Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy Aliyah Anniversary to Us!

Shalom, chaverim! Well, we did it. Our first full year in Israel is officially over, and it feels great to be at this point. One of the interesting side effects of aging is that our perception of time passing actually speeds up as we get older. For example, when you are six years old and are told that your birthday isn't for another three months, it seems like forever. And when you are forty-six years old, the fact that an entire year has gone by since you last took proper notice, just makes you say, "Huh?"

I am trying to think back to the stages of our experience as new immigrants, or "olim chadashim," to Israel. First, there was definitely a very long honeymoon period for us, in which we woke up elated, excited, and incredibly grateful to be here. We were amazed that we had actually been able to pull it all off, and I personally had that nagging little feeling in the back of my mind that sooner or later, some authority figure would knock on our door and say "no, sorry, it's all a mistake and you need to leave now." That feeling is still there to a certain extent, but now that I can go down to a government office first thing Sunday morning and rightfully apply for my full Israeli passport, I feel a little bit more secure.

Then there was the stage of simultaneously trying to set up a new life in terms of its physical infrastructure, and its social infrastructure. This involved a deep and fast orientation to our community, learning where and how to find and buy what we needed, and meeting new people who rapidly became our friends. We were extremely fortunate in that Nahariya is a very friendly town for new English-speaking immigrants, and that we were also given a wonderful "buddy family" from our Nefesh B'Nefesh local coordinator, Steven Rosenthal.

Ice in bags just blew my mind.

We then plunged into the collective swimming pool of intensive Hebrew study, known as Ulpan. Here again, we were incredibly fortunate. We were put in the class of a very gifted Hebrew teacher, Yael, who patiently and enthusiastically help us toddle towards our first words and verb groups in Hebrew. Oh, that Yael could teach me Hebrew for the next fifteen years!

Yael was and is the best Hebrew teacher ever!

Once our apartment and our social lives had been sorted out, and Ulpan was absorbing most of our available brain power, we felt settled enough to notice the gap in our lives that was left when my cat, Man Ray, died. He died a few months before we made Aliyah, at age 14. The minute I got to Israel, I started yearning for another cat, but it wasn't the right time when we were so busy getting acclimated. But finally, after a few false starts and constant pushing, we got our two little litter mates, Pini and Dudu, from an animal rescue center in Kiryat Biyalik. They are so much an integral part of our lives now, that it's hard to remember what life was like without them. They make us laugh every single day, and despite all the things they've broken and all the furniture they've damaged, I wouldn't trade either of them for a million dollars. They are funny and affectionate and smart, and we're completely smitten with them.

First week home. Dudu snuggled up to Elul, ears sized at a 1:1 ratio to her head.

Pini and Dudu now, all grown up. Sort of.

After the party of Ulpan was over in June, it was time to get serious about finding work and really making a life for ourselves here. We ran into the usual challenges of competition, ageism, geographic self-selection (Nahariya is not a center of work for any jobs except work-at-home jobs, so we had to stretch in this respect), lack of sufficient Hebrew for many jobs, and not having some of my key professional qualifications being recognized. Sometimes I got interviews, oftentimes I got ignored, and once an interviewer went out of her way to write me to tell me that she thought I sucked and that there was no way in the world they'd ever consider hiring me. I was not the only new immigrant this happened to, by other erstwhile employers, by the way.

Sometimes, job hunting really makes you want to know what the Hebrew words are for "pain in the a**."

A few jobs materialized, while others were offered but then disappeared like the morning dew. One employer took three months after I was hired, for me to actually start working for them. Elul got a great job...until it wasn't a great job anymore, when his hours were cut by 50% a few weeks ago, so now we're still needing to hustle even more.

Of course, we've also had to spend quite a bit of money on reconstructing our own professional tools and equipment. Some of this was done by choice, and other purchases were driven by necessity. For example, in order for Elul to get his Israeli driving license, he needed to buy new prescription glasses before he would be allowed to take lessons. Those glasses cost close to $800 USD--yow! His computer died and needed to be replaced with one that was high-powered enough to do video editing; another way by which he earns money. Two weeks ago, the computer we both use for doing our voiceover work also died. It needed to be replaced immediately, so we could keep working. "Computer purchase" and "immediate" should never be in the same sentence if you want to get good deals, incidentally.

As for me, I needed some new clothes for my new job, and a sound system on European 220 voltage, so I can sing to earn money. Not to mention buying a few teacher's manuals for my work, some flyers and business cards for my budding businesses, and the bicycles and their accessories we needed to buy the minute we arrived, because we didn't have a car. Ironically, as Elul's job initially demanded that he spend a fair amount of time in the company headquarters that were more than a two-hour train ride away, we eventually gave in and bought a second-hand car. Just a few months after we bought it, his hours were cut, making the car now both unnecessary and unaffordable. We're now thinking about selling it.

Recently, we and all the other new olim here were also confronted with the realities of living on the outskirts of what people think of, when they hear of "trouble in the Middle East." Although rockets weren't landing in Nahariya, they were falling thick and fast in Israel, and tens of thousands of soldiers were called up from the reserve units from all over the country. It was a very tense time, and very unpleasant indeed. All I can say is that I'm glad it's over and I hope it won't happen again. We'll see what the politicos do about it all--that's the only type of blood sport I truly enjoy watching, anyway.

But all in all, neither Elul nor I regret one iota having made Aliyah. I am still as grateful today as I was the day I got here, to have the chance to not only live here, but also work within Israeli society and contribute to it in my own small way. We've been through the entire Jewish/Israeli cycle of holidays, and each event has been unique and special. I'm thrilled to be teaching again, and I love being around so many interesting, clever, funny, and extremely idiosyncratic people. If you are lucky enough to have the option of making Aliyah open to you, then I truly encourage you to consider it seriously. Israel is a blast...and I mean that in a good way!

A view of the sea from the shores of Nahariya. Pretty sweet!

Shabbat shalom, everyone!



  1. As always, your postings are well articulated, entertaining and informative.

    Allan and I share your sentiments & are content & grateful as we begin our 5th month in Israel:)

    Be well!

  2. As always, your posting is well articulated, informative and entertaining.
    Allan and I share your sentiments as we begin our 5th month in Israel. We are grateful and content.
    Wishing you continued strength, enthusiasm, good health and prosperity:)


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