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!

Monday, January 31, 2005

yowzers! they published it

When JPost asked for readers comments, I sent in the first part of what became my much longer blog-thought (below) from yesterday. And, they published it:
Katie's comments here. Thud.

unspoken in our presence

Something has been bugging me lately and today, after reading this article in the Jerusalem post, I decided to blog about it.

Anti-semitism runs deep and, I believe, a good deal deeper and wider than many Jews are aware for the simple reason that, those who hold negative stereotypes and opinions of Jews often do not express those sentiments in the presence of their Jewish acquaintances. That would be too Un-PC of them.

With my blond hair and gaelic name people don't usually take me for being Jewish and so more times than I can count I've been privy to hearing what people _really_ think about Jews if the topic of conversation veers onto the Middle East, the Holocaust, major holiday seasons, or someone just decides to throw in a conversational little comment about how someone tried to "Jew me down" or similar remark. These instances usually occurred with acquaintances whom I knew only peripherally. They were sometimes accompanied by an aside, "well I wouldn't say that if (name of another Jewish acquaintance) were here, but you know what I mean..."

Oh, do I now?

My response to these situations has varied from ignoring it and deciding to have little contact with the speaker(s) if possible, to quietly stating "you do know that I am Jewish, don't you?" --(Can you hear the moment of dead silence that usually brings on before the embarrassed backtracking begins?),-- to really being confrontational. And a whole range in between.

None of those responses brings satisfactory or effective results. Nobody's opinion really gets changed. They might just be a bit more careful about being PC outwardly.

Last year though an instance occurred that really hit home. And really hurt. And has really made me mad, though not necessarily at the specific people (well, mad at them too) but at the inexplicableness of it. Where does this prejudice come from?

And I've been stewing on it for months now. Because these people who were harboring really negative stereotypes and opinions of Jews were not acquaintances. They were very close friends.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

A MUST read: Facts to know posted by Hatshepsut. Thank you for putting this up!!

Friday, January 28, 2005

Right now I feel like my life is one big rollercoaster ride: going up one day and dowwwnnnnn the next and then starting the next climb. I love to ride rollercoasters but not to live on one. Yesterday was an "up" day. I got the new IBM laptop (setting it up today) that has -gasp of delight- a DVD burner. It is totally a stacked laptop and the best thing is it didn't cost me a penny (of course, I don't get to keep it permantently either since it belongs to the school). But I intend to use it and use it well while it is mine, mine, mine :)

I had a good "hebrew encounter." My teacher grabbed me after class (the for-credit one) and told me I needed to go into the more advanced class. Well, I'm not going to do it but it was really good to hear. I took this same intermediate I class last semester and felt totally lost and out of my league the entire time, so I thought it would be a really good idea to take it again. This time around I am feeling more comfortable and I'm definitely understanding more (the entire thing is taught with no english at all). Still, the others in the class (most of them products of 10 plus years of hebrew day schools) can run rings around me (I think) when it comes to speaking. And we haven't gotten to the section on the good old future tense yet which is where my hebrew ability dies a terrible death. And my vocabulary is really limited -I just can't seem to retain words and their meanings. So my hope is that this time around I will retain, really get all the nebulous grammar stuff totally engrained, and then have a really strong base for incorporating new stuff. Plus, Shiri is a native speaker and the teacher of the more advanced class is not and I think, in terms of hearing and understanding (not to mention pronunciation) I'll get more out of this class. I must admit that a big factor is that I really like Shiri and feel comfortable around her and, to be honest, the woman who teaches the more advanced class scares the hell out of me. I wonder if my students have ever felt that way about me --"don't take her class, she's a real witch"? Gulp, I hope not. (I have to note, it is kind of unsettling to suddenly be back on the "student" side of things. Or rather unsettling to see how quickly I've reverted back to a "kid" perspective, lol).

The final piece of goodness for the day was that a colleague (he's Israeli) knocked on my office door and told me that a couple of days ago he'd talked to the president of (university X) in Israel and that the U is planning to add a communications dept and a psych dept--they don't currently have either -- and that he'd mentioned my name in connection to possible new hires. He gave me the email address and last night I followed this up and sent off my CV and letter of research focus. Nothing may come of it but it is a lead and spot of hope nonetheless.

So yesterday the rollercoaster was definitely on one of the climbs!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Remembering the Wannsee Conference and the Liberation of Auschwitz

This article is posted as part of the January 27, 2005, BlogBurst (see list of participating sites at bottom of post), to remember the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, sixty years ago, on January 27, 1945.

Words are inadequate to describe the cold calculation with which the members at the meeting at Wannsee (January 20, 1942) worked out, in meticulous detail, the intent to murder "roughly eleven million Jews." Words are inadequate to describe the degradation, torment, and torture to which the Jews of Europe were subjected as they were herded from their homes into over-crowded ghettoes and transit camps and cut off from the rest of the world. There, they died by the hundreds of thousands from starvation, disease, and execution. But the worst was yet to come.

Auschwitz symbolizes this worst and the worst in mankind --a literal hell on earth, the sole purpose of which was the extermination of men, women, and children. In this hell between three and four million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles and Red Army POWs, were slaughtered in Auschwitz-Birkenau. But Auschwitz was not unique; there was also Treblinka, Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec and Majdanek --factories of death that worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year to murder as many "undesirables" as was inhumanly possible. In these "camps" the use of Zyklon B to gas the victims was the murder weapon of choice. On some days, in Auschwitz alone, more than 10,000 human beings were "processed" -crammed into these chambers of death and then their bodies burned in the crematoria and in mass graves. And then, of course, there were the hundreds of other concentration camps that, while not equipped with working gas chambers, nonetheless did their part to solve the "Jewish Question" through wholesale murder and starvation. Anne Frank perished in one of these camps: Bergen-Belsen, just days before liberation. In all, more than 6 million Jews were murdered between the years 1939 and 1945.

Six million. We hear this number and yet the mind cannot comprehend, cannot conceive, this abstract concept: "6 million people." It is overwhelming, monolithic. A number. In hearing "6 million" it is easy to feel a distance, to lose the understanding that this number represents individuals, each and every one of whom had hopes and dreams, livelihoods and loved ones, entire stories and histories that we can now never know. We cannot know their individual suffering. They have no voices to tell us.

The tiny fraction who did manage to survive the ghettoes and camps of death bear the burden to not only tell their own story but to stand as representatives for all those who did not. Their stories must be told and they are stories we must hear. Words are inadequate to describe what they experienced, what they suffered, what those who now have no voice went through. But words are all we have. It is important to listen to their words to put a name, a face, an individual story to the incomprehensible. It is important to remember that there were 6 million people, each as unique and with their own lives and stories as
Tova Friedman, Benjamin Jacobs ("the dentist of Auschwitz"), and Gloria. Many more individual stories can be found here.

Equally incomprehensible is that fact that, for a long time, the Allies were well aware of the mass murder, but deliberately refused to bomb the camp or the railways leading to it. Ironically, during the Polish uprising, the Allies had no hesitation in flying aid to Warsaw, sometimes flying right over Auschwitz.

There are troubling parallels between the systematic vilification of Jews before the Holocaust and the current vilification of the Jewish people and Israel. Suffice it to note the annual flood of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN; or the public opinion polls taken in Europe, which single out Israel as a danger to world peace; or the divestment campaigns being waged in the US against Israel; or the attempts to delegitimize Israel’s very existence. The complicity of the Allies in WW II is mirrored by the support the PLO has been receiving from Europe, China and Russia to this very day.

Please take the time to visit some of the other sites participating in this January, 2005, BlogBurst of Rememberance for more information, more perspectives, and more ways to remind us all: Never forget. Never again.

Ok, I'm crazy. Beseder. I'm still going in August, job or no job. Over-qualified and incorrectly qualified and intimidatingly qualified (he actually said my vita was going to intimidate people --now do I look intimidating??): I'm going. First I got upset (when I left) and then I got mad and now I'm just stubbornly determined. He inspired me to drag my sorry and sick little behind to the once-a-week, not-for-credit, intimidatingly-advanced-conversational-hebrew-for-they-really-must-be-natives class this afternoon.

And ...she speaks! Shiri (ha'morah who also teaches my for-credit, 3-days-a-week-intimidatingly-intermediate hebrew class and who has made me actually think nicer thoughts about my originally given name because she is really great) was like, what... you actually talked?! Yes (taking a bow) I did. That's how mad and stubborn I got. Ok, I had to ask for a lot of words, especially when it came to things like "uneven parallel bars," but I talked and I fooled the rest of the class. We were supposed to tell two little stories-- one of which was real and one that was not-- about ourselves and everyone had to vote on which one was the true one. Yes, I was a gymnast in my kidhood, competed internationally, and had Bela Karolyi for a coach. No, I have not published a very popular book ---yet *grin*. I intend to eat, sleep, and drink hebrew between now and August. I will overcome (and deny an academic degree or two if necessary).

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Ok, I'm certifiably depressed. I'm over-qualified. And have the wrong qualifications. And my hebrew sucks. So what the hell am I doing thinking of moving to Israel, he wanted to know.

I'm obviously crazy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

now I'm sick :(

Uuggghh, I hate being sick. I'm not a good sick person. I whine, I want someone to bring me hot tea and make me chicken soup (yes, I even stop being a vegetarian when it comes to being sick). I want to be babied and pampered --and entertained when I stop feeling like I'm dying and just feel cruddy. In short, I revert to being 5 years old. And, sigh, my cats are not willing to step up to the plate. So, last week ha'morah was sick and cancelled classes and today I'm missing. Well, at least I do have the borrowed tv and dvd player and so I can feel like I'm dying while rewatching the Israeli films I ordered (not Kedma again though --very disappointing).

I found an interesting article about the effects on the brain of learning a second language: we get more grey matter . They haven't studied the effects of being multi-lingual yet and find that older learners get less grey matter than younger ones. This article from Nature Neuroscience was more encouraging, suggesting that learning a second language in adulthood is not as difficult as previously thought. According to this article, I know a lot more hebrew than I think I do. Ok then brain, start actually spitting those words out.

Update: I cannot be sick tomorrow, I cannot be sick tomorrow, I cannot! I just found out that I have a job interview set up through the Israel Aliyah Center for tomorrow morning at 11! Yikes, what to wear?! Now everyone please use all your cosmic energies not only to wish me success but also that I don't repeat the dreadful mistake that George Bush the 1st made in Japan.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

And it just keeps coming! I was inspired to run out and take some pictures with my new digital camera that I got for Hanukmas. Brrr, it was fine on the way out but by the time I'd made my way over to Times Square and back it had gotten downright seriously nippy. The wind has started to really blow and the fluffy snow didn't feel so fluffy anymore when it was being driven into my face. It takes a blizzard to get me to take pictures of where I live! Honestly, until today I had a total of 2 pictures of NYC. I'm going to see what to do to get the pics on the computer and put some up.

The soup is cooking away. It is making the whole apartment smell nice. There are only a handful of cars out driving on the streets now. My room is freezing (the heat doesn't work in here) so I am very shortly going to abandon the computer for awhile for the warmth of the living room and a movie with my roommate (hmmm should it be Late Marriage or Kedma? Maybe both!)

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Snow! Lovely snow!

It is snowing and snowing and snowing outside. Not just little flakes but nice big wet ones that are sticking in a serious way. I just got back from slipping and sliding my way down the street to the Amish market to pick up some cans of tomatoes -when having a blizzard, cook soup! I'm making a BIG pot. I'd say, from the foot slippage experience, that we've gotten a good 3-4 inches so far here in the city. I wish shops and doormen wouldn't shovel the snow off the sidewalk: it only makes those areas the most slippy and treacherous because the water residue freezes into ice and there is always just enough snow starting to cover it that you reaaaalllly slide.

New York City is beautiful when it snows. Just really exceptionally beautiful. And so quiet! Traffic is moving along smoothly (looking out my window right now at it) and with fewer cars than usual but the layer of snow on the street mutes everything. All the dirt and trash is covered over by a lovely layer of white. Now tomorrow it will be different story as feet and cars turn the snow to a muddy, ugly brown but today ...ahhhh.

If ya wanna see what it looks like relatively close to my little apartment, there is a live webcam showing Times Square here. I live in Hell's Kitchen (somehow that seems appropriate to me --especially if this soup doesn't turn out) just a couple blocks west of ye old square.

Friday, January 21, 2005

I'm slowly working my way through the links listed on my favourite blogs and keep coming across new ones that quickly become daily "must checks" ...I can forsee a day when I do nothing but sit at the computer from morning to night checking in with fellow bloggers, lol. I came across this one today and, because it is written in both Hebrew and in English (what a great idea!!) and really interesting it took me a really long time to read it all. Well, today I had an excuse to play: Hebrew class was cancelled yet again. I actually missed not having it today. But, hey, Alisa's blog was some good reading practice and I now have a list of (yes, it is scary) 128 words that I had to look up from her blog and that are now in my "Incredibly Useful So Learn These!" notebook.

Watched the movie Kippur this afternoon (directed by Amos Gitai) and really liked it, even though it was a nail-biter that had me eating my way through two bags of popcorn. A good review of the movie can be found here and I ordered it off Netflix. Netflix has a pretty large selection of Israeli flicks, though it would be nice if they had a way to search for films by langauge and not just category or title. Many Israeli films are listed under the sub-category "middle east" under foreign films but a lot of them are not and you have to know the name of the film to find out if they have it.

I am going to bed early tonight because I was up until 4 a.m. helping my roommate try to translate a legal document from Hebrew to English. I wasn't dealing with the hebrew part at all, just trying to help him figure out the right english words to use. We worked on it for almost 6 hours, he got paid $25 dollars for it and I got --a hug. It was a nice hug. I complain about him a lot and we fight like cats and dogs (bicker bicker bicker) but in spite of that, I really like him. Lol, today I like him. We finally decided that the problem is that we are waaaaayy too much alike. I call him Achi because --he could be.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

G-d punishes and rewards...

I woke up at the ung-dly hour of 8 a.m. this morning in order to get ready for my second day of classes, drank an ung-dly amount of coffee in an attempt to pry my eyes open enough to do the homework (yes already procrastinating), did the homework (badly), and then checked my email before getting ready to run out the door. "YES! Thank you G-d!" --there in my inbox was notification that my hebrew class was cancelled today. I would be spared the mortification of sounding like a complete idiot if called on for one more day.

Not long after doing my celebratory dance around my bedroom, a guy from my hebrew meetup (no, not the cute one I met in Tel Aviv -- did I mention that he is cute? Oh yes he is!) called and asked if I wanted to get together this afternoon to do a bit of study and practice. Feeling somewhat guilty about being so very happy not to have class and knowing I need the practice, I said sure thing. Being an idiot in front of 1 person is much easier than in front of 30. He said he was bringing along some things for us to read in "easy hebrew" and he thought I would enjoy it.

Ok, correct me if I'm wrong but ...ARCHAIC HEBREW WRITTEN 600 YEARS AGO is not what I'd call easy. And secular girl here does not particularly find reading and discussing religious tracts for two hours terribly enjoyable. The guy who wrote it did so anonymously in order to avoid the sin of loving honour too much and being prideful --so the introduction said. At least, I think that's what it said. Personally, I think he did it out of embarrassment. And because I was such a good little girl and bit my tongue, smiled and nodded for 2 hours, my Jehova's Witness --oops, I mean conservative (conservadox?) --little friend gave me some nice literature to take home with me (in english, thank G-d) and only twisted my arm about thinking about thinking about attending synagogue(conservative of course) for 20 minutes after we closed the book.

So walking home I was trying to decide if G-d was punishing me for being so ecstatic over missing the class or because She observed that celebratory dance and was expressing Her opinion that I really do need those Hip-Hop lessons.

However, I have to conclude that G-d is merciful and looking out for me because when I got home and checked my email I found a note from my childhood Rabbi (and later my professor) saying he'd written me a letter of recommendation for my Nefesh b'Nefesh application.

On the off chance that G-d is reading my blog, I hereby promise that if my application gets accepted I will hie myself to the nearest synagogue on the first Shabbos after I find out. And I'll actually _go_ to those hip-hop classes. So please...:)

Monday, January 17, 2005

small world

My best friend Michie is still visiting (she goes home tomorrow) and we've been busy "doing New York" so I haven't had time to write. It is amazing how you can live someplace for so long and have seen so little of it. I can now say I've actually seen most of the tourist traps in New York City!

Well, last week an interesting thing happened. I went to this once-a-month hebrew langauge meeting thing that I organize (don't ask me how I got to be the organizer, it is still a mystery to me). Usually there are only a couple of people who turn up but it is always fun. This time I got there a bit late and found a large table full of people. Wow, was I in the right place? But a bigger surprise was that sitting there was a guy I kinda sorta recognized...from somewhere. He recognized me too and he remembered where --"hey, didn't I meet you in Tel Aviv a couple of months ago?!" I'll be darned. He and I had gotten to talking (this so doesn't happen in restaurants here) at this place that serves absolutely the best falafel I've ever had. He is a really interesting guy and we had this really great hour-long conversation from across our separate tables (enlivened by the addition of a business man from California who was tooling around Israel for a month, half on business and half on pleasure). Well, we said goodbye and that was that. Then he turns up not just here in NY but here at the meeting. How neat! In all the years I've lived in NYC, I've never run into any of the people I know who live here on the streets or in a restaurant but I run into someone I met in another country... It really is a small world even in this big city!

Sunday, January 09, 2005

catching up

Ahh a connection to the Internet again! I'm using my cruddy and very old compaq (if my sentences are missing a few letters here and there remember that it is a very old compaq) because my lovely IBM is in the shop. Well, when the system board decided to fry on me last week I was calling it quite a few other things than lovely. Then I got back last Tuesday night to discover my aparment had been burgled and my desktop computer gone along with everything else electronic except for the litter box and the stereo --I guess even the burgler could tell it was a piece of junk. Did he try it out, I wonder? I can just picture him (hims? hims and hers?) deciding to spin a few kewl Israeli tunes while ransacking the place, discovering that it skips on evey other line and deciding nahhhhh, it ain't worth those two flights of stairs... But hey, the speakers are excellent! My wonderful landlord has still not come to replace the locks and so I am actually looking forward t my roommate returning tomorrow.

I'm taking a very placid view of things I think. Generally I would be freaking out (ok, I admit to doing a bit of freaking out on Tuesday night) but I'm feeling like ok, they are just things right? Things can be replaced. And anyway they are 110 volts or whatever and I'd have to replace them anyway this summer. So the things I'm not really all that upset about. There is this feeling of violation though and that is hard to get over. The idea that someone was pawing through my things, finding some of them lacking no less --I'm starting to feel a real affinity for that stereo! how dare they reject it?! -- and invading my personal space. But I'm thankful that I wasn't home and my roommate wasn't home and my cats weren't hurt. I'm creeped out by the timing though --my roommate left a week ago Thursday, a friend of mine came to take of the cats on Saturday and everything was fine, so it had to have happened on Sunday or Monday or possibly on Tuesday before I got home and I'm wondering if whoever it was knew that no one was home and if they did... how did they know? We left lights on so it would look like someone was home. The tv (ahhh the tv) was running pbs continually ---for the cats to have some amusement not to deter burglars. So was it just random coincidence, was someone keeping tabs on our movements, was it even some dastardly neighbor with a screwdriver? Ok, I'm going to stop thinking along these lines or I might start freaking out.

Good things are happening in my life and that is the place to focus. A really close friend of mine from California is coming back to visit and will stay with me for four days next week. I'm signing up to take some hip hop classes (I want to learn how to not dance like a white girl, lol!) and they start next Sunday at a really neat dance studio just a couple blocks away from me. I'm hearing rumors that I might be getting some job interviews b'eretz quite soon (now over those I'll freak out) which, at the least, would occasion another trip "home" (hopefully and even likely paid for not by me so another thing to celebrate) this spring. So, I'm still thinking 2005 is starting out as a good year :)

P.S. I'm really not completely enamored of this picture of me that is now all over my webpage. I tried to add the picture to my profile for a month and it wouldn't let me (blogspot tells me they are "aware of the problem") and tonight I finally decided that maybe if I futzed with the template --and voila! Only now it is both _in_ the profile and below the profile and if I remove it from one there goes the other...