Israel: Part I – The path to acceptance

Never help a child with a task at which (s)he feels (s)he can succeed  РMaria Montessori

November 1, 2017

The kid (holding back tears of joy in her voice): “I’ve been accepted…they accepted me…I’m a citizen!”

Me: “Wait…what?!”

There ya have it – she did it…the kid made aliyah. In exactly seven weeks to the day of arrival, the kid managed to pull all her resources together and gain Israeli citizenship. I was flabbergasted, to say the least. As I told her, I’ve never seen the kid more motivated and driven ever for anything in her life. After 18 1/2 years of “not fitting in,” for the first time in her life the kid said, “I feel normal here mommy.” Daily she would text me: “I’m really happy mommy.” How could I not be happy for her?! I finally stopped crying after the first month (or so) after the kid left and thought I had come to terms with the permanency of her quest. Mommy intuition told me at the airport that our good-byes would be “forever,” but it still hadn’t sunk in quite yet…

The kid informed me that the ceremonious event would be either November 15th or November 29th and that one of her best friends was going to be with her as “family.” As we talked on the phone, I emailed the hubby and suggested we impulsively fly to Israel to be present for the kid’s crowning glory, instinctively knowing what his answer would be…

Me (texting on WhatsApp): “How about me and daddy are there as your family?”

November 8, 2017

The kid: “They just called me. We’re on for November 15th.”

As we talked, I frantically booked two seats (not together) on El Al for Sunday, November 12th, not really caring about the logistics. It was exactly two months since the kid had left for Israel and I was ready to see her again. Over those two months, there were a few occasions when reality set in – those moments when the kid was sobbing on the other end of the phone and just needed a “mommy hug” that I couldn’t bestow – occasions that broke my heart…

November 12, 2017 10:00AM – Newark Liberty International Airport

Approaching the El Al ticket counter, I pointed out the representative who had magically upgraded us to Economy Plus last summer for a mere $150 U.S.D. Upon questioning today’s ticket representative about getting seats together (and, of course, mentioning our child making aliyah, hence our trip to Israel), I mentioned the Magical Upgrader Lady and come to find she has been promoted to supervisor…BINGO! We quickly found ourselves standing in front of the Magical Upgrader Lady attempting to remind her of our flight in July 2016 when she managed to finagle Economy Plus seats for us while begging for seats together with the possibility of another miracle Economy Plus opening up. No such luck this time, BUT the Magical Upgrader Lady was able to move people around to give us seats together. We would later hear complaints after the flight from those passengers who had been moved for our sake…and we kept our mouths shut tight…the kid was making aliyah!

Somewhat thankful that we were at least sitting together, as the hubby was swiftly recruited to daven Mincha (afternoon prayers) I chanted my mantra over the next hours before boarding: “Please G-d…do not put me next to someone wearing heavy cologne/perfume and/or who has bad body odor…”

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Der mentsh trakht un got lakht – Man plans and G-d laughs…

My other pet peeve I forgot to pray for? LOUD NOISY CHEWING…although a very sweet man, my aisle seat companion had no front teeth and slurped his food very loudly…and slowly…for a very long time…G-d help me…

And, of course, before even taking off, my heart decided it was time to have an hour-long attack of SVT (supraventricular tachycardia) thanks to the Starbucks coffee I stupidly decided to consume on the way to the airport.¬† Due to the flight attendant’s poor English and my lack of Hebrew, I was failing to explain how I needed to lie down on the floor of the galley. The flight attendant had me sit in one of the galley seats while phone calls were frantically made and questions asked in an attempt to understand what was wrong with me. Finding myself suddenly alone, I quickly took advantage of the opportunity to bear down long enough to catch a normal heart rhythm when the flight attendant returned to ask more questions…

November 13, 2017 6:00AM – Ben Gurion International Airport/Tel Aviv, Israel

Ten excruciating hours later we found our way “home…”

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The hubby refers to these flights as “the time travel” – somehow you leave New Jersey on Sunday morning and arrive ten hours later in Israel on Monday morning. On the return trip, you leave Israel on Wednesday morning and land in New Jersey five hours later on Wednesday morning after a twelve-hour flight…

And what could be better after all this time travel then searching for a ride to the hotel? Enter the sherut – a shared taxi, typically an eight to ten seat minivan, which runs from the airport to Jerusalem where we will be staying for the next nine days. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of riding in a sherut, there is no way to explain it – it must be experienced.

Luckily, our driver is pleasant and provides us with a comedy routine for the hour-long drive, joking with the little old lady sitting towards the front of the van about not being granted a driver’s license after she criticized his “reckless” driving and asking our opinion on the matter. As we entered Jerusalem, the driver and his friend who “tramped” (i.e. hitched) a ride and was sitting across from the little old lady began arguing over directions and street locations, only to be joined by several other passengers. After driving through ancient narrow streets not designed for modern day vehicles and almost running down a man in a wheelchair, we finally arrived at the hotel several hours after landing.

First rule of thumb when flying to/from Israel – sleep on the plane…which I never do and suffer the consequences later. Second rule – do not go to sleep when you get there. In order to adjust to the time difference, it’s crucial to stay awake until a “normal bedtime.” This was not going to be a difficult thing to do because our room was not ready yet, forcing us to either hang out in the lobby or walk around the city. Stowing our luggage in storage, we opted to walk down to Ben Yehuda Street and decided to have an early lunch at the Cafe Rimon.

Repeatedly reminding ourselves to stay awake until nightfall, exhaustion got the better of us and we decided to return to the hotel. Thankfully, our room was ready and the front desk clerk informed us that we had been upgraded to a room with a balcony at no extra cost – BINGO AGAIN!

Forcing ourselves to wake up in time for dinner, the hubby discovered an envelope attached to a small box of chocolates that we must’ve missed when unpacking. Despite being addressed to me, the hubby took it upon himself to open it and read it out loud:

 

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The hubby: “Looks like you have a new boyfriend…”

Me: “What time is it?!”

Taking full advantage of our surprise upgrade, we made a B-line for floor M. All the chow and booze we could eat! Of course, that didn’t stop us from heading back to Ben Yehuda for some midnight sushi…

As we approached the sushi and salad restaurant spotted earlier in the day, we were the only customers. Sitting outside, we noticed the Cafe Rimon was packed with people and booming.

The hubby: “Is there something they all know that we don’t?”

Apparently not – it was the best sushi I’ve ever had!

We spent the next hour people watching and commented on how excitingly diverse Jerusalem has become, along with it’s modern downfalls such as excessive cigarette smoking everywhere, numerous more cars than years before and obvious prostitution now taking place out in the open street.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped off at the local Supersol to purchase water and other necessities (i.e. wine).

Me: “Shalom (Hello)!”

Cashier: “Shalom (while putting a different bottle of wine on the belt), you don’t want this wine (grabbing mine), it’s too expensive. You want this one.”

Me: “Umm…lo (no)?!”

Cashier: “Then you buy both!”

Me: “Haha! Lo! Only the one I picked!”

Cashier: (smirking) “Okay, but you want these granola bars!”

Me: “Lo, todah (thanks)! Maybe tomorrow?”

Cashier: (big smile) “Laila tov! (good night)”

(I later discovered the other bottle was much more expensive…)

As we entered the hotel lobby, a group of bus tourists were sitting around a piano being played by a hotel employee and listening to their guide sing “Hallelujah” while reading the lyrics off his smartphone. Heading back to our room, the hubby immediately passed out while I sat on my surprise upgrade balcony drinking wine and munching on the chocolates left by my boyfriend. Enjoying the chaotic rhythm of the city, I was excited to be seeing the kid the next day…

“Now, I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord”

Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

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