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, October 31, 2005

Ma zeh? What is that noise? Why it is rain! You know, the wet stuff that falls from the skies sometimes. I'd almost forgotten what it sounded and felt like. Today has been a reminder and one I didn't particularly want. Do you know how spoiled we are, living here in this country of nearly ever-lasting sun? At ulpan today everyone was complaining and murmuring in horrified tones, "what, rain? And I didn't bring my umbrella. Oh how awful." It was priceless, standing at the doorway of the ulpan when classes let out for the day and it was still coming down, to see the expressions on the other students faces, to count how many reached the doorway and took a distasteful step back before venturing out to get --wet. I was complaining right along with them. Mind you, it has been many moons since it has rained (beyond a one-time 10 minute sprinkling a couple weeks ago) in Tel Aviv --something like 6 months someone told me. It certainly hasn't rained a real rain since I've been here these two months and a bit. Yes, we Tel Avivis are spoiled --and we like it that way.

It is really and truly raining now. The rain woke me up last night (and given that I'd gone to bed so late I was so not happy) as the skies opened up and loudly splattered the streets. It kinda-sorta-rained during ulpan and mega-gushed briefly while I was eating lunch with a couple of the kewl chicks from ulpan. Then it cleared up and did not in the least spoil my shuk adventure. And the shuk is always an adventure. But now it is back and gushing, gushing, gushing away.

Further negative side-effect of rain (other than being cold and wet) is that my water has heated up today oh to luke-warmish. Solar heaters are awesome providing plenty of hot water generally but now I know why they aren't big sellers to folks in Seattle!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Whew, am I glad yesterday is over! It started out as a semi-disaster and certainly not creating the first impression I wanted to make. After a sleepless night, not only worrying about the talk but also because it seemed every 5 minutes a police car screamed down the street with sirens blaring (living one block from the police station has distinct disadvantages), I got up at 7 and started getting ready. I checked the email again and confirmed that we were to start at noon, got some coffee and started practicing my talk again trying to create 2 versions --one easy for folks with no background at all in psychological theories and one that assumed they'd have a good idea of what I meant if I just referred to a theory etc so I could adapt easily depending on audience reaction. Just before 9 I started getting ready to go, planning to catch the 10:08 train. I noticed, however, that there was a message on my phone --I listened to it and nearly fell over: last night, probably when I was in the shower, someone from the university called to let me know that the departmental meeting had been moved to 11!

I flew out of the house, grabbed a cab, but to no avail --I could not make the 9:08 and knew that I would be a bit late. Ok, so I called to let them know I was going to be slightly late and to get the room number of the meeting. A bit late turned into much later when the train, for unknown reasons, sat for 20 minutes at Kiryat Gam and then, when I got to the building could not find the room for love nor money. The building has an incredibly confusing layout and I was feeling like a rat in a maze as I went round and round asking people eyfo eyfo --and nobody else seemed to know. Finally I hit on someone who led the way and in I walked now almost 40 minutes late. Lovely.

To my surprise, a colleague I have known (and we've worked together on papers) for 4 years was sitting there --it was the first time we've ever met in person! He is at another university but is teaching a class at BGU this fall. That was pretty neat. I sat next to him so he could translate for me what was being discussed (the meeting was entirely in hebrew) but I found that I only needed him to explain a few things --most particularly there were a couple of people whose hebrew I simply could not understand for love nor money and who spoke very rapidly and excitedly. It was a far more intense experience than being in ulpan and I had to use every ounce of concentration at every second for two straight hours. Then, after the departmental meeting I had a short break before I was to I gave my talk. I spent the time trying to find out how to get my ID, how to get my email address, how to get a website set up so I can put up the class readings they will need for next week (ain't gonna happen that soon I'm told so not sure what to do on that score yet!).

My talk went well I think. Students told me afterwards that they understood about 75% which is pretty good and I got some good questions from them :) Then there was another talk, this time in hebrew, and on a topic very related to my own research. I was straining for all I was worth to understand and got the jist of it (great research!) and now have a copy of the thesis that was presented to read with my lovely little dictionary. Then more meetings all in hebrew. When I finally headed toward home at 6 I felt like a dishrag, completely mentally exhausted. But rest was not for me because 2 of the students were taking the same train and so we talked the whole way back (in english thank g-d). When I got home around 8ish I was not only tired but starving having not eaten all day --I'd had to run around during the stuff-your-face break --and so grabbed some pita and hummus at the store and enhaled it upon entering my apartment. Literally. Enhaled. (I'm blaming katherine for my changed need to consume food on a regular basis!). Then I showered and collapsed to watch a movie (Sima the Witch, in hebrew but with subtitles) and then went to bed. What a day!

Today I'm off to Jerusalem for a departmental get-together. Actually, leaving in about 10 minutes. I think I'll need to find a hitchhiking post to make my way home because this puppy looks like it will go well beyond the "sorry its shabbat" time for the buses.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I'm wireless and boy am I loving it! I owe a huge thank you to Kat and her techno savvy fiance for my wireless good fortune --as well as for other life-saving measures :). Awesome people!

The holidays have been quiet for me. I've had to focus on doing a lot of work and a lot of writing (with a lot more writing on the schedule) and I'm finding that my hebrew is rapidly evaporating. I think it is worse now than it was when I first arrived if that is possible. I'm understanding more when I hear it but I'm able to speak less if that makes any sense. It doesn't help that I haven't had anyone to talk with in hebrew at all for the last two weeks, other than a few phone calls about the dsl when it was not working this past weekend --the splitter they gave me was bad and died after only 4 days of use -- and ordering coffees in cafes. And having to wrap my brain around lots of english, and scientifically-oriented writing no less, is really a hazard I think.

Today I plan to take a break in writing a chapter and preparing a talk to give tomorrow (can I just say now how much I really really hate giving talks? I'm fine once I get up on the stage but for weeks leading up to it I completely dread it and as the hours draw nearer I get so anxious about it I start to feel actually ill), and see if I can find a free blog site that will support hebrew and start a hebrew blog --but not for public consumption because uhh no one would want to read what I am able to write in this most difficult of languages. I used to love to write in a paper and pen diary but since using the computer so much I find that I prefer to put my thoughts down this way and maybe this will get me using new and needed words in a way that they will stick in my tiny little pea brain.

To my friends in New York --I'm sorry. I hear you are having COLD weather and I am gleefully still running about in tank tops. Ahh it is nice to have something to gloat about :)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Them bones, them bones

Best thing about Israel: the people. Best people in Israel: definitely folks from the blogosphere. Last night shortly after I put up my post my phone started ringing. Lisa gave me awesome advice: get to the Maccabi people just before they are closing! And ya know someone is a total mensch when they offer to spend their day waiting with you at a doctor's office.

First I had to hit the post office because while I had decided on Maccabi thanks to all the good pointers from you guys, I had never gotten around to actually going to sign up. It was on the list and obviously should have been a lot sooner on the list, sigh, but I almost never get sick enough to have to go to the doctor and my yearly check-up won't need to happen til next June so...

So this morning to the post office I went (and had almost my longest wait of the day there because everyone in the world wanted to mail stuff before the Hag started --I stood in line for an hour). Signing up took about 2 minutes. The nice guy behind me in line gave me perfect directions to the nearest Maccabi clinic, the lady at the post counter said they should be open until 1 today, and off I went.

But, they actually were closing at 12 and I got there at exactly 1 minute to 12. I almost didn't get in the door (whew) but fortunately there was an old guy (like really old) right ahead of me who was refusing to heed the security guards pleas of "Aba, we're closed, you can't come in." So in he went and, with a stroke of chutzpah, I pointed at the old fellow and just followed him on in. There was however no one at the counter to take my "I wanna be a Maccabi person" papers --she had already gone home.

But, when I grabbed a passing employee and managed to say something along the lines of "I think I've broken my shoulder and I only have this piece of paper and need to see someone" she took me in charge. Up I went to a nurse who took a look and called a doctor. Then the doctor took a look and said, yup just eyeballing it, it looks like it is broken --see how it stands out on this side a lot more than on the other and is not symetrical? Uhh, well now that she pointed it out --and ow, at that moment it started to hurt a lot more. Totally psychosomatic I know. The upshot was that I needed to have it x-rayed and so had to go to the emergency room. The doctor ran all over the building first trying to get me my official card but I will have to go back on Sunday and turn in a bunch of papers to get it. She gave me a note, however, so that the hospital wouldn't charge me and all the charges will still be paid by Maccabi (reason number 2 to make Aliyah!).

So from there I had to go to the emergency clinic over on Rakov Weisman, got signed in, made friends with all the other folks waiting to see a doctor, saw the first doctor and got sent for x-rays, waited --along with most of the folks I'd made friends with as they got sent there too. I did the x-rays and went back to wait again to see the doctor.

Upshot: Yep ze clavicle she is fractured. But there isn't a lot that can be done. He gave me a sheet of paper stating I needed 5 days off from work to rest the shoulder (ahh if only this were a week from now...*grin* since I don't start work for another 7 days), gave me a prescription for a pain-killer that I am not allergic to, after noting that I'm allergic to ingredients in all the really effective ones --sigh, I knew that already -- and told me to come back on the 5th day if I am still in a lot of pain and he will also do a bone scan. He said it should take about 12 weeks to totally heal and not to do any heavy lifting in the meantime. For the next 5 days I'm not supposed to do anything with the left arm at all (good thing I'm ambidexterous and can eat with my right hand (I actually write righty because my school didn't have desks and scissors for lefties and so they made me learn with the right) in a pinch.

Major difference from in the States. First the doctors and nurses were all very nice and polite and efficient. I did not have to wait 24 hours before even being seen in the emergency room, unlike the last time I had to go to the emergency room in the States. And when we were sitting waiting for the doctor a nurse came out and asked who wanted some pain meds while waiting. Everyone else took her up on it but I declined because my hebrew was seriously failing me at that point and I wasn't sure I could ascertain that it didn't have something in it that would give them a real emergency on their hands. But the offer was nice. And finally, there was a cafe just down the hall and one of the spouses of an injured person took orders from all of us who were waiting and starving and brought back coffees, sandwiches and croissants. I went with her, as the most mobile of the lot, to help carry everything back. So I spent the bulk of my day at one doctor's spot or another but it was actually a kind of fun day. Yep, not at all like in the States.

Ups and downs there are in this country but let me tell you, the ups make it so worthwhile to be here! The people here make it so worthwhile to be here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

a couple steps forward, a couple steps back

I got my cable today. The HOT guy (who was not hot) was nice enough to not only set up the cable but also to set up my DVD and VCR player. The good news is that the cable works great and the DVD player works awesomely and the VCR will play a video. The bad news is that the VCR will only play one video because it refuses to spit it back out. The nice cable guy spent 30 minutes trying to retrieve said video to no avail.

Second step forward was that I called to get my washer and dryer connected. The step back was that either the number I was given is wrong or, because my hebrew is so bad, they just hung up on me. Twice. So tomorrow I have to call Aryeh at ABC again and find out about the number and what to do about the non-ejecting video player. I can't call today because it is still the Chag in NY since they celebrate two days for our one here. this also means that I most likely won't be able to get hold of the washer connecting folks until Sunday because by the time I can reach NY and get the number everything will be closed here.

Third step forward with accompanying step back. I bought one of those kitty litterboxes this morning that has a litter doorflap they go through and a lid to keep the litter from scattering across the nation (not to mention containing odors). Hopa! But they won't go through the door. I think, after careful consideration, that this happy little litterbox resembles a cat carrier too much and they think if they go in they will end up not only locked in but when released maybe in Tazmania or someplace.

To top it off, I think I have fractured my collarbone. At least, that is what the Internet seems to be telling me. Sharp pain when the end of the left collarbone is touched, very sore shoulder, can't lift much with left arm (my heavy lifting arm!), dull pain in the collarbone area when I breath deeply or move my arm uh at all. Guess I didn't escape my trip down the basement stairs a couple days ago unscathed after all. Damn.

But last night I had a really nice evening. My landlady called and asked me to come for coffee and a light snack. She had actually called on Monday and wanted me to come celebrate the holiday dinner with them but I got the message too late. She is really sweet and very lonely. Her daughter is not very nice to her as I witnessed again last night which made things a tad uncomfortable if ya know what I mean. She sent me home, over my protests, with lots of goodies to eat. (Now if she'll just go ahead and replace the non-working fridge soon I won't be "too thin" and in need of goodies sent home...). Then I met up with Shlomi. We walked over to the electric plant and surroundings to have a coffee looking out at the ocean. This is the only country I can think of that would ever think of decorating the city electric plant (lots of pretty lights) and making the surroundings into a hip and happening place with lots of cafes, dance clubs, restaurants, etc. Pretty kewl.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My emotions are on a bit of a rollercoaster of late and I'm not liking it at all. I'd like to blame it all on it being just that time of the month but I can't. Today someone wished me Chag Sameach and as I returned the greeting politely I thought to myself, no, no there is nothing happy about it. I keep remembering the start of Yom Kippur and the joy of the children. I see them careening up and down the street on their bikes, smiling and laughing and doing what children do best of all: having fun. But super-imposed on those images is an image I cannot get out of my mind --the picture of 15 year old Oz Ben-Meir. Did this child run for his bike on that glorious afternoon? I imagine he did. I picture him racing the wind, whooping aloud with the joy of life. And now, just a few days later, his life is ended.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Yesh li Internet!

I now have Internet access at home!! The world seems like such a better place now. Wow, I can actually check and see that there is a world outside now and whenever I want to! Oh my, life is good :)

And life really is good, despite being busier than a bee and despite banging my head against bureaucratic walls on a daily (it seems) basis and even despite not having a working refridgerator. Life is so good that I went out and lay down in the middle of a major highway ...and did not get hit by a car.

Of course I didn't, it was Yom Kippur! This was my first Yom Kippur here and I am still in amazement of the difference between Yom Kippur here and Yom Kippur everywhere else in the world. To begin with, there is the silence. For those in the States, do you remember how quiet everything sounded in the weeks following 9/11 when there was no air traffic? Sure there were cars on the roads and other daily sounds but just the absence of planes flying above, generating noise that we generally just filter out and aren't even aware of, made everything so much quieter and more hushed. Regular sounds --people talking on the street, someone dropping something --seemed louder and more distinct. Crisp. Now picture how it sounds when there are no airplanes in the sky and no cars or trucks on the roads. When there are no tv or radio programmes filtering over to you from the apartment or house next door.

I had spent Wednesday morning frantically rushing around like everyone else, stocking up at the grocery store and running errands. I got home about 2:30 and sat down to do some work. About an hour and a half later I noticed something funny --birds chirping. They were chirping quite loudly too. It sounded like there was a bird convention right outside my windows. I looked down on a normally extremely busy and noisy street (so noisy I didn't know I had birds on my street!) and saw nothing but sun shining on pavement. Not a car or soul was in sight. Several hours later, as dusk was approaching, I was again pulled to my window but this time by the shouts and laughter of children. Lots of children. They were speeding up and down the middle of the street using every imaginable conveyance, although mostly bikes. They were on rollerblades, skateboards, push scooters, and litte ones on the tiny Israeli version of a big wheel. They were speeding along in groups of twos, threes, and twenties and all were whooping in delight. A short time later adults also began appearing, many accompanying their smaller children, others in couples and groups. I too went out and began walking around down the middle of Dizengoff, taking in the sight. Walking down the middle of the street and in the wrong direction was fun even at my age I discovered!

Then I remembered my rollerblades. I had actually, only days before, been complaining about why on earth I had brought along a pair of rollerblades that I bought nearly 10 years ago and hadn't used in at least 4 years halfway around the world. Now I knew. I rushed back up, changed from skirt to jeans, ripped open the box containing the skates and I was mobile!

There was a party happening out on every major street. There is an amazing feeling that goes with zooming along with thousands of other folks down city streets normally thronged by cars. There is such a joy at seeing the joy of the children. It was hysterical to see tired-out kids taking a break and sitting in the middle of a 6 lane road having a picnic of chocolate and other bad-for-you snacks. Everyone else seemed to have the forsight that I lacked --they all brought along water bottles and, as I skated along, I was seriously wishing I'd thought of it --and of course, there was no place, absolutely no place, to stop in and grab something to slack my thirst. No matter, I was having too much fun to care.

In the States, Yom Kippur is a sombre affair for those of us who mark it --and of course, 99% of the people around us, being non-Jews, are not marking it at all but having a regular day. There certainly are no street parties when Yom Kippur begins at sundown. No, you fast for 24 hours, you spend all day in synagogue (this was the only time of year that I always, definitely, no matter where I was in the world hied myself to a synagogue), you have a headache from hell from not having your morning coffee by the end of the day and then you kinda have a party when you feast on the fast-breaking.

This year, I had my morning coffee. For the first time since I was 12 years old, I did not fast. I did not go to synagogue. This year, I didn't need to: I'm here and that, my friends, feels like enough to me. It was an incredibly freeing feeling. I was in good company --at least half the people I know here also did not fast but feasted on DVDs borrowed from blockbuster and whatever was in their fridge. Myself, on the day itself, I worked around my apartment (it is getting there liat liat --slowly, slowly) and on papers. It was a wonderful, relaxing day. And I broke my non-fast (well it was sort of a fast because while I had coffee most of the stuff I'd bought and put in the now-totally-non-working fridge had gone off) with two really neat people: Savta Dotty and Lisa. Yay, I finally got to meet Lisa and she is even more cool in person than you come to think of her through her blog!

My Yom Kippur this year was not sombre but rather a day completely filled with joy and light and a sense of deep blessings. I like it that way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Can I fall over now? I'm definitely getting too old to be pulling all-nighters but sometimes it just has to be done. I'm really getting slammed with work stuff now and can't even think about unpacking and organizing the apartment. I will hopefully have Internet access soon (maybe today?) through Bezeq but I also have to get a provider like Internet Gold or something too in order to get it to activate (how annoying!). I had to buy a phone for a phone line I will only use to call in order to activate the net service through bezeq today, also annoying. I'm whining a lot today --more than usual --sleep deprivation does that to me. I may have to pull another all-nighter tonight because the "we must haves" and "I must dos" just keep pouring in from all over the globe. Ugh. Why does everything have to come due all at once?

I was so useless at ulpan this morning that I might as well not have gone. I was so tired that, before ulpan, when I ordered a (h)afuk and wanted some more milk in it than they put I asked for od kzat lechem (a little more bread). That should have been my clue to just keep going down the street to my apartment and my bed and falling into it. Sigh, off now to run 5 million errands and then to try to work on the work that has to be done now now now.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Boxes, boxes everywhere. Under my bed are the closets I used in NY, one unput-together desk, the tv stand, and one bookcase. There are a lot of closets and cabinets in this apartment --some of them very useful. Others are simply monstrous headaches. Take, for example, the tv stand that was already in the apartment and which, sadly, cannot be tossed in the rubbish where it belongs (broken shelving inside it and all). It is low and takes up a full wall --about 7 feet long --and is U.g.l.y. and really non-functional for my needs (i.e., I want a bookcase there with my nice compact little tv stand next to it). The bookcase that is not under the bed is also not put together --I need a drill to hook it to the wall so it doesn't fall over and a boy to put it together in the first place. Sigh. So there are 20 boxes of books sitting there unable to be unpacked. The drill I can buy but the boy...:)

The kitchen is fully unpacked. I've been looking around for another kitchen box but alas cannot find one. Missing are my seder plates that are of absolutely no value to anyone but me because I made them myself at one of those paint-a-pot places years ago: one for each member of my family, individually decorated. Also missing are two glass serving platters (one not of any major value, the other passed down to me from my grandmother). Since I didn't pack any of the glassware I have no idea where they could be --I've opened all the boxes that I didn't pack myself :( I'm hoping that maybe there is another kitchen box buried under the book boxes in the living room.

My house is a disaster but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Now I need to choose a cable company and get cable (hmmm, to go with HOT or YES? any ideas anyone?) and to try to get an internet connection in the apartment. I'm also not sure who or what to go with. I've heard you can get net access through HOT or maybe I should go with Bezeq --I have no idea who offers the best deals or what the deals are. I do know that I want to get VOIP with it. I don't know if I want a land telephone --I really don't see a lot of point in it since I have a cellphone unless it is necessary for the VOIP.

I'm wondering if I'll every see my ulpan 5 days in a week. On Tuesday I'm told there is a departmental talk at noon at BGU and so I think I will be missing tuesday. I had to miss yesterday and last sunday as well. Frustrating.

I have a ton of work to do as well --editorial work, a chapter that is in press but needs to be page-proofed by Sunday, I need to revise my CV to the Israeli norm by Sunday, I need to send a syllabus for the class I'm teaching by Sunday, I have 7 chapters that I'm the editor for that are out for review and I need to find (what box, what box??) where I put the list of reviewers and write and scream that they need to send those to me pronto. That's just the "do or die" list. Oy, my head hurts.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Shana Tova!!!!

Wishing everyone a very happy and successful New Year!

Just a quick update --my furniture arrived yesterday and I'm already moaning about why oh why I have so much stuff. Making big huge plans to get rid of tons of this stuff I paid to schlep over here --almost two months of just living out of a suitcase (ok, two suitcases) has taught me a serious appreciation for minimalism.

I'm sitting on a bench on the street outside of The Coffee Bean which is, alas, closed. Could have used some coffee about now (!) but at least I get the Internet connection :)

Chag Sameach!!!!