Sunday, January 1, 2012

We Made it to Israel!

Shana tova, chaverim!

I am so happy to tell you that we have made it, safe and sound, to Eretz Yisrael. It was quite an undertaking, and it feels strange, yet wonderful, to have that painful yearning in my heart GONE. Although we have only been here five days, and have been repeatedly reminded by other olim that we are still in the starry-eyed "honeymoon" phase of integrating into Israeli society, Elul and I feel completely at home. We have been warmly welcomed by everyone--even by immigration officials, which is a first in my book!

However, the physical process of getting to Israel was really something. We first had to get rid of our car, which Elul managed to do by selling it on eBay. While the transaction went smoothly as a whole, it was a little complicated because the buyer was located in Michigan. The buyer wanted the car transported, so we had a few days of fiddling around with phone calls between the buyer and the transport company. Eventually, though, the company arrived and took away our beautiful, and now obsolete, Pontiac Grand Prix cream puff.

It's a good thing this driver isn't drunk...yet!

Later, it was a matter of having the auctioneers come and take all our furniture away. Fortunately, they agreed to come just a day before we left, and our lovely neighbor Della lent us an airbed and two folding chairs for overnight, so we weren't completely stuck. But we definitely felt the PITA ("pain in the a**") factor living out of suitcases, even if it was just for twenty-four hours!

Potato chips and inventory list: lunch of the day at Bistro Aliyah.

Finally, the "lift people" arrived. These were the men from the shipping company who packed up all our personal effects to ship them to us in Israel. They did a terrific job, and turned our piles of crap into unrecognizable bundles of bubble wrap and corrugated cardboard.

I think I know what's leaned against the wall, but I don't know WHAT'S piled on the floor.

On the morning of our departure, the last thing to do was to clean the apartment and then get rid of the cleaning materials as well. Cleaning an apartment from top to bottom, just two hours before starting on a transatlantic journey, was not the most mellow way to start the day, but we got it done. We also managed not to kill each other, which was quite a marital accomplishment!

We flew from Fort Lauderdale to Philadelphia, and connected there to Tel Aviv. Getting to Philly was difficult, but we were extremely fortunate. We got to the airport in Fort Lauderdale several hours early, and shortly after we checked in, we were paged. (Uh oh! Who died?) Happily, we were just moved to an earlier flight because of "weather issues."

Weather issues, indeed. This meant first circling over the Philadelphia airport for over an hour, while we waited for a runway, during quite a bit of rain and turbulence. (I have never had to hold onto an airsick bag in my life, except for this flight.) Then being stuck on the runway, waiting for a gate. Then being stuck at the gate, waiting for the wind to die down enough so the jetway could get connected to the plane. But as I said, we were very fortunate. Had we not gotten onto an earlier flight, we would have probably missed our connection to Israel. But we didn't, and we got to Israel just fine. Happy ending!

Happier still, we ended up breezing through the immigration formalities. Al, a lovely volunteer from AACI (an organization that helps Americans and Canadians in Israel), met us at the gate with our names on a card. He clearly knew his way around, and shuttled us through some back alleys of Ben Gurion Airport, and whisked us up to the airport's branch office of the Israeli government's Ministry of Absorption. They have a room there with a couple of officials, tea and coffee, a phone to use to call relatives or contacts, and comfortable seating. It was near the end of the day, and I think our official wanted to get her job done and get us out of there fast, so she could get out of there too. So it worked well for everyone.

We were issued a bunch of documents, a free SIM card with 200 minutes on it to put into any Israeli cellphone we may buy (and indeed bought, today), and a tote bag. The most important document was something called a "teudat oleh," which means "immigrant certificate," and serves as one part of your official identification as an oleh. Each family gets one certificate, with everyone's pictures and information in it, so Elul and I were issued one "teudat" collectively.

Our "teudat olim" and government-issuede tote bag, proudly displayed on our landlord's impossibly white leather sofa.
Al then led the way so we could collect our luggage, go through customs, and helped us get our free, one-way taxi ride to Nahariya. After a two-hour ride through heavy Tel Aviv traffic and northwards up the country, we arrived at our new home at 20 Aliyah Street, Apartment 9. Our real estate agent, Yoram, was there to meet us with a big smile and a handful of keys. He was also sweet enough to have a lovely bouquet of roses on the dining room table to welcome us. What a mensch!

Yoram: Best Real Estate Agent EVER!
And this is where I shall leave you for now, dear friends. I wish you all a very happy new year (Western calendar). And even though this video was made for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year), I present it to you in the very same spirit of happiness, hope and joy. Shana tova!

You haven't seen anything until you've seen this! Shalom!

P.S. If you can't see the pictures or the video clip I'm talking about, go directly to my blog website at

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