Our flight was this past Tuesday. Tuesday, August 14th and Wednesday, August 15th were two of the longest but most incredible days in our lives. We had planned to leave Fort Lee, NJ at 7:30AM, but our van arrived at 6:45AM. Thanks to all the adrenaline, we were packed and pretty much ready to load up by then. It was a good thing too, because it actually took a half hour to load up the 20 pieces of luggage and another 15 minutes for pictures and hugs goodbye.
With only a few tears shed, we were on our way to the airport. When we arrived at JFK, we immediately spotted some of our friends that were making aliyah as well. We went from goodbyes with our family to welcoming hellos with our friends. The airport scene was just full of excitement. There was a clown making balloons for the children and a line full of families with heaps of suitcases exchanging plans and stories of their upcoming adventures.
We received name tags to wear and tags for our luggage, completed our check in without an issue, and headed to the first ceremony. Nefesh B'Nefesh provided lunch and music. Next we went through security and shortly after boarded our flight. Unfortunately, we got the dreaded seats by the bathroom. My poor baby kept waking up from the extremely loud flush and the girls were too excited to sleep.
And then we landed. We carefully gathered our belongings and peaked out the window to see a crowd of people holding up signs and waiting to greet us. The energy was palpable as we all waited our turn to finally get off the plane and be in Israel. It was our turn. I turned to my children and said, 'Are you ready?' They quickly answered yes. As soon as we stepped out, we spotted our amazing family front and center, waiving and cheering us on. I held my daughter's hand tight and carried my baby down the steps and into our homeland. We were finally home.
The next few hours were a blur of pictures, hugs and sweat. I was so touched by how many of our family members woke up at 4:30AM just to greet us off the plane. It really made us feel welcome! When the ceremony was over, we said our goodbyes. Usually, goodbye to our Israeli family meant we would not be seeing them for a long time. When we said goodbye on Wednesday morning, it was a short term, more like a 'see you later' kind of goodbye and that felt amazing!
We were bused to the old Terminal 1 where we waited to be called to receive our paperwork. Then we were bused back to wait for our taxi to be loaded with our suitcases. When the taxi was finally ready, we then drove to our new home. By this point, we had been up for way too long, and we were all wiped out. The girls were sleeping on their backpacks any chance they could sit down, and we were all just exhausted. After a few wrong turns, we made it to our new address.
We had never been to our home and were not even sure if we were in the right place. My husband just got the keys from my brother in law that morning. We were standing at the bottom of this huge staircase with our 19 bags lined up on the sidewalk and the taxi pulled away. We realized that we were missing a bag and quickly tried to reach Nefesh B'Nefesh to figure out how to get it back. We were all more exhausted than we could imagine and it was very hot outside! I have to say, this was quite a reality check. We were no longer in America, where the van drops us off 10 feet from our door, we were in Israel, living high up on a hill with a lot of steps.
So, we rose to the occasion. We took our children into the apartment, and turned on the air conditioning. When they were relatively settled, I assisted my husband who had already started carrying each suitcase up the many steps to our apartment. We blew up our air mattresses, took showers and then looked at each other- what next? By this point, every suitcase had been opened in search of bedding, towels, and changes of clothing. Our living room looked like a disaster hit. A glass window pane fell out of our door. I was ready to cry, when my sister called and said, "We're coming over!"
She and her adorable children marched into our disaster zone and started playing basketball in our yard and finding fun toys to play with my children. After a little bit, I could start to envision the fun times we would have in our new home. I realized that now my sister can just call and say she is coming over and within 20 minutes, she will be here. We took a walk to the park and got ices from the makolet, ate some dinner and went to sleep. The longest two days had come to a close. The adventure is just beginning, but we are home! Our home is in Yerushalayim! We made it!