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.