On December 31, we’ll be hitting 9 years of living in Israel. A lifetime, for some people (especially four of our children that were born here). When we came, Nefesh B’Nefesh was just starting out and had limited availability. So we came unaided, without receiving tactical, practical or financial assistance. We came with few relatives here, certainly no immediate family members. 9 years later, our family here numbers well over 50 people, including my grandparents and Mordecai’s sisters and their families, as well as many of our cousins with whom we have grown infinitely closer since we’ve made the same (crazy?) decision. I think this alone is pretty amazing.
Everyone learns things over nearly a decade; but I think the lessons we’ve learned as olim are quite different than those we would have learned if we’d stayed in America. And so, I’d like to share some of these lessons with you.
1 – Graduating college in the US does not guarantee that you will pass 4th grade math in Israel.
2 – Rolling your RR’s must be acquired from the time of language development, or you’re stuck for life.
3 – You never get used to planning your showers in advance so that the water is properly heated. NEVER.
4 – Navigating Israeli bureaucracy is both unavoidable and extremely unpleasant. But it’s kind of like giving birth – it makes for great stories (and blog posts), and makes you a stronger person.
5 – It’s entirely possible to live without Entenmann’s donuts. And even (gasp!) without Krispy Kreme.
6 – Despite the intermittent fear of terrorist attacks, there is a relatively low fear of pedophilia and kidnapping, and somehow, it’s socially acceptable (and perhaps even legal) to let 5 year olds walk to neighbors’ houses (and sometimes the park?) alone. This phenomenon never gets old.
7 – It may take 3 weeks for your mail to arrive at its destination within Israel, but if your parking meter in Jerusalem expires, you will get a ticket within 1 minute.
8 – First grade plays in the US may teach children about Abraham Lincoln or classical theater, but when they celebrate Jewish heritage and are held at Ma’arat Hamachpela, they never get tiresome, no matter how many times you sit through it.
9 – Salaries in Israel are just about as miraculous as the Chanuka oil that burned for 8 days, but only had enough for 1 night. You pay ridiculously high income tax, 17% VAT, and over $8/gallon for gas, and somehow, most people manage to stretch it until the end of the month.
10 – You never really get tired of having a kosher butcher, baker and fresh cheese counter at the local grocery store.
11 – It gets easier over time, but sometimes it’s still OK to cry when your family goes home after a visit.
12 – When you don’t have blood relatives nearby, your friends become your family – and that’s pretty amazing.
13 – When things are hard, being located so close to the holiest city in the world makes it that much easier to remember that G-d is omnipresent. And sometimes that helps.
14 – Israeli sunset are always breathtaking (except when hidden by the Neve Daniel fog).
15 – Once an olah, alays an olah. No matter how well you roll your RRs.