I am on a journey, to make Aliyah, and want to share my journey with my family, friends and anyone that is interested. I made the decision to make Aliyah in December 2002 and now I am actually doing it. This blog will chronicle my story and adventures leading up to getting on the plane and then the continuing story of the beginning of my new life in Israel and what I experience once there.
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Monday, August 3, 2009

The Vineyard







My cousins have started working on a new venture. They are planting a vineyard to grow grapes to be eventually used in the making of wine. They have just really got started and the plants are barely in the ground. I got to join them on Friday morning for a few hours of labor in the fields... I only put stakes in the ground to tie the plants to and I was tired. I have a lot more respect for the chalutzim that built the country from nothing and had to build the infrastructure and the buildings too!



The Biriya Forest









































We stopped at Eden Springs an ancient Jewish town that has a clear water spring. After driving back across the Hula Valley, we then drove through the Biriya Forest where we were able to take in the views from the mountain looking into the Hula Valley, the ancient location of Amuka and the modern day location of Amuka. We visited the remains of a 1800 year old synagogue and Rhonda also took me to the grave of Rabbi Jonathan ben Uzziel a heavily visited grave thought to have powers for those that visit.

The Golan

After relaxing at Rhonda and Moshe's they became tour guides and we set off for the Golan Heights. We drove down the mountain into the Hula Valley , across the valley, crossing the Jordan river then ascending up the other side into the Golan Heights. We drove past pastures with animals grazing and kept going higher and higher. Eventually we arrived at Mount Bental, a former Syrian military site, later used by the Israelis and now is a tourist spot with amazing views. There is a restaurant on top called Coffee Anan, found this to be a little funny. From the top we could see into Syria and Lebanon off in the distance. The cultivated fields end where the border is now situated. Looking West from this vantage point shows how easy it was for the Syrians to shell the civilians in Israel when they had control of the high ground, and 140 or so civilians died from these shellings.

To the North

I went for the weekend to visit my cousin Rhonda and her husband Moshe. I got up early and headed for the junction (bus station) in Ra'anana. I got on the bus for a 3+ hour bus ride to the town of Rosh Pinna. Along the way the bus made many stops (70 I think) and one in Afula was for 10 minutes so people could get off and use the restroom get food, etc. I needed neither and sat on the bus and had a perfect view of Israeli graffiti. I saw this many times along the route but it was just honoring the people of Israel, so it didn't really feel like graffiti. (click on picture for full sized pic)

The bus ride took me from hot and humid to less hot and much less humid. The scenery was interesting to see as we passed through Israeli cities, towns, villages and smaller. There were arab and druze towns. The bus drove past fields of olives, bananas, grapes and who knows what else.

One thing I do want to note that is kinda of sad, so many Jewish communities, kibutzim, etc are surrounded with fences, gates, guards, etc. The arab towns had none of this. This tells me who is attacking who.

When I got to Teveria (Tiberias) I called Rhonda to let her know I was getting near. I was to call her when I got to Rosh Pinna as it is only a few minutes from her house. She arrived and we had a little difficulty finding each other (and the place is not that big) but after a few minutes on the phone we met up and headed off. Rhonda took me up into the old town of Rosh Pinna and we walked around the ancient cobblestone streets and enjoyed the views.

We then drove through the next town and turned up a one lane roughly paved road leading into the hills. I thought Rhonda was just taking me on a scenic drive (which it very much was) but she kept driving up the mountain. Also we are in the middle of a forest, The Biriya Forest, that was planted by hand in the 1950 by JNF. (All those cans did do something) By Israeli standards this is a forest, it is not as dense as what is thought of as a forest in North America, but there are still a LOT of trees. After driving up the mountain for like 10 minutes, back and forth, snaking our way, Rhonda announces we are in Amuka, where they live. This community only has 48 families, living in the woods at the peak of this part of the mountain. This community is very different from most Israeli towns. Each family has a nice piece of land that creates the feeling of isolation. There are wonderful breezes and the sounds of nature are all around. Five more minutes up the road is Tzfat (Safed) so it really isn't as isolated as it feels. The town has a library, a community center and a synagogue, if you need to buy anything, it's off to Tzfat or beyond...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Harry Potter

Had to wait a few extra days, but finally saw the movie last Thursday. It was such a different experience. Got to the theater on opening day for the 2nd show of the day. I arrived a 40 minutes prior to the show and there was no line to purchase tickets. In Israel you select your seats so you know where you'll be sitting when you get in the theater, kind of nice and if you were to get up for any reason, you know your seat would still be there when you returned. The previews ran, some in English, some in Hebrew, but only a few and the the theater darkened and the movie started. Half way through the movie there is an intermission, which is also kind of nice, you get to go to the bathroom and if you need/want to purchase anything you don't have to miss any of the movie to do so.



Well as for my review, I love anything Harry Potter, so in that light I enjoyed it. I was disappointed that certain parts of the book were omitted but since I know the "whole story" I'll just have to accept that I know what really happened.
If you click on the pic of the ticket you might be able to read it (if you read Hebrew) although it is a little fuzzy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Israeli Gottlieb Family

Yesterday (22nd) was the day I finally got to meet my cousin Rhonda, her husband Moshe and their kids, son in law, girlfriends, etc. Rhonda and Moshe came to Ra'anana and we had dinner at my most visited restaurant, the Sushi and Italian pair. We introduced verbally each of our families, and started to get to know each other. We then headed to Kfar Saba to a club Barby to her her son Edo, the drummer, and his band Pandora perform. It was as Edo described "rock" but it was much more soulful than American rock. I enjoyed it quite a bit I took a small video clip with two songs so you can see what I am talking about. Enjoy!

I wrote this last week and then got sick before I got the video uploaded to YouTube, so today I am feeling better and got the video uploaded. The sound quality is not great, but you still can get an idea...

The video still isn't uploading correctly... so I'll post this and add the video later when I can get it to upload.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Sharing the positives, dealing with the pressures

I have kept an open mind on everything I have written and have shared almost everything in this process. I talked about all my preparations, both physical as well as emotional. I have not talked about my emotional state since arriving as I knew the move would be hard and that I would miss my kids, family and friends. I never imagined how hard the separation from children would be and I struggle with this everyday. My birthday was Thursday and it was hard not having my children with me. Today is Jessica's birthday and again I am struggling with the distance between us. I have been a single father for 16 years and to get on a plane and all of a sudden not to see my kids is taking its toll on me mentally. I am talking with people to help me get through this but I have to admit I am second guessing what I have done. I don't want to discourage anyone from following me in this journey, but I do want you to make sure you are mentally prepared for the separation issues that will occur when you leave your friends and family behind. Obviously moving with your family reduces the anxiety, but as an individual it has additional dynamics.

Gush Etzion - Kfar Etzion - Neve Daniel - Shabbat

Friday and Saturday was spent with Silvy in Neve Daniel. If you have been reading my blog for a while you know that I made connections with several people in Neve Daniel through the process of preparing for my move. Silvy has been wonderful and showed me around Gush Etzion and provided a wonderful Shabbat. I didn't thank her enough for the great weekend. We first went to Kibbutz Kfar-Etzion, a central piece of the area's history. There they had a video presentation of the history. The Kibbutz makes camping gear as well as Naot sandals. I needed new sandals so I got a pair.


Without going into the whole history of the area, there is a tree that was there from the early settlement of the area before the arabs seized the area in 1948. The tree was visible from Jerusalem and the survivors longed from afar by looking at this lone tree.

We also went to a local restaurant, Gavna, that started as a single caravan (trailer) and has expanded many times and has a dining room and patios that all have an amazing view of the area. I also took some pictures from Silvy's house where the view is equally amazing looking towards Jerusalem.

We returned to Silvys to have a driving tour of Neve Daniel and returned to Silvy's to prepare for Shabbat. Silvy did most of the preparations and her mother prepared the table. We went to services at a home on the far side of the yishuv that offered a Carlbach style service in the basement of a home that is also a small shul. There were probably 80-90 people crammed into this small space and overflowing outside. I saw Josh Sussman there, so it's real neat to be in such a new place and to see people I know. The service was quite moving and spirited, even to my shock there was clapping. We returned to her house and she made a fabulous meal, I even tried the eggplant, not my favorite.

Shabbat morning, we went to the "local" shul, a doublewide caravan that is a temporary home of the shul until the permanent building is completed. Neve Daniel has a large main shul at the top of the settlement, but as the community has grown there is a need for a another shul. There was also an overflow crowd and a government minister, Edelshtein, was there.

We returned to a wonderful lunch of sushi and Sheppard's pie. We sat on the porch overlooking the valley below and enjoyed the cool breeze and relaxed. We visted a family across the street for a while and enjoyed their hospitality.

One of the neighbors came an retrieve me for Mincha (afternoon services) which were held just a few houses down the street at another home that also has a sefer torah. When the sun had set Maariv (evening service), was held in the street under the stars and Shabbat came to a close. Silvy arranged for a ride with the guest from across the street to take me to the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem. The last bus to return to Ra'anana was leaving at 10:30, we didn't leave Neve Daniel until almost 9:50. I was dropped off at 10:25 and ran for the bus and fortunately security only slowed me down for a minute so I made it in only 3-4 minutes so they were still loading the bus. It was so full I had to stand 3/4 of the ride. When we got to Ra'anana, the local buses were not running any more for the night and I didn't see any cabs, so I lugged by 30 lb duffel bag the mile and a half back to the apartment. I arrived around 12:30, was so awake from my midnight hike I think is was like 3am before I got to sleep, causing me to oversleep and miss my Monday morning class... ooops...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Birthday

Started the day as a normal day. I went to class and stumbled through a little more Hebrew. I did learn some things, but it is still hard. Class ended at 12:30 and I headed back to my room to pack for the weekend as Silvy is coming to meet me for dinner and I will then go back to Neve Daniel for the weekend. She texted me that she would be done around 3 so I figured she'd get here around 3:30 or so. I called and talked to Kaitlin, but Emily's phone was off so I left her a message to call me when she turned her phone on.

Silvy arrived and we headed first to the beach at Hertzlia, which is only a few miles from where I am living.





We then walked down to the Mall next to the Hertzlia Marina, walked around a little, I talked to Jessica while Silvy was trying on some clothes.
We then went to the marina and walked around while also looking for the choices in kosher dining overlooking the marina. We found there were only three choices, two nicer places and a pizza place.
We chose Bistro 56 and sat next to railing overlooking the plaza and the marina and we had dinner while the sun set into the sea.
The restaurant brought out cake and non-dairy ice cream with a sparkler in it for my birthday which you can see in the picture which also shows me talking to Emily when she called after turning on her phone.
We then set off to return to the car and drive to Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion next to Jerusalem.
I was exhausted and I have to admit I dozed off in the car as we drove.
We arrived safe and sound and Silvy gave me the quick tour and I took one picture of the view from her back porch overlooking the settlements looking towards Jerusalem.














































Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The apartment and catching up on yesterday and today

I’ve been promising for a week now to give you a look at where I live. The pictures loaded in reverse order so start at the bottom and move up... (If you are on the blog and not facebook you can click on each picture to see the full size version, click back to return to blog) The first picture is taken outside to show you that trees are flowering here in July. In South Carolina, trees don’t flower in July so this is a little unusual to me but pretty none the less. The Series of pictures take you from the entrance to the stairs going up to my floor (3rd or 4th, depending on what you want to call it). Next is the hallway looking at my front door, then entering into the dining room, looking into the kitchen from the dining room first at the counter area then the refrigerator. The kitchen opens to an open air porch where the water heater is and is also a place to store things out of the way. Next is a look into the bathroom, there is a separate toilet room but I’ll spare you that picture. Finally are 3 pictures of my room, first from the door looking at my desk and bed, then panning to the left is the window near the foot of my bed and finally a picture from my bed looking at the closet and the door out of the room.


It’s not the Hilton or anything like that, but it is reasonably neat and clean, while older it is fairly well kept up and for the price I can’t really complain. The apartment costs me a 361 shekels per month ($92) and I have to split the utilities with my roommate. I don’t know what to expect yet, but was told Electric, gas and water would each run about 80 shekels per month ($20 each) so the whole thing is about $150 per month. The winter months will be more, but it doesn’t get that cold here, so I can’t guess how much more.


My flat mate is from Turkey. He is 52 and speaks a little English and a little Hebrew. We are able to talk so long we talk slowly to each other. He is divorced, but his ex-wife and kids live in another apartment here. He works and spends time with his kids, so I never see him. I’ve seen him all of three times in the week that I’ve been here. So it’s almost like having an apartment to myself.


Update from yesterday…


Yesterday after class I set off to the bank yet once again to finish getting my things taken care of there. Then I caught a bus to the mall as I needed to go to Office Depot to get school supplies. I first walked around the mall just to see what was there. Lots of stores and a food court. I went down the escalator and saw a huge selection of dining choices, just like you’d expect to see in the states: Burger King, McDonald’s, Sbarro, Chinese, Sushi, Bagels, and other local eateries and they were all kosher. I had a choice of places I could eat at. Since I’ve already had McDonald’s, sushi and Italian, I decided fairly quickly on the Chinese place. I couldn’t fully read the menu, so I used the pictures. One was the “Big” meal but it showed two sides, a meat and an egg roll. I thought that would be fine. I got brown rice and noodles as my sides and spicy peppered beef and the egg roll. Watching them serve it up, I knew I had gotten too much. Each side was 1 ½ to 2 cups and the meat portion was also about 1 ½ cups with lots of meat and the egg roll. The plate felt like it weighed 2lbs or more. I ate the egg roll, some of the rice (there were excellent meatballs in the rice which I ate all of), some of the noodles and all the meat and was beyond stuffed. Since I am only eating one meal a day I didn’t feel overly bad.


Back to today…


Today after class I headed for the fruit and vegetable shop just down the street and purchased, peaches, grapes and bananas. I’ve had some of the grapes so far and they are absolutely fabulous. You’ve not had stuff like this unless you grow your own. Fruits and vegetables are picked ripe here and are then in the stores quickly and thus have so much more flavor than in the states where they are picked before they are ripe and then allowed to ripen in the store or in your home maybe weeks after they were picked. I then went across the street to the Holy Bagel and got my favorite, poppy bagel with cream cheese and lox. The bagel is pretty good, the cream cheese is Philadelphia and the lox is tasty, and for $6 I can’t complain.
When I got back I did laundry for the first time since I arrived. There is a laundry room here at the facility, but it only has 4 washers and 2 double load dryers. You have to have a card to use the machines and it took me a couple of days to catch up with the person who handles that. I got mine today and headed to do the laundry. Each wash cycle is 30 minutes and the dryer is 40. Two wash loads will fit in one dryer. Each machine is $1 to use, so to do two loads of laundry and dry is $3. I had to wait 15 minutes for two washers to become available, The dryer was occupied and I had to wait 30 minutes to be able to put my clothes in and finally dried my clothes for a total of almost 2 hours that I had to sit there…. First time in so many years that I don’t have a washer and dryer…. I survived and the machines did a great job.













































































Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back to School

After my busy day in Jerusalem I slept quite well and woke up to goto my first day in Ulpan (Intensive Hebrew Class) I arrived before the 8am start and the office directed me to the class that I would be joining. It actually began in May and I'm joining them in the middle. The school director thinks this might be around the level I am currently at. The first 30 minutes or so was what I expected, a little mind boggling. After that I started to better understand what was going on and even got to participate a little. We had a couple of breaks and even had "music time" when another teacher came in the classroom with an electric piano and worked with us to sing Hebrew/Israeli songs. The chairs were harder than I recall from school days and we were given homework.

After class I headed to the bank to order checks and a credit card. The compters were down, so they were not able to help me on the spot. The person who opened my accounts the other day made a note of what I needed and will order them when the computes are back online. I had a US check to deposit and they will also process that when the computer comes back online. Finally I still can't login to online banking, and again without computers this would have to wait...

In the same building as my bank is the local kosher McDonalds. Since it was after 1pm and I hadn't eaten much today, I decided to give it a go. It's been 8 years since I've eaten McDonalds hamburgers as that is when I started keeping kosher. So, I had a Big Mac, fries and a drink. My experience last time in Israel with Burger King led me to think I wouldn't find the fast food burger that good (it was good, just didn't find that I missed fast food) but I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the burger and just the fact that I could again eat in McDonalds. I don't think this will become a staple in my diet, but it is here and I'm sure I'll eat there again.

After eating I was heading home and stopped to buy the next needed item, a laundry basket. I will need to be doing laundry in the next couple of days, so having a way to carry it would be a good thing. I then headed back to the apartment.

After all the running around I did over the last week I wanted an afternoon of peace and quiet and spent the afternoon catching up on the blog, e-mail, skype, etc. It was a good day and without a nap I think I am getting close to having adjusted to the time change, I can tell I'm not fully adjusted, but close.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Trip to Jerusalem

I made my first trip to Jerusalem on Sunday. Sunday is the first day of the week here in Israel. Everyone is getting where they need to be, you know like Monday in much of the rest of the world. The inter-city busses all stop at a large parking lot. It is about 1.5 miles from where I live. So I set out for a nice morning walk before 9:00am and made it there around 9:20. I figured out which area to wait for the correct bus and it arrived aroind 9:30 and after the walk in the morning sun the airconditioned bus felt good. I arrived at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem around 11am. I had to pass through the metal detectors and my pocket knife set off the detector. Big eyes from the guard made me think I shouln't be carrying it. Another guard said "he's American" then the guard seemed to be ok and waved me through, Silvy met me there and suggest that since this was my first visit to Jerusalem since making Aliyah I needed to visit the Kotel (the Western Wall). So we set off for her car and as we walked along she snapped a picture of me on the new bridge in Jerusalem.
We then found her car and headed for the Old City. We only had to drive around for 3 or 4 minutes to find a place to park with a two minute walk to the wall of the Old City. So a good opportunity for another picture.














We then entered the city and made our way to the Kotel. We each visited our respective sides and took pics to commemorate the occation.




I then had to catch a bus to goto the Nefesh b'Nefesh office to receive my Israeli ID card and meet up with most of the people from my flight. I also really appreciated the water they had. Afterwards I walked back to the Central Bus Station and caught my bus back to Ra'anana. I then had to walk home. I was trying to get back in time to finish some paperwork but didn't make it back before they left. So I went to the Italian/Sushi place I've been to twice before. Since I had sushi the previous visits, this time I had Italian. They now have a frequent diners card it cost me 59 shekels, for that I get 10% off all my future meals, a 50 shekel "gift" for my birthday (this thursday) 50 shekel "gift" after I spend 1000 shekels. So by Thursday I'll have most of my money back. So I have my first freqent diners card, since I've eaten there three times in less than a week I think I might return.

1st Shabbat

My cousin Susan picked me up on Friday mid-day and I met two of her kids and another. We went to the local bagel shop for lunch and I must say it was pretty good. We then went next door for ice cream. I had pistachio and it tasted so fresh, just like pistachios, what a concept huh? We then loaded up the van and headed for the hills, not beverly, but in the Shomron. I was mistaken we didn't go to Ariel, but towards Ariel (about half-way). Susan lives in Gnot Shomron and being in the West Bank was nothing like I expected. Yes I saw a checkpoint and a guard station at the entrance to the community, but other than that it looks just like a normal place where people live. Here are a few pics and a video of where I stayed:

Up the street
Down the Street

Park across the street




Video from the porch of Susan and Tsvi's house.

Susan and Tsvi were such wonderful hosts. Susan is a wonderful cook too. She loaded me up with various meat choices over Shabbat. We had ribs, steak, deli rolls, meatballs, taco salad and many side dishes. I didn't go away hungry or bored with the food choices.

This Shabbat was most welcome and needed after my first few days of running around. After Shabbat I returned home as Sunday morning I needed to travel to Jerusalem and I didn't want to drag my bag around.

So, thank you to Susan and Tsvi for a most wonderful first Shabbat in Israel.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Simple Observations

I've been here a few days now and wanted to share some of the things that I already enjoy in my new home:

  • Walking down the street from where I live to the main street are three parks. I see all the children playing and I hear their voices, all in Hebrew.
  • Israelis get picked on for being bad drivers, but they stop for pedestrians even sometimes before you even start crossing the road.
  • One must be better prepared when needing to purchase things, no Walmart here, you might goto several stores to get what you need. Most stores close 2-4pm and for the night by 8pm.
  • Cats are everywhere. Most are street cats (at least the ones I see). They are cute and even some are friendly.
  • While some of my tasks this week have been mundane, everyone I have come in contact with has been very helpful.
I'm sure I'll experience more later and I'll add to this list

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What was going through my head

I want to take a step back, from when I got off the plane until I was seated in my chair for the arrival ceremony.

I gathered my things and headed for the door, It seemed like no time had passed and I was at the door, the bright sun in my face and trying to hold the camera too to catch the excitement and remember the moment. I walked down the stairs and reached the ground. No jetways for this flight we need to step off the plane onto the land promised us so long ago. There were journalists everywhere with still and video cameras. Everyone was excited and joyus sounds were all around. I stopped and took a picture for my friends, The Solats so they could have a picture of the whole family with the plane in the background. If I hadn't been a little mentally numb I should have had them do the same for me, oh well.

We then borded the bus and it seemed there was more luggage than people, and in reality I'm sure that was true since we could each have 2 pieces of carry on. The ride to the old terminal took about 3-4 minutes. When we got close we could see all the people, flags, banners and posters. When we stopped there were hoards of people and when the doors opened the sound was overwelming, people screaming, crying, music, shofar blowing and who knows what else. It was joyus. I gathered my things and headed for the gautlet. The chayalim (the soldiers) were lined up to greet us. As I stepped toward the people, not really seeing space to go, but I went anyway, I see Natan Sharansky standing there greeting us personally, shaking each of our hands, I couldn't help myself as this amazing man was there greeting me to my new home that he endured such hardship himself to realize his dream, so I reached out and hugged him. I walked a few steps to then be greeted by Josh Sussman, yet another hug in order, someone gave me a rose and then I see a poster with my name on it (there was anther that I walked past and didn't see until I was inside) being held by my cousin Susan. They kept moving us along, wanting us to clear the way for the rest of the olim to get inside.

So once inside Susan and I got to talk and she took my picture in front of one of the banners inside, you'll see it when I get it... I got an ice coffee (coffee slush) and it was refreshing. I then met Susan's neighbors, who were holding the other poster. I briefly got to say hi to Larua Ben David and finally sat for the ceremony. When watching online it seemed to take forever to get from the plane to the beginning of the ceremony. Doing it only seemed to last minutes, so much going on and my head was spinning a mile a minute. Amazing feeling, glad to be here, glad to hear the words of wisdom and welcome, then time to get to work on life.

Day Two

Well I slept fairly normal again and got up at 7am agin. I uploaded the videos and posted them to the blog, played on the computer a little and finally got going aroung 10. I went to the Ulpan office to register for my Hebrew classes. I start on Monday since I'll be in Jerusalem on Sunday to pick up my Israeli ID card at the Nefesh b'Nefesh office.

Then it was off to the post office again. This time to pay my deposit on the apartment. They do everything it seems at the post office. You pay your electric and water bills there too. In the two times I've now been there I haven't seen anyone actually mailing anything even though you have to take a number and wait your turn. Amazingly enough the Israelis seem to wait there turn here.

Then I went to the Medical building to complete the paperwork to finish enrolling in the national health care. Similar issue as at the bank, all the signs are in Hebrew and thus I didn't have a clue where to go in this 5 story building. The guard told me 1st floor. I went to the 1st floor and they were like no, no, the second floor. So, up some more stairs. 3 offices to choose from, I went into one and asked if this was the place I needed to be and they said yes. I had to take a number and only had to wait about 15 minutes to get with someone. They did the basic processing and then wanted to know if I wanted the "Gold" coverage, over and above the basic care provided by national health care. I knew I wanted it but I still asked how much and it is 43 shekels a month, just a little more than $10. But they have to draft it from my bank account. I didn't have that information with me, so she said I would have to come back. They close from 2-4 and I decided to return at 4. I headed home and stopped and bought some ice trays so I could make ice in the freezer at home, no ice maker here... I returned at 4 and completed the enrollment.

I then went looking for a notebook for class on Monday. I figured I'd look in the grocery store, but alas no notebooks there. I'll find one in the morning.

I came back to the apartment and sat in front of the fan for a few minutes and took a shower now I feel cool and refreshed again. I am now waiting for a friend to pick me up and we will go out.

I just figured out that now that I'm in Israel the spellcheker in my blog editing tools is now spell checking in Hebrew and not my English. I will have see if I can figure out how to tell it to check my English as I know I mispell things even if it is just a typo.

Pic and Video Update

I am still using a "borrowed" internet connection and it doesn't always connect and when it does it can be slow at times. It took a while but I got the files uploaded to YouTube and now ready to share with you all.














New and Old (Anshei Darom FJMC Presidents - Steve Krodman and me at the FJMC convention in Philadelphia

I am still learning how to use the video camera and I appologize for the unedited files, but I wanted to get them up and not drag this out.





























Wednesday, July 8, 2009

First Full Day

After this post I promise I'll upload the pics and videos I've taken so far.

I'll start where I left off yesterday. I took a 40 minute nap and headed out to purchase a needed item, a fan as I have no air conditioning in my apartment. It's not overly hot, compared to SC, but with the air not moving it felt hot. Now that I have a fan it is quite comfortable, even during the hotest part of the day. At the same store I found other needed items, a power strip and adapter plugs to convert US plugs to Israeli plugs. So, now I can plug my electronics in.

On the way back with my purchases, I decided to get dinner at the recommended sushi place near where I live. It was quite excellent and not terribly priced either. It was about $15 for 4 Maki rolls (24 pieces). I met my first "local" and we chatted and exchanged numbers.

I came back to the apartment, hoping to meet my room mate, but he was not here and after I was trying to sleep I heard him return. When I left this morning he was still sleeping.

This morning I slept until about 7 and did some things in my room and on the computer and finally headed out around 10:00 and went to the office to see about doing my paperwork to live here. Dalia was there and she asked if I could go to the post office and register for health insurance while she got the papers together. I got back about 11 and she asked if I could come back around 11:30, she game me some paperwork to read and I returned at the requested time. Then she asked about if I had a bank account yet. I was planning to go today or tomorrow and open an account, but she told me if I had it done and back by 2:00 there would be a representative there from the Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of the Interior) that I could provide the bank information to, instead of traveling to their office to provide this information.

So, off to the bank I went, got there around 12 and walked in and looked around. All the signs are in Hebrew and I don't have a clue how to say "New Accounts" in Hebrew so I just looked around for a person that looked like they worked there and might be the person to talk to. Went to the desk of a woman and asked if she spoke English, which she did and explained that I wanted to open an account. She then took me to her managers office, who then said I needed to speak with someone upstairs, Ronit. Upstairs I went, went to the first woman I saw and asked for Ronit and was then directed to her office. She basically interviewed me, I guess to see whether they wanted me as a customer. At least that was what it felt like. Then after passing muster, she then took me to someone who would actually open my account (person number 5 so far) and we then completed lots of paperwork and decided to wait to process the orders for my checks and credit card until I have my Israeli Identity card next week with my Hebrew name on it instead of my English name that is on my immigration ID. I then wanted to depost the US dollars I brought with me into my new account, converting them to shekels. So, I was directed to the tellers to make my deposit. I waited in line, just one other person, and when I got to the window the teller then informs me for dollars I have to go upstairs to yet another teller that does these kinds of transactions. There were two people ahead of me waiting to speak to her. I finally got into see her and find she doesn't speak a word of English. So I stumbled through in Hebrew and actually converted my dollars, deposited them into my account and received some Shekels back for pocket money. Well it was now 5 til 2. Two hours (and 7 people) to open a bank account and make a deposit...

Well I walked quicly back to the absorption center and made it back by about 2:10 and found out where I needed to go and the represetative from the government was just arriving. We sat around waiting our turns and I met several people that had just arrived two days ago from South Africa. I completed my paperwork and returned to the office around 3:00 and fianlly got to sit down with Dalia and complete the paperwork. We finished around 4:00 and I came up to the apartment and relaxed a little.

Around 6:00 I was starting to get a little hungry, so I set off on a dual mission to get dinner as well as visit the grocery store and get a few things. I found a recommended haburger place, Burgers Bar, and stepped in. Not really surprised, but the menu on the wall was all in Hebrew, and I saw an English menu on the counter. I cheated and figured out what I wanted in English but ordered in Hebrew. It is a much different experience, after you order you sit down while the fresh cook the meat on a fire grill. The bread is obviously freshly made. When the burger is being made they have you come back to the counter and specify what you want on the burger. You then sit again until the burger is finished and then you retreive your meal. You then eat, and don't pay until you are ready to leave. I introduced myself to the people at the next table speaking English and met my second set of new acquainteneces. I just orderd a burger fries and juice and was full after half a burger. So, I wrapped it to go, payed my bill and headed to the grocery store. I walked around and just looked to figure out the store in general, then decided I would buy laundry detergent, juice and some rice cakes. I wasn't really looking for anything specific other than the juice. I paid for my purchases and headed home. I made it back around 8:30.

So, A nice full day and productive too. I am not too exhausted today like yesterday. I am a little tired, but I will hold out for another 30 minutes or so. Hopefully I can get the pics and videos up in that time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I am home

This will be a short post as I am still a little jetlagged but wanted to let everyone know that I have arrived safely. I must thank my cousin Susan a thousand fold. She and her neighbors (also NBN olim from years past) came to the airport for the arrival ceremony this morning. They then waited outside while I had to go complete some paperwork, and then wait for my luggage. The luggages was coming out on two carosels and I had luggage on each of them - welcome to Israel. We then loaded up all my stuff and headed for Ra'anana. Susan then suggested eating, so we then went out to eat. We found a little store where I could buy a few things and finally arrived at my new home. Upon arrival we had to drag (almost litterally) my heavy bags up to the 4th floor. I was pleasantly shocked to find that my friend Silvy had been here yesterday and had made my bed and outfitted me with a few things so I didn't arrive here with no cups, a few snacks, a couple towels, etc. A most welcome housewarming present as the first two things I wanted to do was take a shower and a nap. I had to mostly unpack to find everything else I needed. Now showered and napped I turned on the computer to see if there was any internet I could "borrow" and upon finding some, I figured I'd update the blog. I will add pics and videos later, but for now you have some idea of my day.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Watch the Arrival Online

If you are so inclined the arrival of the plane in Israel will be broadcast live on the web. The arrival is also part of a welcoming ceremony that will part of the webcast. So, if you have any curiosity, or are truly interested you can watch. The website says 12:30am, I've heard we could arrive as early as 11:30pm so you may want to start the video around then and then watch for it to actually start.

To access the webcast CLICK HERE or
Paste this link into your browser:

http://www.nbn.org.il/live

Last Full Day in the USA

The day started in Philadelphia at the FJMC (Men's Club) Convention where I got to join my friends for morning services and breakfast. We then drove to NYC to our hotel, parked the car and headed into the city. The kids wanted to shop in Chinatown, so that was our first stop. We then went to Ground Zero. I hadn't made it there before and since 9/11 had such an impact on me I felt I needed to visit there before leaving the country. So I snapped a pic to remember the visit by. We then headed to visit a friend and we had desert sitting in a park near his house. Sitting outside in July is such a weird concept coming from SC where is way too hot to even think about doing something like that.

We are back in the hotel room and I wanted to update facebook and add this entry to the blog. I will add video from Philly when I get situated in Israel, so for now the pic will have to do...

In the morning we'll find a bagel shop and have breakfast and then head to the airport. See you all from the "other side".

Friday, July 3, 2009

Last Night in SC

All my bags are truly packed. 2 big rolling duffels, a backpack and my computer bag which will all make the big trip with me. I also have a small duffel that contains what I need for the next few days until I get on the plane. I just have to pack my toiletries in the morning and I will be done and ready to go... Hitting the road tomorrow, Saturday in DC. I will probably get to add a couple more entries to the blog before I get on the plane. I will be using my new video camera to record the events at JFK, on the plane and the arrival ceremony and such in Israel.

Just in case I don't get to add any further entries... you can watch the plane arrive and the welcoming ceremony LIVE on the internet at the Nefesh b'Nefesh website. The plane arrives between 11:30pm and 12:15am Eastern time (8:30-9:15pm Pacific) on Monday evening/Tuesday early morning, I hope you can join in and watch it live, but if not, a day or so later it will be online in a recorded format.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sobering Moment

Even though I know my departure date is rapidly approaching, I know it's close since I can now see the long term forcast for that date. While it has been in the upper 90's here in Columbia with a heat index of over 105. It'l be nice and cool in Washington/Philadelphian next weekend around 84 and downright cold in New York at 80.

Well it's time to get to work on the Garage Sale

Last Shabbat in Columbia is over

I just finished my last Shabbat in Columbia before leaving to head to New York to catch my plane home. My mother is visiting from California. My office relocated this week and getting ready to move personally has truly worn me out.

I led services last night and took a little indulgement and concluded the service with Hatikvah. I also read Haftorah today at services and Kaitlin and Emily led the Torah service. I got to schmooze with lots of my shul friends and reminded them of my open invitation to come visit me in Israel.

Tonight was spent putting the final touches on the preparations for our Garage sale that will start in the early morning, so I will keep this short as I am exhausted and need to go to sleep...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Videos coming soon....Absorption Center Conformation, General comments

I decided to move up from just typing and the occasional still shot. I ordered a digital video camera so I can capture events and more easily put them up on the web. Once on the web I'll be able to easily put them on this blog. So, now you'll get to see more of what happens in greater detail.

Today I received a PDF file with the written confirmation of my reservation at the Absorption Center. I had received confirmation from the shaliach both in e-mail and verbally, but it still a good feeling to see it with a JAFI logo, my name, date of arrival, etc...

I have been selling things that are not going with me or that the kids want or need. Ebay and Craigslist are wonderful things. I am down to just a few bigger thing and all the "chachkies" that I'll try to sell at a garage sale on Sunday. So making progress... Tick tock, tick tock

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A little slack, I know... Name Change

I was looking back over the last week and realized I had another blogable moment that I completely overlooked. Last week I received an e-mail from Nefesh b'Nefesh with a link to an additional part of the online registration. This choice is completely optional but they wanted to know if I was changing my name. Many people stick with their English names, some change to the Hebrew name they were given by their parents and some do a hybrid of a Hebrew first name and their English last (family) name, but written phonetically in Hebrew.

My English name is Matt(hew) Gottlieb
My Hebrew name given by my parents is משה רחמיאל בן גרשון Moshe Rachmiel ben Gershon

The ben Gershon part of my name means son of Gershon, my father's Hebrew first name. My children are ben Moshe, son of Moshe. So if one is good at keeping up with which children are from which father then you can keep this straight.

It is an American thing to have two names before the "ben Gershon", to be like English first and middle names. In Israel they do not have middle names, so the Rachmiel would be confusing in Israel.

So, I have chosen to change my first name to Moshe but keep my last name Gottlieb. All my Israeli documentation will have my Hebrew name as Moshe Gottlieb but all my American documentation will stay as it is now. I'll also have an Israeli document that links the two names so to help to avoid confusion, but in most cases people would only see one set of documentation so there wouldn't be confusion, unless they were looking at both passports or driver's licenses.

So I completed the online request and they will confirm on the plane and when I get my Israeli ID it will have my new hybrid name. Are you confused yet?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cell Phone and a Truck

Today I got an e-mail with my new Israeli cell phone number. It was like wow I'm almost really on the plane. I will also have a US number that forwards to my cell, but the e-mail told me I'd get another with that information.

I also arranged for the truck to move out of my place, two weeks from today! Another week after that I'll be in the air!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Recovering from my whirlwind trip to DC

Tuesday morning I was at the airport at 6:15am to fly to Washington. I flew into Reagan National Airport. I have never flown into that airport before. The experience of landing was amazing. The view of the city was amazing. I could almost reach out and touch the Washington Monument. I can't even imagine how they ever decided to reopen that airport, one small deviation and you are in the city or on top of the pentagon.

I then made my way to a kosher deli near Dupont Circle, Eli's Deli. They had a broad menu and while I was looking for the hot brisket sandwich, I saw the steak fajitas... hmm.... I can make a brisket sandwich, I've never made fajitas. They were very good and that hit the spot. Now to kill a little time before I could check into my hotel... I went to the National Zoo. It was hot and the animals were mostly hiding, but I saw the Elephants, orangutans, hippos, and the small mammals. Went to the hotel and got cleaned up.

Why am I in DC? I came to attend a celebration for the olim processed by the Washington Aliyah office. The event was cosponsored by the Jewish Agency, Nefesh B'Nefesh and the Israeli Embassy. It was held at the embassy and we weren't supposed to disseminate the details as that would be a security problem with the embassy. So about a hundred gathered at the embassy mostly from the DC area, a couple of families from Richmond and myself the lone attendee from SC. The shaliach asked in advance if I would speak at the event and I took the presentation that I presented at my shul, shortened it and modified it to meet the goal of my presentation to describe who I am, how I came to decide to make Aliyah and what am I going to do when I get to Israel.

I met several families that will be on the same flight that I'll be on. I met several young people who are on my flight as well who are going over to immediately join the IDF. I am honored to share my flight with people who put in all on the line to defend the country. I am honored to share the flight with the whole planeload as we are part of the present and future of Israel. Kol Ha'Kavod to us all!

I then went back to the hotel to get a little sleep before having to be in a cab at 4:45 to head to the airport to head home. The flight was delayed in Cincinnati but I was still in my office before noon.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I Never Tire of being Inspired

I saw this on the Sussman's Blog (Thanks Romi) and had to make sure my blog readers got to see it as well.

All I can say is watch...


video

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

If you're thinking of meeting me at the airport...

Nefesh b'Nefesh has opened registration for those readers that might be interested in coming to the airport on July 7th to partake in the festivities and greet me when I arrive. You would have to be at the airport by 6:45am, so those of you that can't get up early I guess I have no chance of seeing you at that hour. I would love to see each and every one of you. I have watched all the recorded ceremonies and each is full of ruach, I can hardly wait for my turn to participate!

If you are so inclined you can register at the Nefesh b'Nefesh website.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Father Welcomed Olim

I was finishing packing my box of photographs and had a few photo albums to pack with the loose photos I had already packed. I flipped through the albums and had many walks down memory lane. I also came across an album I had long forgotten that I had in my possession. It is the album from my father's visit to Israel in January 1970. I spent more time in this album than any of the others. I looked at the itinerary. I looked at all the places he visited and the places that I'd now like to visit as well. He had meals with (don't know if he met them, but who knows) David Ben Gurion, Menachem Begin and Ezer Weizman.



For me the really interesting (and cool) thing is that he went to the airport to greet new olim arriving from India. While he had no idea that his son would one day be making Aliyah, he got to experience the euphoria of people arriving and being there to greet them. So, while he may not be there to see my arrival, I now have a feeling that a piece of him is with me when I make Aliyah and experience the arrival at the same airport that he visited so many years ago (albeit slightly more developed today).



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ordered My Initial Cell Service

There are lots of choices for cell service in Israel. All but one require you to have an Israeli ID number and bank account. The one that does not is geared to students, tourists and new olim (immigrants). The service offers both an Israeli and US numbers. Both numbers ring on the single cell phone so it will be easy for people in either country to call me. Before I leave they will send me my numbers and the sim card to go in my unlocked GSM phone. They have plans with a phone but for now my old phone is just fine (and cheaper too). The company is TalkNSave.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Video Clip of my Presentation

A couple of posts ago I posted the text of what I said at the Rally at the SC Statehouse (moved inside because of rain). The different speakers presentations are now online at Grassroots 4 Israel.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Lots of little updates

Nothing big has happened in the last week but I can update everyone with the little things that happened this week., particularly the last couple of days.

Friday was my uncle's birthday and a lot of the family got together to celebrate. The last place you'd expect to find a nice Jewish boy who keeps kosher. The all-you-can-eat BBQ place. I went because of the family gathering not the BBQ. We had a great time and I enjoyed seeing a lot of the family in one place. They recognized that my move is getting near and that this was also a good opportunity for family and I to spend time together too. While the guest of honor got the big cake, they also had a decorated big cookie for me.

Saturday at shul I was the board representative on the bimah and lead musaf too. Not too sure how many more things I'll get to daven but it's definitely something I thought about when I started.

Emily finished her motorcycle class today and was one of only 4 class members to have passed the course. I'm glad that she has the class behind her, but still will worry about her on the bike, at least for foreseeable future. Maybe one day I'll be a little less apprehensive but that just the father in me.

As for kids they finished with school and graduation is coming.

Today I spent a couple hours packing my second box. This time it's the pictures. The reason it took so long.... I had to stop and look at some along the way and even had to scan two (to put on Facebook) since it'll be a few months probably before I see the pics again.

I created a group on facebook for those of us sharing the Nefesh b'Nefesh flight together. So far about a dozen people have joined either the group or the actual flight event. (just 230 more to find).

I put in my cancellation order for my cell service. Since my contract is not complete they have a process to cancel when you move overseas. After only having to talk to two people they told me that basically I cancel my service. I will get billed for the cancellation fees and when I get to Israel I am supposed to send them a copy of a bill (cell, internet, etc) and they'll then credit the fee. I said that was fine, but that they probably won't be able to read the bill. The guy was like "Can't you request it to be in English?"

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rally at the SC Statehouse

Yesterday was a good day in SC for Israel. A large group of people gathered on the grounds of the statehouse to rally in support of Israel. My last post shared the list of speakers and the words that came from each made me proud to be a South Carolinian. They spoke of the right of Israel to exist, to defend herself and the reasons for their beliefs. The flags, the music and the common beliefs bridged the differences in the religions that were in attendance. Who have thought a nice Jewish guy sitting and listening to a Baptist minister quote the bible and make connections from history, not run for the door thinking what am I doing here? The whole experience showed me how people can co-exist and focus on the similarities that bind us while respecting what makes us different. Maybe one day more of the world will be this way and not focus on the differences.

So, what did I have to say? I felt humbled by the experienced speakers that preceded me but I didn't have the anxiety that I figured I would. Here are the words that I shared:

When I was asked to speak here today I had no idea what I was even supposed to say. I am not a seasoned public speaker, which the next few minutes will prove. I don’t consider myself an activist, nor am I a politician; I don’t work for or speak for an organization that supports Israel. So who am I? I am an American. I am a South Carolinian and in just a few weeks I will also be Israeli.

Growing up in South Carolina has helped shape who I am and will continue to be. I learned you can be many things at once. I don’t have to box myself in and say “I am Jewish” or “I am American” or “I am a South Carolinian”. So to add Israeli to that, does not diminish my other characteristics. I learned to stand up for what I believe in. South Carolinians did that so many years ago at Fort Sumter. We do it today: whether or not we agree with our Governor’s decisions he stands up for what he believes. I do so today by standing here and speaking out to you. “Don’t Tread on Me”

By gathering here today y’all share with me the idea that you can support Israel while not diminishing your support for South Carolina and the United States of America.

I am moving to Israel for many reasons, but this is my way of “Put up or Shut up”. While moving to another country is not what everyone does to show support. I know many of you gathered here today don’t need much encouragement, but Supporting Israel is good for the world. Those of you, I know there must be one or two out there, that have a cell phone should thank Israel. Those of you that are ignoring calls and letting it go to voicemail should also thank Israel. Have you swallowed a camera for medical reasons? Thank Israel. If you have swallowed a camera for other reasons, I don’t think we want to know about it… I could go on and on. Israel is an innovator and has made the world a better place.

Israel is central to the monotheistic religions of the world. We share a belief of one g-d. We share a sense of fairness. We share a responsibility of defending what is right. We want the world to be a better place.

There are those out there that try to focus on the unfortunate events that have occurred over the years in the defense of the Israeli way of life. There are many who think Israel has been evil and malicious in these events. If Mexico were bombing San Diego I don’t think we’d sit quietly and let it go on for years upon years. Bibi Netanyahu said “if the Arabs laid down their arms there would no war, if Israel laid down its arms there would be no Israel.” There is no crystal ball, no magic; the hope is for peace and prosperity. We will continue to work towards this goal and maybe one day this won’t be a hope any longer.

Israel needs us, continue to support her. Speak out, join organizations, visit Israel and if you are so inclined move there.

Am Darom Carolina Chai! – The people of South Carolina Live!

Am Artzot Habrit Chai! – The people of the USA Live!

Am Yisrael Chai!

Thank you!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Another Speaking Event

Next Sunday will be a Gathering, a rally, or some such thing at the South Carolina Statehouse in support of Israel. A group of people have pulled this together with an amazing lineup of speakers. I have also been asked to speak and have agreed to do so, but I do feel a little outgunned, but it's a program on a subject that means a lot to me, so I go into this with genuine excitement. I have never truly spoken in public, speaking in shul to a room of people that I mostly know or even a business presentation to 8 people that I don't know is not the same as speaking in front of the central government building, on the steps, with cameras, reporters, supporters and probably a few people who are not supportive of Israel.

I would like to note that this has been assembled by a group of people who are true friends and lovers of the State of Israel. Not all are Jewish. I met a couple "Zionistic Christians" when I was volunteering in the IDF, but didn't realize that there are actually a good number, even right here in South Carolina.

So, who is on this amazing list of speakers that I get to share the microphone with:

  • US Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC)
  • SC State Representative Mac Toole (R-District 88)
  • Rabbi Jonathan Case - Beth Shalom Synagogue, Columbia, SC
  • Avi Posnick – East Coast Outreach Director - Stand With Us, New York, NY
  • Kathleen Cox – Vice President - Israel Always, Charleston, SC
  • Bob Schwartz – Assistant Exec Vice President - American Friends of Magen David Adom, Miami, FL
  • Pastor Gene Rowell - Gantt Street Baptist Church - Cayce, SC
  • Rebecca Pinsker & Friends - Music - Education Director - Beth Shalom Synagogue, Columbia, SC

So, my friends if you are in the area next Sunday, May 17th, join us in front of the SC Statehouse from 2 until 4, rain or shine, but I'm hoping for shine. Wear your Blue and White!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Facebook and My New Olim Friends

Over the last couple of months I have made friends online with others that are making aliyah this year. One will be on the same flight that I will be one, another is trying and others are on different flights. As the year progresses I am enjoying seeing their posts to Facebook. Their status many times resemble what mine have been. I did all of my paperwork and such earlier than most people so they are now doing things such as waiting for approvals and visas which I was fortunate enough to have already completed. As they post their status I am recalling each time how I felt at those milestones and know they must be having similar responses. I am happy for them! I don't mind either that their joy makes me feel good too.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Speaking today at my Shul

Today I was the guest speaker at my shul. I was asked to speak on the topic of why I am packing up and moving to Israel. This is my presentation as I presented it to my congregation:


In today’s parsha God tells Moses to speak to the entire Israelite community. He is to tell them:

קדשים תהיו כי קדוש אני יי אלהיכם You must be holy, since I am God your Lord [and] I am holy.

He proceeds to tell us how we can do that in the form of commandments. What is really being told to us is that we have to live a certain way, in order to be holy. In today’s world it means to live a Jewish life following Jewish law. We have learned that we don’t know everything at once and we have to grow into “our” Jewishness.

I grew up in this community and recall Sunday School at the education building next to the old JCC. I recall the JNF Tzedakah boxes. I recall the posters of Israel, Jerusalem, the kibbutzim, the chalutziim (the pioneers). I especially remember always singing Hatikvah at the end of each school day. We moved to this building and some of the posters didn’t follow but we continued to sing, I became involved in USY. I considered becoming a Rabbi.

I let society dictate confusion and assimilated myself into secular life and for many years I did not attend shul or do anything Jewish. It took Mormon missionaries in Utah to push me back into the shul. That is a story for a different day. But they also started me down a better pathway of life. I reconnected to my roots, both in general family connections, but also to my heritage. When I moved to Atlanta I was seeking out ways to incorporate Judaism into my everyday life. I found a Jewish outdoor group, Mosaic. Named for the first Jewish hiker, you know… Moses… I went to shul regularly, I went on weekly hikes and found other things to volunteer in within the community.
I was feeling pretty good about my reconnection. Sept 8th 2001 shared the parsha from my Bar Mitzvah. This was the 3rd year of the triennial so Maftir matched from years ago when I chanted those words. The Haftorah was of course the same, while I don’t remember who chanted it that day I recall that I was humming along, remembering those words from so long ago. My heritage, my history and my future. I was moved that Shabbat. Three days later the world shook. September 11th, the Gregorian date of my Bar Mitzvah, was now forever shared with the tragedy in New York, DC and Pennsylvania. I did not know anyone that died, but I was somehow connected. My shul in Atlanta had daily discussions followed by the evening minyan. I went each day, somewhat in shock, but comforted by being with b’nei yisrael, the children of Israel.

I continued my participation in Mosaic events, camping, kayaking, hiking and enjoying that all the participants were all Jewish, we didn’t’ travel on Shabbat, we only ate kosher food at our events. I now had a portion of my life that wasn’t ritualistic but allowed me to live a Jewishly integrated “regular life”. I was on a hike in the Georgia Mountains and was walking along chatting with a friend. We chatted about how he had traveled to Israel and volunteered in the IDF. I was intrigued and asked more questions and basically learned about the Sar-El organization that facilitates civilians volunteering in the IDF. I went home from that hike and thought to myself; that sounds really cool. I researched the organization and within a couple weeks I was signed up to volunteer for 3 weeks. I didn’t leave for a couple of months, but I then became an information junkie regarding Israel. I read everything I could on the internet, bought travel books. I recalled stories from years ago in Sunday and Hebrew School and the places we studied about were about to not be distant pictures but places I could and would actually visit. The Sar-El organization sent me all my paperwork and documents to better prepare me for my travels. One thing that struck me was they mentioned in their documentation, that 46% of people that come on this program eventually make Aliyah. I thought to myself “that isn’t going to be me”. I received several other documents from them before my trip. They all stated the same statistic and I still thought “that isn’t going to be me”.

I went to Israel, when I got off the plane, I had the cliché response, but it was genuine, I felt “at home”. Riding in the car and seeing all the signs in Hebrew left me thinking this is really cool. I am in a Jewish place where being Jewish is “normal”. The entire time I was volunteering they reminded us, 46% eventually make Aliyah… And I said it wasn’t going to be me. I rode on busses and listened to people actually speaking Hebrew. It wasn’t the language of the synagogue, but the language of life, everyday life.

There were several bombings while I was there and that was weird, but I didn’t want to leave. I was part of this and I belonged. I went on a hike with the Mosaic group based in Jerusalem and unlike the Georgia group where we might see a civil war site; we hiked in the valley where David slew Goliath. That left me with a feeling of understanding this was the land of my ancestors and our history was all around me. Spending time in Jerusalem, the old city, the Western Wall just added to this experience. I spent Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, in Jerusalem. Not as a spectator, but a participant. I marched in the parade, waving a flag and ending up at the Western Wall. There was a huge gathering of Israelis. Music playing, dancing and general celebration. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t Israeli, didn’t hardly understand a word of what was going on. They pulled me in, I danced and was an integral part of the celebration. I belonged and they were telling me this, just not in words.

At the end of my trip, I gathered up my memories, got on a plane and returned to the US. I thought to myself, see it wasn’t me. I loved everything about Israel, but Aliyah, not me…

I returned from Israel in May 2002. That summer I read about a charter planeload of North Americans that all were making Aliyah together with the help of a new organization, Nefesh B’Nefesh, Jewish Souls United. I thought that was really cool and at this point didn’t think much more about it. Over the next couple of months I read more and more about Nefesh B’Nefesh and in December I read that they were chartering another plane. I was now thinking ok, “normal people” make Aliyah. People leave North America and move to Israel, just because they want to. My mind was made up. I wanted to be in Israel. I had been wrong. This was me.

I downloaded the application from Nefesh B’Nefesh and started to fill it out. I talked with a child psychologist and was told I either needed to do it right then or wait until my kids graduated. I did some soul searching and decided that right then was not ideal for many reasons, but if I were to wait until the kids were older then it would be their decision instead of me making them go. So, knowing that they would graduate in June 2009 I now had a target date. When I told people that I was making aliyah in six and half years they were saying, YEAH right, today I am telling you about my journey to make Aliyah, six and a half years later. Now I feel many are saying yeah, RIGHT, the same words but the emphasis is on the RIGHT.

What else have I learned about during my journey to this point in my life?
  • The orthodox don’t have a monopoly on Aliyah. Conservative Jews make Aliyah. Non-religious Jews make Aliyah. People actually move to Israel because it is an amazing place to live, to raise a family, have a great career. Oh yeah, live Jewishly without having to make much of an effort.
  • Assimilation is a good thing, in Israel.
  • While we should do everything we can to be supportive of our intermarried friends and family it is still something we have work at. In Israel you would have to work hard just to be intermarried.
  • Israel is constantly trying to grow and improve. Israel is constantly seeking new people to grow the majority but more importantly bring new ideas and strength to the state. I feel I have a lot to offer and to contribute to the future of the State of Israel.
  • The founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass has stated that we are not running from something, but running to something. I couldn’t agree more.
  • Aliyah is not the destination, life is. Living in the land of Israel is the objective
  • I recently read an article by Hanna Zakon, who recently made Aliyah she made the point:

Mark Twain once asked us what our secret is. How is it that despite our meager numbers we have stood the test of time? How is it that despite others turning their heads to our suffering, we have survived? How is it that we have outlasted the greatest empires? He, and the world, saw us as the few, as the weak. They measured us by numeric strength. Mr. Twain was missing one piece of crucial information when he wrote his remarks. He saw us as individuals; he did not see the rows upon rows of ancestors that stood and still stand behind us. With his question he missed the point; we have survived because we are a 'We' and not an 'I'.

Rebbe Nachman stated:לכל מקום שאני הולך, אני הולך לארץ ישראל
To every place I go, I go to eretz yisrael

While you may not be getting on the plane, many of you grew up with me here. You saw the same things; you heard the same things and did the same things. I take with me a piece of this community and you are all invited to join me in Israel, be it for a day, a week, a month, a year or even making Aliyah. I hope I can share a Shabbat meal with each of you when you come. Follow your heart, I am. Please stand and join me in the singing of Hatikvah.