Back in JFK, I came with 4 ginormous bags, just busting with the most important items in my life (and by that, I mean shoes.) The very nice non-smiling, non-Jewish, non-Israeli woman checking me in at EL AL (go figure!) charged me for an extra bag and TWO overweight bags! So not even Israeli yet and I'm $300 in the hole. Is this what they mean by Israel making you poor? Sign me up! Moving on, I check in and say goodbye to my beautiful family. While it was certainly emotional, I couldn't help but wonder how much more so it would be if I didn't have cell phones, American phone lines, Skype, FaceTime, Tango, Whatsapp, iMessage, Facebook, Viber, email and accessible air travel to make things easier. I imagine more difficult, but hey #firstworldproblems!
The flight was unremarkable. I was asked to switch to sit next to a woman so the hasidic man who was supposed to wouldn't be eternally damned by sitting next to a female- you're welcome, pious man! The food was meh and the movies were below meh. Like, I know I don't take in the cinema all that much, but I don't think these winners even graced the theaters, so that was a bust. I slept in preparation of aliyah, deciding to be fresh and ready for living the dream!
Once landed, the process was relatively easy. There were about 20-odd others living the dream with me (I refer facetiously to the motto of Nefesh B'nefesh-the aliya organization- but it is really quite apt!) We were taken through customs in a special line:
and then taken in a tram to the old airport which apparently, time forgot. Paint peeling, limited air conditioning, really made you excited to join this thriving country. (I kid, I kid.) Once seated, we were given our IDs, various information, and chose our health insurance companies. So ready to try out this socialized healthcare over here! You know it's impressive when everyone you ask for a recommendation says "choose any company- they're all fine." Yessssss bring on the fine healthcare! I also spent some time getting to know my fellow dream-livers, and exchange information, so that was lovely. After that, it was time to meet our friends/family or take our free rides to our destination. This is what I had waiting for me:
Could you plotz?! I had my beautiful Berg family, my amazing soldier cousin and look at those signs! All I could have asked for (minus the shofar I wanted blown and the personal hug from Bibi Netanyahu, but oh well!) We took my 2 trolleys of luggage out to the car and discovered that Yoni's fabulous compact sedan was most definitely too small for a Jappy American girl's 4 huge bags. 2 in the trunk and then two....on the roof? But how to put them there? No luggage straps. Hmmmm:
If you guessed a roll of cel-o-tape wrapped around the roof- you are correct! Now, to say I was nervous about my bags falling off the roof, with my shrink-wrapped clothing flying all over Highway 1 is the understatement of the century. I said quite a few personalized prayers to the One Above to keep our Pinterest-worthy luggage rack intact. And they worked- thanks G-d!
After a delicious sushi dinner (you can take the girl outta NYC, but...) I went to sleep early, woke up, and went over to the bank to open an account, like the adult that I am! I met a very nice lady, as typically Israeli as could be (completely uncharmed by me, completely not getting my humor- oy, this country!) and she explained the ins and outs of what I was signing, since it was in a Hebrew above my pay grade. I must be honest, it is very likely I bought a camel or sold my first born child to the state of Israel- I really have no idea. I just signed and signed until I couldn't sign no mo'.
That's basically the extent of my immersion into Israeli society thus far. I wish I could say it's been crazy or jam-packed but it's been pretty laid back. If you're still reading this- congrats! I know it was long, but thanks for joining me on this trip back in time! Yet to come in the next post: July 4 in Israel- 'Murrrica!