Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Shimmer and Awe of Israel

The thing about aliyah is that a lot of people move to Israel and spend the first few weeks or months or even years marveling at the awesomeness that is Israel. For those who show up and move to Tel Aviv or another very "American" city (I describe Tel Aviv as Miami with Hebrew), perhaps the shimmer of awe isn't so bright, but for those who move to Jerusalem or other holy cities or superbly historic locales where tour groups in matching hats tend to outnumber actual citizens, there's a sense of wonder, I think.

Old meets new in Jerusalem with the light rail (the smoothest ride ever) and the historic buildings set up by old-world bajillionaires and formerly occupying governments like the British. You can hop off the rail and shop at GAP, Crocs, and other major brands at the Mamila Mall, whose secret is that when the Temple is rebuilt, the shops will become the locale for purchasing your sacrifices. One day you're buying a shirt bedecked with Swarovski crystals, the next you're picking up a few goats and some fruit for your sin offering!

Going to the shuk aka Machane Yehuda aka the giant outdoor market with tiny alleyways and a bustle of movement and smells of fish and cracked-open pomegranate and spices feels quintessentially Middle Eastern. I'll admit that every time I step into the shuk, there's a feeling of moving out of a space I've known -- the fluorescent lights of a midwestern grocery store to the screams of men behind piles of bananas and avocados and melons trying to lure customers in. At the same time, the shuk is filled with modern amenities like Aroma coffee shop where you can get your fanciest of coffee beverages or Re:Bar the new froyo/smoothie chain with every fruit and vegetable combo tossed with your own shot of wheatgrass if you prefer (not for the gluten-free folks).

The variety of people, too, seem to paint the best picture of old-meets-new, east-meets-west. The men, in particular, seem to offer the stark contrast of ideologies and observances the best, with men in black-and-white seen as the old world, modesty at it's utmost and modern Israelis in blue jeans and button downs or T-shirts of brands that are too expensive in Israel. A mix of Ethiopians and Filipinos (often seen pushing the elderly), speakers of Yiddish and French, Anglos that stick out like a sore thumb most of the time, strollers filled to the brim with children, screaming babies, and old men shuffling about stroking their beards, women moving faster than the speed of light, teenagers at pastry shops wasting the day. I recently saw a Hassidic man on a motorized bicycle, black and white, beard and peyot flying in the wind, hat tightly on his head, speeding up Yafo in between the light rail trains moving in either direction, his bike making the sound of a tired engine. It was a sight to be seen.

I don't know what it is about this place, but the awe I feel for it is not the type of awe that people normally feel when they see something brilliant or unexpected for the first time. It's more muted, more internal, more personal. It's like my neshama has been here the whole time, like my body and eyes and nose and ears are simply catching up. Nothing surprises me -- no scent or site, no inconvenience or frustration. For me, it's all part of a continuous tapestry that I am lucky enough to experience day after day. It's just life, and I'm living it.

In many ways, I think I am like my father, and I think my little brother Joe also takes much of this on in his personality. A sense of calm, of rolling with the punches, of appreciating people and scenery and history. For all of my neurotic moments and tendency toward being a bit hot headed, I've never been the kind of person who feels a sense of perpetual urgency. I can sit at the bank for two hours, and it doesn't bother me. I can sit outside on a park bench and watch the world spin fast around me and be contented with watching the people, the breeze through the trees, the cats swirling around the Jerusalem stone, and I'm content. I can play the part, of course, of the irritable, impatient, rude Israeli passerby. That's what we call survival skills, folks. In New York City, I drove like a NYC cab driver out of necessity.

But I'm simpler than that, despite what most may think. I appreciate silence, I appreciate the slow and patient approach to life. And in that way, I'll never be Israeli. I will speak the language, eat the food, shop in the stores, relish in the smells and sounds, but I'll never lose my patience or internal awe for Eretz Yisrael.

Why? This place is a gift. No matter how many people fight over it, no matter the amount of tension and unrest, this land means so much to so many people crossing the bounds of gender, religion, creed, and color. If there is any place and any time in which I should be thankful above all else for what my life has become, it is now, and it is here.

Contrasts are beautiful, and Israel is and will always be a land of the starkest, most briliant contrasts.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

An Ultimate Hodge Podge Update

Holy wow, I haven't blogged since last Tuesday about aliyah. I'm guessing everyone is wonder what exactly has been going on, and my mind is blown even thinking about it. There have been phone calls in Hebrew with phone company, a visit to the bank (alone) to pick up my bank card, a visit to Misrad HaKlita to get my funds set up, and so very much more. I've been using my Hebrew like mad, which has been both exciting and intimidating.

Basically it goes something like this ... I walk into a store. I ask a question in Hebrew with my pretty okay Israeli accent. Shopkeeper responds with a really lengthy answer in Hebrew. My head explodes, but I nod and smile and say "okay" and "todah" (thank you in Hebrew) and go on my merry way. The thing that baffles most people is that I speak Hebrew much better than I understand Hebrew. Most people who grow up Jewishly hear Yiddish or Hebrew in some form, even if it's just in Hebrew School, so there's usually a gap in speaking but a decent semblance of understanding. I am an anomaly, but I think that's because I didn't start learning Hebrew until 2006 -- and then it was biblical Hebrew!

One gnarly thing about Israel is that I'm really living it up gluten-free style. You see, there are some things that are next to impossible to find in the U.S. both kosher and gluten free. One of those things? Rice noodles. Yes, something as simple as rice noodles, which essentially is rice and water, is impossible to find with a hechsher (kosher symbol). Here? Dozens of options. Curry paste? Easy. Fresh gluten-free bread? No problem. Gluten-free cakes? Delicious and less expensive. Here's what I nabbed for about 119 shekel last week (that's roughly $30).

That's fresh gluten-free sandwich bread, pita, a cake, two
packages rice noodles, and Tamari (wheat-free soy sauce).

Score! In the U.S. this would have cost me probably double. So when you're in Israel, look for this store on Agrippas in Nachlaot near the shuk.

As Chanukah approaches, these things are popping up all over the place. However, for me, these are a no-go. What are these? Sufganiyot, which are traditionally jelly donuts, but nowadays are gourmet and come in all sorts of exotic flavors. While the U.S. gorges on latkes, Israel gorges on donuts!

What else has been happening? Well, I spent Shabbat up in Ra'anana, which is a really nice little town outside of Tel Aviv that has a seriously amazing mall (yes, I went there, and yes, I bought kitchen gadgets and fresh, delicious coffee and loose-leaf tea). It was a huge blessing because I got to spend two whole days with my surrogate family! Good food, good company, getting to relax and see how grown up the kids are ... time flies when you're a world apart.

Finally, I was at the Jewish Agency for Israel's Board of Governor's meeting this morning as a "voice" for the generation of Jews that represent flux and fluidity and how JAFI can better engage and play to that audience. It was quite the excellent morning, and I got to catch up with a bunch of old friends from ROI Community and meet some newer folks, too. Networking is like coffee for me!

Mah od? (What else?) That's the quick and dirty. Life is still amazing, I'm working, I'm socializing, I'm drinking coffee, travelling, walking everywhere, waking up happy, and aside from a few annoying mosquito bites, I cannot complain about anything. I'd really wanted to write a Lech Lecha blog post since that was this week's Torah portion -- tying it to aliyah and how perfect and right it all feels -- but alas, time was not on my side this week.

Here is to another amazing week in Israel as an Israeli!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Gluten-Free Manischewitz Review

The kind folks over at Manischewitz were kind enough to send me some amazing and delicious gluten-free treats around the holidays last month. Although I didn't have the time with my big aliyah move to cook with all of them, I did have time to sample a few items, including the Guiltless Gourmet All Natural Snack Crunches: Roasted Cashew Crunch, the Mishpacha Gluten Free Flavored Coating Crumbs, and, of course, the Manischewitz Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix.

My thoughts? Well, the first thing I dove into, of course, was the cake mix, which happened to come conveniently with the pan to bake it in and the frosting mix. Now, for someone who lives alone, this was the perfect size cake -- roughly the size of the box when made. Yes, I happened to indulge in the entire thing, and yes I got a little sick from the sugar, but honestly this was one of the better gluten-free cake mixes I've happened upon. It was incredibly moist, the chocolate was thick and dark, and it hit the spot. If I liked yellow cake, I probably would have made the other box, too, but my waistline thanks me for not enjoying yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Find all their sweet treats here.

The next nosh? The All Natural Snack Crunches: Roasted Cashew Crunch (yes, they come in other flavors). The first thing I did with this was look at the ingredients, because when you're eating something that says All Natural, you really want it to be All Natural. I think that Guiltless Gourmet does a pretty good job of sticking to it, and I appreciate them explaining what inulin is. The ingredients?
Dry roasted cashews, pure cane sugar, tapioca syrup, inulin (chicory root fiber), sea salt, natural flavor.
I'm not sure whether tapioca syrup, inulin, or "natural flavor" are good for you, but by and large for having no GMO ingredients and being vegan and gluten free, I'm hesitant to complain when they tasted so so so good. I topped off the package without batting an eyelash over a few days. It was the perfect snack to hit the spot -- the kind of thing you buy and keep in your car, because these are better for you in a million ways than stopping at Starbucks for a super venti mega sugar carb loaded beverage to hold you off until dinner.

And last, but not at all in the least, are the Flavored Coating Crumbs, which are surprisingly produced in Israel, my new home! I used these in making a batch of Spaghetti (Squash) and Bean "Meat" Balls as a binding agent. I've done these before, but never with a coating crumb (aka "bread" crumb) before, and the honest truth is they kept their shape a lot better than without. There wasn't a huge flavor shift, but I was extremely happy that they kept my delicious little Italian-style bean balls together in one piece for my makeshift vegan version of a classic. (And, if you're really, really religious, you'll be pleased to know there is not one but three hechshers on the package!)

Overall? I was pretty happy with the new gluten-free products out by Manischewitz  I really wish I had gotten a chance to try their gluten-free noodles, so I'll have to see if I can't manage to find them here in Israel.

If you hit the store and try out any of their gluten-free nosh, let me know what you think!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Aliyah Essay

I'm considering using this as my shidduch (matchmaking) resume. This is the essay I wrote for my Nefesh b'Nefesh/Jewish Agency application for aliyah. Enjoy!

This is a doozy. Where do I begin? I was born and bred a Midwestern girl in a Midwestern tradition of Christianity. I spent most of my childhood in the Bible Belt of Southern Missouri, denying the faith as young as 10 years old. We moved to Nebraska when I was entering middle school and despite my best efforts to fit in by the time I was done with high school I was a religious question mark. I created my own religion, with my own tenets, and I lost a lot of friends over it. My freshman year of college, during one of those deep metaphysical conversations freshman have about the meaning of life a friend quipped that I should pick up a book on Judaism, him seeing that my own made-up sense of religion was, in fact, best aligned with Judaism. I bought Anita Diamant’s “Choosing a Jewish Life” from a used bookstore, quickly discovered there were two synagogues in town (a Reform and Conservative), and that I had a friend who had a friend who was Jewish. After a few years of hammering out what I knew was awakening in me through university classes and blogging, I stepped foot in a synagogue and never looked back -- I was home. I completed my Reform conversion in April 2006, moved to Washington D.C. and quickly dove into the Torah, reading every parshah every week for an entire year. I moved to Chicago in 2007 and found myself moving in a different direction than the mega-church-style Lakeview Reform community and stepped into a Conservative synagogue into a “breakaway” young adult minyan. And then? Then I went out and bought two skirts (the first I’d owned probably since high school) and made my way to an Orthodox synagogue a few weeks before Passover in 2008. Imagine carrying around a load of bricks, and you’re not sure why you’re carrying them and then suddenly you go someplace and realize, “Oh, right, these belong here!” Well, stepping into that synagogue was what that felt like. I vowed to have an Orthodox conversion, and the moment I got to Connecticut to pursue my master’s in Judaic Studies, I found a synagogue, found a rabbi, and by January 1, 2010, I completed my RCA Beth Din conversion in New York City.

Sof sof!

And now? Well, after being married for 16 months (May 2010-September 2011) and asking for a get just weeks before Rosh Hashanah in 2011 and moving halfway across the country to Colorado to clear my head, I’ve realized that I’m happier and healthier than I’ve been in my entire life. But the things I don’t have in Colorado are numerous: the Orthodox dating world is nonexistent and guys from the coasts don’t want to date someone who doesn’t live closer, I have a fairly nonexistent social life, and I have no family here. The people I consider family live in Israel. The R-----------s, who watched me pre-conversion, post-conversion, through my marriage, and held my hand through my divorce, live in Ra'anana. They’re my family. Friends I’ve met on Twitter and through my blog reside in Israel and make me long for the place that, whenever I visit, I feel so at home. I have a bracelet with the coordinates of Jerusalem that I had made because wherever I go, my heart is in Jerusalem.

I always told people the only reason I don’t live in Israel is because of the weather. I’m a sucker for snow, and I hate hot weather. But, I guess, I’m feeling the nudge now. I’m single, unattached to any place, and now is probably a good of time as any to make the leap. I miss my friends, I miss my family, I miss knowing that I’m at home. I know it will not be easy -- believe me, I know that. But very little in my life has been easy. What I know is that with people at my side who genuinely care about my well-being, anything is possible. And, of course, there’s always the obligation to live in Israel, to dwell in the land, to be a part of something amazing, beautiful, and brilliant. To watch the children of Israel return, with hopes and dreams in tow.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Flattery and Losing

I give you ... my dinner! Here you have in my Middlebury College-Brandeis University Hebrew Ulpan mug, some delicious Schwepp's Riesling-flavored Soda, and then there is some delicious sauteed kale with tomatoes with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Next to that you have some gluten-free crackers and my new favorite hummus, which happens to be some type of crazy spicy fiery hummus.

Delicious and fresh.

Today was a particularly interesting day. I spent the morning dealing with some cellphone stuff, and I was proud of myself for being able to call and tell the women -- in Hebrew -- that my data plan wasn't working, that I couldn't log on to the website, and that I needed some serious help. Eventually I got to an English speaker and he helped me out.

I spent the afternoon working at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Yafo, and I got to experience my first real bit of rain in Israel. It was warm and cool at the same time, and the world kept moving while it was raining. As I sat underneath the overhang outside the coffee shop, taking in all of the people moving so quickly in every direction, every type of Jew, Christian, Muslim, and non-religionist. If you believe for one second that Israel is filled with nothing but Jews, just sit at a coffee shop on Yafo for fifteen minutes and your mind will be blown.

I capped the day off out with @melschol shopping for some shells (those things women wear under their shirts to be modest, or tzniut) when the craziest thing happened! Yes, I was randomly hit on by a guy trying to bum a cigarette. He was frum (Orthodox) enough to not have an email address but not frum enough to avoid shaking my hand -- twice. It was weird. Flattering? A little bit. But not much.

And now? I'm home panicing because it appears I've lost my teudat zehut already. Yes, that's my ID card. It's like losing your driver's license. I've had it since Thursday. And already it's gone. I know it was in my purse when I left. And I don't know when it disappeared. But when I got home, there were two guys outside my gate who said "Hey, you lose your ID?" and I said "No," because the truth is that I didn't think I had lost my ID. And then I looked, and oh, I'd lost it.

And now? I have no way to look in the mailbox, because it's the whole building's mailbox.

Ahhh ... freak out!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shabbat in Yerushalayim

Shavua tov! What. A. Shabbat. Where do I begin? Seriously, where!?
Last night I spent some time at the home of some good friends and had the most delicious crisp of my life. Also? They had air conditioning, which was stellar and a nice reprieve from the heat I've been dealing with at my apartment. It also was nice to just sit and chat for several hours about everything and anything. It was comfortable, and relaxing, and amazing!
Today, I slept in pretty late, had some cereal, and then schlepped off to the Kotel. The amazing thing about living in Jerusalem is that I can just wander aimlessly and at a pace as slowly as humanly possible. I arrived to the Kotel around two something, which means I was able to sort of sit and people-watch and daven for about three hours. 
I had some crazy, bananas emotional moments while davening, realizing that I was really, really there. In my Ohel Sarah siddur, there was a special supplication for the Kotel, which I read a few times. There also was a special prayer for finding a zivug, which I read several times. Between Minchah and Ma'ariv, I was reading Pirkei Avot, and came across something 2:20, which gave me some insight into my search for a zivug ... 
Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehuda the Prince said, Torah study is good with a worldly occupation, because the exertion put into both of them makes one forget sin. All Torah without work will ultimately result in desolation and will cause sinfulness. 
All who work for the community should work for the sake of Heaven, for the merit of the community's forefathers will help them, and their righteousness endures forever. And as for you, God will reward you greatly as if you accomplished it on your own.
Yes. Work and Torah. Avodah v'Torah. A real mensch does them both, and it keeps him occupied enough so that he doesn't have wandering eyes. So the Kollel guys and the work-only guys and the no-work guys ... no dice.
And then there were a few things that I realized ... things in which I think a PSA is needed!
  • The reason people walk backwards away from the kotel is because it's as if you're walking away from a King. It's a sign of respect. Watch some old movies with English royalty and you'll see very much the same. A lot of people didn't seem to know why or for how long you are supposed to walk backwards (seriously? there isn't a limit, but don't run into people!). 
  • The scarves that are available at the entrance are to cover your shoulders if you're wearing a tanktop or to cover your hair if you're married. Women were doing all sorts of crazy things with the scarves, but I noticed people of all ages covering their hair with the scarves. I think this is a bit of the confusion between the Orthodox Christian/Muslim/Jewish faith traditions. 
Part of me thinks there should be some kind of sign at the entrance to the Kotel in various languages explaining the traditions, practices, and so forth. What do you think? 

I realized after davening Minchah that there was actually a minyan down toward the Kotel (I was hanging out at the back) where the men stand really close to the mechitzah, allowing women to listen and participate. So when it came time for Maariv, I headed down there, which was nice, because they did a stellar havdalah! Yes, a giant cart pulled into the men's section with bundles of mint, which people passed out and around for havdalah! Talk about nifty. 

What a Shabbat. I saw so many attractive bochurim, so many young frum girls, and realized that I'm so old out here in the dating game. But that's what all the davening was for, right!?

Shavua tov, cheverim!

The Hebrew Index: If you ever have questions, let me know. Or if you want me to blog about any of the words I'm using or concepts I'm sharing, let me know, too! 
davening = praying
Maariv = evening/night prayers
Mincha = afternoon prayers
havdalah = the end-of-Shabbat prayers, separating Shabbat from the rest of the week
mechitzah = the divider that separates the men's and women's sections
bochurim = single guys
frum = Orthodox or observant
cheverim = "friends"
Ohel Sarah siddur = a specific prayer book for women published by Artscrolls
Kollel = that place where guys study after yeshiva -- it's like yeshiva for adults
yeshiva = religious "high school"
zivug = match, or partner
Kotel = the Western Wall, also known as Ha'Kotel Ha'Maarav (kotel = wall)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Day in the Life

Photos -- except the last one -- courtesy of Laura Ben-David of Nefesh b'Nefesh!

Getting off the plane. Smiling so big my face hurt!

After being shutteled over to the old terminal, we sit in orange 
chairs waiting for our names to be called for processing.  It is at 
this time that I realize my U.S. passport has had a sticker placed
in it by the Israeli Embassy with my Aliyah Visa!

Laura and I sit and chat. But mostly Laura was running around taking
so many amazing photographs. This woman is SUPER woman, seriously. 

Sitting down, signing paperwork, getting goodies, and learning a bit, too!

 The important things in life. SIM card with 200 minutes and my 
Teudat Olah (documentation of immigration, sort of like a passport). 

 The whole group -- exhausted, sweating, and ready to pick up our luggage!

And you've see this already, but this is me right before heading out
to the taxi that was to take me home -- to Nachlaot!

The In-Flight Commentary

I wrote this in two spurts while in-flight on my way from JFK in New York City to Ben Gurion in Israel. Enjoy!

As I walked down the ramp after reluctantly giving up my carry on, I said to no one in particular, with a huge grin,
"It's happening."
Dinner was outstandingly delicious. Consider ordering gluten free the next time you fly El Al. Fish with steamed zucchini and snow peas, hummus with rice cakes (a substitution I never considered), a salad with Italian dressing, and a delicious chocolate mousse. I was pleasantly surprised. Or maybe it was that I hadn't eaten all day ... Again.

It's just after 7 a.m. in Israel, which means the trip is more than half over. In 4.5 hours we land. That's like a trip to LA from NY. Someone on the plane is sick enough to necessitate the "Is there a doctor on board" call. Of course, there were several.

I'm currently watching some ooey gooey Discovery Channel-style thing. It made for brain-stimulating background noise as I completed a crossword puzzle. I spent a good ten minutes puzzled (bada ching!) on the last clue: feature for a garage door. S_ _s_r. Duh Chaviva!

I've watched two movies so far: Rock of Ages and some movie with a star-studded cast that took place in Rome. Rock of Ages was good, and not annoying at all. I was bummed by Alec Baldwin's role, however. And Tom Cruise just ... He just. The other movie had Jessie Eisenberg, Woody Allen, the girl from Juno, Alec Baldwin (seriously El Al, what's up with that?), Roberto Benini, and Penelope Cruz. It was quality, but it left me sort of wondering ... And? [Note: The movie is To Rome With Love.]

The flight has been going smoothly for me. More smoothly than usual. That is, aside from the kicking child behind me and the petite mother in front of me who has her seat all the way back and keeps pushing on it like there isn't anyone behind her. Sometimes I wonder why people pose all respect for human beings the moment they enter a plane (or any mode of transit, that is).

There are only 67 olim on this flight, which bums me out, but it's no charter flight. Now? I'll watch an episode of Alcatraz I've already seen. It's good Hebrew practice.

Just remembered to write about the international crisis averted when the security guy at baggage drop pulled Bananagrams from my suitcase.

"What is this?" he asked.

"A game," I said. 

"Did anyone give it to you?" he asked. 

"No ... It's mine," I said. 

The girl whose luggage was in after me? She also had Bananagrams and nothing happened. What's up with that?

It's now 9:23 in Israel. We're two hours out. What? Is this happening?!

I haven't gotten up nice to move around. I think my legs are not gong to be able to carry me when the time comes. That's the downfall of the window seat, of course. [Note: I did get up to move around about an hour before landing. It felt so good!]

And ... breakfast.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Chaviva Has Landed

Photo courtesy THE Benji Lovitt, who greeted me at the airport!
My mouth hurts from smiling. And I think the delirium is obvious. 

I have three suitcases with various sundry items like clothing in them. They're staring at me saying, "Where on earth are you going to put us? Do you see closet space? Are you going to live out of suitcases for the next month?"

And I don't have an answer. There's a desk in this Nachlaot apartment, but I might have to relocate the desk and acquire an aron -- a sort of closet that isn't a closet. Something like what Belle had in Beauty and the Beast. Yes, the movie. The Disney movie. Am I delirious? It's possible. I've been up for quite some time, I didn't sleep on the plane, my arms are like spaghetti from the schlepping of the bags, I'm hungry but have no desire to pay for food or make food, I need to shower but kind of want to fall over sideways onto the bed and just sleep, my inbox is crawling with emails, I have so much work to do that my face might explode, and these CLOTHES ... what am I going to do with them?

I can't believe I'm here. Utter and complete disbelief. As I walked around with a good friend and her kids to Marzipan (a well-known bakery) and a few other stops, it just felt like home. Like normal.

I'm just going to have to figure out the language, my fear of spending while in Israel (yes, for some reason buying things at stores in Israel makes me anxious, however buying coffee and food at restaurants and cafes doesn't), and my schedule.

I have a bunch of things I wrote on the plane, sort of a play-by-play if you will, but that's going to come tomorrow, as well as the experience of arriving and the paperwork and onboarding that occurred. I'm too tired. I'm too dirty. I need to shower, I need to sleep. Time to put my sheets on this bed, make up my comforter-duvet, and put myself to sleep.

From an olah chadasha -- a new immigrant -- I wish you all a sweet lilah tov (goodnight)!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Leg One: Denver to New York

As our plane approaches the state of Illinois, and as I lament missing Felix Baumgartner's epic fall to earth, I have to relay that leaving Denver wasn't at all emotional for me this morning. Am I an emotional zombie? Or maybe just a sleep-deprived zombie?

I went to sleep around 1:45 a.m., woke up at 6:45 a.m. and proceeded to see if any of my luggage gained weight over night. Every suitcase looked like it was somewhere around 48 or 50 pounds, and I still had more to pack up. So I unpacked some things, sacrificing more stuff, again. I'm beginning to wonder what is in my bags that makes them so heavy, if anything. It's probably the bottles of vitamins. Maybe.

I showered, packed up, sold my bed, and schlepped off without enough time to hit the bank. Here's hoping there's a Chase Bank at LaGuardia or JFK. If not? I'm kind of screwed. I returned my car and arrived at the airport at the same time as approximately five million other people. Yes, the line for security went out and around to baggage claim, which, if you've never been at DIA is, well, insane. What's more insane is that it took about 15 minutes to get through security. I should have just taken the chance and not taken out my liquids and computers; they probably wouldn't have said anything.

If anything is going to kill me on this trip, it's the giant computer and the three books I could fit into my carry on. My carry on suitcase is … it's got to wait like 40 pounds. I nearly killed two people getting it into the overhead compartment. Throw on that my backpack, which is stuffed to the brim with my camera, my computer, my iPad, my unlocked iPhone 4s, and other fragile items like my mezuzot … and I'm going to have knots in my back the size of golf balls and sore arms for a week.

I'm kvetching a lot, aren't I? Sorry. I love traveling; I hate schlepping.

I'm eager to get to my hotel. For the first time in a good six months or so, I'll be able to watch Sunday night television -- live! It's the small stuff, folks. I'm eager to just kick back and chill out for a little while, to enjoy a cushy king-size mattress and really let my hair down (not that it's possible).

Listen, I'm not feeling the reality of my move yet. Is that weird? Maybe I won't? I wrote in my last post about how it just feels right, it feels like a second skin. Is that why it doesn't feel like I've packed my life up and am moving across the world? Why does it feel so … relaxed? So inconsequential? So … just so?

Maybe once I get to JFK tomorrow and see the Nefesh b'Nefesh booth and join the other olim at the gate it will suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks. And maybe it won't, and I'm okay with that.

Anyone out there who has made aliyah: What was the experience like for you? Butterflies or anxiety or fears or excitement or anything?

The Listen and the Action

Two of my three 50-pound suitcases +
my carryon suitcase + my backpack. 

What I've realized is that there are not enough pounds in the aliyah allotment for me to schlep the amount of clothes, coffee mugs with sentimental meaning, medical stuff (vitamins, supplements, allergy pills, and my oodles of creams), my down-alternative comforter (because I'm neurotic about the things I sleep with and on -- not being able to schlep a pillow is actually causing me unrest), and so forth. I don't know how it filled up so fast. But it did. I had to hardcore downsize, leaving lots of clothing and some precious home goods behind. I sent home THREE boxes of books to my parents -- seforim and lots of books from graduate school I cannot part with. I'm not taking a single cookbook with me. I'm so paranoid about finding clothes that both fit me and are well-built (being a plus size gal makes certain items difficult to find anyhow), so I stocked up here. My luggage is brimming with Lane Bryant and Old Navy and ... I'll be set for a while, anyhow. 

I'm rising in about 5 hours and 45 minutes to shower and get everything else packed up. I'm weighing my luggage every few minutes, it seems like, and I just know I'm going to get to the airport and they're either going to be too heavy or they're going to have five pounds of free room and I'm going to say "WHY ME?! WHY!?" After packing, I'm packing up the car, taking a last-minute trip to the donation center, the bank to withdrawal a ridiculous amount of cash, and off to the airport for my 11:15 a.m. flight to New York City. 

If anyone desires a meetup in the Five Towns for dinner Sunday night, let me know. My flight gets into LaGuardia at 5 p.m. and I figure I'll be at my hotel by 6:30 or 7 p.m. Then? Rest. Relaxation ... and ... I'll probably end up doing a lot of work actually. Monday I have to be at JFK by 3 p.m. for my 7 p.m. Nefesh b'Nefesh flight to Israel. 

This is aliyah folks. When you're a young, single person, you pack your life into three, 50-pound suitcases plus a carry on plus a personal item. The funny thing is that it doesn't feel weird to me. At work on Friday everyone said I seemed inordinately calm. For me, it's like I'm moving to a new city -- something I've done so very many times before. Packing up a bunch of suitcases and schlepping them across a country is what I do, so an ocean seems no different to me. The only difference is that I'm not the one driving the car doing the schlepping -- I'm on a plane, my luggage is packed tightly away, and I'm at the whim of the weather, some pilots, and time. 

It's adventure for me. Grabbing life by the reins and really owning it. It's taking the land -- Eretz Yisrael -- and possessing it. HaShem commanded me -- all of Israel -- to do this. So it doesn't feel strange, it just feels more right than all of the other attempts I've made at moving and possessing the space I inhabit. This time, it's real. This time? It's for keeps. This time, HaShem is fully with me. I finally listened, as we're commanded so many times in the Torah to do so. Shema, it says. Listen. 

Not once in the Torah does HaShem demand that we obey Him. HaShem asks us merely to listen. To absorb. To take in. To internalize. And only then do we act, because we want to be an active participant in this world, in this creation, in Am Yisrael
"Be silent, Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the LORD your God. Listen to the LORD your God and follow His commands and decrees that I give you today" (Deut. 27:9-10).
It's taken me several years of listening to finally act. And now that I am? The listening, the choice, the action -- it's like feeling my skin for the first time. It's a part of me.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock

This baby is so cute. I saw her in Dallas, 
and then saw her again in Denver! Oozing cute.

What the what! I haven't blogged in nearly two weeks. What is wrong with me? Where have I been? Where is my mind? Well, fancy you for asking!

The past few weeks have sort of floated by, and because of the nature of them floating, I didn't really notice the time flying so quickly. I'm now sitting in my apartment wondering how on earth I will empty it by Sunday morning when I head to Denver International Airport to head off to New York City where I'll spend Sunday night and then fly off to Eretz Yisrael on Monday evening.

My MacBook Pro was in the shop for two days last week, leaving me largely incommunicado. Then my Sprint service ended, so I was without any form of reaching people on the go. The wifi on my flight to Los Angeles for Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah on Sunday to visit my good friends the Lightstones was patchy, so I didn't get a thing done work-wise. By the time I got to Los Angeles, there was a Hoshana Rabbah meal to be had, followed by unpacking and helping out in the kitchen. I showered and before I knew it, it was chag. After two days at a Chabad Yeshiva davening for Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah and meeting so many amazing and inspiring people who wished me nothing but hatzlocha in my aliyah, the internet was down at my host's house. Without a cell phone with any semblance of technology, I ended up going web-less for a good 72 hours.

It was horrifying and liberating.

I spent most of today on the plane and when I got back clearing out my inbox, finally doing all of the work that had been put off because of computer problems and web issues. And now? Four emails in my inbox, and only two of those are actually pressing work issues that have to be handled tomorrow. Of course, that doesn't include one major, insane project that I really need to finish by Sunday so my head doesn't explode.

For some reason, it feels like I have to get tons of stuff done before making aliyah. Like I'm moving and then not doing my job anymore, but the truth is that I get to Israel, I sleep, I wake up, I work like normal. Life continues, work continues, everything stays the same -- I'm just in a different time zone (a better time zone, if you will). Oy.

In the past few weeks, I saw friends from Dallas, I saw a friend from back East who now lives in Denver, ate a ton of food, saw my friends from Crown Heights in Los Angeles, had an emotional moment realizing where I was staying in L.A. was right near Pink's (which, for those of you who have known me forever know that was the site of my first date with the great love of my life, Ian, who grew up thinking he was Jewish and then found out he wasn't). Two weeks, so many locations. So much food. So many emotions.

And now I have butterflies in my stomach. The kind of butterflies you get when you're going on a first date. You're excited, and worried, and scared, and eager, and it's a big mush that makes you feel like you have to vomit.

I anticipate a vlog coming up in the next day or so as I officially empty out my apartment on Friday morning when ARC comes by to pick up all of my remaining worldly belongings (which, honestly, is mostly kitchen stuff like plates and silverware and storage containers and cups). The only major thing left I need to sell is my bed. Someone, please buy my year-old bed, please!

Can you sense my anxiety? My excitement? My pure and utter elation and butterflies!? If you can't, you will ... oh you will.

Stay tuned for some highlights of my Los Angeles experience. That is, if I have the time to write about it.