Monthly Archives: August 2011

Loving difficult people

>>I am really struggling in my life with my relationship with a few people. I will have to say my nature finds it much easier to write them off and be done with them, but I don’t think that’s the right thing.  I know that I don’t have to be best friends with these people or even spend a lot of time with them, but I really struggle with my anger and frustration with them. <<

I’ve held off on responding to this for a while, since it’s been an issue I personally had to deal with pretty intensely fairly recently.  I was told by someone that I’m an abusive, cruel, unfeeling person, and that every single interaction we’ve had in the many years we’ve known one another is proof of this – it was shocking to me to see even the nicest things I’ve done for this person (and there were a lot) twisted into proof for her criticisms.

I had to work hard to find peace of mind about this situation – I don’t think this is something a person can resolve at a core level without the willingness to go beyond one’s emotional comfort zone, and though I’ve made a lot of progress, I think I’ll continue to be faced with challenges in this arena that will push me to grow to a higher level of acceptance for her.  What I’m sharing is what I’ve found helpful, but very much isn’t coming from someone who has ‘arrived’; I have to consciously work to detach when thoughts about what’s been said come into my mind.  With the Jewish month of Elul just begun, a unique time in which introspection and self-improvement is a focus, it seems like an especially good time to share some thoughts on this issue.  Additionally, I received two calls on this same issue in the last few weeks, and I think this is something that most of us have to grapple with at some time in our lives.

– I’ve found it helpful to realize that it’s really not about me and what I do or don’t do, even if that’s what is being expressed.  It’s about the person and their pain.  I have a tendency to think that if I just try hard enough, it can be worked out.  Sometimes you really have done something to hurt someone and an amends is in order, but sometimes, nothing you do will make the situation better.  In this case, I tried to empathize with her pain, then move on.

– It’s important to have healthy boundaries with people like this, who can be energy vampires; they suck positive energy from those around them.  Be respectful, be kind – but respect and protect your emotional boundaries.

– Don’t make the mistake of thinking that better communication is the answer.  Often in these circumstances, communication becomes a power struggle rather than an honest way for two people to clarify their thoughts and feelings.

– ‘What kind of person do I want to be?’  This is something I repeatedly asked myself when deciding how to respond to hurtful comments.  I sometimes felt a strong desire to respond in kind to what was done/said to me, but that would have been moving away from the person I hope to one day be.

– Don’t let others keep you from seeing the beauty in yourself.  When people are critical and judgmental of you, it can cause you to doubt yourself, to start to think that you really are the cause of the problems or difficulties that they claim are your fault.  They are entitled to their opinions, but they don’t have the right to keep you from shining your light out.

– Pray for them. If you don’t feel like doing this (I didn’t), pray for the desire to pray for them.  Prayer is very powerful and whether it consciously affects them or not, it changes your feelings inside of being a victim of their actions to being a person who rises above that.  A simple but powerful prayer that I first read in a book by Kay Sheppard is, “Bless them, change me”.  Ask for help in responding appropriately, for using this as a positive growth experience.

– Look for the good in them.  Everyone has positive qualities.  Find them, and focus on them.  It doesn’t take away the pain of dealing with difficult people, but it keeps you from being consumed by bitterness.  The more we focus on finding light, the more darkness we can push away.

Are there things you’ve found to be helpful when dealing with difficult people?  Please share them!


Delays in getting health insurance

After a week and a half, we finally got our internet and phone yesterday, and it’s amazing to be able to freely connect to the outside world again!

I have loads of things I want to tell you about, but I’m never going to get to what’s going on now if I try to catch you up on the last week!  As far as the technicalities, I’ve spent every morning at different government offices – the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Absorbtion, the municipality, the office of National Insurance – and though everything has taken time, I haven’t felt aggravated by the bureaucracy of all of this until today.

As returning citizens, we have to pay a fee of almost 10,000 shekels per person over the age of 18 in order to restart our insurance.  Thanks to a recently passed law that is of two year duration – and our move to Israel falls out in this period of time – this money is fully refunded, half immediately and the other half in a year.  Once this money is paid, we can then sign up for a health fund.

You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to pay this money, but we’ve been to that office three times and still no luck!  Today I was initially told that we have to establish our residency before they’ll take our money (afterward I was told they’d take our money – as if they were doing us a favor – but it still wouldn’t help us get insurance).  I told her that we’ve repeatedly established our residency with the Israeli embassy, whatever Israeli ministry handled the approval for our tickets as returning citizens, the Ministry of Absorbtion and the Ministry of the Interior here in Israel – so since we have documentation of all that, isn’t it enough?  No.  We need to redocument everything for this particular office, but this time they’re insisting on proof of enrollment of the kids in school before we can establish our residency.

This isn’t so simple since none of the kids ages 12 and under are going to school.  (Earlier I wrote I would be putting some of the kids in school, but back in May we decided otherwise; I’ve  been wanting to share with you about how I came to that decision but haven’t had time.)  I still have to file for an approval from the Israeli government to homeschool, but this hasn’t been on the top of my list; I’m trying to get the most basic things taken care of.

Tomorrow I’m going to the local girls high school to sign up dd15 and dd16, and I’m already feeling under the gun about homeschooling because the principal is insisting on putting the girls back a grade because they’ve never been in school before.  If I had been mentally prepared for her asking for transcripts and records, I would have handled it differently and sidestepped this issue without mentioning homeschooling, but what’s done is done.  Tomorrow the girls will be tested and I’ll discuss their grade placement with the principal in person (so far we’ve only talked on the phone) because holding them back isn’t my idea of what would be beneficial to them, and I’ll refuse to enroll them if it comes to that.

Anyway, I’ll take their school registration back to the National Insurance office along with our house contract, bank records, and whatever else they’ve asked for, and hopefully that will be enough to show that we actually are planning to live here and didn’t come to scam the Israeli health insurance system. :)


Finding a lost little girl

On Sunday, dh and I went to Jerusalem, along with ds18.  Dh and I needed to sign the final paperwork for our mortgage (thank G-d, finally complete – it was delayed because the person handling it was on vacation and they wouldn’t release the file to anyone else to work on so we had to wait until he returned from the vacation!!), and though ds18 was accepted to his yeshiva without an interview based on the strength of his recommendations, they said it would be nice if he could come in before the term officially begins.

The bus ride from Karmiel to Jerusalem is almost three hours, which allowed us a nice amount of time to rest, read, and wonder why they don’t have bathrooms on these long distance buses.  :)  Once we got there, we took care of the bank paperwork, then decided we’d have lunch before going over to ds’s yeshiva.

We couldn’t find a schwarma shop, which is what we wanted, so we finally settled on a pizza place.  There was a young couple there with two young children, and as we were getting ready to leave, I noticed the little girl, maybe four years old, was crying for her mother.  So I went over to see what was wrong and – her parents had left the pizza shop and forgotten her behind.  I went out to the busy street to find them, hoping I would remember what they looked like, but no luck.  Meanwhile, I was reassuring their little girl that we’d find them soon and not to worry.

I went back to the pizza shop and asked the owners if he remembered what the parents looked like, and he told me they were driving a red car.  I went back out, along with someone else who by then had gotten concerned about the situation, and spotted a red car about a block away.  The other woman pushed the little girl in that direction and told her to run to her car, but I was uncomfortable abdicating responsibility without seeing an adult actively taking charge of her so I stayed to keep an eye on her.

A moment later, her mother came driving up and her father came from somewhere else and spoke to her.  The other person grasped what happened before I did, and told me: they hadn’t accidentally forgotten her.  They told her it was time to leave, but she didn’t want to go.  So they purposely left without her, while the father stood out of sight in a nearby storefront to keep an eye on her.

Regarding the backdrop of this mini-drama, we weren’t in a quiet residential neighborhood.  We were in a very, very busy area by a four lane highway, and besides the obvious safety concerns, it would have frightened someone much older to have been left in an unfamiliar place like that.  I have a four year old and can only imagine how terrified he would have been in that situation.

When I realized that the father must have seen me walking back and forth searching for her parents with her crying next to me, but stayed hidden so he could teach his daughter a lesson, I was furious.   I’m a strong proponent of showing kids you mean what you say, following through, etc, but there’s a way to do it, and this wasn’t it.  To traumatize a young child like this and purposely let her think she was abandoned is horrific.

I walked away when I saw the little girl was with her parents, but by the time I was half a block away, I was so upset about this situation that I strongly regretted that I hadn’t told her parents my thoughts on their misguided approach to parenting and discipline.  I really try not to be judgmental of what I see when I’m out – all of us are sometimes tired and cranky, and it’s not fair to judge people based on what might not be a typical parenting scenario for them.  But in this case, I felt very, very strongly that they had chosen a damaging approach to teach a lesson, and the lesson learned probably wasn’t quite the one they thought they were teaching.

Children deeply need the security of knowing that their parents are there for them, will protect them and love them no matter what.   And as a parent, this isn’t an easy thing to consistently communicate.  But choosing a disciplinary approach like this is to actively teach a child that her parents can’t be trusted to be there for her.  Even as an adult, when people you’re depending on let you down, you’re going to be more reserved and cautious before making yourself vulnerable with them again.

From their behavior in the pizza shop, I think these were nice people, definitely well-intended.  I’m positive they only wanted to show their daughter that she needed to listen to them when they told her something.  Sometimes we don’t have have accurate information or good advice to guide us, and we make sad mistakes like this.


Transferring utility accounts

Sunday is a work day here in Israel, so that morning I was prepared to get a lot done.  Dh and I went to the municipality with dd16 and ds18 (we thought afterward we’d be going to the Ministry of the Interior and they’d need to get their ID cards), but after I took a number, I told the kids to go home rather than spend their time waiting around.  After a while, our real estate agent met us there, and about the time our number was called, the seller’s real estate agent met us as well.

We explained that we were there to transfer the water bill into our name, and after doing some checking on the computer, the clerk told us that the seller or someone he gave power of attorney needed to be there in order to complete this.  I thought this meant we’d need to come back another day, since the seller couldn’t come and the attorney who had his power of attorney was in Russia.  But I didn’t take into account having an Israeli real estate agent there, who cajoled, demanded, cajoled, insisted, produced unhelpful paperwork to prove his point, insisted it was helpful paperwork….and after a very, very long time there, we got the account transferred from the tenant’s name into the seller’s name.   But not transferred to our name.

At the end of all of this, I asked the clerk if I had even needed to be there for all of this, and she said, no, but I’d need to come back again to get my part taken care of!  I raised my eyebrows at her and smilingly told her that I had a lot of things I could have been taking care of, and this secular, immodestly dressed young woman told me, “Think of it as a chesed (act of kindness) that you did for the tenants.”  I love that.

We finally left to the office, and it was hard not to notice the grumbling of the people who had been sitting there waiting for us to finish our business, but from there dh went home, and I went with the real estate agents to transfer the next account.  Our agent dropped me off together with the seller’s agent, and we walked together to the gas company.  When we got there, the meter reading we had from the tenant didn’t match any numbers on the account, so the agent called the tenant, told her to check the meter again and call him back.

In the meantime, he told me we could go to the electric company to get that bill transferred.  So we walked over there – fortunately, the electric company was only about a block from the gas company, and got things transferred there.  That was almost relatively smooth, except the person who was processing this had a problem with her computer, so we had to start all over with someone else in another office.  But it got done.

Then we headed back to the gas company, where he gave the corrected meter reading, and I was told I’d have to pay the seller 250 shekels as a deposit (apparently he put it down when he opened the account, so now he needed it back) as well as an additional transfer fee.  After I paid for this, we completed the paperwork.  Off the agent went, and I decided since I was in the area, to stop in at the phone company and find out about their pricing.

After waiting at yet another office, I spoke to a very pleasant woman and was somewhat disappointed to learn there are no plans that have unlimited calling.  I made a list of all the choices, none of which really appealed to me, to take back home to discuss with dh.   I asked how long it would take to get a line and internet hookup, and was surprised to hear it would take over a week.  So I mentally resolved to check out another provider.  Then, because I was still in the area :), I thought I’d do a bit of shopping at the store nearby that has kosher chickens.

I didn’t have ten shekels on me to get a shopping cart, but had taken a recyclable cloth bag with me, so I loaded it up with the sale items and headed to the checkout.  When the clerk told me the total, I told her that none of the sale prices had registered.  She was surprised and initially told me it couldn’t be, but then she checked the receipt and realized I was right.  She said it was because I only bought sale items, and I couldn’t get the same prices without buying at least 50 shekels of non sale items.  And since some of what I bought didn’t count as sale items, I just had to spend another 22 shekels, and she casually flicked her hand at a bag of overpriced chocolates and suggested I grab them.  Um, no.  That’s not how I shop.

Off I went to find something else to buy, but I was quite tired by now – it was mid afternoon and I hadn’t eaten lunch or had anything to drink for hours, and had been walking back and forth in the sun from office to office.  (I didn’t know how long I was going to be out or I would have been more prepared – the initial plan was that one agent was going to drive us from office to office.)  All I could find was salt, which didn’t help to raise my total since it was under two shekels, so I told her to cancel my order and I’d just get a couple of things.  As she did this, I saw that the sale turkey I bought wasn’t registering as a sale price, and I asked if I could get more turkey towards the 22 shekels.  Sure, she said.

Don’t ask me the logic of some sale prices counting and some not counting, I still don’t know how to figure this in to my shopping.  So I got some turkey, came back, rang it up, added in the sale items (packages of split peas, wheat, and barley), and got ready to pay.  But now the sale prices were only coming off of some of the sale items, not all of them.  ‘Why?’, I inquire?  Hmm, she’s not sure herself what’s going on.  Then she tells me it’s because after all of that, I’m only allowed to buy 6 of the sale items.

I was really tired by this point, and thought to myself this was way too many hoops to jump through to save 15 shekels (which is less than five dollars).  I only bought the fifty shekels worth of items because because I thought I could stock up at the sale price on the other items and it would be worth it! Lesson learned: pay close attention to the fine print on the sales flyer.  I paid the bill, then headed home on the bus with my extremely heavy bags of stuff.  When I finally arrived home, I was too tired to eat or even drink a cup of water.  Instead, I conked out on my sleeping bag for a couple of hours. :)

Errands take a lot more energy and time here – but doing them is part of the experience of being here!


Our first day and Shabbos in Israel

On my first morning here, Friday, I got up early with the early risers and took four kids out for a walk at 5:50 am – I didn’t want to disturb the neighbor below us with their early wake up.  As we walked down the street, ds3 was excited to discover that just a couple buildings away from us is a park!  So ds9 and I sat on the bench and chatted while the littles played.  Ds12 had his rollerblades on, and when we got to the park he asked if he could explore on his own, which I agreed to. He ended up having his own adventure meeting an Israeli policeman, which he told us about later at breakfast.

After breakfast, I walked to the municipality (which is fortunately a very short walk from our new home), so that I could get there by 8:30 when they opened, to be first in line.  (Remember, I was told to take care of switching the accounts for the water, etc that morning since the offices were closed the afternoon before.)  I waited and waited, until finally I realized they weren’t going to open.  Why?  Because it’s Friday, and government offices don’t open on Friday!

I headed back home, stopping in at the one kosher bakery in town on the way back and picked up some challahs for Shabbos.   (I felt very accomplished finding out which bakery was the one to go to – the little things matter a lot when you don’t know where anything is!)  We were invited to a bris that morning, and I debated about going or not – on one hand, I wanted to be there to share in the celebration of the family.  On the other hand, all the stores here close by 2 pm on Fridays, and there would be very little time after getting home from the bris to buy the food we needed.  There aren’t any kosher take-out places here in Karmiel, and we didn’t even know where we could buy groceries, let alone how to get there.  (In a religious neighborhood, you can buy food just about anywhere, but there are challenges here not found in religious neighborhoods.)  So I really needed every bit of time I had to figure things out.

But we opted to attend the bris and have a very, very simple Shabbos, so we got the kids dressed and ready to go.  On our way out of our building, I saw a neighbor, so I smiled and introduced myself.  She curtly said, “Nice to meet you”, and since she didn’t introduce herself, I asked her for her name.  She abruptly told me, then with a sour face said, “I know you just moved but you made a terrible amount of noise last night.  I hope it’s not always going to be like this.”  I told her I was sorry if we disturbed her (wondering what made so much noise, since the kids went to sleep at a reasonable hour and only one of the older girls and I were up), and explained we had just come from the US a half a day before, and it would take some time for the jet lag to pass but we would try to be aware of noise.

She then burst out, “What a shame you moved here, you should have gone somewhere else where there are religious people!  You know, this isn’t a religious neighborhood.  It’s going to bother you and you’ll be unhappy here.”  I was slightly taken aback, but I told her, “Good people are good people, why should it make a difference if they’re religious or not?”  So she told me the music and lifestyle of people here is going to bother me, it will annoy me to see people not observing Shabbos and the holidays, and that living here isn’t like where I came from, where I lived with only religious people (this was kind of funny since she doesn’t know me and it’s not true at all).  I told her that I have enough trouble trying to take care of what I need to deal with in my own life to spend time judging how everyone else spends their time, but she didn’t seem mollified as she skeptically said, “I hope it will be okay” and walked off.   She did compliment me on how good my Hebrew was at the end of her tirade.  :)   I suppose it could have been a warmer welcome to the building, but it’s good to know people’s concerns.

Off we went to the bris, where we saw the parents of the new baby whom I last saw a year ago in Baltimore before they made aliyah, and then had the added pleasure of getting to meet people living here, which was great!  We enjoyed our first afternoon and evening here, but there was a feeling of no one knowing we existed, and meeting these people that morning changed that.  Everyone there was very nice and welcoming, and it felt like our family fit in just as if we had been here a long time. I met was an Israeli neighbor who lives two buildings away, and when she heard that we didn’t have furniture, etc, she invited us for a Shabbos meal.  Since she had just had a baby three weeks ago, I refused, though I was tempted to accept since the logistics of trying to organize everything for Shabbos in the short time we had was somewhat daunting!  I told her we’d take a reincheck in a few months, though.  :)

Dd16 was really surprised that no one was inviting us for meals or offering any kind of concrete help – she’s been here all summer and told me that everyone in the community knew we were coming.  It would have been nice if more assistance had been offered, but people have their own lives to live and sometimes it leaves one unavailable to help others – I’ve certainly been in that situation before!  I think it just happened to be a particularly inconvenient week for everyone.

We finally headed home, and our real estate agent called to see how things were going; since she saw our home, she knew in a very visceral way exactly what our reality was, and apologized for the ‘harsh’ welcome we had to Karmiel.  I told her that our family goes camping every year for a vacation, so we were just treating it like that, and I really didn’t feel it was harsh at all – we were so glad to be here and felt very, very lucky to have a home to be in, albeit without furnishings!

While I was speaking with her, dh was out with dd15 shopping for the groceries for Shabbos, when he got a call inviting us for Shabbos lunch!  This was so nice, and he gladly accepted – it simplified our preparations since we were without a fridge, and didn’t have to worry about how to prepare/store food for our lunch meal.  And sharing a meal is a great way to get to know people!

Getting ready for Shabbos was a bit of a rush as we tried to get everything organized and put away, find clothes for everyone, etc.  Dh couldn’t find any kosher chicken so he bought fish (he was later told that in the store he was in, there are no reputable certifications on chicken), and since we didn’t have a usable oven, dd16 cooked everything on the stovetop (which we were so grateful to have!).

We loved that even here in a mostly secular city, Shabbos music played over the city loudspeakers 40 minutes before candlelighting time to herald the imminent arrival of Shabbos.   Tea lights were sent over by the same Israeli neighbor who gave us water when we arrived and cleared a shelf in her fridge for us, along with a white tablecloth for Shabbos, a folding table, and 11 plastic chairs! – and what is especially unique to Israel is that this neighbor who sent us these things for Shabbos isn’t visibly religious in any way (she calls herself someone who ‘observes the traditions’).   None of this was requested by us; she took the initiative to send over things that she thought would be helpful to us, and they really were!  And the neighbor who had just had a baby sent over a plate of delicious homemade cookies, which we enjoyed for dessert that evening.  Aren’t people just amazing?

The next day we enjoyed lunch with our hosts, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a young couple sharing the meal with us – we know the husband from Baltimore, having first met him when he was about 18 years old.  I enjoyed meeting his wife, who is a lovely person, and then later in the meal got to chat with our hostess, who was a very warm and friendly person (after the meal she mentioned that she’s read my blog!).

We enjoyed our time there very much, and when it was time to leave,  dh and ds18 went back with the littles to rest while I stayed longer and chatted with our hostess.  Dd10 stayed there and played with her new friend, at some point taking them back to our house, a new aquaintance of dd15 had come during the meal and they left together, and dd16 took ds12 and ds9 to meet some boys their age in another neighborhood9who ended up not being home, but it was very generous of dd16 to take them, since she was really tired).

On my way home, I passed dd15 and her friend chatting on some benches, met dd10 crossing the main street on her way back to our hosts – it was so nice to see how quickly the kids were making friends!  The afternoon passed quickly, and before we knew it, it was over!

It’s funny that we could feel like we were just where we belonged after being here such a short time, but we do.  It’s nice to be here, but more than feeling exciting, it just feels right.


Arriving in Karmiel

After driving for less than two hours, we arrived in Karmiel.   As we drove though, we noticed how beautiful the area is, and then we got to our apartment and unloaded our boxes in front of the building.  We called the real estate agent to tell her we were there so she could bring us the key, and waited outside for her until we could go in.   Since it was the middle of a summer day and we’d hardly had anything to drink since we’d left the airplane about five hours before, we were parched, and when a woman from across the street came to welcome us and asked us if we wanted a drink, I was very grateful to accept.

We went into her home and she treated us like special guests, giving us water and bringing chairs and a table to her yard for everyone to relax.  But I told her I really couldn’t relax right then, since I had to get into our apartment and start unpacking.  She insisted on sending us home with two large cold bottles of mineral water, and told us if we needed anything to please let her know.

I got back outside a few minutes after the real estate agent arrived, who told me I needed to go with her immediately to the municipality and the gas and electric company, to transfer all of the accounts from the name of the renters to us.  The tenants didn’t want to give her the key to let us in until this was done, but they agreed to give it to her if we’d do it that day.   I told her I would go but wanted to at least run in and see what the apartment was like first!  So I quickly ran in (my first impression was that it looked small and dinky), and then off I went with her.

As we were driving, she realized we needed to get the contract from the office in order to do this, so we went to her office, and by the time we finished there, it was too late to go to any of the offices.  So she asked me to take care of it first thing the  next morning (Friday).  Honestly, I had a list of things that were critical for me to take care of right away so we’d be minimally prepared for Shabbos, which was by that point about 28 hours away, and this wasn’t on it, but you do what you need to do!

I went back home and then saw the furniture the tenants had left behind, in exchange for the money they were supposed to give us for paint.  What it looked like to me was that it was too difficult for them to get the things down from the upstairs bedrooms down the spiral staircase (which they had partially dissembled in order to get things out, so it was very shaky and scary to go up), so they saved themselves the bother and cost of moving those things and told us they were doing us a favor.  There were a couple of things they left that were useful – a clothing closet (in Israel there are no built in closets, so you have to buy and assemble freestanding units) and an oven, and I told her we’d accept that in trade for the outstanding money because I didn’t really feel like dealing with them, but to get the rest of the stuff out, which became a bit of a drawn out process and everything still isn’t out.

We turned on the water in the kitchen sink, only to learn that the tenants had taken the faucet they’d put in when they arrived, and left the old faucet there, unattached and with no piping to attach it to the water supply line!  We tried the water in the bathroom, but there was no water there, either.  So off we went to the neighbor across the street to refill the water bottles she had given us, which were empty by then, but she insisted on giving us new bottles of more water.  When she heard that we didn’t have any furniture or appliances except the stove the tenants left behind, she told us she was clearning a shelf in her fridge exclusively for our use, and gave dh a key so we could freely come and go as we needed!  (She also told us she had a guest room with a couple of beds and invited the girls to sleep there.)

Back at the apartment, dh discovered that the tenants had turned the water off when they left the day before.  Though our neighbor was very generous in helping us, I was so grateful when dh turned it on and we were able to have water – not having water would have been very challenging, even with her help.

While all of this was going on, most of the kids had crashed and slept for hours, despite my urging the older boys not to do that because it would make their jet lag much worse.  Oh, well.    After a simple dinner of the food left from what our friends had brought to the airport for us, in the early evening we took a walk.  We thought the kids would enjoy a beautiful local park, where Karmiel residents are allowed free entrance but everyone else has to pay.  We explained we had just moved there a few hours before from America, but were denied entrance since we didn’t yet had identity cards with out current address, so we continued to another small playground right across the street, which was fine.

While there I spoke to another mother who was there for a couple of minutes, who was visiting from Jerusalem.  She left a couple minutes later, but her son ran back to tell us that a few minutes away was a very nice park, so we headed in that direction and met them there again.  Her husband brought over a prickly pear fruit that he had picked right there at the park and gave some to my kids, warning them about the prickles.  Poor ds3 didn’t hear the warning, so he ran over to pick one for himself and ended up with prickles in his hand.  And since he had taken his sandals off when he got there, he managed to step on something pokey and so we made a quick exit to go home and help him.  But while we were leaving, this family from Jerusalem gave us their phone number and warmly invited us to stay with them anytime we wanted to come visit.  (Unfortunately, I put this scrap of paper on the table and it disappeared before I had a chance to copy the number into my planner.)

We went home, and after putting the kids to sleep (we brought sleeping bags and blankets, so we spread these on the floor), dd15, dd16 and I did a lot of unpacking (other people helped also, but the three of us did most of it since everyone else was sleeping) – my goal had been totally unpack before I went to sleep.  I didn’t quite manage this, but we did get most of it out of the way – all that was left was the boxes belonging to ds18 and ds12, which I waited for them to take care of the next day.


Arriving in Israel

We landed in Israel after less than ten hours of flying time on a gorgeous sunny, clear day, with lots of applause upon landing.  We were the last ones to leave the plane – I wanted to get our carryon luggage off without bumping into people – but the plane emptied quickly so this took just a few minutes.  From there, we went through passport control, where I checked all of us except ds18 in.  As a returning minor, his status is different than the rest of us, and I felt it would be best if he started handling his own legal paperwork.  I didn’t expect it to be any different than the rest of us, just a quick stamp on the passport after verifying that he is who he is – but it wasn’t so simple.

I went through with all of the kids to the luggage section after waiting a few minutes for ds18, leaving dh behind to assist him if necessary, though not right next to him.  Since ds8 doesn’t speak Hebrew, I told him that I’d be with him when he needed to take care of the official paperwork necessary for him to receive his voucher for a taxi home.  Afterwards he told me that an official came out and started asking him for things he didn’t have or know anything about (yes, it would have been good if he would have asked dh!), and after being kept to the side for a long time and yelled at, he finally got his passport stamped and went through to the rest of us – without getting his voucher.  He was really bothered and especially with only two hours of sleep in less than 24 hours, it was an unpleasant welcome to Israel for him.  When the next person yelled at him for almost (but realizing it was the wrong one before he did) walking through the gate right next to the one he was supposed to go through, he really had had enough.

It took us a while to get our luggage loaded up, though it was all off the conveyor belt by the time we got the baggage pick-up.  We needed a large cart and those were only available to rent, 80 shekel each.  The price includes a porter, but I told him we didn’t need the porter, just the cart – but he said we had to have the porter and there wasn’t anyone available so we had to wait until they could find someone.  Then we realized we needed the huge trolley (160 shekels) and the regular large one, and between that and the regular small ones that everyone uses, we managed to load up all of our luggage and exit the airport.

As we exited into the waiting area, we immediately saw dd16 and all hugged her before we moved out of the way.  Then we saw familiar faces from Baltimore waiting to greet us, a couple who made aliyah a couple of years ago.  This was so nice!  Not only did they come with welcoming smiles and hugs, but they brought food for lunch (which ended up being enough for lunch and dinner), water, and two bottles of homemade wine!  And not only that, they arranged the vans to take us home, which was really helpful since we were so many people and so much stuff, and it was great to know this was taken care while we were still in the US.

Are you wondering where the home they took us to was?  :)  On the way to the airport in Newark, we called our mortgage broker in Israel to find out what was happening wth out paperwork.  He told us that all of the paperwork wouldn’t be complete for another week or so, but that the main paperwork would be completed that day, and the owner agreed to let us go in, having most of the money and knowing the rest would soon be paid to him.  The owner went out on a limb for us to do this and though we didn’t expect it of him, we were deeply appreciative that we could go directly to our new home in Karmiel.


Leaving the US

I am so excited that I can finally post here – we don’t yet have a phone or internet connection, but for the first time since we got here, dd16 found one place where she can hook into a wireless connection.

I’ll start at the beginning and post more as this connection allows. :)

Wednesday morning was beautiful, and it really felt right to be leaving then – it was busy but not hectic.  At 5:50 am the best friends of ds9 and dd10 knocked on the door, and I sent them upstairs to wake up the kids they came to say goodbye to.  A little later a good friend of dd15 came and she and her mother, a good friend of mine, helped sweep the floors and take out all the luggage.  Ds12’s  best friend was there as well.  The driver we hired got there a bit late, but it gave us more time to get things wrapped up so we didn’t mind.  :)

I was concerned that all of our thirty boxes wouldn’t fit into his trailer, but everything fit in exactly.  We pulled away with our friends waving goodbye, and this was the most emotional part for my kids; they really felt  strongly the feeling of leaving behind our home and their closest friends as we pulled away.  For me, the three extra days after having to postpone our trip gave me a chance to spend with friends, and I had a good sense of closure and connection.  The night before we left, a neighbor had us for dinner and invited other neighbors to come by for dessert to say goodbye, which was nice.  For years one very close friend and I have theorized about how nice it would be to meet for coffee and just chat without kids around, and the day before we left, she treated me to breakfast at a local cafe and that’s exactly what we finally did.  The week before had been so busy that we hadn’t had a chance to talk at all, and it was so special to be able to spend this time together before leaving.

We got to Newark in good time, three hours before our flight was set to depart, and then went about the fun of checking all of our luggage in. Everything went well, except for passing through TSA security, which was very pressured and the person there traumatized one of my kids when she told him to go through, he started to go but he walked too fast so she screamed at him, and then he was scared to go through despite me (I had gone through ahead of him) and a few workers trying to convince him it was okay.  I could tell all the workers were bothered by what happened because I heard a number of them commenting to each other about how the head honcho behaved and I got the impression that this wasn’t an unusual or isolated incident.

Anyway, we got the waiting area with just a short time to wait, and after less than a half hour, boarded the plane.  Just as we were set to take off, the pilot shut down the engines and announced that there was a mechanical problem, so we waited another two hours for it to be fixed.  During that time, it gave us a chance to appreciate what good seats we were assigned.  Our plane was three rows wide, with each section having three seats.  We were assigned the last three center rows at the very end of the plane, with ds18 assigned his own seat several rows ahead of us.  The kids were disappointed that we didn’t have any window seats because they were looking forward to the views, but after we took off we saw that the very last two seats in the plane across from us were empty, so the kids moved over there and took turns sitting next to the window.

Ds18 happened to have an empty seat on each side of him, so initially I moved two kids up to him.  But when we took off and we saw the two vacant seats close to us, he moved back to be with us.  The seats were perfect – we were close the bathrooms, and because it was the back of the plane, there weren’t people passing from in front and behind us, only in front.  So it allowed the kids a little more leeway to move around during the quiet hours when most of the passengers were sleeping.  Since it was an afternoon flight, none of us slept more than two or three hours, but the flight went very smoothly.  The littles were angels and the older kids were all very helpful in taking care of younger siblings.

After almost twelve hours on the plane but less than ten hours of flying time, we saw the view of Israel quickly coming into focus.


Watching the doors open!

hope everything falls into place for the apartment in israel- there is a quote that the harder you work the more good luck you seem to have. you seem to always have siyata d’shamaya (heavenly assistance) (probably you also notive it more than most people) — but i hope you will have it big time here. can’t wait to hear how it resolves!”

Yesterday my husband and I talked seriously about if we needed to further delay our flight for another week or two, since earlier in the morning we were told that the mortgage paperwork has been further delayed and could take another week or more to be completed.  Once there’s this delay, who knows if there will be something else?  Our rational minds said to wait, to be sure everything was firmly in place before moving.  But for other equally rational reasons, we felt it’s important to leave without further delays.  Everything is packed, our life has been kind of put on hold, dd16 really misses us, the kids going into school need to get organized, and we can’t keep everyone emotionally in limbo. 

And though it might not be ‘rational’, I have a very strong feeling that we need to leave now, that one delay could lead to another and another, and that we need to show Hashem (G-d) that we really mean it, that we really want to go and we’re going to leave no matter what.  If we back up, I feel like things will begin to move away from us rather than towards us, and for things to move towards us, we need to move towards them. 

But we needed some backup plan in the very strong likelihood the mortgage paperwork wasn’t finished, since we can’t enter the apartment until the funds are released.  I called a good friend who has a sister with a large house living in Israel, and she called her to ask if we could stay there (with our loads of boxes!) for up to a week.  Her sister agreed, but said they’ll be leaving Thursday night until Saturday night, and because they live in a very new neighborhood that is in the process of being built, there isn’t any local store, not many buses, and without a car it will be difficult for us.  She also works full-time and I didn’t want us being there to be a big pressure for her, though I’m sure she would host us graciously and with a full heart.  So our backup plan was in place, though we weren’t sure how we’d eat once we got there!

Then this morning at 8 am I got a call from someone here in Baltimore who I met a couple of weeks ago.  At that time I had posted a request online for moving boxes, and this lovely woman in her sixties contacted me.  There had been a flood in her basement and everything had to be packed up in moving boxes, and she was gradually emptying the boxes and offered them to us.  We went over and she had the large boxes that were exactly the size we wanted, 62″ total – we were able to fit the 18 gallon Rubbermaid totes we were packing inside of them, and a blanket/sleeping bag as well. 

We chatted with her when we got the boxes, and then went back a couple more times for more boxes, and chatted with her each time.  She was thrilled that we were moving to Israel and so encouraging!  When she heard we were planning to take bikes for three of the kids, she called us later that day and offered us a brand new bike she bought for her grandson to use when he visits, who doesn’t use it.  It still had the tags on, and she told us how happy it would make her if we were to take it.

She came by on Sunday morning with shaliach mitzva money (money to be given to charity on arrival in Israel, there is a concept that being a messenger of charity has protective elements) in separate envelopes for each child and us.  She had asked us earlier if we needed any backpacks for carryons, but we had a large pile and I told her we were set.  It turned out the night before we were supposed to leave that some kids didn’t have anything to use – I guess they had put backpacks they didn’t like into a giveaway pile, because we somehow have fewer than we did last week!  So yesterday she brought over some luggage suitable for carryons, a very big help.

This morning she called to see how things were going, and I told her about all the things that have been happening, the additional delays with the bank, our uncertainty about when to go, and about our decision that we needed to jump in and show Hashem that this is what we’re going to do, that we aren’t backing down.  And then she said to me – this woman I didn’t even know until two weeks ago – that she has a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom apartment in Jerusalem that is currently vacant, and we’re welcome to stay there for free until our apartment is ready! 

It literally took my breath away, when I saw how Hashem (G-d) paved the way for us and sent someone into our life through a totally unexpected ‘back door’ to help us.  Really, would you ever guess that by posting a request for moving boxes that something like this would happen?!?  I hope we’ll be able to go directly into our apartment, but there’s such an overwhelming feeling of relief and gratitude to Hashem for taking care of us!   It is such a good feeling to know that we definitely have somewhere to go when we get off the plane, somewhere that if we end up needing to be there a little longer, I won’t feel pressured that we’re overstaying our welcome.

It’s not furnished – but our apartment is Karmiel isn’t either, and we’re planning to use sleeping bags for the transition period anyway.   Actually, it’s even better in some ways that it’s not furnished because then I don’t have to worry about any possible damage to someone’s furniture, and if we end up going there, we’ll have the privacy as a family that we wouldn’t have if we were staying with someone.  There’s a large porch and a private entrance, there’s a small market a few minutes away, and a larger supermarket that delivers a short distance away, so we’d be able to buy food and have what we needed until we moved to our apartment.  (I told her jokingly that it’s good it’s not furnished, because if it was, I wouldn’t want to leav! :))  Isn’t that wonderful??

“i am constantly amazed by your level of emunah and bitachon (faith), and i am trying to also have faith that things will fall into place as they are meant to.”

I’ve been seeing again and again, that you  can make your plans, think and plan ahead, and then everything changes.  Then you have to take a deep breath, remember that Hashem is taking care of you, leap – and then Hashem sends you the safety net right after that. It’s really not easy to do – it’s so difficult and sometimes my fear that the safety net won’t be there threatens to overwhelm me – but it’s breathtaking to see how everything is working out!


Goodbye party

Tonight I went to the goodbye party for a friend moving to Israel in a couple of weeks.  We met at an aliyah meeting several months ago, and spent lots of time talking after the meeting, during which I strongly encouraged her to make the move to Israel rather than continue to postpone it (she had been thinking about it for two or three years, I think).  After our talk, she went home and got her aliyah file opened that night and has been steadily making preparations for her move.  (Dh says I have a way of saying things and sounding convincing, but I think I happened to just reinforce and validate what was already in her heart.)  And here I was just three months later at her goodbye party!

It was a lovely party which I very much enjoyed, and had the opportunity to see some people I wouldn’t have otherwise had a chance to say goodbye to.  I shared with the first person how emotionally trying this period is, with a lack of certainty on so many levels, the last minute flight changes, and then the calls today in which we were told it could take another week or more for the paperwork to be finished, which had dh and I debating if going on Weds. was a good plan or if we needed to stay here in limbo for another week or more.  Really an emotional roller coaster – ambivalence is something people are uncomfortable with and look to resolve, and I’m no exception to that!  

She said something that resonated with me, about how in life’s difficult situations, it’s like giving birth – things get steadily more intense, and then when you feel you’re at the end of your resources, suddenly the baby is there.  I needed to be reminded that there’s going to be some benefit to doing all of this, because right now it’s frightening and it’s very, very easy to lose sight of the big picture and instead be caught up in the myriad of small details.  I so much want the security of knowing that this is taken care of and that we definitely can move into our home when we get off the plane, before we leave this country!  I don’t have any other definites to hold onto, and was okay with all of that because I thought at least a place to live was in place.  So I appreciated the reassuring perspective.  I have to continually tune into my belief that G-d will always take care of us, as long as I turn to Him and remember He’s the one orchestrating all of this, and this is the thought that I’ve been holding tightly to – it’s when I let go of it that I start to feel anxious.

The second person is someone I like so much but we had lost touch when we tried to reach each other by phone and both tried to call the other back but somehow weren’t able to reach each other.  I had specifically mentioned her to my kids, and was sorry I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to her, and it was so wonderful to be able to see her tonight!  Though she doesn’t have any current plans to visit Israel, I somehow know I’m going to see her there one day.

It was so nice to see that so many people came to show their love and appreciation for the friend who was leaving.  She is a very special person and she really deserved a nice send off like this. I felt a momentary pang of disappointment that there wasn’t an official goodbye party for me – I’m so appreciative for all that people have done to wish us well and don’t in any way minimize it – I really, really appreciate it!   It’s just different when there’s an evening dedicated to you, rather than you being a side part of the main agenda, which is what my experiences until now have all been. 

I had a beautiful goodbye party when I left Israel eleven years ago with about forty women in attendance that I still have warm feelings about, and though I didn’t expect any party here, my mind started moving towards this being a reflection of not have been really valued.  At times like these you have to remind yourself that feelings aren’t facts, and not take yourself too seriously when it’s the night time! When you wake up there’s always a more accurate perspective.  Even without going to sleep, just recognizing that I needed to shift emotionally to a better place and focus on the many positives in my life helped the feeling pass pretty quickly.  As I’ve shared before, people have been wonderful to us!

Since I didn’t have a vehicle to get to the party, I asked the honoree of the evening to give me a ride there and back, and we sat in the car talking for over an hour after she got to my house.  It was so nice for us both, and I’m glad that she’s moving to Israel and I can honestly say to her, rather than ‘goodbye’, ‘see you soon!’