Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"If You Go, You'll Never Come Back..."

When I was in high school, considering which college to apply to, my first choice was to go to Bar Ilan.  The thought of studying in Israel was beyond thrilling to me.  I promised my parents I'd only go for one year, then come back to a US college to complete my education.

"No, if you go, you'll never come back."

These were my mother's exact words. My father didn't say a word because I think he really wanted me to go but knew it would break my mother's heart. Because he knew, as well, that if I went I would not return to live in America. And I think he would have been okay with that, and incredibly proud.

So I didn't go.  I went to Barnard, then went to graduate school for my library degree, and in the meantime got married, yadda yadda yadda.

I ended up coming to Israel for the very first time in 1978, just after our fourth anniversary.  The country stole my heart from day one.

Well, a mere 44 years later here I am living in Israel.  MUCH better late than never, I say.

More importantly and more significantly, today is my mother's 25th yahrzeit.  She died on 15
Cheshvan/ November 3 1990.

How do you explain what it feels like to lose a mother?  Someone who is really the essence of your life, your teacher, your moral compass, your soul, your heart?  To know you'll never hear that voice or feel that hug, never be able to call and say, "Guess what the kids did today" or "What is a good recipe for..." or "Can you believe what she said???"

It hurts in a visceral way that can be understood only by those who have experienced it.

My husband lost his father one year after we married.  For 25 years I could not understand his pain, not really. When I lost my own mother, I was in awe at his having been able to function after losing his father at such a young age, just when our life was beginning, and knowing he'd never know our children.

I have to treasure the "at least's":

  • At least she saw my three children born
  • At least she had a relationship with them
  • At least she saw us be able to buy a nice home close to her (ironically one week before she was diagnosed with leukemia and one year to the date before she died)
  • At least I remember the "ketzeleh" song, as well as "Little Brown Jug" (totally inappropriate but funny) and sing it to my grandchildren.
  • At least I remember her most important lessons - "Whatever happens, keep going" and "Make the best of it"  - those two have literally gotten me through hellish times
So I guess now "if you go, you will never come back" has a sad double meaning in my heart.

To my mother, Mary Weintraub, z"l, a brilliant, funny, kind, loving woman who touched many lives. I know you'll never come back but you are inside me and I think of you every single day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How Do I Get To....?

See, now that is a question I am always asking other people, or actually I am always asking Waze.

Before I go anywhere new, I not only put the location in Waze, but I look at it on Google Maps, just to see the route beforehand, look at the "street view" so I know what to look for when I get there, and consider alternate routes.  I mean, I investigate thoroughly.

That is because I am MORTALLY TERRIFIED of being in the wrong location - um, with good reason.

Israel is not a country in which you have "fun" being lost.  It's not an adventure, it's just plain scary.

So here I was, driving along minding my own business and there's a young woman who is stopped in the middle of the street in my neighborhood.  While everyone else was honking and gesticulating around her for delaying their arrival at their destination for all of 20 seconds, I looked at her and she waved at me desperately.

So I pulled over and she asked me where a certain street was. In Hebrew.  She was Israeli.

Hahahaha!  SHE asked ME!  And she expected me to explain!  In Hebrew!  Hahahaha!

So I knew exactly where she wanted to go, but when I started explaining, after the [Hebrew] expression, "First, turn around," my words did that same funny trick they always do - they start doing acrobatics as they are about to come out of my mouth.

I literally could not speak.  So I decided, well that's not HER fault, and said, in English, "Follow me." She looked at me in shock, "Yesh lach zman?" [You have time?].  And instead of answering that taking ten minutes to show her is less embarrassing than trying to explain it with my acrobatic Hebrew, I nodded.

At one point, after about 5 minutes of driving, I gesticulated for her to pull up next to me and I asked her which direction on this road she was looking for.  Then I explained IN HEBREW what she should do.  She was very grateful and drove on.

On my way home, I repeated what I'd said to her about 100 times - was it correct?  Did I tell her to turn left when I should have told her to turn right?

What if she ends up in Ramallah???  What did I do???

I will never know if she found the place.

My only consolation is that, if you try to enter Ramallah, the army stops you and maybe a soldier will tell her how to get where she was going.

I should have just told her how to install Waze on her phone.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I Can't Just Keep Quiet

So much is going on in Israel these days - so much violence, so many human beings injured in so many ways.

So much is going on around the world these days, so much that is so bad for the Jewish people.

I am not a Jewish leader, just a person who, for family reasons, found it a good time to make aliyah. But having made aliyah, I can't just sit back and enjoy my new life - I feel this deep desire to find a way to convince other Jews to do the same.

No, this is not "aliyah snobbery," a term I find extremely distasteful, and which to me reeks of "I don't want to hear what you have to say because you make me feel guilty."

This is coming from my deep, abiding love for my fellow Jews, something my parents taught me by example. I now know what this life is like. If you haven't lived here (as opposed to a year or two in seminary/yeshiva), you don't get it.  And I WANT you to get it.

Living here is authentic, and I can't find a better word.  For religious and non-religious alike, it is the place we are supposed to be. I can't tell you how many non-religious Jews, upon hearing that we made aliyah, have said, "Of course, you came home!  Why don't other Jews do that?  What's wrong with them?  How can they live as Jews anywhere else?"

So here is my plea - just think about it.  Yes, you will have to give up some things which you've gotten used to.  But this is what you get in return - the fullness of heart every time you look at the landscape, the deep satisfaction that you, yes little old you, are actually contributing to the future of our land, and that you have done what God told us to do - live in the land He gave us.

To parents of adult children who want to make aliyah, I ask you to encourage your children. Yes, it will be hard, and yes it's far away, but how can you deny them the chance to be part of this miracle?  I know that many people make their children feel guilty for wanting to make aliyah.  But what better sign is there that you've raised your children well than that they want to contribute to the future of the Jewish people in the Jewish land?

My husband and I recently entered into a long-standing debate about whether or not the State of Israel is the "beginning sign of the Redemption."  My husband has one opinion, I have another, and of course it is an ongoing discussion among religious and non-religious thinkers.

Personally, I have no doubt in my heart of hearts that the establishment of Medinat Yisrael is some kind of milestone for us as a people. This successful, living, growing country may have its problems, but the amount of knowledge that is generated in this tiny land mass, both secular and religious, is staggering.  The amount of medical research alone has probably saved thousands if not tens of thousands of lives worldwide.

As I sit in my modern apartment in my modern city, surrounded by Jews from all over the world who have come home, as I walk in the mall and hear about 15 different languages, as I see the Facebook posts from hundreds of new olim asking for advice, I feel so sure that the act of coming home to our land is deeply, innately rooted in each of us.

That's why I can't keep quiet.  I can't just live my new life and not let you know that it is a life like no other, in a place like no other, and with a people like no other.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

One of Those Life Moments....

There are many times in our lives when we stop and realize, "OK, this is significant, this is one of those times you'll always remember."

One of those moments happened in the spring of 2009 when our eldest grandchild, Ariella, sang and danced with about 40 other Israeli kids in a groundbreaking event for their neighborhood shul. Knowing that she was now part of normative Israeli life, and that she and all of the other kids singing and dancing, most pretty badly, were going to be the future of the country, was enough to choke me up big time.

Another moment, among many we've had since our daughters made aliyah in 2008 and we made
aliyah in 2012, came this past week when that same little girl graduated from 6th grade.

The graduation event took place at Migdal David in Jerusalem - a historic and dramatic setting for sure, but the site itself was kind of overshadowed by the meaning of the event itself.

All of the kids, and there sere several hundred I believe, were involved in the presentation, which took 2 hours (beware, pre-aliyah'ers - every single school event takes at least two hours, even gan graduations).  There were dances, songs, poems, and instrument playing.

At one point each kid had an Israeli flag in his/her hand and marched around the paths of Migdal David - waving and singing.

Just think about it - each and every child in this graduating class will some day finish high school and go on to the Army to protect our country and our people.  Just knowing that gave me shivers - each of them has such an important stake in my own personal future and in the future of the Jews.

Knowing what is ahead of them, I can't help but believe that these kids have a much different view of their future than their peers in other countries - they know what's coming, they have such a strong, deep sense of purpose - and this is something they grew up with.

Another end of year event was my grandson Amichai being "interviewed" for first grade - when the principal asked him what he wanted to be, he said, "B'ezrat Hashem, a chayal [soldier], then an engineer."

B'ezrat Hashem.

Monday, June 15, 2015

I Have No Idea What You Just Said, Pt. 2

So Hebrew continues to be my greatest struggle here, although I have had people tell me my Hebrew is pretty good.  I mean, I can navigate important websites like online supermarkets, the bank, and the Kupat Cholim, and it's all good when I work on the shul emails for my shul, which have to be in English and Hebrew.

But it's the conversations that do me in.  I. Can. Not. Speak. Hebrew. To. An. Israeli.

Take, for instance, the past few days:

1. Less humiliating:
We went to talk to a car dealer.  In Israel, car buying is actually pretty easy because there is no haggling (surprised, aren't you?).  Seriously, the price is the price. And the inventory is low (I mean it's a small country where would they store the cars, after all? ), so you get what you can get, and don't worry about this trim package and that trim package, etc. etc. At least that is our experience.

The car salesman did not speak English.  His Hebrew was pretty clear, though.  But here I am listening to him and wondering how much of what I THINK he said, he actually said.  And how much did I get wrong.  I usually end up asking this question:  What is it that I HAVE TO DO RIGHT NOW?" - that usually gets me a clear answer.

2. A bit more humiliating:
Went today to get our old car inspected before it is sold.  Inspector guy comes to get me and we sit down and he goes over the details of the inspection certificate.  I have no idea what he is saying, so I keep asking, "But is it OK to sell right now?"  I don't know what he said in response to that.  It could have been yes, it could have been no, it could have been maybe.  

Then the inspector guy keeps talking and he TEARS UP THE INSPECTION CERTIFICATE.  I'm totally horrified - oh my gosh, what did I just agree to???  I say, now what should I do, thinking I've just authorized him to make thousands of shekel in repairs without realizing it.  I figured he's going to say, "Well, sit yourself down,honey, 'cause we are going to do thousands of shekel in repairs on your car!  Hahahaha!!!!Sucka!"  

Instead he says, "Well, what do you WANT to do?"  By this time I'm getting a headache.  I say, "I want to go."  He says, "So go."  I still have no idea what happened but I walked out with a new certificate (at least that's what I think it is).

3. Extremely humiliating:
While I'm waiting for the car to be inspected, I get a call from the mailman.  Yes, the mailman himself.  He has a package for me, and wants to come between.....and, for the life of me I think he is saying between "1:30 and 1:00."  So I'm pretty sure I got that wrong, so I say, "well, I"m not home now."  He hesitated, probably thinking, what the heck do I care if she's home now or not?"  

He said, again, "I'll come between...." and again I'm sure it was between 1:30 and 1:00.  I give up and say OK. The worst that can happen is that I won't be home and he'll leave a note.

I get off the phone and all of the other people in the waiting room are kinda looking at me (maybe that was my imagination).  And slowly I realize that the time he gave me was between 11 and 1, not 1:30 and 1:00.  When he said "achad esrei" I kept thinking "achad v'chetzi."

BTW, the package was delivered.  I think the mailman was snickering when he dropped it off.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

I Have No Idea What You Just Said

These three things happened to me just today.

Phone call #1:
Got a phone call.  Someone speaking Hebrew reallyreallyquickly.  I answered, "Lo hevanti" [transl: HUH?]

She spoke a bit slower - something about my husband and challos.  Hmm, knowing my husband, who is still recovering from the trauma that was Tax Season 2015, he probably bought challos and left them in the store. 

OK, I answered (in Hebrew that is "OK"), he'll come back for them. Since there was not the usual moment of silence after I speak Hebrew (during which the Israelis realize that I have not understood a word of the conversation), I figured I'd gotten it right.

We have been here for three years.  We have learned a lot of Hebrew, ok?  Really!  So when I walked into the restaurant today and they asked me if I wanted the English menu, I declined the offer.  I mean, really, dude.

Waiter comes to take our order.  We know what we are doing, do not mess with us. He asks us all of the usual questions, and we answer like pros.  We got this.

Then he said something else.  It was a question. Clearly he wanted me to choose between one thing and another.  I caught a word, and repeated it. I glanced at my husband, who looked likewise clueless. The waiter repeated the word followed by a questioning tone.  I gave my all-time favorite answer, "B'seder."  I was hoping he didn't ask if I'd like a touch of cyanide in my omelet, or if I preferred that he serve me bread from two days ago.

Seriously, I have no idea what he asked me.

The meal was fine, though, and I didn't taste whatever it was I chose to add.  Or not add.  

Close call.

Phone call #2
Then I got a call from the Hyundai dealership.  I mean, I think it was the Hyundai dealership.  We don't own a Hyundai but we used to.  "Susan?" the nice lady asked.  "Ken," I answered. (I got this).

Then about forty thousand Hebrew words came out of her mouth.  I got none of them.  What I ASSUMED was that there was some kind of sale going on and it was incumbent upon me to take advantage of it.

I took a risk.  I said, IN HEBREW, "I am not interested in a new car right now, but thank you." Apparently I did not say something entirely stupid.  In other words, it really was a lady from Hyundai and there really was a sale.  

She proceeded to talk more.  Many, many words of Hebrew.  Finally I had to shut her up, I mean it was such a waste of her time.  I said, "Well, thank you and Shabbat Shalom!"

So all in all, not bad for someone who is totally clueless.  I can fake it pretty well after 3 years.  And there's always "B'seder" and "Lo Hevanti."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Exercising and Dyeing

I am getting older.  I have, um, never been very good at things like "taking care of  myself."  Let's just say no one ever mistook me for Twiggy.  Or even John Wayne.  Or Cookie Monster.  Well, maybe Cookie.

So I decided two things lately, neither of which I decided independently like a real adult should.

I decided to begin exercising (after my doctor said "Hey! Your blood sugar is getting high!  Stop being an idiot and start exercising!")

I decided to dye my hair (after my friends said, "Hey!  Your hair is all gray!  Stop it!  You don't have to look old!")

So I began exercising.  First I started walking for 1/2 hour every day, after my daughter came in my door and dragged me outside the first day.  And asked me after that, "Did you walk today?  Hmmm?"

The walking went great for about a month, then I started developing foot problems.  No really!  I did!  So I thought well, I need another type of exercise, so I found this great website called www.dontexercisejustlayaroundandeatdonuts.com.  No,, no, just kidding.  It's called "Liveexercise.com" and it's fantastic.

Why?  Because they let you exercise while you sit down.  I am not kidding.  Well, that is, for the first month or so.. You do lots of cool exercises from the comfort of your chair.  I thought, "Hey, I can do this!"

Then, one day the next episode came on and they said, "Today we are going to begin standing up from our chair."  No, I did not turn the computer off.  I stood up, and now I am up to ALL STANDING EXERCISES!  I know, I also think I should plan to go to Rio in 2016.

OK, change #2 - Dyeing - oh, stop with the drama, it's dyeing, not dying.  sheesh.

My hair is really gray.  It is an icky color.  I mean, I cover it so no one really sees it but me and my immediate family, but whatevs.  I need to feel like I look nice when I look in the mirror and talk to myself (yes, I do, so what of it? ).

So I made THE DECISION.  I decided to color my hair.  Not, I'll admit, a life-altering decision like "I'm going to quit my job and join the circus" or "I'm going to move to Outer Mongolia to find myself" but in my world it's a biggie.

So I go to my Israeli hairdresser - a lovely older woman who does a great haircut.  And I tell her the news, I have decided to color my hair.

I then receive a lecture about "color" (Hebrew - צבע) vs "streaks" (Hebrew - גבנים).   

No, no, she says, you don't want color, you want streaks.

[What do I know?] , I said, I'll leave it to you.

And she proceeds to apply blond streaks to my gray hair.


The result is, um, weird. 

Hmm, she says, you'll probably need another round of a reddish color to make it brighter.

Next day I go back.  She says, "You need red!"  I was thinking Julianne Moore, she was thinking Crazy Israeli Ladies with Purple Hair.

My hair became streaked with purple.

Went back, saying "Add brown."  She does, but the purple is still there.

Next week, after I cried for a couple of days, I went to, let's just say a hairdresser who was not an old Israeli woman, and he did a faaaaabulous job.

Funny story - I am sitting waiting for the dye to take and I see one of the hairdressers putting on his tallis and tefillin and davening shacharis.  Way, way, cool.

So, now I am exercising and admiring my lovely brown hair with auburn and blonde streaks.  I really am!

I know, no one can really see me do either thing, but trust me, ok?  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Victory and Defeat

If you skipped this blog because you thought I was going to talk about the elections - nah nah nah boo boo.  As I have often said, I find politics exceedingly boring.  Yes, there is intrigue and yes I watch "House of Cards" but seriously, it's all about money and power, and not at all about what's right or wrong.  Cynic? Um yes.

No, no, I am going to speak about my own, personal victory and defeat, all of which happened today!

Let's start with the defeat, and get it out of the way.

My trip to the Post Office (anyone living in Israel will now start nodding and then begin shuddering, reliving their own Doar nightmares):

Got a petek (slip) in my mailbox to pick up a package that was "registered."  And addressed to my husband.

Stood in line for 1/2 hour because of the two women working there, one was busy with an irritated woman who insisted on something that was not possible.  Shocker.

The argument went on and on, then the people waiting in line joined in, yelling at her to move along so that the rest of us could get helped.

She yelled back that it was not her fault and she wasn't leaving.

Finally the other worker got the brilliant idea of asking if anyone had a package to pick up (much much faster than other processes that are done at the post office, like paying bills, receiving bypass surgery, buying/selling a car, adopting a cat, etc. etc.).

I was first in line for packages!  Surely this would be a victory!

She looked at my ID card, which HAS MY HUSBAND'S NAME ON IT AS WELL.

  • No, she said, I need his ID card.
  • But he is away and his name is right here!  Look!
  • Do you have a picture of his ID card?
  • No.
  • Well come back with a picture of his ID card.

Now let me just say that the last time I did this, they accepted my ID card just fine.  But as we all know the rules here change depending on the mood of the worker. DEFEAT.

Second wave of defeat: As I was driving home I was thinking, I have to ask my husband to scan his ID card and email it to me.  Then I remembered - I have a scan of his ID card, I could have printed it out and brought it with me. Sometimes my own stupidity shocks me.


I have lived in Israel for over three years.  At no time have I purchased makeup.  Not that I wear much, but when you need a refill, you need a refill.

I have always waited for a trip to America to buy makeup. Why?  Because the crazy cosmetic ladies who sit in Super Pharm on their little stools and wait for you to glance their way will pounce on you and ask if you want a makeover and I have always been afraid of them.  They are pushy and they scare me. There I've said it.

But today something came over me, mostly the dire need for more face powder.  I walked into the Cosmetics Area!  Within a nanosecond bleached blond lady #1 asked if she could help me.  I looked at her, smiled, and said, no thanks, I am fine.  I did it!  I really did it!  And do you know what? She left me alone!

Then dyed blacker than black hair lady #1 saw me.  She wasn't going to let me go.  She probably thought bleached blond lady was a loser.  She asked what she could do for me.  I thought to myself, "Seriously, woman, you apply makeup like your face is a birthday cake, and frankly you  look utterly ridiculous and you want me to ask you for beauty advice?"  Anyway, I said no to her too! And she left me alone.

After I made my purchases and walked out, I thought that perhaps they left me alone because they just didn't want to waste their time on me. If they took a look at me, plain old Susan, they probably figured they'd be wasting their time on someone who apparently had no interest in looking younger or more lovely, or like a birthday cake.

Who cares, I now have new face powder and I have defeated SuperPharm!

You gotta kinda take your wins where you can.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Guy on the Side of the Road....

It gets me every single time.  I'm going to ramble here, so prepare yourselves.

What gets me is seeing someone on the side of the road who's stopped his car and is davening because it's almost past Mincha time.  Last week one morning, driving on a local road,  I saw someone in tallit and tefillin standing next to his car davening.  And I got this stupid goofy grin on my face.  This is normal, this is what we do, it's no big deal.  I know people do this in other countries, but here, no one driving by is wondering what that person is doing - everyone knows because it's routine, it's the norm. No big deal...

But it is such a big deal.

It's always the little things that do this to me, that still fill my heart with gratitude for having the opportunity to live here, to have come home.

I still gasp when I see the landscapes, and always, always, imagine ancient Jews walking towards Jerusalem over the hills. (Yes, I'll admit it, sometimes the ancient Jews look like Charleton Heston).

I am always thrilled to see the dig sites that pop up everywhere, and especially to see the one right in my neighborhood in Modiin - an ancient shul.  

I grew up in America as a stranger.  It was not my country in so many ways.  The calendar revolved around someone else's holidays, someone else's customs.  I had to work around my own holidays, explain explain explain, work overtime on some days to leave early on Friday, miss meetings and events because of Shabbat and Chag, etc. etc. etc.

I appreciate America and American life, but once you live here you realize deep down inside yourself what you've been missing, and it's shocking.  That sense of deep connection to every single person on the street, the fact that the entire country revolves around Shabbat, chagim, Jewish historical events....The fact that you are home in a way you never even knew you could be.

Going to our local mall on Fridays fills my heart - religious and non-religious wishing each other Shabbat Shalom - whether they plan to stay home or go to the beach the next day, they mean it. The mall is set up like a shuk on Fridays, with vendors selling food, flowers, and gifts in preparation for Shabbat.  Most people don't work on Fridays, so it literally is an entire day to get ready for Shabbat - mentally and physically.  By Thursday afternoon, each and every week, the excitement begins to build and the sense of anticipation is palpable.  This is what Shabbat is meant to be, this is how it is supposed to feel.

This week I went into Jerusalem to meet visiting family - imagine me telling my grandparents whose dream it was to even see this country, that I could walk around Jerusalem any time I wanted to.  

I guess the overwhelming feeling is that everything I mentioned above is "normal" when you live here - it's just what you see every day. But it never feels routine - to me it's always thrilling. I can be doing the most mundane task - picking up the dry cleaning, getting gas - and I think to myself, "I am doing this in Israel - how cool is that?"

Pretty cool.  Pretty cool.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ah, Hebrew

As I said in my last blog, learning Hebrew and being comfortable enough to speak to an Israeli are constant challenges for olim.

I can practice and practice, but the words trip over themselves on the voyage from my brain to my mouth and I always end up sounding like an idiot.

Yesterday, though, was interesting.  We had a fix-it person over who only speaks Hebrew.  He is a sweet fellow who has done a lot of work for us.  Interestingly, and shockingly, I was able to speak to him pretty well.  A lot of the words came out of my mouth correctly, and some were words that I didn't even know I knew! 

But I figured it out. There must be a safe that keeps all of the correctly conjugated words in the deep recesses of my brain - there has to be because I LEARNED ALL OF THIS IN ULPAN and I don't remember most of it.  But for some reason, it must have mistakenly been open for a few minutes, and I'm hoping that happens again.

I have found that reticence to speak to Israelis happens with women more than men.  I think that women are more nervous about sounding stupid and men are not (no, I am not man-bashing here, I am man-honoring!).  My conversations with Anglo friends here have borne this theory out.  We are more reticent to "just try" speaking - maybe that's an age thing, but I kind of think it's a woman thing. 

Also, I realize that no matter what I say and how good my accent is, they always know we are Anglos - you just can't fake being an Israeli.  In fact, it must have something to do with physical appearance as well, maybe we Anglos have non-Israeli looks on our faces (less grimaces, more smiles?).  Yesterday we walked into a restaurant and before I had said a word they handed us an English menu.

The nicest experiences are when I apologize for my broken Hebrew and they look at me in shock, saying, "But your Hebrew is great, what are you talking about?" 

However, I am not naive.  I know that the government must pay them to say that ("Keep the Anglos here, tell them they speak Hebrew well!  Do anything, don't let them leave!"  must be the message).

Either way, I am, as I've said before, getting used to sounding dumb and to trying out my Hebrew on unsuspecting Israelis who visibly cringe when I speak. 

And every once in a while I'm hoping that the Safe of Correct Hebrew opens up by accident and I get a complete and correct sentence out without embarrassing myself and the entire Anglo community.

I'll keep trying.  Shalom, see ya.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Three Years

As of today, we've been here for three years.  I will share my accumulated wisdom with you at no charge.

Preparation for aliyah:
Bring less. It's a small country, the living spaces are small, there is very little storage space. 

Living with Israelis:

  • They have big hearts and big mouths.
  • They will tell you exactly what they think, every time - at first it is a little shocking, but after you realize how much they care, it's sweet - it's kind of like everyone is family.

Living in Israel vs. living in the US
  • Customer service is a new concept here (well, maybe that isn't such a big difference) - n fact, some businesses publicize their "American-style service" as an extra
  • You cannot get certain US items here, so learn to live without - begging your friends and family to bring you stuff gets old and probably annoys people

Assume KNOW that every single person in every single car is going to do something stupid NOW

  • Do grocery shopping online - yes, they charge for delivery but do anything you can to avoid the actual store and, even worse, the supermarket checkout line where:
    • Every single customer has an issue, an argument, or a question
    • The cashier is threatened with bodily harm if she does not make you buy one of the "specials" available only at the register
    • The cashier will tell you that if you buy 10 more of an item, you will save a shekel, and you say you don't want 10 more, and she will start arguing with you
    • You will have to fight off 5 store employees trying to convince you to get the store's "club" card
Clothes shopping - meh.  
You have to find the 1 or 2 stores that you can actually find decent clothes in, or just throw your hands up and start wearing cheaply made, weird looking clothing.

Living near Americans
In my opinion (this is serious) - you need to live around people who "get" American culture and upbringing.  I feel that our "frame of reference" is vastly different from an Israeli's, and it is comforting and helpful to have others around you who you can talk to with complete comfort without having to constantly explain yourself. You also need to vent sometimes - well, a lot of the time.

Speaking Hebrew
You gotta face up to the fact that it may take a very, very long time to feel comfortable speaking to a non-English speaker.  If you come here with kids, that is a huge help because they come home speaking Hebrew and you can learn a ton.  As someone without school-age kids, it is a litltle harder.

It is frustrating at times not being able to really say what you want to say, without trying to find a work-around to get your thought out. 

      Some tricks I've learned:
  • When you can't find the right Hebrew word, use an English word - most often Israelis understand - even better if you can use the English word with an Israeli accent, e.g., "Ani mechapeset a peekturr freeemm" (I'm looking for a picture frame)
  • Dealing with services, stores, etc. - always ask if someone speaks English if you really can't make yourself understood
  • Practice what you need to say before you go to a doctor, store, etc. - seriously!  Look it up, ask someone. Facebook is great for this.
  • Let other people know you are an oleh/olah and apologize for your Hebrew. Then, immediately, every single time, the person you're speaking to will become the most helpful, kindest, person you've ever met - it's very cool. You might even get a "Bruchim HaBaim" hug.
Medical Care
  • There are some things that are super modern - like online appointment sites, results of medical tests online, etc.  
  • There are some things that are super archaic - like taking your strep test stick to the lab yourself.
  • There are three million kajillion options for levels of medical care and I've been at many Shabbat lunches where we sit around trading medical care stories and each has a different interpretation of the exact same medical benefit plan.  It's a sort of sport here.

Danger, War, Sirens
It's a fact of life - you live in a war zone surrounded by enemies.  It's a point of pride, but also very scary.  Then again, life is not that much different, danger-wise, in the US. 

At least here, every citizen feels like a soldier fighting against a common enemy for the life of the Jewish state.

On a serious note, anyone out there contemplating aliyah is most welcome to write to me - leibtag at gmail dot com - to ask pre and post aliyah questions.