Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Jordana in Jamaica Estates (Part 1)

Privet from Moscow! I am currently sitting in a booth in a Russian airport, in the midst of an 8- hour layover from NYC to Tel Aviv. And why, you might ask, did I choose to take this very scenic and unbelievably circuitous route back home, after spending 3 delightful weeks with my family in New York? Because the fare was so low, you actually feel like this airline is doing you a favor. Yet once you actually take the flights, you realize the trek is so long, and flying so thoroughly uncomfortable, that you seriously reconsider ever doing it again.
           Since the whole experience of going back to America for the first time since aliyah is so intense, and since I did and saw so many things in my 3 weeks back Stateside, this post may actually turn into a 2- parter. But let me start at the very beginning, which I’m told is a very good place to start, and we’ll see how it goes.
          It was the week before Pesach/Passover, and I was finally taking that “trip back to the States” that I had booked way back in November and at the time seemed eons away. I chose this super-cheap flight via Aeroflot, and prepared for the worst. After all, online reviews had me thinking this was a pre-war era plane manned by KGB members with no indoor heating or cooling. And I was fine with all that, because the price was right. And who didn’t want to see the highly regarded Moscow airport (one of three in this city, I’m told) ? No one likes culture more than me, and I have a lot of great Russian friends, so what better way to connect to them than through spending 4 hours in their 3rd largest airport? Thankfully, the flights were totally fine- personal screens and all! And the airport even officially had wi-fi! Not wi-fi that actually connected you to the internet, more the kind that showed up on your phone as full service, but kept your screen loading indefinitely, you know the type. One of the fabulous things about traveling internationally as an Orthodox person is the wealth of kosher food options available to you worldwide. And by that I mean, there is nothing and you starve. It’s the main reason I am so well-traveled throughout the US, and so poorly traveled everywhere else. I refuse to stuff my suitcases with granola bars and microwave meals. I have way too many pairs of shoes for that nonsense. So I prepared in advance, and stocked up on Bissli, Bamba and Pesek Zman chocolate in Ben Gurion Airport in anticipation for the fast. I didn’t just want to be Israeli in that Moscow airport- I wanted to shout it out through my snack choices.
          I’ll fast-forward through the travel, because I could probably explicate on that for ages. One exciting element of traveling is that it was my first time ever doing so as a dual-citizen. This meant that I showed the Israeli agents my Teudat Ma’avar (temporary travel visa- you get a passport a full year after aliyah) as well as my American passport. Although, if I’m being honest, I’ve been using my American passport almost everywhere else. It’s just so much faster and I got things to do!
So excited to be a dual- citizen!

So I finally get out at JFK, locate my bags (which I have an irrational certainty will be lost or stolen off the carousel every single time I fly) and reunite with my all-time best friend- my dad. He takes me to my family home where I hug my mom, my sister and my car- in that exact order. We then go to dinner with my other sister and her family, which include my 2 nephews and my niece. It is at this dinner, where I am sitting with the people that I love most on earth, some of whom don’t ever and will never be able to visit Israel, that I get super-emotional. I am lucky that I have a real sense of certainty in my decision to make aliyah. While I’m in Israel, I never question if my move was the right one- I know it is. I walk around smiling all day, and feel unendingly blessed to “live the dream” as they say. But at that table, with my niece and nephew on my lap, joking around with my immediate family just like it’s any other time, it is at the same time totally normal and completely surreal. And I allow myself a millisecond to think- how can I be without these people every day? How can I have made the decision to move across the globe alone, while my heart and soul are here? I will have this feeling a few more times over the next 3 weeks, but these are fleeting thoughts, and they do not last long.
                The next day I make my long-awaited return to the mall. I have mentioned in other posts that back in the States, I was an avid and skilled shopper. Since moving to Israel, my interest in shopping has waned, both due to the lack of stores and styles I like as well as the exorbitant prices for clothes here. I may pick something up once in a while, but my “shopping addiction” has definitely been cured by the Holy Land. Add that to the theory that I began developing this past trip- Americans are much more attached to buying. Now, before you Americans get all indignant, hear me out. You live in a place where malls are huge and everywhere, every third week is a blowout sale, and every item imaginable is available, both in- store or at your doorstep via the internet. In Israel, the most popular mall in the country, Malcha Mall in Jerusalem (you can look it up, Israelis, it’s true) would fit in my mall’s east wing. In the States you have the affordable shipping (or free shipping!) available online, the clearance sales and the outlet malls. You have a Target and an Amazing Savings for crazy value. And you have a car to shlep it all home with. It makes for a very comfortable shopping experience. In Israel, I have to agonize over buying one item, already marked down, and carve out a time to go pick it up and get it back home. It’s a production, so I don’t do it all that often. In case you were wondering, a shopping addiction can be cured, but it never goes away. Just going back into that mall with my mom was crazy- so many stores and everything on sale (obviously, because it was pre-Easter, post winter-whatever.) I rationalized everything by saying I was getting ready for Pesach and stocking up for Israel, but in reality, I was probably just relapsing hard core, and there was no stopping me. How is everything so cheap?
              Later that evening, I headed to Manhattan. I know that people who don’t live in New York (and many who do) are dazzled by Manhattan, but I’m over it. It’s fast and loud and crowded and (in my opinion) overrated. The subways are a hassle and driving is a nightmare and parking is impossible. All that said, I went in for a special reason- I had organized happy-hour drinks for some friends at a great bar where my friend works. He set aside a section and even made a special menu of drinks for my guests.

Interestingly, the Bar-Lev is a drink that has nothing to do with me being Israeli
It was the perfect way to see a whole bunch of friends I adore in one place at the same time. As friends walked in throughout the evening, one face after another made me light up. I realized again how much I love the people I had to leave.
            Coming back is a lot of the same conversation, many times a day, for 3 weeks. Where do I live, what do I do, who do I hang out with and how is it all (it seems as if people are not keeping up with Jordana in Jerusalem as diligently as I hoped)? I must have answered those questions a hundred or more times over these past 3 weeks, but I didn’t mind (that much) because those would be the same questions I’d ask them if the roles were reversed. And it’s always a beautiful thing to be able to talk about how much I love Israel and the new life I’m building there. I think if I didn’t feel so secure in my decision to make aliyah, these questions would stress me out, but it’s awesome and empowering to get to say “I love it every day,” and mean it. Oy, this is getting long. Okay, more to come in Part 2- see you then! Dasvedanya!

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