Our First Family Trip to Jerusalem

11:20 PM 2 Comments

It has been a while since we posted, and for good reasons. One of them is that we dealt with another bout of sickness in the house filling our nights with mommy-daddy duty. Another is that we took a mini-vacation to Jerusalem--the topic of this post.

I davened here.
As many of you know, before making Aliyah, I had never been to Israel. Rachel came twice when she was younger. But it has been a long time, and she is in a very different place in her life now. Visiting Jerusalem has been a top priority for both of us. Even before we committed to making Aliyah, Rachel always talked about how much she wanted to visit Jerusalem with me for the first time. I myself have been preparing and thinking about visiting the Kotel for the first time with my oldest son ever since he was born.

As we were making our final plans for Aliyah in the weeks leading up to our flight, we knew that we were going to land on a Wednesday, and then have a full week before starting Ulpan. Awesome--I thought. Plenty of time to make a pilgrimage to the Kotel and visit the Old City. HA! I was wrong.

That time was spent doing many other things to adjust to life; there simply was no time for sightseeing just yet. With my hopes dashed of seeing Jerusalem (a few hours north from where we live) in our first few days, I wrote off visiting Jerusalem in my heart for another day. I'd make it there, just not sure when. Afterall, living in a Yishuv in the middle of no-where (aka סוף העולם - "End of the World"), it is sometimes easy to forget that we are in Israel. We can go days on end without seeing much beyond our Yishuv and Ulpan. Leading up to our trip, Rachel kept asking me why I was not exuding more excitement. I think it was because I still did not come to grasp with the "where" of where we live.

Yup, we really are in the middle of the desert.
With some time off for Chanukah, what a great time to visit Jerusalem we thought. We searched online to find a car to rent, booked it, loaded up, and off we went. The kids were excited. Not only were they happy to get into a car to drive somewhere, they were giddy with excitement for our adventure to Jerusalem.
On the road.Ready to rock 'n' roll
For those of you not familiar with Israeli roads, there is a fairly new highway that runs North-South called כביש שש ("Route 6"). I found out that it is a toll road, and travelling it in a rental car can be quite expensive. Also, I may have understood the lady at the car rental place wrong, but it sounded like I needed to go through some phone prompt system to register to pay the tolls. I had no interest in sifting through a Hebrew touch-tone telephone prompt. Since this was our first opportunity to explore Israel, we found an alternate route that brought us through some AMAZING landscapes.

The route went north around Beer Sheva, and then turned east towards the Judean Hills working its way towards Beitar Illit, and then over and around some mountains and into Jerusalem. Even though this route would take longer, we were not in a hurry. Let's take this chance to drive and admire the land of Israel. And we did.

Cellphone cameras do not do it justice.
We should have stopped to take some photos with the SLR.
Israel is only the size of New Jersey, but it encompasses just about as much a variety in topography as does the whole US. And the exciting thing about our journey was that we got to witness the transitions from desert to grassland to hills to forest to mountains. All in two hours. Had the kids not been in the back seat, we would have made many stops to hop out with the camera. Alas, there are not many pictures to show. But for parts of the trip, I felt like I was travelling through the grassy hills on an postcard of Ireland, and around the bendy mountainside curves of California's Route 1. Simply amazing to see and experience.

We arrived in Jerusalem a few hours before Shabbos, and enough time to get settled into our friend's house who would play hostess for the weekend. She lives in Armon Hanatsiv, which is a hillside community that overlooks much of the City. It is a mostly residential neighborhood with (from what I am told) a mixture of religious and non-religious people. For me, I was most taken by the amazing views.

View from Armon HaNatsiv apartment
Sitting on actual Jerusalem stone.
Friday night, I walked to the local shul built into the hillside, and up the Jerusalem stone steps. It struck me that I was not walking into a synagogue trying to recreate the design and feel of Jerusalem. I was walking into the real thing!

That night ... ugh ... signaled the latest return of sickness to the Hopkins family. Our oldest was up most of the night getting sick and making lots of laundry. He spent the better part of the next 24 hours lying stationary in bed. Poor kiddo. His excitement to be in Jerusalem was waning.

By the afternoon we were ready to explore a little. Sitting inside with so much to explore outside was eating us away. We packed the kids up (sicko and all) and went for a walk to the Haas Promenade. It is supposedly known for its vantage overlooking the Old City. Driving into Jerusalem on Friday, Rachel got a few glimpses of the Old City as we turned around this bend or that one. Me? Nope, I was too busy navigating the tight-turning streets. So there we are, Saturday afternoon, shlepping our sick kids through a park to get to see the Old City before it gets too dark. Did we know where we were going? No, not really. But we figured we would find our way. Rachel and I traded turns using our intuition and eventually made our way to the Promenade, and ...



From there, you can see the whole City. Suddenly, it was real. Suddenly it hit me that we were in a place that hostess refers to as "the center of the Universe." Lying before my eyes was the Jerusalem of those dusty-looking photographs on postcards I had seen as a child. Except now ... now it was real. Now Jerusalem was right in front of me. Now I could see it and witness it. And in the morning, we would go there so that we could touch it and experience it. Wow.

The mountainside city of Jerusalem
At a restaurant.
Waitress: "Do you guys need the English menu?"
Sunday morning we got ready and headed off for the day. We had to stop for some breakfast and make a couple stops. Our idea was to make it to the Old City for lunch time, and then head to the Shuk for some food and shopping. HA! I was wrong again.

We parked near the Jaffa Gate and walked straight into the heart of the Old City. Vendors lined the narrow ally selling a host of goods. The streets being covered with awnings and being so narrow made me forget that I was outside. It felt like a long-narrow, stair-laden shopping mall. Yeah, there were a lot of steps. My son--the same one that spent the previous day being sick--jumped and bounded his way through Jerusalem. It was a cute moment, and a bit of happiness in him that I will not forget.
The entryway into the Old City.
See the narrow alley straight ahead? That's one of the main roads.
Street sign to the Western Wall.
And then, seemingly out of no where, there was a sign for the Kotel. I was not so sure what I was going to feel. Was it going to be bigger than I expected? Smaller? Would I well up with emotion or enter with a void of feeling? Afterall, we were lugging three small (and sick) children and a stroller through a not-so-modern path. I was fully engaged in the logistical/strategic planning dad-mode, I did not know if I could snap out of it. Maybe I would enter and there would be an anti-climatic let down.

We entered. My oldest son went with me to the men's side. My wife took my daughter and the baby to the women's side.

We walked in, and I was struck by silence. Yes, there were lots of people about. Praying. Talking. Etc. This was afterall the week of Chanukah, and the weekend before Christmas. A busy time of year in the Holy Land, with lots of people about. There must have been a lot of noise. But I heard none of it.

For me, there was no sound. And then my feet could not move. In the middle of the men's side, I stood frozen. I did not move forward, nor did I move backward. My mind was blank as if there were no thoughts running through my head. I was not sure what I was supposed to do. Time was still. I wanted to move but I could not.

In an instant, I snapped out of it and swooped up my son. I grabbed him tight and cried.

We made our way to the Wall. I found a guy standing by a large table with several Siddurim laying out. I asked him in my broken Hebrew if I could borrow one. He handed me a Siddur. I found an open spot about three stones from the left-most part of the Wall. I leaned forward, kissed the cold smooth stone, and laid my head on the Wall as have millions of pilgrims before me. After some period of time, I walked away from the Wall and heard a minyan forming for Mincha. I jumped in and said Kaddish. A lot went through my brain and my heart in those moments. Honestly, I am not going to write too much more just because I would not know how to explain myself. Joy and sadness. Pride. Awe.
If a picture is worth 1,000 words,
It would take 1,000,000 words to describe this scene in person
Mitzvah Hero
As we were leaving, my son pulled out two dollars that had been given to him in the States to use as Tzedakah. He gladly folded the bills and slipped them into the pushke. A smile came to his face.

The rest of our journey was more exhaustion and sickness. We never made it to the Shuk, and all of our other children proceeded to get sick. We even managed to get our gracious hostess sick. We eventually packed our things up, and trekked back down South. Fulfilled, yet tired.

There are three things that I take away from our journey:
(1) Israel is an amazing land full of an incredible spirit that emanates from the ground itself;
(2) Jerusalem is a real place, and it is full of a holy awe and wonder that turns belief into reality; and
(3) Our "home" is in Israel, it is located in the the Negev, and coming back to it reaffirms our decision to make our lives in this tiny little village tucked away in the desert called Kfar Retamim.
This picture says it all.


Language Barriers

3:39 PM 0 Comments

It has been a big couple of weeks here in the Hopkins home. We started Ulpan, each family member had their first trip to the health clinic, we had our first Shabbat guest, did our first online grocery order, first campfire (מדורה - a new word) etc etc.... There is so much to tell, so I am going to give you the highlights. Some funny, some frustrating, and some a little of both.

Here are 5 things that took me by surprise in the past two weeks....

1. The latest installment in the bus saga.

Tzippy's day care called to say that she was having loose stool and wanted to know if they could put her in pull ups. It was about 10:30 and she told me that although I didn't have to come get her now, I would need to if she had another loose stool (totally understandable).

I, however, was at Ulpan in the next town over without a car. I got nervous that if I didn't go back to Retamim on the 11:00 bus, I would have no way to get back until the end of Ulpan at 1:00. So I did as any reasonable parent would do, and walked to the bus stop to get on the 11:00 bus. This was my first time on the public bus and I was going alone so that Adam and I didn't both miss the end of class. Needless to say I was a little nervous about the logistics of paying and getting through the gate at Retamim etc.

I got to the clearly marked bus stop, counted out my bus fare--13.30₪--and waited. I noticed there was an electronic sign stating that the bus to Retamim would be arriving in 3 minutes (in Hebrew of course). I felt a little better knowing that the bus was coming. There were 5 other people waiting as well, I was in the right spot. I knew that the bus comes from Beersheva, stops at Revivim, goes to Retamim, back to Revivim and then off to Beersheva, so I assumed the others were waiting to go to Beersheva or somewhere along that route.

Israeli hitchhiking signal
Source: Haaretz.com
Three minutes go by and I see the bus pulling in. I start to get ready. The bus pulls in and makes a U-turn to be facing the correct direction. Then the bus slows down and drives right past the bus stop. I looked at the man standing next to me clearly confused. He started speaking to me in Hebrew and told me that the bus was going to Retamim first and not to worry it would be back in 10 minutes to go to Beersheva. I understood everything he said but wanted to be clear with him that if this conversation were to continue that I needed him to speak slowly. So I said in my broken Hebrew אני מבינה קצת עברית אני רוצה לנסוע לרתמים. (I understand a little Hebrew. I want to go to Retamim). He looked at me totally dumbfounded and said "You speak English?" I nodded. He continued, in a very condescending voice "well the bus doesn't stop unless you put your arm out" (put his hand straight out like an Israeli hitch hiker). I looked at him near tears at this point and said לא ידעתי (I didn't know). "Well, you should have asked someone. Now you can't get there."

Now let me be clear, the bus schedule, the permanent sign, and the electronic sign all said that the bus goes to Retamim. Now, I've never been a public bus maven, BUT where I come from these things indicate that a bus is coming and will stop so that people going to Retamim can board. What could I have possibly thought to ask? I looked at the man and said עכשו אני מבינה (now I understand) and walked back to class.

2. Having a 4 year-old translate for you.

I am sure immediately you all thought I meant my 4 year-old. That day has not arrived although I am positive it is not too far in the future. He has a friend in his Gan, we'll call him Yoni. Yoni speaks English at home and Hebrew the rest of the time. He has been a GREAT friend to our son since we arrived. The other day I was reading a baby book in Hebrew to our baby and two-year old, trying to translate it as I read. I got to לפעמים אני ער (Sometimes I am awake) and said I don't know what  ער (awake) means. Yoni popped out of the kids' room and said "I do." I asked him what it meant. He said "it means ער" (awake) thinking he was telling me the English translation. As I looked at him expectantly he realized that he said the Hebrew word and corrected himself "It means awake."

I guess that's what happens when you are bilingual. Sometimes you don't know which language is which.

3. Google Translate

Chinese oranges
Here at Retamim there is a Google mailgroup where everyone can email and it goes out to the whole yishuv. People e-mail things about upcoming community events, lost bicycles, house sharing (another thing that surprised me) etc... Someone sent out an e-mail last week that read: מונח מחוץ לביתנו ארגז עם תפוז סיני - מוזמנים לבוא לקחת, Adam put the whole thing into Google translate and got this in return: "Lying outside our house with an orange crate Chinese - are invited to take" Adam sent this translation out to the Retamim Google group so everyone could get a good laugh about it. The real translation was about a crate of Chinese oranges (kumquats) outside the family's home that they were offering people to take. Just goes to show that one actually needs to learn Hebrew and not try to get by on Google translate.

4. Home Phone

We have a land line. There are few people with the number. Okay maybe only one. Adam and I are not included in that group either, we don't know the number. There have been a few times over the last few weeks that it has rang and a recording of a woman speaking Hebrew was there asking for us to push this number for that and that number for this. I just hung up. A couple of days ago the phone rang and Adam answered. Next thing I know he hands the phone to me, so of course I assume that its someone I know or at least someone I could converse with. Nope. Some lady starts jabbering in Hebrew as fast as she could. I was picking up words here and there but honestly had NO IDEA what she saying. I was finally able to stop her and said. אני לא מבינה עברית (I don't understand Hebrew). She then asked if my husband was better in Hebrew. I said  לא, אנחנו עולים חדשים (no, we are new immigrants). She said "Oh that's nice, can you get someone who speaks Hebrew." Adam went next door and got our neighbor. We could then only hear his end of the conversation which was in Hebrew so again, I got words here and there. It turns out this woman had the wrong number and was calling to speak to אמא של מתן "Matan's mother". Adam was rightfully confused because that is our son's middle name, and so far everyone has called Adam by his middle name so the assumption that this person was merely confused makes sense. The information she was seeking we did not have because alas, we are not Matan's parents and do not speak Hebrew.

5. Playdates

Something that I did not anticipate having difficulty with, probably because I didn't even think about it was play dates. DUH its hard enough managing a play date with new friends when the kid does speak your language and you theirs. You still walk the line of learning what the kid likes to do, balancing your kid's needs with the new kid's needs, trying to be "likable" and gain the trust of a the kid while still maintaining the structure and boundaries that normally exist in your home etc... Here in Retamim (and I think a lot of Israel) children at a very young age are given a lot of freedom. We will call it a longer leash than I am used to.

The other day a boy from our oldest's class came over to play. On the way home from school, he and his dad saw Adam and Gavi walking back, so he dropped him off and they walked home together (without a kippah or shoes--our kids have started the no shoes thing also). The two boys went to the playground with Adam and our daughter. A little while later Adam came back to take our daughter to the bathroom. A minute later there was a knock on the door and I told the person to come in (I was sitting holding the baby), it was the boy's father, holding a kippah. He came in looked around and said where is Efraim (not his real name of course). I told him that they went to the playground and off he went. On a side note--I got a little nervous since Adam left the boys at the playground alone but I am pretty sure that is just me here, most parents here let their kids go to the playground alone. That whole short leash/long leash thing.

A little while later I walked over to the playground with the other two kids to see if the boys wanted to go to the library. I could easily ask my son this question. His response was "is Efraim going?" Hmmmm I wasn't sure, because I didn't know how to ask him. I used my little Hebrew to gain his attention and say בוא איתנו לסיפריה (come to the library with us--I think). He stood up and came over...SUCCESS.

Off we went to the library. Or so I thought, as we are walking (remember these kids are four they have short attention spans), Efraim veers off the path and starts playing, which of course lures my two off the path and so here I am wearing the baby trying to negotiate with the three kids to keep walking to the library. Not an easy feat since when I spoke, one of them only heard "blah blah blah." We finally got to the library. Yay other people that speak Hebrew and can tell this kiddo what I need to say.

We start looking at books and Efraim picked his out, went to the desk ... and then disappeared. At this point I had two fighting kids and a cranky baby. I checked out with my books and started walking home.

I think he went home.

I'm pretty sure he went home.

I haven't heard otherwise....

Next installment will be about Hopkins Hospital very soon.


Clean Laundry

3:12 PM 2 Comments

Here is a new immigrant story for you.

Picture us just a day or so after we have landed. We have a new home that was generously filled with all sorts of goodies to make it feel like home. Food in the fridge. A pantry full of food. And, a bathroom stocked with cleaning supplies.

What kind of cleaning supplies you ask? (okay, I get it you did not ask that question in your head, because who really thinks about cleaning supplies? But for this story, pretend like you asked me that question)

I am glad you asked.

Here is what we found.

So after a whirlwind adventure, we naturally had a lot of laundry to be done. My brave wife decided to tackle the beast of a new washing machine. In Framingham, there was really only two settings: on and off. I guess you could also choose from cold/warm/hot temperatures, but it was a fairly dummy proof washing machine.

This one ... this one has a lot of settings. And all the temperatures are in Celsius, of course. Piloting an airplane looks less complicated than this thing. Brave Rachel decided to tackle it, and guess what? She succeeded. She successfully figured out how to start the washing machine. Hooray!

Which of these fine cleaning products did we decide to use for our first attempt at laundering our clothes? Why this one, of course.
Beautifully scented laundry detergent
For those of you who speak Hebrew, hold your laughter please.

It seemed to make the most sense. It looked like liquid laundry detergent. We narrowed down the others. One was fabric softener, another was for baby clothes, toilet bowl cleaner was obvious, as was the dish soap. Clearly, we were right. In the States, we had several kinds of laundry detergents. Usually, for the mixed laundry of all of our clothes, we reached for the liquid stuff, and not the powdered baby detergent.

Well, I must say, that first load seemed like a huge success! The clothes came out clean. They smelled wonderful. Now all we needed to do was hang them on the drying rack that was provided for us and put them out in the Sun to dry. Not so bad. Hard task made easy. We got the hang of this. Right?

A few days go by and a neighbor is over. I'll spare you some of the details and let you in on the secret.

That green bottle? Not laundry detergent. Its floor cleaner.



Quick Bit: One for Three With Bus Drivers

5:17 PM 0 Comments

Real quick story to share. Since we have been in Israel, we have been on the bus only a handful of times. We have seen three bus drivers. If you are following along, you know about our first experience and how well that went.

The savior of that story was the lady who greeted us at Revivim. Let's call her Chana.

Today, on the way back from Ulpan, there was supposed to be a bus to bring us back to Retamim and some of the other students back to their Kibbutz that is also nearby.

Rachel and I get on the bus and I confirm with the driver that we are heading to Retamim.

"No, we are not going to Retamim. Only the Kibbutz."

"Why not? We need to go to Retamim."

"I cannot go to Retamim. That is not for me."

This goes on for a minute or so. Back and forth. And then we get kicked off the bus. Great.

This is not ACTUALLY where we were kicked off the bus.
Just a road I happened to photograph today and I decided to use here for dramatic effect.
See the cacti at the end of the road?
Oh yeah, the conversation was in Hebrew. So, I guess the one good thing about getting kicked off the bus with no way to get home was that I had my first argument in Hebrew. That's an accomplishment, right?

Just like before, Chana saved the day and did her thing to yell at the bus driver.

So, like the title says, we are batting one for three with bus drivers. The one time that we had a good bus driver ... Chana was on the bus when it picked us up. I suppose the lesson learned is that we should not travel by bus without our personal bus-driver-yeller. Everyone needs one. Ours is Chana.


This Week's Challenge

6:03 AM 0 Comments

Gate leading into Kfar Retamim
I had every intention of writing a matching post to Adam's about the rest of our journey to Retamim. I even started to write it, then I got bored. I figured if I was bored writing it you would not want to read it...so I tossed it. Adam did a great job describing the post flight leg of our journey and I don't feel that my perspective has much to add. The only thing that I would reiterate is the wonderful feeling when we pulled up to the Retamim gate. The sign reading "Hopkins Welcome" brought tears to my eyes, after a VERY long day and a tumultuous taxi ride we had arrived in a place where people were waiting for us with warmth and anticipation. We had arrived home.
Our front door with artwork
from kids in the Yishuv.

This week has been a whirlwind, between unpacking, setting up our home, meeting LOTS of new people (bear with me a bit, I promise I will eventually remember ALL of your names), starting the kids in Gan and Maon (school and daycare) and on and on.... The most difficult part has been Gan and Maon. I keep reminding myself (and Adam) that under the best of circumstances this would be a difficult transition. In an English speaking school both kids took weeks to get situated and feel comfortable, the baby has NEVER been with anyone besides myself or Adam. All of this mixed with exhaustion and stress from a move as well as trying to negotiate a new language makes for the perfect storm of a tough week. This has come to a head the past 48 hours - all three kids have had fevers at some point in the last 2 days! Ugh!!

First, Maon, so far I have nothing but good things to say about it. The staff has been wonderful, the facility is clean and has lots of toys and outside play for both kids, and the food seems great (at least it smells great). We started Sunday having the kids go for 2 hours and have increased each day. The princess did GREAT the first couple of days. She loves her teacher and wanted to play with the other kids. Tuesday was a struggle, she cried a lot and didn't want to eat, but when she came home (at 2pm after nap), I realized she had a fever and was cutting molars. She stayed home with me yesterday and is back for her first full day today (crying when I left her). All in all I know she will be fine. She is the most adaptable of the three and is already speaking Heblish ("Abba, איפה my mom?"/"Where is my mom?"). I also know from experience that as long as she has her blankie, she will eventually adjust and stop crying. Of course she picked the week we move to Israel to get her molars.

The baby... this one hurts my heart and tugs at every fiber of my mommy genes. He is happy enough there playing, but as soon as it is meal time or nap time he loses it! I have created a monster. In retrospect Adam and I should have been giving him at least one bottle a day for the past month but we didn't and we also did not push the solid foods enough so he is just outright refusing to eat. He is not used to having all of the noise of the 13 other babies around so he is also struggling to get to sleep. The Maon director keeps reminding me "לעת לעת" ("slowly slowly") and I do understand that but I am nervous about him refusing food, drink and sleep next week when I am in Ulpan. Also, there is an issue of pumping enough milk. I am pumping... maybe its enough I'm not sure yet because he hasn't taken any from a bottle, but every time we put it in the bottle and warm it and he doesn't take it my heart breaks a little more. That stuff is like gold and when we have to throw it away I cry. I feel an ache even as I sit here and write this, because I know that he will be crying for me soon and I could easily make it stop by soothing him and nursing him but I shouldn't and I won't. I need to let him get settled and learn how to be separate from me.

Now, on to the big kahuna..... Gan (pre-school) is HARD. We have a sensitive boy who prefers to have Abba or Mama with him anyway, throw in 30 Hebrew speaking students, 2 Hebrew speaking assistants, and one eager, enthusiastic Hebrew speaking Ganennet along with tile floors and you have a recipe for a disastrous week. Then take said sensitive boy and make him jet lagged and sick. He wants so badly to want to be there, and he does as long as Abba or Mama are also there. We are trying very hard this week to gradually fade ourselves out of the equation and were fairly successful yesterday. I have a bad mommy confession story though, yesterday I went to check on him at 12:30p (school goes until 2p), the class was out on the playground. When I came inside the teacher told me in her broken English that he was doing well and was outside and showed me to the door. He came running in and gave me a big hug. He was very pouty and admittedly quite warm (although he was wearing a t-shirt and his forearms were freezing so I made him put a sweatshirt on). He came and cuddled on my lap for a couple of minutes. I asked what he was doing outside "nothing" he said. "I was just standing there because I wanted you and you didn't come back." OUCH. Four-year-olds know where to hit you where it hurts. "Well, buddy, I'm here now. I will stay for a few minutes and then either Mama or Abba will be back before 2 to pick you up." "Can't I come home with you now?" we ended up making a deal that I would stay through story time and someone would be back before 2 to pick him up. I stayed until 1 O'clock the whole time he was on the edge of complete meltdown. I left after getting him involved in a table top arts and craft activity. When Adam picked him up at 2 the teachers told Adam they thought he had a fever. He did. Immediately upon hearing this/seeing the number on the thermometer (102 F / 39 C) I felt incredibly guilty about forcing him to stay at all never mind that I made him stay alone.

Unfortunately, what he hears is a lot of background noise. The teacher talking is like the Peanuts parents and it seems like he just tunes it out. The Ganennet is trying very hard to intersperse the little bit of English she does know into the class but unfortunately the boy is SO overstimulated by the size of the class and the activity of the other kids and not understanding the Hebrew that it is lost on him. I know in my head that I need to walk away so that he can learn to adjust and so that the teachers can get to know him and learn how to support him, I am just afraid that when I am not there he will be standing on the sidelines not participating. Maybe that is just what he needs right now. Maybe he just needs to watch and see what the other kids do, how they interact with each other and learn for himself how to do it. My American mom intuition is SCREAMING "he's going to miss out, what will he learn standing on the sidelines?" I need to let go of that mentality and let him explore for himself. "Don't be a helicopter mom." I tell myself. Easier said than done.

I know in a few weeks the intense emotions and struggles of this past week will be a distant memory, but I also know that as a mom you never stop worrying about your kids. As babies I can/could fix all of the problems with a snuggle and some "mama milk." At  age two, a snuggle still works, most of the time and they are easily distracted. The real challenge now is learning at age four that already Mama and Abba can't fix it all and we need to learn when to walk away so he can learn how to fly on his own. This is our challenge going forward and I reluctantly accept. We'll see if Abba does.


First Steps in a New Land

4:20 AM 3 Comments

This is a continuation of yesterday's post. I apologize for the length. I really had intended for one post to contain a timeline of events from both my perspective and Rachel's. But, they both turned out to be too long, so we are breaking them up into multiple posts. A lot has happened, and we hope we will capture some of it.

From Adam's Perspective

Ben-Gurion Airport (Nov. 19)

The plane landed about 3pm local time. After the bathroom racing incident (see previous post), there was lots of anticipation and excitement. At least from the kids. From me and Rachel, it was more of a panic in realizing that there was NO possible way we could get the kids and our bags off the plane.

I said this many many times on Wednesday, and will continue to repeat it. We could not have done the flight without the help of NBN. Period. Beyond the logistical supports that NBN provides (which could take up an entire blog series by itself), having 58 other Olim, plus staff, on our flight ready and willing to lug a bag to two, push a stroller, or walk with one of our children was immensely freeing. I could have spent a lot more energy, and mental anguish than I did in trying to coordinate such an effort.

So, there we were, wandering through the airport not entirely sure where all of our luggage was. At least we knew where the kids were. For the most part anyway. When we got off the plane we were in the new terminal. I think we were directed to go up the gangway off the airplane and into the airport instead of following people down the stairs outside because we needed to pickup our strollers. It was sort of a let down to me only because I expected the breath fresh air stepping off the plane into the Israeli sunlight. Nonetheless, I was immediately cognizant that Ben-Gurion airport is very nice. And, oh yeah, we were not in New England anymore.

Some of the first steps in the airport were easy. Yes, there were lots of bathroom breaks. I really tried to keep track of them, but i just could not keep up.

Total trips to the bathroom in Ben Gurion: Let's just say it was a lot. הרבה הרבה הרבה.

We needed to get our passports stamped at passport control. I entered the room with many lines and MANY people. Luckily those lines were not for us. I was directed to the far right where there were a number of short lines for Olim. Awesome. There, the lady in the booth needed to view each person. The kids got a kick out of this when I picked each of them up to show her their smiling faces. That was easy. What's next?

From there, we were off to catch our first breaths of Israeli air, and to wait for the bus to the "Old" terminal. There, we would be given some government forms, yada, yada, yada. There will be food and beverages. Nice.

Outside at Ben-Gurion.
While outside, we were struck with beauty. The weather and scenery (read: palm trees and lots of Jews) could easily have been mistaken for Florida. My kids happily waved their Israeli flags, and I feverishly attempted to snap some photos to capture the view.

The Old Terminal.
The bus ride was fairly uneventful. My son resumed his questioning. What's this? What's that? How come this? As we drove across the tarmac we saw lots of airplanes. Each of which he believed to be the one we had just flown on. When we got to the Old Terminal, again I was struck with the landscaping that seemed to be everywhere. Were we in Israel or Disney World?

What happened next is fairly boring. I will skip most of the details. Imagine a big room. Lots of chairs covered in vinyl set in rows DMV style. A corner with a bar counter that had some weird sandwiches and a machine serving delicious lemonade. A row of small offices. And a very old computer supposedly hooked up to the internet (if you could actually get the keyboard to input a character). I typed a very short email to my family to let them know we landed. That short email took about 10 minutes to type.

Wall of the government office where we did our paperwork.
The kids patienly played for hours while we waited our turn. The frustrating part was that the majority of the NBN flight group was already there. We were part of the stragglers. So as we arrived, I was informed that my name had already been called and that I had to wait to go through the list again. O well. We were there with other Olim from our flight, and two flights from Ukraine. Before we could take the bus back to get our luggage, we needed everyone in our group to get called. Therefore, having missed our number was not really a big deal. Just a slight annoyance.

We met up with a single Oleh that is participating in the same Bayit Rishon program, except at Kibbutz Revivim (next town over from Retamim). We will call him Ben for now. He becomes an intricate piece of the next part of this story. We knew Ben was going to be on our flight, and we actually "met" him right after we landed. Nice guy. He will be in our Ulpan.

While waiting in the Misrad HaKlita office, I am going to assume you already figured out there were NUMEROUS trips to the bathroom. Again, I stopped counting. If I had to pick an over/under number, I'd go with 20.

Getting our Israeli ID (and therefore officially becoming citizens) was a bit of an anticlimactic event. By this point, the exhaustion was setting in. The kids were still behaving just fine, but everyone really just wanted to get on with our evening.

Next step was to head back outside to the bus, and back to the terminal where we landed. While waiting for the bus (mind you it was still in the 70s with palm trees gently swaying in the breeze) my son had an epiphany: "Abba, we forgot to blow shofar." Standing on the steps of the Ben Gurion old terminal, together we blew shofar announcing our arrival. A moment in time worth remembering.

Mezuzah at the Gateway into Israel
Back at the new terminal, the NBN staff showed my son the BIGGEST mezuzah I've ever seen. It may perhaps be the world's biggest mezuzah at about one meter in height. I did not get a picture of it, but here is one that I scoured from the Internet.

Our luggage was waiting in an empty baggage claim area. It was already getting pretty late at night by this time. My son had a blast running around spotting our luggage tags. Want to know something awesome about Ben-Gurion over Newark International? At one airport the porter expects a tip, at the other, he doesn't. You figure out which one is which. One porter leaves your bags in the middle of the airport for you to maneuver by yourself through big crowds of people, the other takes bags out of your hands so you do not need to do the lifting. Again, you figure out which one is which.

Perhaps what happened next was my favorite part of the evening. Imagine us. Two adults having endured a day and a half of travelling with three kids, who are themselves getting very tired. Did I forget to mention that we still had not even fed them anything more than peanut butter crackers and some Bamba? Oops. We are making our final leg through the airport with suitcases and carry-ons galore.

We come through a passageway out into the concourse area. Big ceiling. Shops. Etc. Through some sliding doors. What do we see? A group of about 30 teenage girls all bouncing with energy shouting Shalom Aleichem. Some are carrying Israeli flags. Some have balloons in their hands. Some have candy. They are running towards us. Dancing. Singing.

What are these girls doing?

Who are they dancing for?



This is for us!

They are welcoming us!

Singing. Dancing. Shouting. Balloons. Candy. Big, enormous smiles from the kids. Wow.

Forget energy drinks and caffeine. Do you want a jolt of energy to wake you up from an exhaustion? Make Aliyah and wait for the group of teenage Israelis to come dance around you and your family. That will wake you up.

If any of those girls are reading this, thank you for that welcome. That was special and something I will remember for a long, long time.

The Ride to Retamim (Nov. 19)

Here comes the fun story. Remember Ben? Well, we left Misrad HaKlita on the bus before him. We had to wait for him before the dispatcher would arrange a taxi for us. One of the benefits we received was one free taxi voucher.

We waited. And waited. And waited.

Again, the kids did terrific. Other Olim played with them. They had their balloons from the dancing balls of energy girls, and candy to boot. 

Finally there was a mini-coach ready to bring us five plus Ben to Revivim/Retamim. My thought heading into this trip was that it would be a nice calm trip. Everyone would probably be asleep, and I could take in some scenery. Enjoy the ride, if you will.


The taxi driver was annoyed with our amount of luggage. And was a bit slow in loading. What did I do? Helped pack everything up because I just wanted to get out of there and on the road. If we wait too long, the baby will start crying and then ...

... we waited too long.

The baby started crying. And did not stop. Can you blame him? It was late at night, he had been travelling for 18 million hours. You'd be cranky too. You probably would also understand this concept if you were a taxi driver used to driving people from the airport. However, apparently this taxi driver comes from a family who has no crying babies. In fact, I think this taxi driver had never heard a baby cry before. Because there is no other way to explain or understand his conduct.

The first 20-30 minutes the baby cried, and the taxi driver yelled. Did I mention that the spoke no English? Then when we tried calming the baby down (thanks to Ben too, he was awesome in helping in this unsuccessful endeavor), the driver got more angry. The two older kids were asleep. Thankfully.

Now picture this: two sleeping kids, one screaming baby, three adults with patchwork Hebrew skills, one angry taxi-driver. Now picture said angry taxi-driver screaming while banging (or I should say full out punching with every force his body could muster) the dashboard. Now picture said angry taxi-driver screaming while throwing two fists up in the air while slamming on the gas pedal. Yes, this was most definitely the fun part of the evening.

About halfway into this fun-fest, Ben needed to go to the bathroom. Quick, let's all figure out how to say this in Hebrew so we can communicate with the driver. 

"אני צריך השירותים" ("I need the bathroom")
"זה קצת זמן" ("This is a small time") - we were not sure how to say it will be quick

We asked the driver a couple times. He ignored these requests. When the pleas for the bathroom became more desparate, the taxi-driver pulled over. There was a highway rest stop with a gas station and a McDonald's. Perfect place to pull over for a bathroom break, and a chance to calm the baby down.



We never made it to the rest stop parking lot. Instead, our wonderful escort for the evening stopped the bus in front of an electrical transformer on the side of the road before the rest stop. Ben hopped out, ran behind some electrical machinery and did what he had to do. How much further up was the rest stop? A couple hundred feet. Clearly we could not drive there.

As the journey continued, the driver got more and more angry. He shouted a lot of things. I am sure they were not welcoming, and I am sure I was called a lot of nasty things that night. The only thing that I did manage to understand him say was "סוף העולם. סוף העולם." ("This is the end of the world! The end of the world!") Apparently the edge of the world exists about a two hour drive from Tel Aviv. Just ask the bus driver.

It became clear that the driver did not know where he was going. Good thing that I had spent some time looking on Google Maps at Retamim and the Negev. I vaguely knew what roads we should be on. It seemed like we were going the right way and should be there shortly.

The part that still confuses me is why this taxi-driver did not know where he was going. Surely he could simply pull out Waze. Or wouldn't the dispatcher have given him directions? Didn't he know that this was two hours from the airport? Isn't this his job to drive people from the airport around the country? Wasn't he used to travelling with passengers with small kids and luggage? Could this really be such a foreign experience for him that would warrant such a reaction?

The other thing that I don't get is that the driver spent a lot of time on the phone with our contact here in Retamim. He was giving him directions. Where was the confusion and rage coming from?

Nevertheless, we made it to Revivim where we were welcomed and escorted to Ben's abode. On the ride through Kibbutz Revivim, the staff lady laid into the driver. She let him know how inappropriate his behavior had been, and tried to correct it. "They are new olim! something something something." It was impressive and amusing to watch.

Our Arrival to קפר רתמים/Kfar Retamim (Nov. 19)

The trip to Retamim (about 5 minutes) was uneventful. The driver had cooled down, and it was only a couple miles up the road. Whatever was said at Revivim stuck. As we pulled up to Retamim, we were greeted at the gate. (Side note: people drive golf carts here. I want one). We saw a sign that said "Welcome Hopkins!"

Like magic, the stress of the day and night faded away. Replacing it was an overwhelming sense of home. Instead of fear pervading the atmosphere inside that bus, it was excitement. We were driving through the Yishuv (in the dark) towards our home. It was peaceful and quiet.

Waiting at our home was a group of people. It was 11pm. The Yishuv was quiet and everyone was asleep. But at our new house was a welcoming committee who helped unload our bags and showed us into the house. The kids ran ahead to scope it out. By the time I go into the house, they were already playing in their new bedroom with some of the toys that were setup for them. On the table was a couple big bowls of fruit, some bread, some muffins, and pasta. The kitchen was filled with new appliances. Beds were setup in the bedrooms. The bathroom was stocked with cleaning supplies. The refrigerator had milk, cheese, juice, and some other staples. The cupboards were stocked with dry goods and pots and pans. Our home was waiting for us.

I'm not even sure how to describe those moments in words. They were powerful for sure. A community of people that had never met us spent lots of time, effort, and money to prepare a house for us. Just as the dancing girls in the airport, we were being welcomed by strangers that were genuinely as excited about our arrival as we were. Maybe even more so. And in the time since then, we have continually been greeted and welcomed. Perhaps we have not fully grasped the magnitude of story we are joining. Living in this land is humbling and amazing.

There was so much excitement and happiness in the air that night that none of us went to bed for several hours. But, we made it.

The only thing left to do that night was hang a mezuzah on our door, and call it home.


The Adventure Begins...Her Story

3:36 PM 0 Comments

As Adam said the double posting is not meant to be redundant but show two perspectives of the same story. This is my version of the same events.

From Rachel's Perspective

Goodbye was hard, period. I have to say nothing else about it because if you are reading this blog, you know goodbye was hard.

We had spent weeks, maybe even months, preparing the two big kids that we would be waking up early, eating breakfast in the van, and our flight would leave in the afternoon. The e-mail on Monday afternoon changed all that. Thank goodness it came in Monday afternoon and not Tuesday morning after we left. I can't imagine what all those hours at the airport would have brought. So we changed the time of our van checked and rechecked our luggage said goodbye....again (no easier this time) and off we went.

We got to the airport, Adam found a porter and managed to get our 13 suitcases, 10 carry-ons, 3 car seats, 2 strollers and 3 small children into the building. Nefesh B'Nefesh spotted us and directed us to where we needed to go. The waiting began. El Al could not check us in until 4:30pm. The kids snacked and we chatted with other Olim. Finally El Al set up their security and we could get in line.... but how? We had a big cart of carry ons, a HUGE cart of luggage and 2 strollers? Luckily they told us that we could leave the bags as long as we could point them out. We got in line and moved fairly quickly through our security interview. Adam was able to pull out the handy dandy inventory and tell them exactly where the kitchen knives were located. The security person marked our bags and off we paraded to check our bags. We were so lucky at this point to have met some other wonderful Olim that helped us make our way to the luggage counter and then helped repack our carry-ons when we found out they were too heavy and then helped us down to security. 

Oh security... this was no fun. The kids were great! The other passengers quite patient, but overall it was the worst part of the airport. It took us a long time to get through with all of the tablets and computers that needed to be removed from our bags BUT we did it! We got to the gate at about 6:45pm and I realized that we had not fed our children. Off I went in search of food. Would you believe there is no Kosher food in the El Al terminal? Pretzels and hummus, and cut-up fruit it was. I ran back to the gate and tried to get the kids to eat, between bathroom breaks and toys being thrown around it was fairly successful. I'm not really sure how we managed it, but somehow we got on the plane.

Me trying to feed to kids "dinner." Glad they didn't call me out on it.
I sat in the two center seats with the baby and Adam sat by the window with the other two kids. Within minutes the baby was back to sleep, the other two took about an hour to settle in and conked out. I was in and out of sleep and not feeling great on the flight so I did not eat either of the two meals offered, probably a mistake. 

At the beginning of the flight my emotions were all over the place, still feeling the sting of goodbye and feeling like the distance of the aisle was miles and not inches. By the time we began descent, I was feeling excited and hopeful. As we touched down the whole plane broke out in applause and the tears flowed freely as far as I could see. Even the 20-something in front of me dressed to the nines who had just spent 15 minutes applying her makeup was wiping her eyes. The flight attendant announced a "Welcome Home" to the 58 Olim (immigrants) making Aliyah (moving to Israel) and I saw the beautiful smiles on my children's faces and the excitement in Adam's eyes. Here we were beginning our adventure to the Negev.


The Adventure Begins

6:09 PM 1 Comments

The events of our last post seem like they were ages ago. Before time fades our memories, Rachel and I wanted to share the details of our journey with you. Since we will both have different perspectives (and since the whole point of this blog is to capture both of them) we decided to both write this week.

What follows may be a bit duplicative, but it is meant to be an explanation of Tuesday thru today. They have been some of the most anxious, exhausting, exhilarating, inspiring, bittersweet, never-ending days of our lives. This week will likely have lasting impacts on myself, Rachel, and my children (at least eldest).

Without further ado, I present to you the following ...

From Adam's Perspective

Monday Night (Nov. 17)

An email comes in at 8pm just after the kids are asleep from Nefesh B'Nefesh. Its title: 

Aliyah Flight Tomorrow - 5 Hours Delay!!!

Bummer. Maybe this is not a bad thing. We will just roll with the flow. It gives us more time in the morning. What rush is there anyway?

Tuesday Morning (Nov. 18)

Running around my parent's house making sure we have everything. Are the carry-ons packed? Check. Are each of the suitcases under 50lbs? Check. Is this really happening? Check.

The flight ended up being delayed even further. From 1:15pm until 9:30pm. Apparently there was a wildcat strike of El Al airline pilots. Because of the strike, a bunch of planes leaving Ben-Guiron Airport were delayed/cancelled, so our flight could not leave NY on time.

View of NY from our van on the GWB.
 We ended up leaving my parents around 1:30pm. Since we did not need to be at the airport until 4pm, it was plenty of time. As it turned out, we arrived at the airport with an hour or so to spare. What did we do during that time? Sat with our mountain of luggage.

13 suitcases, 3 car seats, 2 strollers, 10 carry-ons, 3 kids. Oy.
We met some other Olim that were going to be on our flight. Compared notes as to who was going where. Who had the most luggage (pretty sure that was us). Etc.

Total trips to the bathroom at the airport: 5.

Tuesday Night (Nov. 18)

After waiting in the airport for NBN and El Al to be ready for our flight, we made our way thru the various levels of security and checked our luggage. It turned out that after HOURS of packing and weighing bags that we were WAY off. As in our luggage ended up being much lighter than it needed to be. Some of the carry-ons were too heavy so we started stuffing things everywhere and shifting our bags around.

As I said, we spent HOURS in the past week getting the bags packed. We made an inventory to know where everything was. In a matter of 4 minutes, we destroyed that organization. O well.

Going through security proved to be a challenge. As frantic a few moments it was rearranging bags and getting them stuffed, going through security was even more overwhelming. I wish I had a photo of the length of baggage and bins that were lined up on the conveyor belt waiting to be scanned. Luckily they were not too busy because I am pretty sure we were there for a good ten minutes getting the kids and our bags through. And, of course, the whole time my eldest son kept asking me questions. Why this? Why that? How come? Abba, can you ...? Ugh.

Getting the kids to eat at the airport proved somewhat difficult. As it turned out, the kids spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday not really eating much. They ate snacks here and there, but really would not eat a meal. We did not push them, especially because they were not complaining of being hungry.

Actually, I think I was the only one who really ate on the plane at all. We were served two meals. Dinner, which was about an hour into the flight making it around 11pm. And breakfast. No idea what time that was served. Both were pretty good meals I thought. I enjoyed the chicken, and the omelette I had was not half bad. Now, if I was served that food in a restaurant, I would be a little disappointed. But being airline food, it was--dare I say--enjoyable.

Back to the story line.

We sat by the gate for what did not seem an overly long period of time. I joined a minyan of about a dozen men to say Maariv. The kids pulled out a LOT of toys and made a big mess. And we stressed about how we were going to get on the plane with the kids and all the luggage, while keeping the baby asleep. We failed on keeping him asleep. Once we were on the plane, he went to sleep fairly quickly and stayed asleep most of the flight.

We were assigned three window seats and two seats across the aisle. Did I mention that no one told us until we were boarding that the baby's car seat was not airline approved? We only asked three people before we got to the gate. Nevertheless, we could not bring it on the plane, so the baby had to sit on mama's lap the whole time. Ugh.

There we are on the plane. I think it took off closer to 10:30. About 45 minutes in we had dinner, and about 55 minutes in my daughter was asleep. Not my eldest. He kept asking questions. Why does the plane have to go so fast? Why does the plane need wings to fly? Can I go potty? More bathroom breaks.

By about midnight Eastern time, all three kids and the wife were asleep. The plane was quiet, and it was sort of relaxing. I think that was the first time in MONTHS that I felt like I could let my mind wander. I could really just free up myself to be in the moment and not worry about the details of life. It was the big picture that I was interested in. The grandness of the experience. The awesomeness of humanity. And the vastness and oneness of time, space, and Hashem. It was nice. Then I fell asleep.

Total trips to the bathroom on the airplane: 7

Total trips to the bathroom on the airplane while it was taxiing to the gate before the seat belt sign was turned off with flight attendants yelling at me to sit down in my seat, but me not caring so there would not be an accident: 1

After all, I am going to be Israeli. Something needs to happen, just do it.

Wednesday at who-knows-what-time (Nov. 19)

Before we got off the plane, at some point I woke up and saw a bunch of men donning their tallitot and laying tefillin. So, I got up and got mine from the overhead compartment. I was EXTREMELY careful not to wake anyone. I made my way to the back of the plane where the minyan was gathering. A few men had already started, but it did not take long to catch up to them.

I found my place standing next to the self-appointed chazan in a small pasasageway that was barely the width of my shoulders. It was hard to maneuver and bow without smacking my head against the wall. Despite it being one of the more bizarre places I have davened, it was pretty cool nonetheless. So thought a fellow passenger as he kept taking photos with his phone. He tried to not let anyone know he was taking pictures, but the constant shutter sound kind of gave it away.

In the last 45 minutes, the kids were awake and we stuffed the carry-ons with everything that had been removed from the bags. Again, Rachel and I spent MONTHS preparing games, activities, snacks, puzzles, headphones and the like for the kids on the airplane. They played with none of it. A lot of time and effort for naught.

However, the bright side of the flight delay was that the kids slept the whole time so the stuff was not really needed.

We got the kids dressed. We anxiously awaited the landing. And then it happened. A wave of applause and a flow of tears. We were in Israel. There was a speech by the flight attendants to welcome the 58 Olim to Israel. More applause. More tears. I have seen my kids smile countless times. For those that know them, you know that they are generally very happy kids. They laugh, play, and smile often. The smiles and excitement on their faces while we were landing was incredible. Looking out the window to see Israel with them was an experience worth remembering in detail.

It is now 1am the night before the kids start school. While I expected this post to be long. It is turning out to be longer than expected. Therefore, to do justice to the events I still need to tell, I will cut it short here tonight. Tomorrow I will post some more, and turn this into a series of posts.


Choked Up

6:27 PM 0 Comments

Note: This was written Sunday, November 16 before we made Aliyah. I just did not have a chance to edit it and get it posted. Many more details to come about our journey.

I didn't expect it. Really, I didn't.

But today, I feel like I have been constantly with a lump in my throat paining to get words out of my mouth. Me, the guy who normally is able to rationalize away the world. Me, the INTP. I don't know why, but I really did not expect to get so emotional.

Today we said good-bye to many family and friends. And as I sit here and write this, many of them are still in the next room enjoying some time playing with the kids, sharing some scotch (thanks Jeremy), and enjoying each other's presence as our family is good at doing. We will be heading down to my parents' shortly, leaving Massachusetts and our wonderful memories behind, and on our way to the airport thereafter.

To the family and friends that are reading this and were able to attend: I am thankful for your love and support. As I said in my choked up speech, I felt very well loved today, and very well blessed to have been in your presence together in the same room where Rachel and I were married. As I said in my last post, places are important. Being in that place was important for me, as were other places I have visited in the last week.

But please don't get me wrong. Even though I am choked up because I am overwhelmed at how much support and love we are receiving, I am greatly looking forward to turning the page and seeing what lies ahead for Rachel, the children, and myself. The kids are excited, and I cannot wait to share their faces and their adventure with you.

And that is exactly what we are doing. Perhaps not as grandiose as say an Indiana Jones adventure. We are, nonetheless, embarking on an adventure. One that was started many years ago. That our story will be intertwined with the fabric of an entire country, and an entire people, is very humbling. That people care enough about us to wish us words of inspiration (and lots of sunscreen) is also humbling.

The two things that I have learned that matter most in life are the two things that seem to stick with us no matter what. Beyond the things that we own, and stuff that makes up our physical world, there are (1) memories, and (2) relationships. These are the things worth fighting for. Memories help create our self-identity. We are shaped and molded by our past experiences. Relationships help bring us forward. The bonds that we create with the people around us shape and mold our future experiences. May we always build great memories, so that we cherish them and use them to build our relationships. Together, these two things enrich our lives.


And now that my final blog post from State-side is wrapping up, I am looking forward to my future posts being a little more up-beat as we share with you life in the Negev.

להתראות/See you later


The Purple Door

2:16 AM 1 Comments

5 wheelies + 4 duffles + 4 canvas army bags = panic attack
Packing is something that I abhor. Packing for big trips or small--it's the same--TERRIBLE. Ever since I was 15-years-old and moved out of my childhood home, packing has caused me intense anxiety. I remember sitting in the middle of the floor in my freshman year dorm room at the end of the school year. I sat there and had a full blown panic attack--hyperventilation style. 

This is why I knew that packing for this trip was going to be no different. The collecting of items to pack was not so terrible, the choosing of the suitcases: not so bad, but putting those items into the suitcases, no way. Thank goodness for Adam and my grandmother because otherwise we'd be going to Israel with nothing but the clothes on our backs and  maybe a computer or two. Picture this scene:

Thirteen large suitcases and duffle bags in various stages of pack on the living room floor, clothes strewn about in large blue IKEA bags, Adam and my grandmother diligently  packing and discussing where things should go and how, and me just sitting there staring blankly. I kept from having the full blown panic attack this time, but it was still traumatic for me.

The issue is that this feels too similar to the last time I chose to make a life changing move. When I was 15- years-old I made the decision to move out of my childhood home. Like now, this was not an easy decision. Like now, there was no question in my mind that the time was right and I needed to take the necessary steps to make it happen. That didn't make it easy. When I left, I left with the clothes on my back and maybe one or two changes. I went back soon after and vividly remember the sadness I felt packing my things and walking out the door of my home for the last time. Over the years that sadness has faded to a distant memory. 

Now 16 years later as I sat in the middle of the living room floor I was brought back to that time. I thought about the many parallels as well as the differences; I left then most prominently to build a better life for myself. That is the same now (more about our reasons in Why this Decision and Reasons for Aliyah).

The part that hit me hard and paralyzed me in the same way it did all those years ago was the people we are leaving behind. Even though as a teenager I knew in my heart that leaving was the right decision, I grappled with the people (my brothers) I was leaving behind and how my decision to make a better life for myself was effecting them. In the same way, I KNOW in my heart of hearts, this is the right decision at this time for me, Adam and the kids. Regardless of how it plays out exactly, it is going to be a wonderful adventure and a cultural experience for everyone, and has the potential to be so much more. However, I am so sad. We are leaving behind so many people we love. It is a difficult trade off, one that we have weighed heavily. As I sat and watched the bags being packed, I couldn't help but feel like that 15-year-old girl walking out the front door of her childhood home leaving it all behind.

But, I am not that girl anymore. I am not running away from a difficult childhood this time. I am running to a better childhood for my children.