Wow. We haven't spoken in a while. It is now Saturday night, September 20, almost 2 weeks since we made aliyah. The internet was hooked up on Thursday afternoon, and after Donny spent ten hours on the phone with Netvision tech support, finally worked at midnight. There is so much to catch up on I could be here for hours. Here are the highlights:
Sunday, Sept. 7: Left B-more at 6:30, got to the airport at 10. Checked in all 10 bags, met L & E (& N). The ceremony at JFK was hot, sweaty, and way too emotional. Lots of people speaking. Lots of crying. Then we left the parents and went to our gate. (Gate 31, and it was Donny's 31st birthday. If that is not hashgacha pratis, I don't know what is.) We were sitting near the Kleins on the flight, although of course in our row (and in the empty row behind us) the arms didn't go up, so the kids couldn't really lie down and sleep. Not that much sleeping happened. Yaakov fell asleep almost right away for about an hour and a half, and then that was it. He was up playing for the rest of the flight, announcing to everyone that he was, in fact, on an airplane and climbing on the seats. Ariella was definitely the MVP of the flight. She watched movies, colored, played with her games, slept for 2 hours and pretty much entertained herself. Donny and I did not do much of the sleeping, unfortunately.
Lift update: It is currently being held hostage in Turkey, due to the strike at the ports in Israel.
Monday, Sept. 8: Our flight arrived on time at 7:30. The arrival ceremony was very overwhelming. We got off the plane and onto one of those busses. It took us to the terminal, where the party was going on. There was music, dancing, people waving banners. It was really amazing, but way too much for the kids. The hero of our aliyah, LISA, was there, banner in hand. The Eisens and Kleins were there as well, and Doron made us a sign! Thanks Doron! The cameraman really liked Yaakov and tried to get a picture of a chayal holding him, but after 3 seconds Yaakov realized what was going on and totally freaked out. The ceremony was nice, and Olmert was there to give a speech, but at that point, God himself could have come down from the heavens and spoken and I still would have just wanted to go to sleep. They had a lot of food and drinks out, which was helpful. After the ceremony, Donny went to get our all-important Teudat Oleh and the first of our sal klitah payments. Money!!! At that point, the children fell apart. What NBN doesn't show you: Yaakov sleeping a sleep of the dead in my arms, and Ariella bawling her eyes out. When Donny came back, we waited for the baggage (all 10 pieces plus a stroller, yay!), and went out to get our free cab ride home. Yaakov was sleeping the entire time. When he got too heavy in the baggage area, I put out some pillows and sweatshirts from our carry-ons, laid them on the floor, and put Yaakov on top. He slept on. We carried him into the cab. He slept. We transferred him to the stroller and brought him up the apartment. Still sleeping. When we got to our new apartment in Modi'in, LISA was there waiting for us. She had already brought a folding table and chairs, a pack'n play, air mattresses, plastic bowls, plates, spoons, cups, toilet paper, linens, towels, etc. She is awesome. We decided to get moving rather than go to sleep.
Signing up for gan: Yaakov was sleeping and Ariella was hanging out, so Lisa took Donny to the iriyah to sign Ariella up for school. Unfortunately, the closest dati gan was not so close, but at least she was signed up and we had that taken care of. It was then time to wake up Yaakov. Just so you know, we experienced some of the worst PNM (post-nap misery) EVER.
Bank: One should definitely open up a bank account upon arrival in Israel. We decided to go with Bank Discount (which is definitely a bank, but definitely not discount.) We walked to the mall, causing Ariella to comment that she wanted to leave Israel because it is TOO HOT. Of course, the bank was closed until 4, and it was only 2:15. So we went into the mall (it's a new, fancy-ish mall, right across the street from our building.) We got food - pizza for the kiddies and falafel, of course, for us. We still had time to kill - we did a little food shopping, let the kids run around the mall, etc. Then the bank was opened. It took over an hour, and the kids were absolute maniacs. They were tired, bored, hungry, and overwhelmed. We kept bribing them with chocolate, but it didn't help. The manager actually had to come over and shush them! We found out that in Israel, the concept of "free checking" does not exist. You get charged for EVERYTHING - depositing, withdrawing, using the ATM machine, checkbooks, using the bathroom in the bank, thinking about banking at night, looking at the bank as you pass it on the street. You will often see Israelis walking with their heads down, crashing into street signs, so as to avoid a 2 shekel fee. In addition, they informed us that there is no longer an "oleh chadash" program, which would give us some free stuff. However, our nice bank lady called later to say that they had a "new client" program which gave us the same free stuff. Then we went back home, changed Yaakov's diaper, (which had started to colonize some time during our bank visit), and LISA picked us up and brought her to her house for dinner.
First night: So we come home (or rather, we were driven home.) I desperately want to get the kids bathed and take a really hot shower. I start the bath for the kids, and the water is only lukewarm. There must be some sort of button that I didn't press. I wash them up quickly, found some pajamas, and Nafi helped us inflate all the airbeds. When I tried to take a shower myself, we realized the hot water was just not working. In addition, our stove top was not working. Later, we found out they are both related to the gas, which, stop me if you've heard this, was not working. It was a rather sleepless night, between my jet lag, Yaakov crying in the middle of the night, and those airbeds.
Lift update: Still in Turkey, as far as we know.
Tuesday, Sept. 9
Gan: We get up, have rice cakes for breakfast (since we have no refrigerator, so no milk, and the box of cereal I bought on Monday we left in the bank. They will most likely charge us for that.) Then we walked Ariella to school. At that point, wimpy Americans that we are, we decided we needed a car. First of all, as Ariella will tell you, it is HOT in Israel. The walk, with the kids and stroller and all that, was a good 25 minutes. Plus, since she finishes at 1:30, we would need to walk back in the heat of the day. And "shade" is not a concept that has come to Israel yet. So we dropped Ariella off, in a gan with approximately 100 kids, with teachers who don't know English. I was practically in tears, but Ariella was actually ok. Then I called a gan for Yaakov that I had sort of researched beforehand. Since it was on the way back from Ariella's gan, and the ganenet had emailed me a few days before we left saying she had availability, we decided to check it out. We called to say we were coming over. Although I had been told to lower my standards in terms of daycare options for kids, we were actually very impressed with Gan HaOlam HaKatan. The teachers seemed really sweet, and Ofira, the head ganenet, made Yaakov a sandwich and tomatoes. The kids were playing, the room was clean, there was an outdoor play area which had been covered so it was shady. Ofira's son seemed very interested in Yaakov and kept trying to play with him. We signed him up then and there. We gave Ofira the deposit. The way you pay for gan here is to give the ganenet 12 postedated checks for the year. Since he is too young for the school system, the only option is a private gan. I think there are public school-type ganim which are cheaper but they close out really early. So Ariella's going to school basically for free, but Yaakov's gan is similar to what we were paying in America. But Yaakov's gan is a much better deal - it goes until 4, and he gets fed breakfast, lunch, and snack every day. Food!
Refrigerator: Yaakov did not want to stay, so we gave him a one-day reprieve. Lisa picked us up from the gan and drove us to Yishpru, which would soon become our shopping center of choice. We bought a refrigerator, which the guy said could be delivered the next day. Lisa entertained Yaakov by playing with the refrigerators, which he enjoyed.
Hot water and Car: Lisa drove us back home. I stayed with Yaakov, who once again napped on the floor. Lisa drove Donny to pick up Ariella from gan and take them to her house so Ariella could play and Donny could use the internet and research car rentals. Daveeed, the maintenance guy for Dimri, came by with his henchmen to check out our gas problem. He was wearing a kippah, the first of our OI moments (only in Israel.). A far cry from Fernando Perez of 3850 Hudson Manor Terrace. He played around with stuff, and then informed me that "Ayn gaz." (There is no gas.) He did, however, manage to fix the hot water problem. So we could shower but not cook. At that point, I would have traded lots of things - food, children - for a hot shower. I was happy. Lisa came back around 4:00 so Donny could take a train to the airport and rent a car. She also drove us back to her house, where there is interent and food. Donny returned with the car (yay!), we had dinner, and drove back home. (Although it's kind of a stretch to call it "home" at this point.)
Tuesday night was not great - I did not sleep at all, Ariella got up around 5, it was pretty miserable.
Lift update: It is in Italy. "We're not sure why..." Going backwards. Not a good sign.
Wednesday, September 9
We took both kids to gan. We were getting very late starts, but it was difficult to get moving early. Everything starts earlier here - Yaakov can get to his gan at 7:00, and Ariella's gan starts at 7:30. I came back and tried to lay down, and Donny did something or other. LISA came by with real mattresses, since at this point we had no idea when our lift was coming. She took me to Kiryat Sefer to buy some house things - broom, mop thingy, dish rack. In true Israeli style, our apartment has not a single closet, or even medicine cabinet. No mirrors either, no mantle. Basically no place to put stuff. So I also got some baskets for the bathrooms to put stuff in. I like places to put stuff. The more places the better.
Misrad HaKlitah: Later, we took the kids to the Misrad HaKlita (in Modi'in) for our meeting. The representative explained how our sal klitah payments were going to work. We gave her our bank number, but for some reason she said it wasn't working. Hmmm. Not a good sign.
Dinner: We drove back to the Balsams, had pizza with awesome sauce, picked up a bookcase from them so we could organize the clothes. The past 3 nights I had been frantically searching through suitcases to find clothes for the next day.
Refrigerator: Our refrigerator came around 7:00, and Donny went out shopping to fill it. Milk in a bag! Awesome!