I’m still alive, people.
Exactly two weeks ago I took the long flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv. But for the first time no one was sitting in either of the two middle seats in my row, so the lady and I sitting on both ends had the best flight ever. So much room for my things!
The benefit of making Aliyah (becoming a citizen of Israel) is that someone helps you get processed at the airport for all of your important official things. There’s no crazy ceremony, but a few people holding a large “New Olim (Immigrants)” sign in front of passport control. They take you up to a special office to give you your ID card. And they inform you that they will now stick a webcam very close to your face and take a picture of you after you have been on a plane for twelve hours and then use a glue stick to put it on an ID card that everyone is going to look at and it may be the most unattractive picture you have ever taken. The internet will never see it. For some reason they used the passport photos I brought from home for my Israeli citizen ID card, but the terrible webcam picture for my New Immigrant ID card, so at least I have one decent one. They even let me keep the extra copies of the pictures they didn’t use! What a souvenir.
After getting picked up at the airport the first thing to do was…buy sufganiyot (donuts). They are everywhere in Israel around Hanukkah time and one store called Roladin has especially “gourmet” donuts, but really they are basically what you would find at Krispy Kreme. Just much more expensive.
Yes they come with extra flavor injections to make your sufganiyot eating experience even more pleasurable.
Then I started surprise calling my friends in Israel who didn’t know that I had landed yet. That was fun until I got to two and realized I didn’t have anymore friends to call.
So I spent a few days in Rehovot after landing and they looked like this:
On November 19th I moved into my apartment in Tel Aviv. A great location with great roommates! Tel Aviv is a the perfect walking city, and though I don’t know my way around very well yet, I do know that I am about a 15-20 minute walk from everything…including the beach!!
Life in Tel Aviv has mostly consisted of signing up for a lot of things and dealing with Israeli bureaucracy. Here’s what that’s like:
Switching bank accounts: The bank teller will ask you how old you are (16? 15?) and also say “You don’t much money in your account…you don’t have a salary?” Thank you for reminding me.
Going to Misrad Haklita (Ministry of Absoprtion): The bus drivers can speak English. The people at the airport, bank, health insurance, and random people on the street can speak English. The workers at the Ministry of Absorption cannot speak English, and they don’t care. They will sign you up for a meeting on December 5th and not tell you what it’s for and have you sign a paper that is completely in Hebrew and not give you a copy of it.
Signing up for Ulpan (Intensive Hebrew Language Course): As part of making Aliyah you receive a voucher for 5 months of free language class. In Tel Aviv there is one place that is covered by this deal, Ulpan Gordon. They make you take a placement test yet somehow still completely fail at placing you in the correct class. I am now three days into a beginner class that started about two months ago. Last year we had Ulpan class 5 hours a week but it moved very slowly and the book was terrible. Our teacher, Orly, was sweet but had a pretty ineffective method of teaching. This year my teacher’s name is again Orly (though not the same one), and we are learning from the same terrible book, and we are moving at the same slow pace. So we’ll see what happens with that.
Signing up for Health Insurance: You will take a number like you would at a grocery store deli in America (it seems to be the only effective way to get Israelis to wait their turn, and it is also done at the Ministry offices and the bank, though not at the deli…). You will try to sign up for health insurance and link the payments to your bank account, but you can’t because your account is being transferred from Rehovot to Tel Aviv which, for some reason, will take two weeks, so after waiting 30 minutes to be helped you find out you have to come back in a week after you have your new bank account number.
Here’s what Tel Aviv has looked like:
My room is a pretty sad sight right now because I have no furniture except for an exceptionally long table, and couple of chairs, and a mattress. Oh yeah and that coat hanger. So a trip to IKEA is in order this weekend since apparently it’s the cheapest place to buy things in Israel…and I’ve never ever been to the store before (the closest one in Florida is in Orlando, okay!?!) And now I can live out those scenes from 500 Days of Summer. Perfect.
So this is a very general overview of the past two weeks. Oh and maybe the most exciting thing…I’m not completely unemployed anymore!! Okay, it’s only a 12 hour job four nights a week recruiting for a long-term Israel program..but it’s something.
Be prepared for the upcoming Thanksgivukkah blog post. Sneak peek: it involves even more sufganiyot.