Aliya

Chanukah Hanukkah Is Almost Here

Shalom Y’All:

It’s been almost four months since we made aliyah, but it seems like years.

During this time In Israel we bought a new car, a new stovetop,  a new TV, and various small appliances which we should have bought in the States.

We’ve prayed in  a number of different synagogues, seen an excellent play in English, been invited to a Shabbat meal with two couples we did not know before, attended an Israeli wedding, and celebrated  the High Holidays, Sukkot and Simchat Torah here.

Despite the fact that the neighborhood we live in has both religious and secular residents, there were few cars on the street on Rosh Hashanah and no cars at all on Yom Kippur. In fact, on Yom Kippur, many kids ride their bikes on the streets throughout Israel since the streets are free of vehicles. On Sukkot, many food establishments have their own succahs and it is very interesting to see multiple sukkot on streets with restaurants. Jerusalem and many other cities have large public sukkot featuring free entertainment. There is a festive holiday atmosphere in Israel throughout Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

We’ve also spent loads of time filing out forms, including those required to: open a bank account and a checking account,  buy a car, obtain an Israeli Driver’s license-which requires multiple completed forms, an eye test , at least one driving lesson and a driving test, even though we have American licenses – obtain temporary Israeli passports issued after being in Israel for at least three months, but less than a year.

I also attend an Ulpan (one run by the City of Jerusalem) three days a week from 8:30 AM (everything begins early in Israel) to 1 PM. The Ulpan is a school for learning the Hebrew language. The government pays for the first 500 hours of instruction, which, at three days a week, is about ten months. The school administrator tests every student before she assigns them to a class. Those with no knowledge of Hebrew are assigned to a class which meets five days a week, while those with fairly good Hebrew skills attend only twice a week. The rest are three day a weekers. While instruction is in Hebrew, there is, in my humble opinion, too much of an emphasis on grammar. Too little time is spent on conversation. This may be because the classes are too large to engage in meaningful conversation.

The classes composition is like a mini UN. My class has a number of French speaking students from France, a Spanish and Portuguese speaking student from Brazil, English speakers from the United States, a Danish student, an Australian, a Canadian and other students whose origins I do not know since they are new.

It’s getting cool in Jerusalem, although it’s still much warmer in the southern part of the country.  Somehow, I neglected to take everyday turtlenecks with me and I have yet to find a store that sells them. Shipping them from America is very expensive, as the cost of shipping often exceeds the cost of the purchase. The only thing to do is to wait until someone I know visits Israel and is willing to bring a few items with them for me. It seems Israelis do not wear turtlenecks, although I’m not sure why. Correction: I have been told of a store that sells turtlenecks in Geula, a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem.

On a more serious note, there is a slight undercurrent of anxiety in the country due to the  Arab violence. While the threat is real, statistically the probability of any particular person getting hurt is much much less than the chances of getting hurt in an auto accident. Still, it’s unnerving and people at bus stops, for example, try to sit or stand with their backs to the wall. It’s most unfortunate that the incitement by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Isis has created a situation where young Arabs are led to believe that stabbing and killing a Jew is somehow defending Jerusalem for Islam and a desirable act. Building additional barriers around Jerusalem and increased intelligence have helped curb the violence here and the majority of the incidents are now taking place in the territories.  But, hopefully, this too shall pass. In the meantime, Jews are just a tad more careful and those licensed to carry firearms are increasingly doing so.

On a brighter note, Chanukah Hanukkah begins in three weeks. Here are some unique Chanukah shirts and gifts:

Make Latkes Chanukah T-Shirt

Funny Latkes Chanukah t Shirt

Hanukkah Lights Hooded Sweatshirt

Funny Hanukkah Lites Hoodie

Real Men Make Latkes Chanukah Tank Top

It takes a Real Man to Make a Perfect Hanukkah Latke

Oy To The World Funny Jewish Zip Hoodie

Funny Hanukkah Hoodie and Oh So True.

These shirts and hoodies come in many sizes, styles and colors. Buy one for yourself or give them as Chanukah gifts. See the entire collection at JewTee’s Chanukah Hanukkah Shirts and Gifts.

Categories: Aliya, aliyah, Israel, It Happened In Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish, Jewish Blog, Jewish T Shirts and Gifts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aliyah Adventure Part 3

Shalom:

I managed to divide our possessions into three:  to be shipped to Israel,  to be stored in a warehouse and to be given away. I couldn’t believe how much stuff I had accumulated in the years we lived in the house and how much of it I really didn’t need or didn’t even know I had. The give away stuff filled many boxes and contractor bags.

Before the shipping company came, we separated out everything that was going to Israel. When the company representative came, he looked at all the stuff and estimated the size of the container we would need- 20′, rather than the larger 40′. That was a relief because there’s no way a three bedroom apartment could hold the contents of the larger container.

The shipping company came, packed our stuff and loaded it into the container, which would not be opened until it arrived at our apartment in Israel. A much smaller truck came and took the stuff designated for the warehouse. Now we were left with everything we decided to give away. After the kids decided what they wished to have, we invited friends, then neighbors to take whatever they wished. A substantial amount remained. A call to a trash removal company and their estimate of the charges for removing the trash, convinced us that we had to figure out another way to dispose of the leftovers. We decided to simply pack it into boxes and contractor bags and put it in front of the house for passerby to take. This proved to be a win win idea. However, some stuff still remained and at the end we had to call the trash removal company to haul it all away the morning we left for the airport.

There was a ceremony at the airport for those going on the Nefesh B’Nefesh (the organization that helps those wishing to make Aliyah) charter flight and their family and friends. It consisted of speeches and more speeches, with refreshments on hand to keep people awake.

The flight was uneventful. When we arrived at Ben Gurion airport, we were loaded onto buses which drove us to an used terminal in the airport. When we stepped off the bus, we were greeted by soldiers and well wishers singing Hebrew songs and waving Israeli flags. It was very touching.

Inside the terminal, reunions with family and friends who came to greet the new arrivals and more speeches and refreshments. Then the passengers proceeded upstairs for processing and for their first payment of 1250 Israeli Shekels (about $300). Families receive more money and retirees a bit less. Future payments are sent to the home of the passenger and continue monthly for about 6 months. This money is intended to help new citizens ease their way into Israeli life. Everyone also enrolled in the health plan of their choice. Basic coverage is free for a year.

Two days later, we were given our Israeli passports, officially making us citizens of Israel. Photographers were on hand to record the occasion and produce magnet mementos.  Customs officials met with those who sent lifts to clear their shipments. Refreshments were enjoyed by all.

We were told to open a checking account at a local bank so that the Ministry of Absorption could send us our monthly checks. This was not an easy as it sounds. Choosing a bank in Israel must be done carefully. Most banks charge fees for both withdrawing and depositing money. A few do not. So it’s depositor beware.

Several days later, immigrants in the Jerusalem area met with representatives of the Absorption Agency to learn of the benefits to which they are entitled as new immigrants (Olim) and to give the Ministry the checking account numbers to which their monthly checks should be sent.

After this,we Olim are on our own, but we do have a Nefesh B’Nefesh representative to call should we have questions or encounter difficulties.

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Aliyah Adventures Part 1- Documents, Documents

Shalom Y’all:

Sorry I haven’t written in such a long time, but we’ve busy with Aliyah activities.

We decided to make aliyah after our pilot trip during December and January. Proceeding with aliyah meant the following:

First we had to decide whether we could afford to keep our house while paying for the rental or purchase of an apartment in Israel. The answer to that question was a no brainer- we could not. So we had to arrange for the sale of our house. We had intended to sell it without an agent, but an agent persuaded us that going solo would mean that lots of curiosity seekers and unqualified buyers would come to see our house, while he assured us, he would bring only real buyers to see it. Of course, he wanted an exclusive. We agreed to give him an exclusive for 45 days, after which the sale would be open to all. Of course, if we found the buyer ourselves, we would not be obligated to pay him a commission.

The agent assured us that we did not have to “stage” the house, but we did do our best to straighten it out. After two weeks, we had a buyer whom the agent convinced to meet our price. Contracts were drawn up and signed and the closing was set for mid May, with the stipulation that if we stayed in the house beyond that date, we would pay rent. As we are not planning to leave until mid July, that was a given.

Then we had to gather up all our original government documents including: passports, birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc. and obtain a letter from a Rabbi certifying our Jewishness. The latter was necessary to enter Israel under the Law of Return, which grants every Jew the right to settle in Israel. Then we had to fax these documents to Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization that assists those making aliyah.

Now for most people while gathering the above is an inconvenience, for me it was much more difficult. I was born in Amsterdam Holland and the Dutch have not yet made birth certificates available online. Furthermore, at the time of my birth, the city was divided into different sectors and each produced their own birth certificates. After locating the area of my birth, we requested the birth certificate only to be told that there was a fee for it, roughly $17, which would have to be paid in Dutch currency. No, they don’t take credit cards, checks, or bank wires. Only cold hard cash. Our appeals fell on deaf ears and finally they suggested we ask a friend or relative living in Holland to bring the money to them. Luckily, I still have cousins who live in Amsterdam and one of them graciously agreed to pay the fee and procure the document. I’m not sure what would have happened had I had no contacts in Holland.

The birth certificate turned out to be hand written in Dutch. Surprise. At first, the Nefesh B’Nefesh officials we were working with asked that we get an official translation since they could not find my name, nor the names of my parents, nor my date of birth. Once we pointed these things out to them, they were satisfied. Or so it seemed.

My husband, who was born in Belgium, had much less of a problem since his Belgian birth certificate contained English headings for the pertinent data and was free.

After all the documents were reviewed and approved by Nefesh B’Nefesh, we, as do all aliyah applicants, had to make an appointment with the Jewish agency and present the original documents to the interviewer. The interviewer asks questions, reviews the documents and makes recommendations as to whether the person should be allowed to make aliyah. Within two weeks or so, the applicant is informed of the decision. Most, if not all applicants, are approved, as so were we.

The next step is deciding the date of the Aliyah and booking a flight with Nefesh B’Nefesh to Israel. The flight is heavily subsidized and people can either fly on a group or charter flight. or make their own arrangements. We decided to take a charter flight, which means flying with El Al on a special flight on which everyone is making Aliya. These flights are often met by Israeli government representatives at the airport and all processing for citizenship is done on the plane and in the airport. Arrangements for processing can also be made on the other types of flights.

Part Two – Moving Madness

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Israel Pilot Trip Part 2

Shalom Y’All:

The next Friday night we decided to visit yet another synagogue. That’s one of the advantages of being in Jerusalem, synagogues galore. This synagogue turned out to have an English speaking Rabbi, not such a big deal since many of the synagogue rabbis in Jerusalem speak English. But this Rabbi even gave his weekly sermon in English, something that is not easy to find, even in Jerusalem.

Since clearly everyone in this congregation was an English speaker, we thought we had hit pay dirt. After services, we looked around and tried to find a friendly face. We saw a gentlemen speaking what sounded like British English conversing with someone. He seemed pleasant. We waited until he finished his conversation and then approached him. He was friendly, engaging and soon introduced us to his wife. (In Israel it is very common for women to attend Friday night services.)

We spoke for a while and wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, they invited us to join them for a meal in their home the following Friday night. Despite our many trips to Israel, we have rarely been invited, by other than a family member,  to a meal in someone’s home. We’ve been told that a reason for this is that since Israelis work on Sunday, Shabbat- Friday night and Saturday- is the only time they are able to spend time with their families. We were, therefore, thrilled to receive the invitation.

Our visit to another synagogue on Shabbat day, Saturday, did not result in any new contacts. Furthermore, a repeat visit to the English sermon synagogue did not produce any new acquaintances.

It turns out our “British” friends were Australians who had made aliya only two years earlier.  Our dinner with them was delightful and we were even invited to their daughter’s engagement party and wedding. They are truly a lovely couple and we hope we will become good friends.

We continued visiting other synagogues and very finally told about one which was very close by. This synagogue was composed of about half Israelis and half Anglos. The Anglos were very friendly and we made a friend here also.

To sum up our experience: If you want to make friends with the Anglos in Israel, you have to approach them first and engage them in conversation. My guess is that since there are so many tourists in Israel, Anglo Israelis do not bother introducing themselves to every new face they see in the synagogue. Furthermore, even if you do speak with these Anglos, don’t expect an invitation to dine with them, since quality time with their families is limited and thus greatly  valued.

We subsequently learned of more synagogues that have a large percentage of Anglos attending, but did not have the opportunity to visit them since our time in Jerusalem was limited.

 

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Israel Here We Come

Shalom Y’all:

We finally did it. We decided to move to Israel, or as Israelis say, make aliya (which in Hebrew means to go up).

As I don’t speak Hebrew well, there wasn’t that much of a question as to where we would live. Jerusalem has by far both the largest collection of Anglos (people from English speaking countries) and the greatest amount of activities for Anglos. In Jerusalem it’s easy to find lectures in English, live theater in English (although most productions are like community theater) and English speakers in stores and in the streets. Other cities like Efrat, Bet Shemesh and Raanana also have lots of Anglos, but far fewer activities for them.

Of course, I’m planning to go to an Ulpan, but I’m not real gifted language wise.  At the end of two years of French in my junior and senior year of High School, our French teacher announced that he was foregoing awarding the French prize usually given to the most deserving senior in French class, since none of us deserved it. After an additional year of French in college, I finally got to Paris where I was barely able to stammer Bonjour in French, much less say anything meaningful. As for my Hebrew speaking ability, no one would believe I took four years of Hebrew in college and actually attended classes.

But I digress. Before making this momentous decision, even though we had been to Israel many times, we decided to make a six week pilot trip to Israel. The trip did not begin auspiciously, as our flight was delayed for four hours, despite the airline’s repeated assurances that the flight was leaving on time. So trusting souls that we are, we believed them and did not eat prior to arriving at the airport. By the time we realized how late the plane was actually leaving, we were starving. As we are kosher, the pickings at the airport were few. After downing a bag of pretzels, we were still good and hungry and actually looking forward to our airline meal.

Our plane finally arrived after a six hour flight from another city. Since it arrived so late, the airline must have decided that, in the interest of improving their on time record, no interior cleanup was necessary. So the plane was not spic and span and the bathrooms smelled like urine depositories. When the food finally arrived, its taste matched the cleanliness of the bathrooms- it was probably the worst tasting dinner I’ve ever had on an airline. Breakfast the following morning matched the supper.

Extremely glad to exit the plane we made our way to the rental car office where we received a high mileage car which we had to pay using a credit car which charges foreign transaction fees. We had intended to use a card which does not charge fees, but on the way to the airport, we learned that someone had been using our card to book multiple trips to Kenya. So, of course, that card was cancelled. Luckily for us, we had taken another credit card with us.

We had rented a two bedroom, two bathroom, apartment in a neighborhood called San Simon. The apartment was fine, but we had been led to believe the apartment was high end. It was not, but it was comfortable. The heat worked well and the windows faced San Simon Park, a nice park containing the San Simon Monastery, which I’m not sure is still used. The supermarket was fairly close by and as most chain supermarkets in Israel also sell Kosher meat, we were all set.

Our aim this trip was to meet as many Anglos as possible and to discuss with them what their Aliya experience was like and to garner any suggestions they might have for making the transition easier. We decided that the place to meet other Anglos was in the synagogue on Friday night and Saturday. So we got addresses from the woman who rented us the apartment and anxiously awaited Friday night to begin our quest.

In the interim, my husband began a job search.

Friday night finally arrived (we moved in on a Sunday after spending a few days with my daughter and her family). Off we went to one of the synagogues, and lo and behold, after services, no one said anything to us.

Determined to do better, the next day we went to another synagogue. This time I surveyed the congregants and took a seat near a woman I thought looked Anglo. Of course, she left before the services were over. At the conclusion of services there was a kiddush, which is a collation with snack food. We noticed an Anglo we had met on one of our previous trips and approached him hoping he would remember us. No such luck. He had no recollection of ever meeting us, but was friendly. And that was the end of the Anglos we met there.

To be continued in the next post.

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