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!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Aliyah Anniversary --one year on

So one year ago, on August 18, 2005 at 6 a.m. in the morning I stepped off of the El Al plane
with my cat Buffy in tow and two more kitties riding cargo and became an Israeli citizen. It has been one heck of a first year in my new country, my new home. I've personally experienced gains and losses over this year. One of my kitties, Pandy, was able to enjoy her new home and new citizenship for far too short a time and not a day goes by but that I think about her and miss her, my little psycho kitty as I teasingly called her. But I've gained three new sabra kitties and Mischa and Buffy are proud of their new Israeliness.

I certainly never expected our country to be attacked and war to break out when I was packing my boxes and dreaming of being here. No, back then I, as was this nation, I was dreaming of a peace that seemed tantalizingly within reach. I supported, from afar, the disengagement from Gaza and indeed I arrived on the day that the disengagement began. I remember being worried about what I would wear because most of my summer clothing was in various shades of orange and that, of course, was the colour chosen by those against disengagement as a political statement. I shipped all my orange attire rather than packing it in my suitcases to carry along. If I were packing today, it is possible that I'd put all the orange into my carry-alongs. I have to think about that a bit more but I certainly no longer feel the certainty that our withdrawal from Gaza was a good step. I am not certain at all that the election of Hamas and the attack by Hezbollah were not, in fact, set fully in motion by our doing so.

But back then, just one scant year ago, I was experiencing the euphoria of the disengagement with the seeming promise that this was a first and very big step toward having peace with our Palestinian neighbors. That euphoria lasted for almost two months for me and for my new country until a suicide bombing brought us all back to reality, followed by Sharon falling into a coma, Hamas being elected, additional suicide bombings, katuysha rockets pounding our towns in the south day in and day out, and then all hell really breaking loose.

One year on I see very little chance of peace in the near future with our Palestinian neighbors. I see very little chance of lasting peace with Hezbollah, a terrorist group operating out of a country with which really we could and should have a peace treaty and neighborliness --if it weren't for the terrorist entity within their midst. A year ago Hezbollah and a war taking place in Lebanon was not even on my radar. I, a new and green olim, and the vast majority of the most veteran of Israeli-borns would have laughed and scoffed at the idea of a war happening in Lebanon in the summer of 2006 on the day that I disembarked from that plane. But we were wrong.

My first year has been difficult in many other ways. While I can read and write in hebrew passably well (halfway through the second book of Harry Potter and kinda sorta maintaining a hebrew blog though the war has certainly put a stopper on the latter), I actually speak less well than when I got off the plane. That is a sad but true fact. It is something I intend to change and change dramatically during my second year here. The dramatic cut in salary has been a serious shock. But I've got an Israeli credit card now (Aha!) and just grinned when my bank helper, who gave me the card, noted that I'm in very good shape for getting it being as I am only 1200 shekels into my overdraft by the 16th of the month and thus have an excellent credit rating.

I've learned not to be upset and gring my teeth when in the grocery line at least two people jump the queue in front of me, placing their many purchases they've been off collecting for the last 20 plus minutes down next to the single bag of bamba or the cola from the as-you-enter-fridge that is sitting innocuously at the back of the conveyor belt and note that they were there first and thus get served first. No, I don't get upset. Now when I enter I grab a coke from the fridge and place it at the end of the belt, go off and do my leisurely shopping and then jump in front of all the "friers" who didn't think to do so. And I get served ahead of them. I've learned the system.

And, in spite of my losses and the pain I feel over them, in spite of the war that took place in a country in which I now have many friends living, in spite of sometimes being afraid and sometimes being angry, of sometimes being frustrated and sometimes losing hope for a better future....in spite of all these things, I have have no regrets. Indeed, I've gained far, far more. Friendships of a good and deep variety I've forged. As I write this I have a sabra kitten curled in my lap and another curled behind me. Mischa is showing Israeli ingenuity and helping himself to food from a container that is theoretically childproof but certainly not Cat-olim proof. Buffy is proving she is the princess of any country in which she resides, be it the U.S., Germany, or her home in Israel. Matan showing true sabra colours is gently giving Gingi a bath (after having chased him round the apartment earlier). And me, I'm looking forward to starting the second year of the rest of my life in my country, as an Israeli.

And that, my friends, is cause for celebration.

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