So the 10th anniversary flight of Nefesh b’Nefesh landed yesterday. It was a charter flight, meaning the entire plane was taken up with people making aliyah and their escorts: members of parliament, news personalities, representatives from the Interior Ministry to process paperwork on the plane. The arrival was Twittered, Facebooked, and Instagrammed, attended by family, friends and two very famous immigrants to Israel (Natan Sharansky and Rami Kleinstein).
I watched the photos roll in on social media and got teary-eyed. It is a big thing these people are doing.
And then the crowd dispersed, leaving 231 people (106 children) dazed and exhausted. Trying to figure out the following conundrums:
- “Am I really happy or is that the adrenaline talking?”
- “The signs said ‘Welcome Home!” but I just left my home.”
- “My stuff is in the middle of the ocean, and I am spending the next year sleeping in a place where I have no idea how to work the circuit breaker.”
- “Will my 2/3/5/12 year old ever stop crying?”
- “When will I stop bleeding money? Before or after I understand how to open a bank account? Should I just put money under the mattress?”
Now, I am not 100% sure that the above happened to anyone on that plane. It could be that I am projecting back to my own greenhorn experience, four years ago.
But it is only natural for adults to feel nervous about uprooting their entire lives. No matter how much you want it or for how long. Real change, especially as it affects not only you but also small people who rely on you for everything, is outrageously frightening, even if it’s wrapped in blue and white and singing Vshavu Banim L’Gvulam.
So when we came, I was full of questions and doubts and fears. I’ve mostly gotten over them. I’ve learned to roll with things. I don’t want to imply that I’ve become lazy — I mostly started that way — but I’ve become more laissez-faire. We’ll call it adapting to my new environment.
I underestimated how important it would be to understand how things work. You can get around with not-very-good Hebrew, especially if you’re willing to show up places in person instead of using the phone, but you need to understand how things work.
For example: Wanting to sign your kid up for camp in March will get you nowhere because camps don’t really exist until May. But if you wait until June 1 you’ll miss the 5% discounts, and if you wait until June 15 your kid may not have a place.
There are a million examples like this: at the grocery store, at the bank, at the library, at school, buying appliances. It takes time to get over the learning curve. It could be a lifetime’s worth of learning because we are still years from the army/sherut leumi, in-laws, grandkids, and who knows what else.
But ultimately, it will be ok.
So, new olim: You will be ok. I mean, I learned this from Benji Lovitt, but “Yiyeh b’seder” in Israel is a smart, face-saving, and sanity-saving lifestyle choice.
Don’t know what you’re eating for Shabbat until noon on Friday? You still might be invited, or there’s takeout, or pop by the grocery store (but before it closes!) – you’re not working today! It will be ok.
Don’t like the fees at the bank? They’re the same (almost) everywhere! We’re all suffering together! It will be ok.
Babysitter cancelled last minute? There’s bound to be a teenager somewhere on your block. Or just bring your kid(s); Israel is a kid-friendly place. It will be ok.
And so forth.
Now, learning to be zen about things takes practice. And coffee. And friends who are living the experience in tandem (ProTip: 1-2 years ahead of you is especially helpful), who can help you parse the “b’seder” from the “your hair is on fire – you should take care of that.”
So, four years in, we’ve jumped the tracks to Israeli life so long ago I wouldn’t even know how to live in America anymore. Would my kids screech the entirety of “Im Eshkachaich Yerushayalim” (dance performance thrown in FOR FREE) with a one-note prompt? Would I ever eat really good falafel? Would I know the difference between a cafe kar and an icekafe? Would we be able to distinguish Israel’s three common red springtime flowers – kalanit, nurit, and pereg? No.
I am the last person to tell reluctant Jews to leave their lives and “come home.” Home is where your heart is, and if your heart isn’t here you shouldn’t be either.
But if you’re thinking about it, I can tell you with a fair amount of confidence that it will be ok. It will be both hard and easy; both surprising and surprisingly normal; you’ll run hot and cold; there will be rain and rainbows. Yiyeh b’seder.