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Keeping our phone: one good decision, one bad one.

Signing off after chatting online with a prospective olah this evening, I added a tip I haven’t mentioned here yet that I decided I really must share right this minute:
You can keep your phone number!
Yes, it’s true:  you can bring your North American landline number with you to Israel by switching it to a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) service before you move.
Why this was a great decision for us
I’m very attached to our number because I’ve had it for over 16 years, longer than any phone number in my life.  More importantly, everybody who’s known me during that time knew that was my number.
A few reasons you might consider keeping your phone number:
  • It’s pretty cheap – between $5-15 per month, depending on your service (you can also buy a device like a MagicJack that includes a certain number of months – but read all reviews carefully!).
  • You get to call North American 800 numbers easily and “free.”
  • You want to retain business contacts and/or keep doing business seamlessly in your old area.  It’s a lot easier to set up an interview and tell the person to “call me back at 416-555-1212” than to tell them “okay, dial 011, then 972, then 54, then 5551212.”  I do entire interviews where I don’t tell the person I’m in Israel… I love it!
  • You have elderly or low-tech and or dumb friends or relatives who might be scared to call a 972 number or still think long-distance is expensive and want to talk for only 30 seconds so they save money.
  • You want your kids to be able to call relatives and friends easily, and vice versa.
  • Extra VoIP services that may be included, like Call Answer that sends your voicemail straight to your email inbox.
  • Extra services, like our local public library’s “Dial-a-Story” line.  (Who in Israel is going to read my kids a story in English over the phone???)
A few reasons you might NOT want to keep your phone number:
  • You’re not moving into your own place right away, and don’t want to pay the full amount every month until you do (we “parked” the number for 6 months while we lived in the Merkaz Klitah, but still had to pay; I did continue to receive voicemail, though)
  • You aren’t leaving a lot of friends / relatives behind in the area code where you were living.
  • You don’t want bill collectors to find you.
  • You don’t want relatives to find you.
  • You’re happy using Skype / facebook / email and so are the people on the other end, so why should you bother paying?
  • You don’t want to bother futzing around with technical stuff (but it’s not all THAT technical!)*
  • You’re getting a great Israeli landline and/or cell plan that includes unlimited North America, and don’t see the need to complicate things with another phone option.
* Don’t be scared by the word “router”!  It’s just the modem box your internet line hooks up to.  If you have internet at home, you have a router, and to use VoIP, you usually just plug a box into the box and you’re good to go.
Does this mean we don’t use Skype, like everybody else?
We do use Skype.  It doesn’t work all the time, with every relative, in every situation.  We like Skype, and still use it when we want a video connection.  We have found that every Skype conversation begins with a lengthy preamble where you talk about Skype, get everything set up and then marvel about Skype some more.
It’s not the same as picking up the phone and just talking.
I also have some dollarses in a Skype-out phone account so I can call actual home telephone numbers on Skype.  This was a great option when we were in the Merkaz Klitah because it didn’t hog a lot of bandwidth or require access to a router, which we didn’t have.  But it’s NOT the same as picking up the phone either.
Young Boy Pretends To Talk On Phone Stock PhotoFunny true story:  last week, the Toronto phone rang and it was a telemarketer, saying, “We’ll be in your neighbourhood next week installing windows and doors.”  It was all I could do to not ask, “What neighbourhood is that, exactly?  Are you going doing Kuwait tomorrow?”
What NOT to do if you move your landline
So if that was the good decision… what was the bad decision?
The outlets here in Israel are different.  You know that already.  They have more electricity in them than the ones in North America – 220V instead of 120V.  That’s a lot of juice!
(It’s the same amount of juice that goes into those jumbo dryer outlets in North America.)
So it goes without saying – you can’t just plug stuff in willy-nilly.
Well, I certainly knew that already!  You don’t have to tell me!  I could teach a class on this stuff!  At least, I could have, until I did something really, really dumb.
adapter!There are two ways to plug stuff in that comes from North America:  an adapter and a transformer.  This deserves a blog post of its own, but basically, an adapter (shown here) changes the plug-holes ONLY; it doesn’t change the electricity.  So you still have super-strong Israel juice going into your appliance.
This will fry most appliances in seconds.
The only thing it works for is chargers, shavers, computer plugs and a few other things, because these usually have a transformer built in, in the form of that black “brick” thing at the end of the wire.  And somewhere on that “brick” in teeny tiny print is written how much juice it can take. 
It’s usually a range – like 100-220V.  The brick will automatically take the electricity you put in and switch it to the amount your device needs.  Nifty!
But it’s not always the SAME range, which means you must always READ the brick!!!
As I discovered, just because it’s a brick doesn’t guarantee that it will give a safe amount of electricity to your appliance.
Like the cordless phone that we shipped all the way here from Toronto… only to fry it like so much cheap bacon the first time I plugged it (with an adapter) into the Israeli powerbar where I plug my laptop (with an adapter).
The bad decision:
  • Adapter + Laptop = many happy computation-hours
  • Adapter + Cordless Phone = “what’s that funny smell?”
It never worked again. 
Happily, I was able to order one online from my favourite Israeli shopping website and it arrived at our door within a week.  So all’s well that ends well, as long as you toss enough money at the problem.  And the new one is better quality, with this ringtone that just makes me want to get up and disco.
One last reason why keeping the phone number was a good decision
I just want to end on a high note (instead of on a “how stupid can you get?” note) with one last reason that I didn’t mention above. 
The fact that my kids can pick up the phone and, with seven quick digits, have my mother, my sister, their friends, the library, on the line… well, it’s more than priceless:  it makes my heart sing.   And the fact that an old friend called my mother last week to get our number, and discovered that it was the SAME number; no dozens of digits to write down.  Again, when the phone rang and it was her, my heart was happy.
(I am careful to unplug the phone at night, with all our tech stuff, because 2 a.m. telemarketers are not quite as charming as 2 p.m. phone calls from an old friend.)
Yeah, your heart can be happy with an Israeli phone as well, and maybe eventually, when life here feels more settled, we’ll wean ourselves off this Toronto landline.  But maybe not… because it feels like such a good decision so far.
Just be careful what you plug in where!
If you’ve made aliyah, did you keep your number?  Was it a good decision?  If you’ve used a VoIP option that you’re happy with, feel free to leave the details in the Comments section!


  1. There are also fantastically cheap Israeli phone deals which include not only unlimited calls and messages in Israel and abroad but two free overseas numbers. I pay the equivalent of about $20 US dollars for my Golan number on my cellphone.

  2. There ARE some really good deals here. I've listed that in the list of reasons you might not want to keep your phone number.
    I don't believe this is for everybody, and it definitely applies more to olim who are coming now, although I do know one family of longer-term olim who bought a MagicJack with a brand-new U.S. phone number because the technology didn't exist before they came.


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