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.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What is a modern day miracle?

Today I received an e-mail Chanukah card from Nefesh B'Nefesh. The card linked to a video they created for this and I had to share with you all. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Budget cuts change my plans again

Due to the worldwide economic situation the Jewish Agency has had to adjust it's budget. As there have been two Absorption/Ulpan programs in Jerusalem, one for 21-35 year olds and one for most everyone else. As one was in leased facilities and one owned by the Jewish Agency they decided to obviously keep the owned one, however they also have a high desire to keep the program for young olim intact and have decided to move that program to the other campus. This happens to be where I was targeting my plans to live for my first six months in Israel. So, the Shaliach now is looking to arrange accommodations in Ra'anana, a city of about 75,000 just north of Tel Aviv. The absorption center there is a little more centrally located (within that city) compared to the one in Jerusalem, so there are some benefits to living there. I was hoping to be near the government offices as we get our business going, but I guess I'll just have to plan time in Jerusalem to do whatever needs to be done. I guess I need to make friends in the City that will take me in for the holidays... If not I'll have to find (hopefully reasonable) a place to rent or a hotel.

This is one of many adjustments I'll be making and sometimes you just have to go with the flow... No worries -- I'm making Aliyah!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

More thoughts of where to live first

Having to figure out where I am to live should be high on my list. It has been. As I am still working with government officials on the approvals I need for my business, I figure I needed to think about where I should be. As I stated earlier, I will be in Jerusalem for the holidays. I will probably need to visit government offices and who knows where else. I would like the opportunity to explore Jerusalem. I have read on the web that Modi'in is not the hotbed of activity for singles. As the distance is not too great, I figure I can manage whatever I need for the business from anywhere in reasonable distance. I will need to be looking for where I want to be long term, but again figure I could do that from Jerusalem. I have posed some questions to the Shaliach about the Mercaz Klita (Absorption Center) in Jerusalem and knowing the accommodations are sparse at best I think it might just be workable. The center offers the intense language training program (Ulpan) on-site which simplifies a lot of running around each day for five months. Having others around that are sharing the acclimation process I see as more good than bad. Living in close quarters (dorm like) could be a challenge but I see it more as a learning experience worth sharing. The pictures included here are views from the windows of the center (credit to Jason who took these and posted them to the web). We'll see what answers the Shaliach comes up with and then I'll know what I'm going to do.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Blog is the story today

I woke up early this morning and I read the news and figured I'd check the blog. I have noticed an increase in visitors from Israel, but didn't know what to make of it. This morning I now know what it meant. I don't know who, but someone at Nefesh B'Nefesh has been reading my blog and has added it to their News page with several links to this blog. Kinda cool, huh?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Didn't post something from last week

It was about a year ago that I went to Atlanta to the Nefesh B'Nefesh seminar. They have announced the schedule for the rest of this year and they are returning to Atlanta in December. So, I signed up last week and forgot to share with the blog. The girls and I already had a trip planned and guess when the NBN meeting is? The same weekend. So, we will go to Atlanta a day earlier as the meeting is on Thursday evening. The girls would have had to miss school anyway on Friday, so we will leave Thursday after school and still get there in plenty of time. I suspect there will be prettier presentations, but I don't really expect to learn a lot more since I read everything they put out, but you never know. What I do hope to do, is meet people making Aliyah next year, maybe even the same flight that I will take. It would be nice to know someone or people beforehand. It would also be nice to meet people that maybe getting a lift as I plan to only have a few boxes and it would be nice to find someone relatively close to share with. If nothing else, I'll see and meet others that share my aliyah dream and share our stories...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Not that I needed to be inspired, but a little inspiration felt good

This past summer, Nefesh B'Nefesh started webcasting the arrival ceremonies from Israel so that friends and families (and anyone else that was interested) could watch the live feed from the airport in Israel of the arrival of the plane, the excitement, the music, the dignitaries (Prime ministers (current, former and future), Ministers, MKs, etc) making speeches and such. I fell into the category of anyone else that was interested. These webcasts started at midnight and would last for about two hours. I watched with awe and even a little jealousy as these arrivals were not mine, but a glimpse into the future and what I could expect. The Nefesh B'Nefesh charter flights have been primarily in the summer, one is going in December, but last night I was looking for something (nothing specific) on the web and was checking the NBN website to see if there was anything new. Looking at the links I saw the link for NBN Videos and remembered the great scenes, sounds and feelings I had when watching live. I decided to watch a little... A little turned in to over an hour last night and again another hour or so this morning. Even recorded and even having seen them before I was inspired and it felt GREAT!

Friday, November 7, 2008

I've been approved!

I got a call today from the shaliach. He called to let me know that he has gotten the approval from Israel approving my Aliyah. This means that all the paperwork I sent in was complete and now am ready to wait for the next step, my immigration visa. You can not apply for the visa until you are within 6 months of actually getting on the plane, so I can't even think about it until January. So, another bout of waiting, but one more thing off the list!

I also asked what if any issues I can expect because of the changes in processing after January 1st when Nefesh b'Nefesh takes on its new role in North American Aliyah. He basically said not to worry they will have a process for individuals that have already been approved. I'm glad I'm not going shortly after the changes, there will have to be a few new kinks that I'm sure will be worked out well before I'm ready to leave.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

No news is good news?

Well I wrote the shaliach this week to get a status on my paperwork and he basically said it is still in process and they'll let me know when it has been approved.

I also wrote the Minister of Health in Israel to try and get things moving again on our business plan. The Keneset webpage for him states his languages are Hebrew, French and Arabic. So, I wrote him in English. I did put a a greeting and and offer to translate it to Hebrew in the beginning in Hebrew. It's been a couple of days and no response...

So, I guess no news is better than bad news?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Baby's Coming Home

My independent child, Emily, chose to remain in Atlanta when the family moved back to South Carolina last year. She was a rising junior at a Jewish High School, had her friends, life, etc. She did not want to change schools at this point in her life, so I agreed that she could stay (she had 5 different families offer to take her in). This summer she spent here with us and when it was time for school she returned to Atlanta. Unknown to me at the time she was missing us more than the year before. She came to Columbia for Rosh HaShanah and then returned to Atlanta, missing us some more.

She talked with her sister and she made comments to me that sounded like if she had to make the decision now she'd not have gone back to Atlanta. I don't take hints very well, so I kinda blew off what she was hinting at. Kaitlin came to me to ask why I told Emily that she couldn't move back here. That was when I called Emily and got the whole story instead of the hint.

There are lots of family reasons for her to want to be here, but the one that hit home, and selfishly I understand, is that she realized (reminded by this blog) that I was leaving next year and if she stayed in Atlanta then she'd get back to Columbia a month before I left and that she'd get to spend a month with me, and much of that would be with me packing to leave. If she came back now we'd have more time together.

I'm fooling myself into thinking it's all about me, but since the same issue applies for me wanting to spend more time with her too, how could I really say no. I contacted her school and the school here to see it were even possible and today we found out that she can get the classes in that she needs to graduate in SC. So, she said she wants to come home. Sometimes the logical thing is not necessarily the right thing. Sometimes you have to do what you want, look at me... So Sunday she will be back.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Next year in Jerusalem - בשנה הבאה בירושלים

Well I've been looking forward to the end of Yom Kippur for many reasons, but the one that applies most here are the the last words of the service --- בשנה הבאה בירושלים --- "Next year in Jerusalem" which for me will be the case, not just words repeated from year to year. No matter where in Israel I may be living I want to spend my first holidays in Jerusalem, so next year I WILL be in Jerusalem.

To add to the moment, about a dozen people in my shul were on the bima for the final Tekiah Gadolah, of which I was one. We got our cue from the rabbi and we all blew. People started running out of air and I kept blowing, it was like I needed to keep blowing to sound the shofar to say "Israel... I'm coming... are you getting this?" I lasted it seemed forever beyond the rest of the group, and finally it came to an end, just as Yom Kippur came to an end. A new year begins with a clean slate and I've got many new chapters to write.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The betting pool

It was brought to my attention last week that family members are placing odds on whether I go or not and if I do how long I will stay. I don't have much to say other than: Hello! I've been planning this for 6+ years... I don't think this is a whim... Hey, I'm leaving in 9 months and I'm going to stay, I wouldn't move 1/3 of the way around the world if I wasn't in for the long haul. So, plan to visit someday.

Monday, September 15, 2008

New Israel Connection

Late last night I was online and I get a message in facebook from someone in Israel. She writes that she grew up in Columbia and went to the same high school I did and was now living in Israel and that she was surprised that someone else from the same place was moving to Israel. She is a few years younger than I am and also told her about Josh Sussman, who grew up in Columbia, who is the same age as her being in Neve Daniel. (No, she is not in Neve Daniel... but that wouldn't have shocked me anymore) I see they are now facebook friends....

We continued a short dialogue to play Jewish geography and she knows a lot of my family and her grandparents and mine were friends. Then I picked up on another family name and found her aunt married my cousin. So not a blood relation, but a connection none the less. We grew up with many of the same people and going to the same places. We still have more stories to share, I'm sure.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Paperwork receiced and being processed

I received an e-mail from the Aliayh office, yesterday (Friday) afternoon, that I sent my paperwork for processing. This was a response to an e-mail asking for the status.

I have a tik aliyah (aliyah file) number. So, I guess I feel like something is happening. However the e-mail informed me that they will not actually process my paperwork until after the coming Jewish holidays as they are overwhelmed with applications for individuals making aliyah around the holidays. Even though I want things to progress rapidly I can't be unhappy that so many people are making aliyah that they have to prioritize the processing.

So, I guess on this issue I won't be posting an update until October. But progress is progress.

Friday, August 29, 2008

What am I going to do?

Next question... "What are you going to do when you get there?"

Well at first I'll take a little time to acclimate. I'll get signed up in an ulpan (intensive language program - 5 hours a day, 5 days a week for 5 months). Once I get into a normal routine, I can really get to work. We have several things we are working on that will keep me busy.

Our first endeavor is that we are building a specialty medical and dental clinic. There is a shortage of specialists in Israel and we have designed this project to bring 450 doctors and dentists to Israel with their families or friends every year. Once this is built we will use this as a showcase to sell technology to other organizations in Israel. So, I'll oversee the construction and at the same time meet with local doctors and dentists to form relationships to get them to refer into our practice when it is open.

We perform a service known as Remote Managed Services. This support program allows us to monitor and maintain all the computing devices in the client's office. It allows us to ensure updates and patches are kept current and allows us to proactively effect repairs and adjustments before they cause components to fail and impact the productivity of the users. Since we don't want to impact the users, many times the work needs to be done when they are not in their offices. With our new office in Israel we will be 7 hours ahead of most of our clients and can work on their systems during daytime hours in Israel.

We offer our clients internet backup of their data. We load backup software on any machine that needs to be backed up and during the evening hours the backup occurs over the internet securing their data in our secure backup repository (currently in a bank vault). We have a second repository that is currently located in the same vault that we will relocate to the Israel facility to offer a higher level of data security for our clients by hosting their data on more than one continent.

We will supplement our call support capabilities by offering live answering of calls from both offices across the overlapping time zones. This means we will answer the phone from 2am to 5pm in the Eastern Time Zone and 9am to Midnight in Israel. We will be able to offer better support for both locations as if we were one.

There are some other leading technologies that we maintain expertise that we will include in our offerings as time permits. We get to them all but probably not on day one. They include voice technologies, security solutions, data center design, power solutions, cooling solutions and many others.

So, now you know... I won't be bored when I get there. I'll find some time to make friends and have a little fun too!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Where to live

The most popular question I get when I tell people what I am doing is asking me where I'm going to live. Well I've always wanted to live on the beach, so that is where I plan to end up. A good rule of thumb however is to live somewhere for a little while before making a big decision, like where to live...

We are building our office in Modi'in so while it is being built, I'll live nearby for the first year or so. Then when I don't have to oversee the construction I can hopefully live on the beach. Searching online I like what I see in Ramat Poleg, but once there I'll see what it's like in person.'

Most people ask me where is Modi'in. It is about halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The train that will connect the two runs through the city and has a station there. It also goes to the airport so getting to the "big" cities is easy as well as access to air travel when needed. It is only 15-20 minutes to the cities and just a few minutes to the airport. Modi'in is a city barely 10 years old and already grown to about 125,000 and has been planned to grow to about 250,000.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kaitlin's Contribution

Well today was an interesting day. Kaitlin has been mostly uninvolved in my preparations. However, she decided that I need a makeover before I leave, so she plans to take me shopping for a "new look". So, I guess come spring, I'll see what she has in mind.... but, I still hold the veto.

The nexus known as Neve Daniel

I lived in Atlanta for many years after contacting Nefesh b'Nefesh, but they always sent e-mails about live seminars in New York and other cities other than Atlanta. I move to SC and guess what... they sent out an e-mail in the Fall of 2007 for a live seminar in Atlanta. So living only a little more than three hours away, I drove over. It was invigorating to be in a room full of people that were considering or had decided to make aliyah. Nefesh b'Nefesh sent a couple of people to lead the seminar, one of which was Laura Ben David. While not a focus of her presentation, it was brought to my attention that she had written a book, a journal of her journey to and beyond aliyah. I came home and ordered the book and it arrived just as my mother came to visit from California. She actually read it before I did. Upon reading the book I learned quite a bit about her journey and specifically that Laura and her family ended up in the small community near Jerusalem in Gush Etzion, Neve Daniel. First connection.

In February 2008 my shul had a guest speaker, Jeremy Gimpel, the head of the Center for Biblical Zionism. Besides enjoying the presentation and discussion, I was able to speak with Jeremy after the program. In the conversation, I asked him if he was from Jerusalem. He responded with "No, I live in a small town about 10 minutes away". Knowing this to be the case I asked if it was Neve Daniel. His head spun around and asked "How did you know?" I responded that it was the only one I knew... I asked if he knew Laura and he said "Know her, she did the review on my TV show". Second connection.

In June 2008 my uncle, Ivan Gottlieb, forwarded to me an e-mail from a friend, Josh Sussman, of my cousin. He had made aliyah four years ago. He is the son of my oldest daughter's pediatrician. In the e-mail was a link to his blog. I read all about his journey and aliyah and where he and his family ended up. Guess where.... Neve Daniel. I wrote to Josh and introduced myself and told him of my two connections to Neve Daniel and asked if he new Jeremy and Laura. His response was at this point I guess not surprising: "We are very friendly with Laura Ben David and her husband, Lawrence (I ride bikes and he is one of the 3 other guys I ride with weekly). As a matter of fact, they were over for lunch on Shavuot two days ago. We're also friendly with Jeremy and his wife." Third Connection.

I understand that Neve Daniel is a highly observant community, and as a conservative (masorti) jew, don't see this as where I would be best suited, even as my level of observance increases, my egalitarian views would probably stand in the way. I don't know why I have met so many people from one small community, but they are great people, with great stories. Maybe it's a sign to share my story.

A little history - Where this journey began...

I am going to take a step back, way before last Friday's initial post to lay out how I got to this point in my life with regards to aliyah.

I had for many years not even been into a synagogue. I was living in Utah and upon moving into my house the Mormon missionaries showed up at my door (surprise, surprise). They actually pushed me back into the synagogue. I met with the rabbi for several hours and at the end of the meeting I wondered why I had ever stopped practicing. I started going to shul. After a short stay in Utah I moved back east to Atlanta.

I started attending shul there (Congregation Beth Shalom), got involved with the Mosaic Outdoor Club of Georgia. I was on a hike when a friend of mine, whom I met in Mosaic, Gary Vogin tells me about this volunteer program that he went on, to volunteer in the Israeli Army. I thought this sounded really cool, stated doing a little research and a couple weeks later I was signed up.

The program, Sar-El, kept me informed of my coming trip and information in general. They also made the comment that 46% of people that come to Israel in their program eventually make aliyah. I laughed and said that wasn't going to be me. During the time I spent in Israel they kept reminding us of the statistic and again I laughed and said that was not going to be me. I got on the plane with many wonderful memories and said to myself "see it wasn't me". Little did I know, but about six months later (December 2002), I came to the realization of how much I missed Israel and knew in my heart that I belonged to Israel and Israel belonged to me.

I had been reading about this new organization, Nefesh b'Nefesh and their inaugural trip the summer just past. I read everything on their website, followed every link. I registered on their website and at the same time I talked with a child psychologist who told me that with two kids in middle school I needed to either leave almost immediately or wait until they graduated from high school. I knew the timing wasn't right for my newly teenaged children, not to mention their older sister. Thus, reality in check, I knew I had to wait until after high school. They would be finished in May/June 2009. Nefesh b'Nefesh took all my basic information, but basically said keep in touch and when it is a little closer then we can proceed.

Over the next several years I continued to read all that I could. I continued my Hebrew studies at the ulpan at the JCC. (I still have a ways to go, but I can order from a menu, go on a trip and furnish my home). I told many people of my plans and when asked when, they kind of snickered at the length of time (I'm sure thinking "yeah right" or "we'll see then").

I planned to stay in Atlanta until I left, but life is funny sometimes. I had kept in touch over the years with my first employer and friend, David Livingston. He originally was in the Jewelry retail and manufacturing business. I talked him into his first computer purchase in the mid 1980s and he was hooked. We became a beta site for 3Com and we had the first PC LAN in South Carolina. I stayed for several years but considered staying there was the end of my technology based career path. I moved on, but stayed in touch. I was in Columbia in the spring of 2007 and met David for lunch. He made the same comment that usually made when we were together: You should come back and join us. I replied as I had many times before "I like Atlanta and Jewish community there, why do I want to move back to Columbia". He said he'd give me a good job and a piece of the company. I then stated "That's nice but I'm still moving to Israel in two years", he paused and then responded, "OK, then we'll open an office there". I then had an answer to a question that had been asked of me many times: What are you going to do when you get there? So, July 2007 brought me back to Columbia.

My kids still graduate in May and June 2009. The international FJMC (Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs) convention will be held the first weekend of July 2009 and I felt that would be worth staying for before leaving. As the flight schedule is not out yet for 2009 for Nefesh b'Nefesh , I don't know when I'll be leaving, but they usually have a couple in July, so I figure that is when I'll start the next chapter of my life. Keep up with this blog and you'll know when I know...

I have great family and friends and that is the hard part of moving a third of the way around the world. Fortunately with the internet (voice, text and video) keeping in touch will not be so difficult, just a little harder to share a bagel and lox, schwarma, felafel... Hopefully you'll all come visit me in Israel, maybe even a few of you will come one day for good.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Blog Starting point... Sent in Paperwork

Even though I made the descision 6 years ago to make aliyah, I decided to wait until my kids graduated before making this change. I am less than a year away now and thus am able to open my tik aliyah (aliyah file) with the shaliach (representative for the State of Israel). I had my interview about two weeks ago and have been gathering the needed paperwork. I finished my gathering yesterday, went by the bank for a cashiers check and sent in the package today. It really felt like I am starting the actual process in sending something to someone. So, I begin my journey... I have been in contact with Nefesh b'Nefesh since 2002 and will be utilizing their services and traveling with them next July. They haven't announced the flight schedule for 2009 yet, so I don't know the exact date yet.