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.


  1. I love your writing Rachel! The language of the written word is YOUR language too! You bring to light so many of the feelings of foreign born friends that I know, even relatives that came before. It is an amazing experience to have passed through and one that you know will be full of growth. Keep on writing keep on writing. The writing and the internal clarity will get you through! it will be your saviour too. Plus who knows, book deal???
    Cousin Steph

  2. Rachel, we are so similar it's scary. I just put up my 1st post.