Posted by: Liza Rosenberg | December 28, 2005

Chilly willy

Up until a few years ago, central heating was considered a luxury in Israel. With the exception of most housing in the Jerusalem area, whose high altitude brought biting cold winters that often included snow, most people made due with space heaters, portable radiators, gas heaters, coil heaters, and the like, which more often than not did nothing but take the chill off, if that. Our town has bitter cold winter nights, and before we put in our heating system, I was utterly miserable as soon as the weather turned cold. I hated the fact that it was colder inside our house than out, and rainy days were simply a form of torture, spent huddled underneath a blanket, whether it be in the bedroom or the living room. It was absolutely wretched. The feelings were that since winters were “short” (hardly!), it didn’t pay to invest in decent heating. Same thing held true for air conditioning for the summer months. What a load of crap! The best thing we ever did was to install our central heating and air conditioning system, making all seasons bearable and comfortable.

As far as I can recall, all of my work places have had central heating and air as well (which is also the case in most public buildings like shopping malls, hotels, etc.), and I can remember not wanting to leave the warmth of my office for the cold and damp of my home. How lovely to be all nice and toasty warm when it’s oh so nippy beyond the windows, to not have to wear multiple layers, to not be forced to sit in front of the computer wearing gloves.

There is one strange anomaly in all of this, though. For some reason, bathrooms in Israel are not heated, whether it be in homes or in offices. Sure, many people put up a little heater on the wall, but not everyone does it (especially in guest ½ baths, nor in our very small en suite bathroom, though our full guest bathroom does have one), and offices certainly don’t. “Makes sense”, you say. “How much time do you really spend in there?” you ask. I say bull. Call me crazy (and some of you already have!), but frankly, when it comes down to it, why would you not put heat in one of the few rooms (and hopefully the only room in your office) that requires you to remove clothing? A vexing question to be sure, one that drives me to distraction these days as I enter the refrigerator-like facilities, where one could chill wine quite nicely, were one so inclined to do so (though I might be inclined to question one’s mental faculties, were one so inclined as to chill wine in the restroom). Not exactly the environment that screams, “drop your drawers”, I dare say.

This morning, I had the distinct “pleasure” to run out of hot water during my shower, which doesn’t often happen, as I’m usually the first one to shower. Today I was third, and I paid dearly. Of course, what made it even worse was that we’ve got no damn heat in the bathroom, as it’s so small and the ceilings are so low that there’s no place to put up a heater! And then, after quickly toweling off and coming out into what should have been a warm bedroom, I was dismayed to find it somewhat chilly, Husband having turned the heat towards the living room (quick explanation – heating system is divided into regions, the living room/kitchen area is one and the bedrooms make up the other. There’s a dial in the middle that allows us to direct the heat between these regions, and it can never be at 100% in both. Get it?) so that he and the little one wouldn’t be cold (a perfectly legitimate act). In any case, who was I to deprive the little one of heat, just so that I could be warm? If I’m ready to give my life for him, I’m certainly ready to share the heat with him.

I suppose I should be thankful that we’ve at least got a timer on the water heater, so we don’t have to get up in the middle of the night just to turn the thing on. That’s another crazy thing. Water temperature in most places is controlled by a hot water heater. Ours is solar, so in the summer, we don’t usually have to turn it on, and can just let the sun work its magic. In winter though, you’ve got to turn it on whenever you want hot water, at least an hour before you think you’ll need it, so that the water has a chance to heat up. If you don’t have a timer, it can be a major inconvenience. Of course, the big problem here is that it’s quite easy to run out of hot water, and unless you’re prepared to pay exorbitant electricity bills to keep your water heated all day long, you’re going to find yourself repeatedly losing feeling in your hands every time you need to wash them. It’s an especially refreshing experience at work, as you wash your hands with ice cold water while standing in a room cold enough to chill wine, and you actually feel elation as you leave the bathroom to return to the relative warmth of the rest of the office.

The joys of an Israeli winter. When I bought my winter coat several years ago in London, Husband just laughed, claiming that I would never use it. Needless to say, it is one of the staples of my winter wardrobe. It can get surprisingly cold here (especially while waiting for the train at 7am in Northern Israel!), but having grown up in a cold climate (much colder than Israel!), I learned early on that you simply have to know how to dress in order to stay warm. Of course, all rules go out the window when it comes to the bathroom, where the layers must come off for the trip to be successful. In Norway, in addition to the room being heated, the bathroom floors are actually heated as well. In England, our towel racks were heated. For Israel, I propose a drastic, yet revolutionary measure – heated toilet seats, anyone? Perhaps I’m talking out of my ass on this one, but seriously, how great would that be? Definitely not a shitty idea, no sirree, Bob! Would just require a wee bit of design. Any engineers out there care to take this on? Come on now, don’t be sissies! The person who succeeds with this will surely make millions – definitely not a bum deal, eh?

Okay, enough is enough. I’ve made you laugh, I’ve made you groan. Suffice it to say, I’ve done my duty, and, feeling a little flushed, I think I’ll take my leave, before this post drains my mind any further. Hey, stay warm out there (and of course, in there)!



  1. wait, we were just talking about this 2 nights ago. apparently in Japan the toilet seats are heated while the bathrooms are cold.

    I got so cold just reading your post. We did have a big central neft heater with pipes going up through the bedrooms when we lived in Beer Sheva so I was finally not frozen.

  2. Yes! I have separate heaters in each room, and in winter I have to make Big Plans to move from room to room. You are so wise to have installed central heat.

    I’ve heard the rising cost of fuel in the US is making home heating a big issue there too this winter. At least we can go outside (or to work) to warm up!

  3. I have to put steams of toilet paper on the seat when I’m in for a long session. I bring in my laptop for extra warmth.

  4. Yor laptop, eh? Aren’t you worried about the long-term effects of possible radiation? Given the parts of the body that would be in closest proximity, you might want to consider alternative forms of heat, I should think…

  5. I have posted about you and your thoughts re X-mas

  6. KOL HAKAVOD! I found it shocking to find the ONE room where you most NEED the heat to be the LAST PLACE ON EARTH YOU WILL FIND IT HERE! You have done a wonderful job articulating my biggest pet peeve about winter here. 😉

  7. And I thought I had it tough… 🙂 my sincerest commiserations, he said while failing to keep a straight face.

  8. LOL, I’m also struggling with the cold water/cold home issues in my current visit home. I keep my apartment in the U.S. warm enough to sleep in shorts and without covers 🙂

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