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!


  1. So, in this age of modern technology, STA Travel couldn't share your international student photo from Australia with the Israeli interior ministry. That aint right!

  2. Wow ! I am just about to do the same and your story is fascinating...I do hope you have settled by now! Your other article about the guy trying to consult you (business plan) was also very interesting! Yalla balagan sounds good!