Step-by-Step: Making Aliyah to Israel

Documenting the very personal process of making Aliyah (immigration to Israel) by one very atypical Israeli-American girl. Aliyah on 17, August, 2005. Roadmap: What do you mean there's no roadmap?! Hang on, we're in for a bumpy ride! Ole!

Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy 2005!!

I'm wishing everyone a happy, safe, and prosperous 2005. And my 2005 looks like it is starting out great. For one thing, it looks like I'm being adopted by Allison and Lisa. Well, very kewl I say --lol, so long as you guys don't call out the IDF if I'm out of pocket for awhile! For another, I'm sitting here at an outdoor cafe blogging in a t-shirt and feeling warm (ahhh, lovely Texas weather!). And last but not least, my shaliach called yesterday and said everything had been filed, all my paperwork looked great, and I should be hearing back very soon.

Have a great New Years Eve and Day!

Monday, December 27, 2004

heart and prayers ..and how to help

I'm not going to write what I am thinking and feeling as the news pours in of the unspeakable tragedy brought about by the tsunami --I know everyone is feeling the same. Instead, here are some links to relief organizations that are desperately working to bring relief to the survivors. The following aid agencies are accepting contributions for assistance that they or their affiliates will provide for those affected by the earthquake and tidal waves in Asia. If you can offer help, these are some good places to start:

Action Against Hunger
247 West 37th Street, Suite 1201
New York, NY 10018

American Jewish World Service
45 West 36th Street, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Direct Relief International
27 South La Patera Lane
Santa Barbara, CA 93117

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres
PO Box 1856
Merrifield, VA. 22116-8056.

International Medical Corps
1919 Santa Monica Boulevard Suite 300
Santa Monica CA 90404

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Raising Funds
For South Asia Tsunami Relief
``JDC: South Asia Tsunami Relief''
Box 321
847A Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Thursday, December 16, 2004

only to my mother...

I do not have a mother, I have a smother. My mother knows the particulars of just about every crime ever committed --and stories of every other possible way of meeting a bad end, from choking to death on popcorn to being struck by lightening while standing inside your house in reach of your screendoor and more. She worries. Excessively. She is in a constant state of anxiety that something horrible will happen to one or both of her children. So she calls. In the case of my brother, she drives by. She has been known, and not infrequently mind you, to drive by his house at 2 a.m. if she hasn't been able to reach him to make sure his car is in the driveway and that he is home safe (he often works really late). I have gone out of town without informing her before and, unable to reach me, she has panicked and had the police come by to check on my apartment (and once had the state police out looking for me). Of course, she only goes to the police after she has called every hospital in the state to make sure no one has been admitted fitting my description.

So this past summer when she and my brother came to visit me while I was in Europe my brother and I sat her down and had it out with her: this has to stop. It was not a pretty scene. She cried, wanted to go home, wished she hadn't come. She told us again and again what a dangerous place the world is and that her worry is not misplaced. We told her in turn that the world is not such a dangerous place and to get over it. We felt the guilt but also felt a sense of victory because we extracted a promise from her to stop smothering so much.

Fast-forward two days. Luxembourg. In broad daylight we leave my mother off at a museum to go explore the catacombs and come back to meet up with her two hours later. As we approach the museum we see a large knot of people and several policemen. What on earth? As luck would have it, my mother has managed to run into perhaps the only criminal in the tiny country of Luxembourg. It just figures. She went in and viewed the museum and then came out to sit on a bench in the sun. A young woman came and sat beside her and they had begun to talk when they heard a noise behind them. My mother turned to see what little animal was making such a noise and saw, not a squirrel, chipmunk, or bird but...a naked man. And not just a naked man but a naked man creeping out from under a bush right behind the bench with the definite intent of grabbing at the women on the bench. My mother leaped up and dashed out of his way (she says she never thought she was capable of being so spry) with a shout. He managed to grab the young woman but she was able to wrench her way out of his grasp and also dash to safety. Neither of them spoke French or German and it was some time before they found someone with enough English to understand that there was a naked man in the museum bushes grabbing at unsuspecting female tourists and have the police called. In the meantime the man was able to remove the _business suit_ he had hanging on the branches inside the bush, dress, and run to his moped to make his escape. This could only happen to my mother.

And the timing was just so perfect. Now, whenever we mention that she really shouldn't freak out on us if she can't reach us she just says, "ahem, nekked man?"

And what to say to that?!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

and so it begins

Talked to my mother tonight for more than an hour. I should have been studying for my final exam in Hebrew tomorrow instead but the slow start of what will become a several-time-weekly-in-perpetuatity battle has begun and so I mustered my defenses and engaged. I was really surprised at my mother's surprisingly supportive reaction to my announcement that I'm making Aliyah but I should have known better. For two weeks she has been like "how wonderful, you've really thought this out, blah blah nice nice."

I should have waited until 3 weeks before the actual move to drop the bombshell. Now she has more than 6 months to engage in psychological warfare beginning, of course, with the guilt-trips --but honey, it is so far away, when you come to visit we'll have lots of time to talk about alternatives. And, wonderfully, I am spending 3 weeks starting this coming Thursday in Texas living in the same house with her over winter break. G-d help me. Don't get me wrong, I love my mother. I really, really love my mother and I have a really good time with her most of the time when we get together. But I also like having my own life. More, I like having the life I want to have and the life she wants me to have is not the life I want to have. Above all, my mother wants me to live next door to her (she won't come right out and say this but that is what she wants) and for my brother to live no more than a few blocks away (which he actually does and this causes some problems for him. ahem. cough. yes.). Barring that, she thinks Canada is a good idea (if I'm damned and determined to live in another country at least live in the country next door...). Why, why why why why, did I open my mouth.

I will win but it won't be pretty. It never is. It will be a long, protracted battle which (trust me) will not end once I and my cats set permanent feet and paws on Israeli soil.

I'd start banging my head against the wall now but a) I'd be too brain-damaged to actually make the move by August and b) my apartment is too small to have enough empty wall space to do it effectively.

Speaking of banging my head against the wall, I can't figure out how to configure my blog the way I want it. It is not very user-friendly. I want to post a profile picture but for some reason it won't let me. Other blogs I see (ok Rinat's and Celestial Blue's specifially) have really kewl layouts and I can't figure out how they did it.

I got one review down today. Only 6 more to go. sigh.

My roommate just asked why I talk to my mother nearly every night to begin with, that she's neurotic as hell and to set some boundaries. Ahhhh I have to remember to write about the historic (and somewhat hysterical) confrontation of Maman in Luxembourg. Tomorrow. (and he should talk --his parents spent the entire weekend I spent with them trying to convince me to convince him to move back home!). It's late, I'm tired, tomorrow is another guaranteed to be horrible day (especially since I never did study for that final...).

Sunday, December 12, 2004

glad I went

There was a Chanukah party tonight and I almost didn't go. A girl in my class invited me several weeks ago and I said sure at the time but then I really did not want to go tonight. It's not that it is the effort it takes to get a bit dressed up or anything, I'm not sure what it is, but it always happens: right before I should leave, I'm dressed even, I decide well maybe not...why not stay home where it is nice and comfortable? I don't really want to go anyway, right, I probably will have an awful time I'm convincing myself...and a lot of the time I never do get out the door. This time I did finally get out the door (an hour late, of course) and I had a really good time and was glad I went. And this was despite the fact that I only knew one person there (the hostess) and I don't really know her all that well. But I met a lot of really interesting people tonight. I shmoozed with the best of them. And I got to eat incredibly good sushi that was hand-made before my eyes, cheesecake that was to die for, and had some kahlua-and-somethingy drink that immediately made me a bit tipsy even though the bartender promised he was only putting in a little bit of alcohol. I promised myself when I left that I would just go and stay for a polite one hour and then make my escape. Well, 5 hours later I am just getting home.

And this always happens too: once I go I almost always have a really good time. So why isn't there some kind of learning curve here? You would think I would think to myself, wow there's a shindig tonight and I always have fun at these so yalla, let's go. But no. I feel angst, dread, a wish to avoid, avoid, avoid when there is absolutely no reason to feel that way.

Well, I have another party tomorrow night and I am going to look forward to it. And at this one I will at least know everyone and their dog (literally --they have several pooches that are generous with the smooches --hmm note to self, remember to wear slobber-proof outfit) .

On a different train of thought, what do people _do_ to be able to live in an incredible, big, two-bedroom-with-a(real)-fireplace, doorman building one block away from the Metropolitan Opera? Not to mention the catering that went into that party. R is in school and I think she is about 30. She had mentioned that her husband was a "bit" older but I wasn't expecting Methusala. He's pushing 65 if he's a day. And what on earth does the man do? Can I do it too? Lol.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Tik file in

Woo hoo, yesterday I sent in the final documentation for my Aliyah application. I wanted to bring it in to the Aliyah Center myself to make absolutely sure it got where it should go but when I called my new shaliach (whom I haven't met) she was like "no, just mail it." I really liked Liat and wish that she was still my shaliach but I'm happy for her that she is having a baby. Still, I want her back. My new shaliach sounded bored, inattentive, and totally not invested. Of course, it is hard to tell just from a phone conversation.

Well, I mailed it but I sent it express mail just in case. Ayelet should get it today before noon. I checked it over about 500 times but I'm still worried that maybe I missed something. I hear it takes about a month or two for the approval to come in so now the waiting begins.

I've sent off a bunch of my CVs this week and still have some more to go.

I hate this feeling of being in limbo but I think I'm going to have to get used to it. Limbo til the tik file is approved, limbo til I actually find an apartment and move, limbo til I find a job. For a person who likes to have everything mapped out and settled this is unsettling.

But my tik file is now in!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

a wee note

Found a really interesting site today while trying to avoid wading through the pile of reviewing I have on my plate and thought I'd share:

Ok, to bed (and yes, I managed to totally avoid the reviewing: must do it tomorrow!)

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

It's all in a name?

First, it is still Tuesday? I didn't make it to the store. I was starving and all we had was instant oatmeal (tres disgusting, but I ate it anyway) and then I fell into bed "for an hour" --but just woke up. Hey it is early! My body is telling me it is 5:30 in the morning.

Ok, I want to blog about the whole name thing. Or maybe names is the better way to put it. I'll start off with the name of this blog: Oleh girl. Yes, I know that it is grammatically incorrect and should be "Olah" because --I'm a girl. But, I liked the idea of using "oleh" because it is also the spanish version of a rousing "woo hoo!" As you can see, I'm not much for following the rules :)

My name. I like my name. No, I love my name. It was carefully selected by me, myself and I, because I hated the name my parents carefully selected for me. I spent 18 years living with the name my parents picked (and a last name they were also stuck with) and I hated every minute of it. So when I turned 18 I changed it. The whole shabang from first, to middle, to last. I even added a second middle name. I've now spent almost 18 years living with a name I LOVE. And it is great because I have lots of nice nicknames from it. But now there is a problem. This lovely name, except for Yael, is gaelic.

Yes, gaelic. Celtic. Totally not Jewish. Not by any stretch of the imagination is it a Jewish name. And this is fine with me.

It is not fine with folks in Israel. The problem first arose when I was in line at the El Al counter. The girl whose job it is to grill each and every person to make sure we are not terrorists was like, ok, explain this name. So I did, and she actually thought it was pretty funny, but she also asked me about 5 times as many questions as she did everyone else, including what did I read when I made Bat Mitzvah (I should note that when I went to the Aliyah Center for the first time to meet with my Shaliach, I had to recite the shma to the security guard before he'd let me in). Things got worse when I hit pass control on the other end. You are here for what reason --aliyah pilot trip with this name? And you don't have any close relatives living here? Hmmmm.

And of course, they all want to know what my name was before. Fine, except that even though my old first name was a nice, standard name for a Jewish girl, my last name was ...British. And unpronounceably British too. Because, you see, my father is not Jewish. For that matter, my maternal grandfather was also not Jewish. Nonetheless, I am halachically Jewish because my maternal grandmother was, therefore making my matre, and thus me nice Jewish girls. And given that the _maternal_ line is considered to be so all-important by the Orthodox what is all this emphasis on having a paternally-delivered last name?? Oy!

I got double, triple, and quadruple takes everywhere I went (not to mention the 3rd degree). The nice lady at the Ministry of Absorbtion that I talked to kindly informed me that when I make Aliyah , upon arrival, I can have a free name-change and she strongly suggested that I USE IT. Oy.

The good thing is that I won't have to change it in the U.S. and so can still be me as I reinvented myself. The bad thing is that I can already forsee the hassles of going through U.S. customs everytime I return home to see the family --your name is different on your passports why? What kind of a lurking terrorist are you? Oy, again.

And I like my name!! Alright, I'm whining.

Another good thing is that I now, for free, have the opportunity to reinvent myself yet again. This could be fun. And one thing I've noticed, having done this once already, is that when you take on a completely new name your personality really changes in many ways to fit that new name. I wouldn't say that you are suddenly a completely different person but you are, in subtle ways and in larger ones, different from who you were before. I've talked about this phenomenon with other people who've changed their names and it seems to be quite common --it is like you shed aspects of yourself that you didn't like and associated with the old name and begin to adopt new ones that fit your new image. Or maybe not really new ones, just parts of yourself that you couldn't express when you were saddled with this other identity. For instance, I was painfully (painfully) shy as Sherri (American spelling of Shiri). When I officially became Katie it is not like I suddenly became little miss gregarious but I did become a hundred times more outgoing, more self-confident.

So now the question is, who do I become? I don't want to, as was suggested, go back to Shiri. I don't really feel like a Yael and I don't feel like Yael fits me as a first name. A friend suggested Yael Moked --pronounced Mo-ked --because it is close (sort of) to my chosen last name. Hmmm, I've been rolling it around in my mouth for days now and I kind of like it doesn't feel like me or like a me that I could become. This is going to take some serious thought (hey any suggestions out there?)