There is the way in which you virtually abandon your previous life. I don’t mean the people in your previous life or your personality, but giving up what you’re used to. Perhaps swapping a house for a small apartment, a car for public transportation, air conditioning for (gasp) not. Arriving with two suitcases and a computer and that’s it.
I personally think this approach is easiest when you’re young. Far younger than I am. When you come to Israel for college and don’t leave; when you come as a young newlywed. There is less to give up, perhaps, because you haven’t spent as much time making a home, creating recipes, developing habits.
There is the way in which you try to recreate your former life, bringing a 40 foot by 40 foot container’s worth of furniture, appliances, even a car. You settle somewhere where you can get by with speaking very little Hebrew because not only do your neighbors speak your language, but the shopkeepers, doctors, and service people do also. You don’t even bother with it, and maybe absorption into Israeli society was never your goal in the first place.
For the overwhelming majority, though, there is a middle way, with some and some.
Taxman and I downsized our life. We spend weeks sorting and weeding and delivering boxes to the Salvation Army. We agreed to buy appliances in Israel. But at the same time, we weren’t going to give up our beloved dining room set, our custom built bookcases, our Dutalier glider, our stash of gallon-size Ziploc bags. I have friends bring me sunscreen and maple syrup from the United States. (This is one of the reasons why. And this.) Someone scoffed that this was treating aliyah like a camping trip, but I honestly don’t think it’s interfering with my aliyah process.
It takes time to adjust to life here. I am evolving. One big thing I’m trying to wrap my head around now is how I dress. My clothes from America just aren’t right for here. But I wouldn’t have believed it before I came. I had to live here and experience the HOT and dread the HOT and deal with the HOT to realize that I need a wardrobe revolution.
It will be a quiet and slow revolution, but nevertheless, it will happen. I couldn’t figure out exactly what the problem was, but Hannah came up with it in one word: tailored. My lovely, knee-length, always-fashionable black skirts from America are tailored and lined and meant to be worn with hose and closed-toe shoes. That’s four reasons why Ann Taylor would have a hard time getting a foothold here.
So I’ll have to bite the bullet and learn my way around the crazy sizing and different brands. I’ve already commandeered an American-Israeli friend to start me off. First stop was Lord Kitsch.
I figured out how to tie a mitpachat (kerchief)–thank you HatsandHeadscarves.com and CoverYourHair.com for the videos–and plan to wear those all summer. They are a bit of a “statement” about where you are on the religious/political spectrum (not exactly where I am, but not terribly far off), but for me the statement is: “This covers the front of my hair and keeps the back of my hair off my neck, and I am not wearing a cotton heavy beret again during the midday hours until October; it’s too hot, wah!” Plus I bought sparkly barrettes. And who doesn’t love those?