I don’t know. But in case you had the same question, there you go.
My favorites from Dr. Fischer:
- Dead Sea products
- Sebo-Right products for sensitive skin prone to redness, itchiness, and flakiness
- Genesis products for different types of skin (aging, acne-prone, dry, oily, combo, etc.)
Food & Cooking
Chocolate—Fortunately, testing out different brands of chocolate is an affordable and enjoyable pastime. But if you’re looking for the best-tasting pareve/bittersweet Israeli chocolate, my favorites are Taaman and Carmit.
Molasses--Morga (a Swiss brand) is delicious. I’ve found it in 2 flavors: sweet and something like wintergreen-flavored. "Wintergreen-flavored" sounds weird, right? It’s actually yummy and supposedly good for preventing winter colds. But if you want Morga’s plain molasses, double check before you pay because they almost look the same. Also, as far as I can tell, Morga's Sweet Molasses [Molasah Metukah] is only 90% molasses with glucose added for the remaining 10%. :(
So when I can, I just stick with Brer Rabbit.
Use either white/synthetic vinegar OR melach limon (citric acid) to remove hard water deposits in your tea kettle.
1) Add some vinegar OR melach limon to a kettle full of water. (Not sure how much—maybe ¼ cup of vinegar or a hefty tablespoon of melach limon? Or less?)
3) Boil again.
4) Pour out. (You can pour this out for hard water deposits on your sinks and sink fixtures to clean the deposits with no scrubbing—unless they are old and firmly set deposits.)
5) Rinse kettle thoroughly.
- Note: You can buy special products to remove hard water deposits, but they are technically poisonous and if someone drinks it by mistake, it’s not healthy. On the other hand, if someone makes a hearty cup of coffee with water treated with vinegar or melach limon by mistake, it’s extremely disappointing (to say the least!), but harmless.
You need the total combination as per the boldfaced phrases above.
Here it is again for your convenience:
- 70x90 centimeters
- gray bags with handles that are one with the bag
- chazak bimyuchad
- separate entities within the package
- they look stronger
I think ceramic items are fine, it’s the ceramic-coated cookware that can be problematic.
Naaman is almost always a good bet (but again, if you’re buying ceramic, make sure it’s the good kind). Also, the Naaman sales ladies I’ve encountered have been very knowledgeable about Naaman’s products and provide good direction about which products suit your needs best. (Naaman is a store, but their products are also sold in non-Naaman stores.) Naaman regularly offers sales, so if you miss one amazing sale, another is sure to follow.
Right now, I’ve fallen in love with a pot from a Naaman line of products called Caserola. It’s totally black with a black (not glass) lid and comes with removable rubber covers for the pot and lid handles. Anyway, it cooks the food beautifully, resists burning, and washes so easily. After you remove the rubber handle covers, it also does fine in the oven. However, the rubber handle covers don’t protect your hands well from the heat and if you leave them on while cooking, they still heat up almost like the pot itself. Also, you can’t heat up the pot without anything it in; you must have oil or some other liquid inside before you turn on the heat. And don’t clean it with abrasive cleaners or scrubbers (i.e. no steel wool, etc.).
But despite the disadvantages, I still love it so much.
The best veggie-cutting knives are those with plastic handles in a variety of colors and a firm straight blade that ends in a diagonal shape and comes in a package of three. Rami Levi sells a very good kind of this knife.
Frankly, I haven’t noticed much difference between one laundry detergent and another, whether it's Tide, Ariel, or Biomat, or any other, so feel free to take risks here.
Ditto with fabric softeners, although the ones advertised for easier ironing really do make ironing easier. And I like the scent and aroma-strength of Rami Levi’s pink fabric softener.
In fact, I once encountered an American woman placing jug after jug of fabric softener on the check-out belt. To the Israeli cashier's shocked expression, she cheerfully explained, "They don't have fabric softeners that smell as good in America, so whenever I come to Israel, I always stock up!"
Fabric whiteners/stain removers--Sano’s Oxygen line is extremely effective, whether spray or liquid. However, this stuff burns your skin, so be careful about getting it on your fingers and keep it FAR from little children. Vanish whitener whitens exactly as it says, but if you have colored designs on white clothing, it might lighten those, too.
As far as I know, no Israeli brand is on par with, say, Secret’s roll-on. However, you can still get decent ones in Israel. For a purely natural one, Natural Source’s mineral deodorant is good, but you do need to reapply it several times throughout the day.
My oldest son is addicted to Axe Spray Deodorant, but I have no personal experience except for one: Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal Spray Mist. Which is an American brand found at health stores in Israel. It list its ingredients as:
- Aqua (Purified Water)
- Natural mineral salts (Potassium Alum)
And true to its word, it offers true long-lasting protection against normal smelliness AND is the only solution we found for one child's stinky feet! Finally, we no longer need to make a dash for our gas masks every time he takes off his shoes. Phew!
That's all for now! This list will be updated as I think of more stuff.
May you have a lot of great mazal getting the right products for you and your family!