People, I love you. I really do. But it makes me feel completely squirrely when you make me out to be some hero tramping through unmarked territory.
Yes, we are new here, and yes, it’s taking some time and patience to figure things out, but this is a totally civilized country, not the Amazon basin. We’re waiting on some furniture deliveries, including a huge wardrobe type thing for all the kids’ clothes, so our apartment is a mess; but I am most impatient for the delivery of my new phone. (A Nokia N97. With QWERTY keyboard. I’m going to call her Kiki.)
Taxman has family in/near the three major cities in Israel (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa) and we have friends scattered all over the place: Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, Ramat Bet Shemesh, Yad Binyamin, Mitzpe Netofa, Ra’anana, Neve Daniel, Efrat. Seriously, if we wanted to go away every Shabbat between now and the end of the year, we would have no shortage of invitations.
We came with the organization Nefesh b’Nefesh. They do a lot of hand-holding and instructing on how to navigate the rules of government/city organizations. We knew the proper steps to take care of health insurance, bank accounts, school registration, and more because pretty much as you deplane they give you a huge poster with said steps and say “DO IT THIS WAY AND YOU WILL BE FINE. CALL US IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE. Or even if you don’t; call us.”
The city in which we live has three municipal employees whose job it is to smooth the way for English-speaking new arrivals. There are also two families who moved here last summer that we knew in New York, who we’ve been bothering for all kinds of directions and recommendations. At first it was the important stuff, like banks and doctors. Now it’s pizza and barbers. Gila & Donny & Ariella & Yaakov is half of the rah-rah team. The other half is, sadly, blogless.
But there are even more bloggers! The Altmans, who had us over for Shabbat lunch. Baila, who I called last week when we needed an evening babysitter. I figured with three post-bat mitzvah girls someone in her house would be available. And? Yes.
Taxman’s been attending what might be Israel’s friendliest shul. By next week he probably will have met everyone and forgotten all of their names. Miss M, after worrying over attending school in Hebrew for months, ran into school this morning and didn’t seem to be bothered this afternoon when she hadn’t understood much. (Ignorance is bliss as long as it comes with magic markers, recess, and aruchat eser.)
I have to imagine this is not what people normally experience when they move internationally. Even to Israel: Nefesh b’Nefesh has only been operational since 2002. Now there is Skype and email. Twenty years ago phone calls from the US to Israel were expensive; thirty years ago prohibitively so. Further back, moving to Israel was not a picnic. My sister-in-law has an uncle in his early 70s. “When did he come?” I asked my brother-in-law.
“Oh, he was born here,” my brother-in-law explained, “in Jerusalem, but his parents were British so he spoke English at home. His parents must have come in the late ’20s or early ’30s.”
“Wow. There must have been a lot of…desert.”
“Yeah. And a lot of famine.”
So our experience? Is not like that. We are not 100% settled, of course, but it has been only four weeks since we got here. Someone we know asked me over Facebook two weeks ago if I’m happy we made aliyah. I asked her if I could get back to her in a year. Because…seriously? We were sleeping on the kids’ trundle mattresses at the time. How could I possibly know? But we get to watch a beautiful sunset from our porch every night, the kids are happy with the playgrounds, and we are eating our way through. We are happy right now. (Ask me next week, when I will have to have three people in three different places at 7:45 am.)
But like I said, we’ve had a lot of help.
Someone who helped me, and not just chewing through aliyah thoughts but also some breastfeeding and other general parenting things, was A Mother in Israel. Somehow she manages to write two thought-provoking , insightful, and helpful blogs (also CookingManager.com), do volunteer work, and be a mom of six. (Are you tired yet? Just me?) She is a well known presence in the Jewish/Israeli blogosphere. She came to Israel almost twenty years ago, without the ease and handholding that we’ve experienced, and I wanted to nominate her to travel with new olim on their journey. I think she is a wonderful source of calm and experience and encouragement (to me and countless others); I would have loved for her to fly with us!
She’ll be attending the Second International Jewish Bloggers Convention in Jerusalem on September 13, so why not start the party early on the September 7th Nefesh b’Nefesh charter flight?