Israelis for Yom Haatzmaut

I am filled with mixed emotions when I reflect on our past week. First and foremost, I have tremendous pride to say that we commemorated Yom Hazikaron and celebrated Yom Haatzmaut as Israeli citizens. No longer are we trying to explain the importance of the days to our children from afar. No longer are we trying to grasp onto pictures, memories and Israeli food to feel the power of the days. We were here, in Israel! The feelings of the days surrounded us.

Next on my list of emotions is thankfulness. We are so thankful to Hashem on many levels. We are thankful on a national level for giving the Jewish people an opportunity to have this country. For so many generations, people only dreamed of Israel. Now, Israel is a Jewish state and we are all free to come and live here. Israel is thriving in so many ways and has come so far. There is a lot to be thankful for. On a more personal level, I am thankful that we were given the specific gift of making aliyah and living here. On Yom Haatzmut, I woke up and opened my huge window to just admire our view of the hills of Yerushalayim. We are really here. We made it home and for that I can not express my gratitude. There were so many obstacles in our way, and so many times when we were not sure if we would ever make it, but here we are! And last but not least, I am thankful to all the soldiers who protect us and thankful to all those who lost their lives in defending our country and allowing us to live here. On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning when the sirens went off to commemorate all the lives lost for our country, it felt personal. Those lives were lost so I could stand here, in my comfortable home in Yershalayim and feel safe.

When going through my emotions, I can not help but mention my tinge of regret. We made a few rookie mistakes this year that I hope we can correct for future years. A simple example of our mistakes was not preparing enough white shirts for the kids. Saturday night I realized that each of our children needed four white shirts for the upcoming week. There would be two days of Rosh Chodesh, Yom Hazikaron and of course Yom Haatzmaut. I was not prepared. Another small regret was that we did not do activities that were specific to the days. I did not know what I should or could do for Yom Hazikaron with four young children with me. Activities at night seem very difficult because my children are early-bedtime-kids. On Yom Haaztmaut we wanted to make sure to see both sides of our family. We spent a wonderful day hosting everyone, but we did not get out to see the festivities. We missed the famous airplane flyover and did not go to any public celebrations.Although we loved being with our family and having special time with them, by the end of the day, I felt a little but sad that we missed it. Our first time in Israel for both of these special days, and we didn’t do much. We are hoping to change that for next year.

Now that these special days are behind us, we are moving forward with our year. I am so proud of how well my girls are doing in school. This week, one of my girls came home with an outstanding grade on a halacha test she took. She learned the material, studied and took the test completely in Hebrew and by herself. She was one of the first ones to complete the test and felt confident that she did well on it. Of course, there are still difficult times and we are all learning more each day. But, we are getting closer to feeling like living here is a "piece of cake”. Our cake party countdown is at 50 days!!!!

Doubting Myself

Thursday was the first day of Pessach vacation. Yes, I know, we still have over a week until Pessach actually begins, but here, in Israel, vacation starts very early. To fill the time, the school system creates mini camps called kaytanot. The truth is, my kids are always asking for more and more days off, so I assumed they would opt out of the mini camp and enjoy the special time off. As the whatsapp reminders kept rolling in over the weeks leading up to the vacation, I was having second thoughts. Maybe I should just sign them up and then they can have the option of attending. After all, the program is free. What do I have to lose?

I clicked on the link to sign up my school aged girls first. The completely Hebrew website was intimidating and the form needed to be filled out in Hebrew. I stumbled through the first few screens of the application, and then it froze. I tried this a few more times and was not able to get further in the process. I realized that signing up was going to be a bit more complicated that I had first thought. There was an option to call a phone number and have someone assist with the process. I called. The lady reluctantly took my information and said I would be getting an email confirmation. I was skeptical that we had actually signed up, but said thank you and hung up. I never received the email. I chalked it up to the possibility that she did not understand my email address or something of that nature.

The gan online form was a bit shorter and only took two attempts to sign up. I was smarter this time and wrote all the answers in English. Despite the English, the last screen said I had completed the forms. I was not convinced that she was actually signed up either. I figured if anyone actually wanted to go to the kaytanot we would confirm then.

I was shocked and impressed that all three of my girls were adamant that they wanted to try the kaytana on the first day. They excitedly packed their camp bags and happily walked to the bus. I still was not sure if they were signed up to go, but we decided to try. When we got to the older girls’ school, the teacher in charge said she did not recall seeing their names on the list, but that they can stay. She said she would sign them up from her end. I was grateful. I kissed my daughters, waved goodbye and walked out. As we walked back to catch our next bus, I had a bit of a nervous feeling. The conversation was all in Hebrew. Did I understand correctly? Were they really allowed to stay without being signed up? Can I bring them back the next time? I was not confident I understood what she said.

Next up was my daughter in gan. When I walked her in, I confirmed that she was signed up. The morah assured me that she was. Unlike the older children, her kaytana was a full day. I do not know why this had not dawned on me until we were walking into her gan, but I only packed her an aruchat eser. I have no idea why I assumed she would be provided a lunch like a regular school day. This was not a regular school day. I asked the morah about meals. She replied in her fast Hebrew that the program provides lunch, but we have to bring the ten oclock meal. I thanked her, kissed my daugther and was on my way.

That uncertain feeling returned to the pit of my stomach. ‘Wait, did she say they do or don’t give lunch?’ My daughter only had a sandwich and fruit. She will be so hungry if I misunderstood the teacher. My lack of confidence is odd, really. While standing in front of both women, I understood them. I was able to communicate my needs and receive answers to questions. After each conversation I felt relieved by their answers. While standing there, I was totally sure of myself and was confident that I understood what they were saying. I did not need them to repeat anything or get someone who spoke English to translate. I was satisfied with my Hebrew conversation. But, then a strange phenomenon kept happening. I realized that it actually happens all the time. After I leave a store and wonder if I understood the return policy. Or after I schedule a doctor’s appointment or ask a medical question. While I am there I understand. After I leave, the doubt creeps in. I wonder if I really understood. I wonder if my communication was clear. I just feel unsure. Does this happen to all new olim? Or is just me? Why do I have this worry? I really do not know. All I can say is that I hope that one day I do not get these feelings of doubt.

Six Months

Our six month mark passed without a notice. It is hard to believe we have been living in Israel for half a year. So much of our lives have become familiar and routine. We have grown so accustomed to our new reality, that it almost feels like we have been here for longer than six months. Then again it also feels like we just got here.

This week was an emotional one for me. Back in Passaic, our girls old school had their annual Mother Daughter Brunch. Obviously, we were not there. Our friends lovingly sent us videos of the performances. As I sat with my daughters as they poured over every second of the song and dance and fondly pointed out their friends and old classmates, tears came to my eyes. I missed our old home. I missed all my friends sitting in the audience watching their daughters perform that morning.I was sad to have not been there with them with camera in hand taking my own video. I was sad for my daughters that they were not up their on the stage with all their friends from America. I know how much they miss their old classmates and sweet friends. We have been able to keep in touch with a few of their friends, but it is impossible to do that with everyone we left behind. We missed them. We miss our old lives.

Monday night we had a special night of our own here in Ramot. Our new school made a special program just for the new olim families in the school. Instead of performing with thirty girls, there were just four. Our children prepared small speeches and danced to the song Yisrael Sheli. They wore blue and white and used big Israeli flags as props. It was an adorable show. The main purpose of the night was to give us, the new olim, a chance to communicate how our transition has been going thus far and what the school can continue to help us with. It was a really thoughtful and touching idea. So, after the performance was over, the children were escorted to another room to make a project and eat some dessert, while we were given the opportunity to meet with the principal, guidance counselor, and representatives from the city and department of education. They asked us what we liked about the school and what they can do better to assist us in making this aliyah as successful as possible. Just the mere fact that five people spent their evening sitting around a circle and genuinely listening to our concerns was so moving to me. I felt really cared for. I hope some of our suggestions will come to fruition. One thing was clear to me, we were surrounded by people that genuinely wanted to help us and our children. Despite all the challenges we spoke about that night, our new lives were looking pretty good.

Purim is right around the corner. To me, once Purim comes, it usually signals the end of the school year is approaching fast. In fact, we only have 117 days left until our cake party. I can not believe how fast the year is going. With all the hardships and obstacles of the first year of aliyah we are plowing ahead. It has been an amazing and challenging six months. I can not wait to see how we feel after the school year is over. 117 days is not a lot at all.. I guess it is almost time to start baking.