on israel…

Chaverim…

I know I dropped off the face of the earth, it’s been a trippy month, and I’ve begun the adventure of settling into Jerusalem life finally.

So here’s the deal in an electronic nutshell:

After some initial trials, I was on my flight and it was unexceptional except that I had this sense of mission or purpose and it was different than any other trip to Israel, obviously. The new Ben Gurion airport is lovely. When I got my visa stamped I got to go to the Misrad Klitah in the airport and wait for an a hour and a half to get the paperwork, Teudat Oleh, and of course, my first payment of 1250 shekel, which I blew within a few days on a sexy new phone. Look, having a phone here is equivilent to having a Teudat Zehut, ok?

More on the sexy phone: it has a puppy on the desktop and I programmed it to bark when I press the keys.

Back to making aliyah: it was really not a bad process in the aiport. They kept offering me drinks and cookies and they gave me a little Israeli flag which I waved from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim all day for the next three days. “Aliti hayom!” “Aliti etmol!” “Aliti l’fnai shavuah!” That does wear off, by the way. It’s still a chorus playing in the back of my head and I’m sure it will always have a cozy home in my memory, but at some point it is time to get serious about making life work here. More on that later.

So my friend picked me up and we set off and my first hours in Israel as an olah chadasha were powerful, but not that I was crying all the time, or in shock, but that it totally clicked. Absolutely clicked, like love-at-first-site clicks. This is a new Israel, this is truly my Israel – no longer only by rite but also by fulfillment. It’s a state of belonging. I’m starting the process of giving what I could give to this Jewish country and I feel the sense of duty starting to build. Now of course, that too will wear off when they start taking taxes out of my thin paychecks and I get tired of missing buses for security reasons… but for now, I’m only three weeks old. (the Israeli skepticism kicks in as soon as they stamp the visa, by the way).

The processes of getting a Teudat Zehut and all the other jazz were really smooth. As of my aliyah, I am officially “Elisheva”. As far as paperwork, I couldn’t have asked for a smoother process, really, especially considering this country’s reputation… the only thing I cant get is my driver’s license because the office is on strike. Shvita. What can you do?

I live in Katamon with two other anglos I found. Walking distance to lots of good stuff.

Ulpan started last week, and I have to say that aside from waking up mad early, it is really turning out to be a fun experience. There are young people from all over there – N. America, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Morocco, France, England, Switzerland, Russia, Serbia, Australia. It’s really fascinating. We have to speak Hebrew to each other, otherwise we can’t communicate. And should it be any other way?

I don’t have a job yet; I had an offer from CSM (IDT) which EVERYONE who’s anyone (meaning anglo) has worked for upon making aliyah… anyways I turned the offer down because I would have had to drop ulpan and I think it’s more important I do this if I’m going to get anywhere here.

I’ve been very very lucky since I left New York. Kharma, God, fate, whatever, has been very kind to me. You do have to keep a positive attitude going, and you need to take things one step at a time, but really no matter what happens, you’re amongst family. Personally, I only have a distant cousin who lives up north 2 ½ hours a way, but I haven’t felt alone since I landed. And that’s what I wanted, wasn’t it? To never feel alone in this world. To be with my family.

How can I describe this? The air is different here. I’m living in a place where the Jewish star is a national symbol. Where the lashon hakadosh reigns supreme (except on Ben Yehudah of course). Where everyone knows what the Holocaust was. God’s here. It’s amazing. It’s a place where men will yell at each other for 15 minutes and end the conversation calling each other ‘achi.’ Where ‘Cohen’ is the most popular last name. Where I physically feel the difference as the sun goes down on Friday afternoon.

It’s hard, it’s definitely going to be hard. Money definitely is hard and I don’t know how I’m going to make it work necessarily, but at the end of the day I’m in the right place right now. This is definitely not easy. Taking the bus in Jerusalem is still not the easiest thing to do, though it is and must be a part of life. People can be pretty intolerant here in certain areas of life, despite our common bonds. The Gush Katif controversy is getting heated by the day, and it’s not going to be easy by any stretch.

But all in all, I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time. I feel like I’m making the right commitment and I feel like my life has expanded, like it’s beginning again. It’s one kind of crazy trip. There’s really nowhere else I could imagine myself being at this point. There are no other options right now. This is it, this is so right. It’s actually just so ‘normal’. It just makes a lot of sense. Like when you tell yourself out loud for the first time that you love someone. You’ve known for awhile that you’ve loved them; it just never made so much sense as it does now.

another day, another cab driver

driver: when did you get here?
me: i came here two weeks ago on aliyah.
driver: from where?
me: new york city.
driver: voice raising… new york? what? are you crazy? your life was so good there -
me: i know…
driver: why did you do it?
me: um…
driver: voice raising higher... i’ll tell you why. because israel is the greatest place in the world.
me: yeah…
driver: i’ll tell you the truth. life is very hard in this country, but it’s your country. you will be fine. good luck.

common nonsense.

i just start laughing out loud randomly.
a bus running over construction. a sign translated poorly.

on an industrial side of town i looked past the railing at Ramot, at perfect hills over a non perfect city; a non perfect country for a non perfect people. can’t get a driver’s license because the office is on strike. “yehudi lo yigaresh yehudi”.

aval ma l’asot?
yehiye tov, yehiye tov.

i can get a degree in conflict resolution and i can build a family i never had and i can love and be loved and i can be buried here, on perfect hills over a non perfect land, with my non perfect people, in perfect eternity.

an airport thought

here. that’s it:

this woman, a bit older than me, staring out the large window, waiting for the delayed el al plane.
and she’s hanging out with this random 6 year old girl, because we’re stuck here, waiting for the plane, and this adorable animated girl offered her some gum.
and then -

random woman: “chamuda, henay hamatos.”
random girl: “im magen david!”

and that’s it. that’s the answer. right here, in newark airport, delayed, cloudy, gate of impatient, diverse, loud, wonderful jews.

“im magen david!”

that’s why i’m making aliyah.

foresight and irony.

if we knew the future, how boring would the present be?

got my visa stamped right away… thank god for having to pee right after i gave in the papers and was told to come back on friday and then coming out of the bathroom and told, nevermind, we did it just now, here you go…

found my old passport this morning… so it goes. so it goes.

expedite!

expedite is my new favorite word.

the Connecticut Passport Agency expedited my passport.
El Al expedited my flight reservation.
the Jewish Agency expedited my aliyah application.
the Israeli Consulate will expedite my aliyah visa.
Nefesh b’Nefesh will try to expedite my teudat zehut.

i wish i could expedite this week. and the ten hour flight. mustn’t get greedy, though.