Our Biggest Challenge To Date

With 8 days until our flight, things are really coming into place.  I am so grateful that our plans have been going smoothly until this point. There have been so many details that have come together in order for us to be here, but we found out last week that our lift was not put on the proper ship. We hit our first big obstacle with our move.

Our shipping container was left in storage for an extra week and not transferred onto the steamship as planned. It was put on the next boat. Additionally, the steamship company postponed the ship date and lengthened the trip so it's arrival will be two weeks later than we had originally planned. 

We had discussed having our lift arrive the day before we landed. We planned to rush to the port the day of our flight (if we had enough energy) and get the customs documents started. We figured we could have our belongings with us less than a week after our landing. That would have been perfect. 

Instead, it will be two weeks before the boat is to arrive in Ashdod. After that, we will have to go through customs and schedule a delivery. It will be that much longer on air mattresses and living out of suitcases. 

My sister and sister-in-law have been absolutely amazing. They arranged that we have a folding table and chairs, pack and play, and an extra mattress for when we arrive. I can not thank them enough for all their support! 

We are disappointed in the moving company and lift company for not putting our belonging onto the ship that we had planned. We know that this situation is all for the best and Hashem is orchestrating the whole situation. We will get our belongings if and when we are supposed to. We are trying to take this obstacle in stride and realize that even without our furniture, we are going to be home, with Hashem's help in 9 short nights! 

Aliyah Boot-Camp

We were relaxing in my in-law's apartment in Boca on shabbat afternoon when there was a knock on the door. Another resident and her granddaughter had come to visit. The granddaughter was seven years old, the same age as our middle daughter. Our oldest, always very socially proactive, jumped right up and started to pick out a game to play with the new friend. Our middle daughter, who is a little slower to warm up, remained quietly on the couch. 

My husband and I both turned to our middle daughter, and simultaneously whispered two words: Aliyah Boot-camp. She understood what we meant right away. I elaborated just to further encourage her and explained that this was a great opportunity for her to practice making new friends. When we move to Israel, we will be doing a lot of this and now is a great chance to practice our skills. 

It has become a family joke that I have been using the term aliyah boot-camp very often over the past few months. We have encountered many new or different experiences than what we are used to, and I like to point out that it is all helping us prepare for our biggest adventure yet, making aliyah. 

We lived on a 27th floor for three weeks, which is way higher than we expect to be in Israel, but it was good to get a feel for how life will be different without a mini van pulling up to a driveway to unload our car five feet from the door to our house. With only two steps to get into our front door, we have been spoiled by the accessibility of our home. Having a few weeks in a large building helped us realize that we can manage in a less convenient living situation. 

The parking spaces in Fort Lee were super tight and small with odd rules for alternate side parking and amount of time allowed in each space. I was changing our parking spot every two hours during the day and squeezing our van into some pretty tiny spaces. Again, all getting ready for the new parking experiences in Israel. On our pilot trip, we realized that Israel also has extremely tight spots and complicated parking rules to figure out.

We moved out of our house and into suitcases with minimal drawer space to unpack. We are definitely preparing for a much smaller home with less closets and storage than we had previously. Since we moved out, we have slept in eight different locations. We are all very used to learning new places and figuring out our sleeping and bathroom arrangements in each new place.  This is aliyah boot-camp for getting acclimated to our new home, and probably staying in various other homes until our lift arrives. 

Our roadtrip prepared us for long travels and figuring out how to stay occupied while seated for long periods of time. The kids were great, giving us the encouragement that we can survive the long airport waits and even the flight to Israel. 

The heat, living without all our normal comforts, getting used to new locations, and figuring out new stores, shuls and routines in each place is all part of our aliyah boot-camp. I hope that when August 14th finally comes (which is only 16 days away) we will be ready thanks to all our experiences over the past few months. I hope our aliyah boot-camp will assist us in our real adventure of making aliyah!

My Sister's Insights

Yesterday was primarily a driving day. We drove another 440 miles. The kids were incredible. They listened to music, played car games and kept themselves entertained. Originally, we planned on making a stop at Daytona Beach halfway to our destination, but by this point in the trip we were antsy to get to Boca. BH, without incident we made it to my in laws condo. We are excited to spend a few weeks of quality time with them before our big move.

With less than three weeks until our flight, I would like to share my sister, Shana's, perspective on our aliyah. Without her, I do not know if we could have really made this dream into a reality. Thanks Shana for paving the way for our own aliyah. 

As the countdown continues to wind down, the excitement for us keeps on growing. I replay that incredible night over and over when Becca shared the news. It was a regular Tuesday night, the night every week when I speak to Becca, when the phone rang. We began chatting about the past week and the kids, work, and our upcoming trip to visit in the summer. Then I heard Simcha in the background mumbling something and Becca says, we need to tell you something, we have big news. I knew she was expecting, and after having twins, my first thought was IS IT TWINS!? But, the answer was “no, I asked a million times and its one healthy baby BH”. Then what could it be? I asked anxiously. Becca proceeded to tell me that the trip they planned on taking in Summer 2018 to visit us in Israel would not just be a visit, they would be coming to stay and making Aliyah! My mouth dropped, I was speechless: the moment I had been waiting for for the past 11 years was finally happening. I literally could not believe my ears. All I could say was WHAT? Are you serious? This is the best news I have ever heard.

I made Aliyah right after High school alone, leaving everyone and everything I knew behind. I was the one who left, still carrying with me guilt of leaving my family and tearing us apart even 11 years later. Although I knew and still know it was the right decision for me, that does not make being so far away from my family any easier. Maintaining long distance relationships is hard to say the least and it takes effort and desire to keep it going. Being far away was not easy, all the missed family occasions, holidays, birthday parties, births, and trips would never be given back. After a few years of being without immediate family here in Israel, I married into the wonderful Rapps family. Over the years, all of my husbands’ brothers made Aliyah and 5 years ago, his parents and younger sister followed suit. I felt a sense of family and support. As I watched my husband strengthen his relationships with his siblings, I always felt blessed and completely jealous and sad at the same time. My family was always here in spirit and love, but our time together was reserved for short trips throughout the year.  

Endless emotion came forth that Tuesday night when Becca and Simcha told us of their plans.  I would have my sister here, my best friend in the world. We would share those birthdays, smachot, holidays, vacations, shabbatot and everything in between together. Our children would grow up together, knowing each other and forming those incredible “cousin memories”. We could speak during the day without a 7-hour time difference separating us. We would be together again. For days after I still couldn’t really comprehend. I would find myself saying “is this really happening?” over and over again. It was surreal and I was completely overwhelmed with joy.  

Although I know and believe that Becca and Simcha are making the right decision as did I, leaving is very hard. My parents and another sister are still in the states with 6000 miles separating us. We will not be complete until our whole family is together again, and we will never grow accustomed to being so far away. We miss our parents and sister miserably and we are hoping and praying for another of those life changing conversations when we will be told, “we are not coming to visit, we are coming to stay”.

As the days and months went on, I followed the Davidman Aliyah progress closely. I awaited those special conversations with Becca and Simcha to hear about their decisions and new developments. Like anyone else who is following their blog, I know they have begun such an incredible journey full of challenges but they keep pushing through with smiles and optimism. They are a true inspiration to us all. As the months from Aliyah date have now turned into just a few weeks, we could not be more excited to finally welcome the Davidman family home. We have our calendars marked and our welcome home signs for that special day in August already in the works.

Day Two- Seeing Savannah

This morning we packed up our belongings and headed to the car. Our goal was to make it to Savannah, Georgia with enough time to explore the city and take a swim in the hotel pool. The ride was less than four hours which seemed like a breeze compared to yesterday. We stopped once for gas and another for a restroom/ stretch break. 

While we drove, I called an appliance store in Israel and spoke with a nice salesman about all the appliances we are planning to purchase within the next month. I provided our measurements and what we were looking for, and he sent me a whatsapp with pictures of his recommended appliances. Although the salesman spoke English, it was still hard to understand through his accent. The conversation made me a little nervous about our forthcoming lives in a new country. 

After we checked into to a our new hotel and got settled in, we took a walk to the water front near our hotel. The area is filled with cute restaurants and souvenir shops. We enjoyed walking along the water, seeing the boats and experiencing a new city. It was very hot and humid, so we stopped for some ice cream on our way back to the hotel. 

A quick change into bathing suits, and we were off to the pool. The kids had fun swimming and cooling off, although it did start drizzling a few minutes into our swim. Dinner, showers and bed as usual. Tomorrow we plan to drive all the way to our final destination. 

Day One of Our Roadtrip- Still Smiling

Bli ayin hara we have four sleeping kids in our hotel room in Charlotte, North Carolina. Day one of our road trip was a real success.

We started off our day with a breakfast of champions- donuts for the kids and a iced latte for me. Then we hit the road. We listened to some music as the three weeks are finally over, played a fun car game called Scavenger Hunt, and listened to a book on CD. After about two hours, we were ready for a rest stop and some gas. We stretched our legs and treated the kids to a vending machine snack.

We hit some traffic on our next leg of the trip, but made it to Roanoke just as we finished listening to the first portion of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on CD. The kids were enjoying the book and my husband and I were having fun reminiscing about the classic story as well.

Roanoke, Virginia was a great stop! There was easy parking on the street right across the street from the Science Museum of Western Virginia. We are members of the Liberty Science Center, so we were able to obtain admission to this museum for free. The bathrooms were clean and the museum was a perfect size for our 1 1/2 hour break. It had two small floors and lots of fun exhibits like a touch tank, old school video arcade games, and some other cute activities for the girls. There was an area with gigantic legos and another area with large foam shapes that was a perfect spot for our baby to crawl and play.

After we all had fun, we hopped back in the car and headed to our final destination, Charlotte, North Carolina. We hit some heavy rain, and made an extra rest stop to feed the baby dinner, but we made it to the hotel. We all showered, and are now settling into bed. All in all a wonderful first day. Next Stop: Savannah, Georgia.

T minus 24 days

I would have thought with only 3 1/2 weeks left until our flight, I would be breathing aliyah prep. In reality, things are oddly calm. There are days that go by that I do nothing for our aliyah. I feel guilty even admitting that. How can we be ready? There is just so much to do and take care of before we leave. 

As it has been the nine days, our shopping has been put on pause. Although, thankfully we are almost finished what seemed to be an endless list. Many of our suitcases are packed and sitting in Fort Lee waiting to be transported to the airport on the day of the flight. The things we need for the next three weeks are with us in Baltimore and will be packed on Sunday in preparation for our last hurrah in America- our road trip down to Florida. 

Our lift has been in storage for almost two months and should be IYH shipped next week. And our last set of paperwork arrived in the mail. We have our visas in hand and are ready to board our flight. 

We are applying for jobs as much as possible and looking into appliances for our new home. We have a few items left to purchase after tisha baav and then we will be ready. On second thought, I don't think I can ever be ready for the move we are about to make. I can not even envision our new lives. When I try, I just see a blank screen.

Yesterday, my daughter asked me about her bedtime in Israel. I tried to explain how unknown our lives are right now. I don't know what time school starts, if we will have a car to get to school, how long the walk will take, and what we need to get accomplished in the morning before school begins. Without knowing what time we have to wake up, how can we discuss what time we will be going to sleep. Everything will be different. 

Our countdown is down to 24 days! The next few weeks will be spent taking our kids on an American adventure down to Florida and then back up to Baltimore, Fort Lee and finally to JFK airport. Beezrat Hashem we have 25 days until we land in Eretz Yisrael and start our new lives! 

A Strange Encounter

Last week, a short trip to Target with my three daughters, turned into an interesting experience. While standing in the checkout line, an older woman in a red striped, sleeveless dress and flip flops, came up to us and mentioned how adorable the kids looked. It took me a moment to realize that she made the comment in Hebrew. I smiled and said thank you and moved a few steps forward in line. 

The woman continued and asked me why the girls were not in camp. I took the opportunity to practice my Ivrit, and responded that we are making aliyah in August, so they are not attending camp this summer. This stranger's eyes welled up with tears as she started to explain how happy she was for us.  As you probably can guess, she was a native Israeli herself. She lived in Tel Aviv and moved to Baltimore many years ago. She turned to my oldest daughter and told her about how everyone in Israel is friendly and welcoming. She described how amazing the country was and how much she missed it. 

It was our turn at the register, so I inched my cart and kids to the self check out. The woman followed behind us and continued to talk to us about her sister who still lives in Israel, and her son who is a pilot in the Israeli army. We had some issues with our checkout, so I turned my attention to the Target employee who helped us complete our transaction.

We left the store.

This lady found us as we were loading our items into our car and continued to tell us how even though it will be hard in the beginning it will be worth it. She repeated how happy she was to hear that we were making aliyah. I could see how genuine she was. The tears still in her eyes as she spoke. We exchanged goodbyes, and we finally drove home.

The girls were so curious. How did I understand what this lady was saying? Why was she crying? Why was she happy that we were moving? As we talked about it on the way home, I felt so validated. Even a stranger in Target understood how right it was for us to move. And to top it off, I had a full conversation in Hebrew. I guess I will be able to make it after all...

 

Our New Address

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Right now I am looking at 12 open suitcases scattered around my in-laws' condo. Since we moved out of our house about two and half weeks ago, we have been living out of our suitcases and a few boxes of food. We are very fortunate to have such generous parents that have allowed us to take over their homes until we make our big move. It has not been easy, though.  The kids and I have been commuting about 40 minutes to school each morning and have been to three separate houses for each of the past three shabbatot. To say that we are unsettled would be an understatement. 

To add to the chaos, we have attended two family weddings, an aufruf and a sheva brachot all in the past two weeks. It has made bedtime almost non-existent. I have to say, I think we are all doing pretty well considering the circumstances. We are trying to maintain as much normalcy as possible during this crazy time. Every morning, we go over the "plan" for the next day and discuss where we are going and what we are doing there. This phase in our lives proves to me that as a family, we are able to go with the flow and adapt to new circumstances. It gives me confidence that we will be able to flourish during this next big transition in our lives.

Interspersed into our family simchas have been goodbye parties and last shabbat meals with friends. It has been extremely emotional to say goodbye to our dear friends. One of the hardest parts of this move is watching my girls play with their respective best friends and knowing that we will be pulling them apart in just a few more days. We plan whatsapp chats and facetime, but as my daughter expressed, it won't be the same. I know they will make new friends, and grow closer with the ones that are moving with us, but it doesn't make the goodbye any easier. 

I actually feel blessed that we are able to do this move in stages. First packing up and sending our belongings to storage, then selling our house, next finishing school, saying goodbye to friends and moving out of New Jersey, then eventually boarding the plane for aliyah. Since we are taking small steps, we are able to adjust to the new realities slowly.

Selling and moving out of our house was one of those new realities. My kids love to drive by the "old house" to see if it still looks the same. Many mornings on the way to school, we take a small detour and drive down our old block and wave to our old address. The grass looks a bit taller and there is a new welcome mat at the door, but other than that it looks the same from the outside.

Last week, my daughter noted that it will be strange not to know her address. We have worked hard to make sure all three girls know their address in case of an emergency. We have practiced it many times. To ease her worry, I shared our new address with the girls. I recited the street name and number, and as I got to the city, I said: Yerushalayim. Chills ran through my body. Our new address would be in Yersuhalayim and it hit me yet again, we are really coming home!