Thursday, July 21, 2011

I'd like a word with G-D...

In an attempt to make sure, or at least try to ensure, that each of our kids feels appreciated, I like to spend time with them, one on one, when I can.  We've spent time in the mall, sometimes we spend time without spending money, and sometimes we hang out on the couch watching mind-numbing TV.  It’s important I think, to spend quality time with your progeny while coming up with new ideas for reality shows we've yet to see- Are You Smarter Than a Multi-Tasking, Harried, Working Mother?  Lifestyles of the Distracted and BUNNY, or The Real Housewives of Aliyah.  The possibilities are endless!

Yesterday was Reuven-Mommy day and Roo chose the Old City in Jerusalem as our hang out/ destination.  We ate lunch at the Central Bus Station (where the image of religious girls eating kosher McDonald's burgers enclosed in Kung Fu Panda wrappers is a trip and a half), went to Ben Yehudah street, a hot spot of tourist traps and cool stuff, walked through the Jerusalem Municipality grounds, and then headed to the Old City.  A religious experience of note as we walked through the holy grounds included our trip to Zislik, an ice cream/ frozen yogurt/ bakery store that makes our Aliyah worth it all on its own.  But fear not, we continued to aspire ever higher. 

We walked towards the Kotel (Western Wall), readied ourselves to walk through security, and I realized that we were spending our "Mommy and me time" at *THE* holiest site on the planet.  I mean, I love a good mani/ pedi with Esti, movie with Tzvika, all around drive with Roo, and trip to the sporting good store with YaYa, but we were hanging out at the Kotel!!  It seemed that the significance of being there was not lost on Roo either, as he kept asking for a pen and paper so he could write, and then place, a note in the Wall.  I assured him that while I only had a pen, G-D was a pretty good mind reader and overall communicator.  One of the many things I like about G-D is that, much like a far holier E.F. Hutton, when you talk, He really listens.

Roo and I took pictures in the Kotel plaza and he headed towards the Wall.  I was going to head over to the women's side, but instead, chose to observe him as he entered the Site. I watched as my 12 year old, wearing a black Dave and Buster's T-shirt, khaki shorts, knitted keepah, blue Converse sneakers, and overly folded white socks that he’d borrowed from someone's drawer, walked over to the Wall, took in everything around him, placed his hands on the stones, and spoke to G-D.  I don't know what he said nor does it matter.  But I watched as he seemed to let the holiness of the place and the serenity of where he stood seep into his pores.  I watched as he borrowed a siddur (prayer book) from a stand nearby, and prayed.  I watched, and stood, and cried.  I closed my eyes, thanked G-D for the gift of being in His presence, bringing us Home, and listening to my son.  I too, let the holiness seep in as my son stood at the Wall and shared his thoughts.  I watched my son, who is named for my father, connect intimately with who and what he really is.  And then I cried a little more. 

The Wall has this uncanny ability to equalize everyone and everything in Its presence. No one is more or less religious and it doesn't matter how much or how little, within reason, is covered.  We all stand before G-D when we stand at the Wall, which is perhaps why I felt so at peace when we were there.  More than that though, I felt a sweetness, a joy, as I watched my son, the one who I'm certain will one day make me pull my hair out, the one who I think may very well drive me to drink, and the one to whom I often contemplate yelling, "DO IT 'CAUSE I SAID SOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" He was a sight to behold as he and G-D shared their moment.
I went to the women's side to say Mincha, afternoon prayers, & had many a word with G-D.  Thank you is overused and often uttered meaninglessly, but I said it anyway.  I thanked G-D for His love,  compassion, strength, and understanding.  I thanked Him for opening my heart and that of my son's and giving us the ability to share our words with Him.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Who am I?

We did it!  We made it across the oceans, left the land of familiarity, and are pseudo-strangers in a very strange homeland.... YAY for Aliyah!!!

Being part of the Nefesh B' Nefesh ceremony, where an army of people, quite literally I might add, greet and welcome you, is surreal.  I felt like I was in one of the NBN welcoming ceremonies I've seen so many times on line.  Granted, I *am* now in one of those videos, but I felt like I was experiencing the ceremony as if I'd stepped into my computer screen.  Surreally surreal... for real.

Today is day 3, Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Eve), and I'm now both an American and Israeli.  Not totally sure how that happened (yes, I know about the Law of Return and that the second I touched the ground I became a dual citizen) 'cause I was JUST getting the hang of being a New Yorker in Chicago!  Wasn't THAT dual citizenship enough?

Overall, things are going slowly but steadily.  We have our תעודת זהות, National ID cards (sorta-kinda, but not really like a Social Security card) and received our תעודת עולה, verification of our Aliyah. We opened a bank account (hugely important if you want to start receiving your Aliyah benefits from the State- they PAY you for moving.. neat, huh?), bought a fridge, have one working cell phone, ordered cable, have internet service, and a toaster oven on loan.  My Hebrew comes in waves in that I either know how to clearly say what I mean, or stand there like a deer-in-headlights praying Hebrew will roll off my tongue and make complete sense to my listener. In time, in time.

After a mini disagreement with my hubby today about the fridge I chose (I SO thought I was getting a good deal that didn't scream, "I'm not from here, please take advantage of me!"),  and after experiencing the not so joyous echo of everyone and everything in our still furniture-less house, I teared up.  I knew I wasn't crying about a fridge, nor about the echo.  We are starting to grow on each other a bit, but it wasn't that either. 

As I meandered around the kitchen, I found myself standing near the sink and little by little it came to me.  After being in a grocery store where I discovered that I'm OK bagging my own groceries (it's really not a big deal), noted that the fruit section was missing cherries and blueberries (I'm not real pleased with that though I'm pretty sure no one's gonna get scurvy), and couldn't find my beloved St. Ives Apricot Scrub but reconciled to using whatever *is* here, it dawned on me that nothing is familiar.  And more than that, especially since I'd visited these stores before we made Aliyah, is that I'm not yet comfortable in my own skin- I'm not familiar with me.  I'm still the rather talkative, friendly, will- say- thank- you- excuse- me- and- I'm- sorry- even- if- many- others- don't gal.  But I'm not Rachel who can hop in her car, pick up groceries, and drive around just because.  I'm used to helping, not being helped.  I'm used to being independent, not dependent on others.  I'm a fairly territorial person (ironic since I'm in ISRAEL), too. I like to know where 'my space' is so that I don't infringe on yours and you know where not to infringe on mine.  I don't have a sense of space, as it were, just yet.  I also really need others' help right now and that is very, very humbling.  I'm grateful beyond words, but my ego is taking a hit.

Its wonderful that so many people speak English in Israel.  I could truly 'make it' here without learning how to speak the language, but that's not what I want.  I'm in a country of people that came before me.  If you can welcome me, the least I can do is speak your language, our language... MY language.  And for someone as, um, verbal as me, not being able to use language and words freely is hard, really hard.  I've reverted to sign language (as in caveman-speak, not ASL/ ESL) when needed and that's helped in a pinch. Apparently the "I NEED THE BATHROOM NOW" dance is internationally understood.

My papers say I belong in two places, that I'm welcomed in two places, that I have equal rights in two places.  My head says that I'm nowhere and everywhere at the same time.  I hope my head, my papers- and my heart- catch up to each other soon.

Living in increments...

Written July 6th, 2011

The insanity of moving to Israel is coming to a close, though I know that we are soon to face the insanity of living in Israel.  We are trading familiar mayhem for unknown chaos, but the family that loses it together eventually comes together.  Right?

Our year has been punctuated by key events.  Thank G-D most were positive, anticipated, and kept a flow of sorts going.  Our daughter, now 16, left home on August 31st to spend her sophomore year in Israel. I will forever remember that day as bittersweet; Esti got to go to Israel and I got to watch my eldest baby go off, on her own, without us, without me.  I cried like an overtired baby that day (and the days before and after).  I cried so hard while exiting the airport that it took the kindness of a stranger at JFK to bring be back to reality.  She touched my arm, smiled, and without saying a word, did her best to assure me that all would be OK.  I was, in short, a mess.

As the year progressed, I visited Esti with our youngest in November and scouted out schools in and around Beit Shemesh.  My husband visited Esti with our second oldest in February and scouted out housing in the same area.  I went to California days after my husband’s return to test for Krav Maga certification, and flew to NY for my uncle’s funeral in March.  By April, Esti had come in for Passover break, and the rollercoaster ride sped up.  Our lift came and went on June 21st, Esti returned from Israel days later, and goodbye parties followed in rapid succession.  

We jumped from thing-to-thing all year and here I sit, mentally preparing for the second- to- biggest thing, the trip to NY that will lead us to our trip to Israel.  I hope you can excuse me for taking a blog break, as I’m going to need a few moments to put my head back on.  I’m not picky-  it doesn’t even have to be on straight, just on, preferably my shoulders. I see smooth skies and simultaneous turbulence ahead and I’m hanging on for dear life!  See you on the other side of the pond….