Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Three Weeks In

So much to tell and yet I haven't found time until now to post a second update. Tomorrow marks the beginning of my 4th week in Israel, and yet there are still 3432324 things to do slash errands to run when my Hebrew classes end at 12:45pm every day!

I'm now in my second week of classes in Ulpan, and I've been really enjoying it so far. This particular program is designed for young adults approximately 23-33 so I'm pretty much smack dab in the middle. The directors have said there are about 150 students from 20 countries. In my class alone, we have other people from the States, but also Canada, the UK, France, Australia and Argentina, so it's a really nice mix. I can tell already that these five months will really do wonders for my vocabulary, not to mention my desire to be able to read and write at an academic level.

I've started to get to know some of the other students both in my class and the other classes, and one of them, a guy from LA named Jaymes was my bartender the other night at Mike's Place when I went to watch the AFC Championship game. Certainly in our class, we already have good rapport with each other, so the coming weeks and months should be enjoyable.

Starting next week, I'll be getting a new roommate, and while she might not respond to calls of "Issssberrrrrrttt!??!" the way Alex did, I'm very much looking forward to her moving in. It's a funny story (and for all of you who were on OTZMA with me, you'll find this particularly funny). because Sarah Cohen, while not related to me, was my former madricha or participant coordinator, when I was on OTZMA. She made aliyah several years ago, so she knows the country and the neighborhood better than I do, so once she moves in, we'll re-arrange some of the furniture, put some things up on the walls and the apartment will feel a little more settled.

What else? I'm in the process of finding a gym to join (one where I can rock out with my do rag and sweatbands) so I'm actually heading out for a test workout at a gym in town. And in case anyone is looking to call or wants to look me up on iMessage or What's App, my phone number is +972-50-70-20-552, or from inside Israel, 050-70-20-552.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ani Oleh Chadash - I am a new immigrant

A few days into my journey as an oleh chadash, a new Israeli immigrant, the only word that comes to mind is "overwhelming." But as hectic and chaotic as a move like this is, it's landscapes like the one above that make it worth it.

Having mixed up the hours the Ministry of the Interior was open yesterday in order to get my teudat zehut, or national ID card, I decided to take a walk into the Old City for the first time since I landed. After all, how could I be in Israel for longer than three days and not go to the Kotel. I walked in through Jaffa Gate and continued into the Jewish Quarter. Weaving through the different alley ways and streets, I turned a corner and all of the sudden in front of me was the Mount of Olives, the Al Aqsa Mosque, the Temple Mount, and the Kotel or the Western Wall. Tears immediately welled in my eyes and I understood all over again why I came here. I walked down to the Kotel Plaza and joined people from all over the world marveling at this wonder that somehow has withstood multiple destructions as if it were the first time I had been there.

Thankfully, I have family and friends on both sides of the ocean who are incredibly helpful and supportive as I make this transition. I haven't spoken to a single Israeli family member or friend who has not said "let me know how I can help you" or "Come over for a meal or Shabbat" or "our house is always open." This past Shabbat, my relatives in Efrat greeted me with pints of Ben & Jerry's (four of them!) and lots of love, and I've gotten similar open arms embraces, both literally and figuratively, from every other person I've reunited with here.

And today, I tackled the next round of the famed Israeli bureaucracy, obtaining my teudat zehut, setting up an appointment with the local Ministry of Absorption to go over my rights as a new citizen, and opening up a new bank account. I may not be fully settled yet, but I'm on my way.

Something my aunt June reminded me of the other day, and that I thought about as well when I was packing my suitcases in Boston, was how fortunate we are to be living at the present moment in time with so many ways for global communication. Just over a hundred years ago, all eight of my great grandparents packed maybe one suitcase and boarded a ship bound for the United States, knowing they would likely never see the family they were leaving behind or visit their places of birth, nor might they find the family who had already come to the US. Meanwhile, I can call, Skype, Gchat and iMessage anyone anywhere and anytime, and I had the luxury of bringing four suitcases packed to the brim with clothes and other personal items, along with two additional carry-ons.

I can also share some of my experiences in this space, which I hope will be at least sometimes interesting, possibly humorous, and at the very least, a way to keep tabs on how I'm doing even when I can't see you all when I'd like to. Yalla balagan!