Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Restful Shavuot and Here Comes "Crunch Week"

What a beautiful Yom Tov this was! The weather co-operated and all was good for the Chag. Sadly, since I was still jet-lagged on the first night of the Chag, for the first time in 15 years, I was not up for the Mishmar all night. Other than that, it was a restful couple of days. It was nice to realize it was the last 2-day Chag for us and "strange" to have given my last Yizkor Derasha in Shul. As restful as these couple of days were... comes CRUNCH WEEK! One week from tomorrow the movers (Sonigo) come to pack us up (the items that WE have not packed) and to load the container for shipping to Israel. That means that this is the FINAL week for our decisions as to what is being shipped. it is also the week in which all those little (and BIG) items that we are shipping but have not yet picked up will have to be purchased and brought home. That means finishing the packing, visiting the bedding store, IKEA (Lo Aleinu), Home Depot and other miscellaneous places. It is going to be so much fun! (I guess I have a warped view of what "fun" is all about).

Well that is it for now. Today is Sunday and that makes it an "even" amount of weeks until we board the plane. It is 35 days from right now (or 840 hours until we board the plane to NY). It actually looks like we are going to really do this!

Five weeks....35 days...840 hours....TICK...TICK...TICK...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We're Baaaaaack....

After an exhausting but exhilarating trip to Israel, Andy and I are back in Chicago. While there is SO much still to do before the LIFT goes and there is the Chag of Shavuot in the middle, as well, I am very gratified and happy that we made this trip. No doubt that to do the same amount POST-Aliya, we would have needed 3-4 weeks. So, it was very worthwhile!

We flew through Istanbul on the way back. The truth is that I was somewhat hesitant to fly Turkish Airlines, but it was the only one that could meet our timing needs. In a very stereotyped view, I expected to see people in Fez hats smoking hooka and talking to Humphrey Bogart sitting under slow-moving ceiling fans. I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful, modern airport (they EVEN had Starbuck's...more than I can say about Israel!). We had a 3 1/2 hour layover with almost no incidents. I say "almost" because we had one slight issue. For some reason, as we were getting ready to board in Istanbul, one of the security people said I needed to give him my passport due to an "issue" with the computer. I was to wait a few minutes and go over to the desk where he directed me to go. After a couple of minutes, I dutifully walked over, only to be told: "Passport? What passport?" Needless to say the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. The guys asked me to point out the person to whom I surrendered my passport. We walked over to the security area and all said (almost in unison), we have no idea what you are talking about. Suddenly, visions of Andy going to Chicago with me sitting in Turkey (a Turkish jail perhaps??) danced through my head. I remained calm...and after about 10 minutes they located the passport and I was duly processed. I guess they did not want to mess with someone making Aliya knowing I had enough stress to deal with!!!

So, after this brief adventure, we now turn our focus to June 8-10 when our lift is packed and shipped. I have been referring at home to these days as B.L. and the days after the 10th of June as A.L. (Before Lift and After Lift) as there truly is a whole different focus now than after the lift goes.
I am pretty sure that when we were on the plane, the lists of TO DO items grew by themselves. I do not recall the lists being THAT long!!

Oh well...time to focus on Shavuot and the few days after. Shortly, two of my daughters graduate! Ayelet is graduating from high School (Ida Crown) and Eliana from grammar school (Arie Crown)...nope, life is certainly not boring at the moment!

39 days...Tick...Tick...Tick

Monday, May 25, 2009

I spent a week in Jerusalem today...and my final post from Israel on this trip

WOW...what a long day today has been! It seems like "this morning" was about a week ago with all that we did today. The first part of the day was spent getting some pointers from my uncle and then going to various places in the center of the city. It was a beautiful day as far as the weather was concerned which made our long walks all over the area SO enjoyable. (We could take busses but why go on busses when you can breathe the air and get exercise at the same time?!)

After arriving back at "base camp" for a much needed rest, we were off again... this time back to Talpiot. In Talpiot, our goals were to look at pricing on various small electrical appliances, closets (again!??!!), light fixtures and a host of other items. Most of this leg work was to help us make our decisions a little easier when we land after Aliya.

While it was yet another grueling, long and busy day, it was an accomplishing one, as well. I feel very good about what we were able to accomplish today.

And now, it is time to get a little rest before we head to the airport (at 1:45am!!) for a 5:30am flight. It is a very tough time to fly but we had no choice but to be on the flight at that time of day.

It is very hard to believe that we are about to return, but this return flight to Chicago is different from all of the last 20 return flights. In the past, going on to the plane to return to Chicago was VERY, VERY difficult for me. However, this time I know that not only am I returning B"H in 43 days (the day we LAND in Israel is 42 days away but the day we begin the journey is 40 days away), but I will be returning with my family as ISRAELI CITIZENS! Getting on this plane, in a sense, is one of the last steps in the long journey of Aliya.

I can not fully express my gratitude to so many people who made this trip the succesful one that it was:

To all of those in Mitzpe Nevo who were so generous with their hospitality, ideas, information, housing, chairs, food and most of all their friendship and warmth. We are SO looking forward to being a part of your community, IY"H.

To all of those who helped our Aliya process vis-a-vis the house, including our lawyer, our engineer, our builder (he should keep building!), our security professional, our resident experts in the buildings already finished in our complex, our shipper and everyone whom I have not listed.

A special thank you to my uncle and aunt for hosting us in Yerushalayim and to Dov and Shoshana Frankel for hosting us in Mitzpe Nevo. May Hashem repay your kindness one-hundredfold, and may He shine His blessings on all who helped and offered their help.

So, this is stop into town will be on the Nefesh B'Nefesh flight (B'ezrat Hashem) on July 7, 2009 (the 15th of Tammuz)...until then, I will keep writing a record of our adventures and hope you will join me (both by reading the blog and--maybe??--by making aliya as well!)

Uh, oh...look at the clock...40 days less 6 hours until we board the plane for JFK! It really is getting close. Tick...tick...tick...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Im Eshka'chaych Yerushalayim..."

"If I Forget Thee O, Jerusalem..."

While it is late (at least by MY standards) I feel a need to put some thoughts down before going to sleep. As mentioned earlier, tonight I attended my very first wedding in Israel. The wedding was for the son of friends of our's (Roz Goldberg and Aaron Goldberg) and was held in Ramat Rachel in Yerushalayim. The ruach (spirit) of the wedding was magnificent. BUT, there was a singular moment that I will never forget as long as I live...the Chatan and Kallah (bride and groom) were standing outside, under the Chuppah canopy with the beautiful hills of Jerusalem in the background. During the ceremony, the band played the song of "Im Eshkachaych..." and here I was LOOKING at this beautiful city while singing it, and I became very emotional. While I have heard and sung the song hundreds of times over the years, hearing it and singing it at that moment was surreal. I will not...I can not--with G-d's help--ever forget that enchanting moment.

Tomorrow (Monday) is our last day here on this trip...Lots to do still...hope we can accomplish a little more before boarding that plane back to Chicago.

(One final note...we are staying at my Uncle Morty's home while we are in J'lem. His wife, Julie has owned a dog named Tikva for 19 years. We came home from this wedding on a high with visions of our future still in our heads, to hear the sad news of the death of her beloved pet. While the life of HER Tikvah ended, the life of our Tikvah, our Hope begins.)

My Money Talks...

...and it keeps saying "Good-Bye" !!! We spent a good chunk of time today in Talpiot looking at many items for the house. In VERY short order, we settled on and bought a stove, a cooktop, a washer, a dryer, a refrigerator, a crock pot and a hot pot. Boy, did our money talk there at the store. But, I must say it was all in all a VERY pleasant experience thanks to Ruby Karzen, who helped us through the entire "event." What could have taken us days was boiled down to an hour and a half!

We also spent time looking for "Aronot"/closets. As many of you know, homes in Israel (in general) are built with no closets so it is up to us to locate and purchase them. It is fairly easy since there are only about 54,985,443 different choices, so it is pretty quick to narrow things down. I figure by the time I am 433 years old we should have it all figured out! We will wait until our arrival to take care of this. Too much to handle on this trip.

One more thing that happened today from the category of "ONLY IN ISRAEL." We went into a money changer to change some dollars for Shkalim. I walked in and the person manning the store motioned to me to wait a minute. I stood there and waited for a couple of minutes and realized why he had asked me to wait...he had just finished eating and he was saying Birkat HaMazon! I love this country...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Erev Shabbat and Shabbat in Jerusalem

Andy and I arrived in Yerushalayim 9:30am and by 10:30am we were already in a meeting. However, while we were indeed meeting with our engineer (who had surveyed our home) it was in a relaxed atmosphere in an outdoor cafe off of Emek Refaim. The temperature was about 24 (gotta start thinking metric!), there was a beautiful light breeze and the aroma of a nearby tree was intoxicating. Not a bad way to hold a meeting! We were very gratified to find that there was not a single "major" issue with our home from the view of the engineer (Chaim). While there are issues that need to be addressed (some more critical than others) none were "deal-breaker" type of issues...Baruch Hashem.

After meeting with Chaim, we took a nice stroll from Emek Refaim towards the center of town, stopping along the way at a few small shops. We also had the opportunity to meet up with a delightful couple living currently in Yerushalayim, who will be living in the same building that we will be living. It is amazing to me how nice all of the people are who will be living with us in the same building.

(By the way, we actually have an address now! We will be living at Rehov Mitzpe Nevo 114/1, Maale Adumim. When I saw the address, it felt sort of like a baby-naming, as it became OUR identifier here in Israel as to where we will be located) Yerushalayim...need I say more? What a glorious, restful and spritual day it was! Between the three different places we davened (no, not because, "I would never walk into that shul" kind of attitue!) and the company, the food, and the aroma of Shabbat in Yerushalayim...all of that added up to a picture perfect 25 hours.

And now that Shabbat is over, the business of business is starting again! We are off to the stores tomorrow to explore various models of appliances that we will need to purchase (after returning on Aliya, so we can take advantage of the Rights of the Olim). A lot of thought needs to go into this step! We will end our day at a wedding here in Yerushalayim for the son of a friend of our's from Chicago. (I can not believe that in all the years I have been coming and going here I have NEVER been to a wedding here!).

Well, best be going now to rest up before the next two days of intensive "work." (While I term it as is a TRUE labor of love!)

Oh, one last thing..over Shabbat, when we met any people whom we did not know, and they were told that we were making Aliya soon, they all were SO happy to hear this and gave us both tremendous "chizuk."

Hard to believe that we get on the plane to go to JFK 42 days from tomorrow. The getting louder and louder.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Details, Details...

Thursday was spent dealing with a lot of minutea realtive to the house. While we continued laying out furniture and other items in the home (using newpapers and imagination) we also had to determine placement of bookcases, cabinets and other items...some small and some not so small. We also met with a man who will install screens and security bars in our place (NOT CHEAP!!). A VERY detailed walk-through of the place discussing security needs and comfort needs proved to be VERY educational and helpful! In addition, he is somewhat of an expert in the area of healthful eating (something I VERY much am "into") so we were able to glean pointers from him on that, as well. I don't know why, but it still thrills me that when I deal with someone like him or other people in trades that i am dealing with a fellow Jew who is also my neighbor. What a comfortable feeling...

We had one small humorous incident last evening...after visiting my in-laws in Neve Yaakov, we took a bus back to Ramat Eshkol to catch a bus back to Maale Adumim. We stood for 45 minutes until we saw our bus turn down the street JUSt before our's. After this happened TWICE, someone pointed out a sign to us (which was small enough that it might have well been in Braille) that the bus route for the evening changes after 9pm...Thank you very much....ok, a small frustration in the grand scheme!

This morning, Yom Yerushalayim, tefilla was extremely nice! In the middle of Chazarat haShatz, everyone sang V'lirooshalayim Ircha..." It was quite moving to see 100 people singing this in unison and LOOKING at the area of Midbar Yehuda and KNOWING I would be IN Yerushalayim in a couple of hours. It all comes together.

While being here has been an exhausting trip (with a few more days to go), it has been a welcome break from the packing up the house in Chicago. However, I have a sneaking feeling that when we return, we will NOT find that the rest of the house packed itself. oh, well...!

Now, it is off to J'lem for a restful Shabbat, before we being our last few days in Israel as non-Israelis!! Then, back to the "real world" and all that comes with it for the final prep in Chicago.

Shabbat Shalom from the City of Peace on the day that the City was Re-unified,

44 days....tick...tick...tick...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

We Had Our first "Guests"!

On Wednesday morning, we were about to go into our house to continue doing what we needed to do when suddenly, we saw a couple we knew who were in the process of checking out Maale Adumim! We invited them in to see our place to get an idea of what was available. When they entered the home, it occurred to me that they were our first "house guests" ever! We would have offered them food, but there is no fridge or food. Water? No running water yet. A place to sit? Nope, not just yet. But, DUST? You can have all that you want, and no extra charge! It was really nice to show someone around albeit with no amenities to share.

We also had another "bashert" moment when our immediate neighbor happened to stop by to do some things in his place. So nice to meet all of those with whom we will be living soon! In between wining and dining all of these "guests" we managed to get a lot done. I had to give in to Andy on certain items that we decided to bring based on placement and measurements and she had to give in to ME on a couple. So, all in all it was a productive day as we were able to make many decisions in various departments, so to speak. In the middle of it all, we borrowed a couple of chairs from a neighbor on which to sit while we discussed certain things. At one point, we took the chairs outside to sit on the patio of our "geena"/yard to talk. It was then, as I sat outside our home, gazing upon the beautiful mountains, homes and sky that it hit me...THIS is home. THIS is what my life will soon become. What a change and what a difference this will all mean, and I am certain it will in no way be easy. BUT, it will all be for the best IYH!

Last night, we were invited over to some (new) friends where we picked their brains and ate pizza (hmmm...what a combination). On the way home, we bumped into former Chicagoans (the Hirsch family) who invited us over to see their place here in Maale Adumim as well. Beautiful place and warm hosiptality...

One humorous note...this morning at Tefillah, at one point I could not hear the Torah reading...not because people were talking or because he was reading too softly. The reason? There seems to be some exercise going on in the IAF (Israel Air Force) and a number of fighter jets flew overhead and obscured the sounds of the Torah reading! Can't say that this has happened to me too often in Chicago :)

Ok, off to the house for more work and decisions including meeting someone to order screens, security bars and other fun stuff!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's Been a LONG Day!

After an eight hour layover in Warsaw, we finally arrived in Israel at 5am today (Tuesday...I think). It was great to finally be back and to hear Ivrit instead of Polish! After a ride in a Nesher Taxi for a while through Yerushalayim, we arrived in Maale Adumim by 7:30...just in time for me to daven Shacharit at an 8:00am Minyan. My body was telling me to daven Maariv, but the clock on the wall disagreed.

Since we shlepped four FULL suitcases of stuff to leave in Maale Adumim until we move, my arms began to protest that idea by the time I was eating breakfast. The fatigue of the travel, the moving of all the bags and the heat of the day made our STARTING our day a bit challenging, but start it we did!

Straight away to our new home to check out how things were moving along. One thing is quite certain: no two tradesmen respect the workmanship of the other. So grouting belongs on the counter and the paint obviously is supposed to be on the inside of the cabinets...but, welcome to Israel!

We did a run through our place to help us determine what we CAN bring and would have a home for here and things we would need to leave behind in the "Old Country." In spite of the heat, the house itself is quite cool and pleasant. I keep looking out the window and saying, 'This is our's and we are going to live here B'erat Hashem," but the words do not sink in...they hang out there like a fog.
And speaking of fog, we are both IN a fog so a well deserved rest was followed by planning out our next few days and what needs to be done. Lists of lists and lists of other lists. I must say that so many people have been so wonderfully helpful with everything and encourage our questions and investigations. Walking to Maariv tonight under the starlit night, the cool breeze and the smells of living near Midbar Yehuda all combined to tell me that we have made the right decision.

Off to bed in order to begin another day IYH tomorrow. Strength, patience and fortitude with a sprinkling of good humor...all that will help us get through the next few days.

Layla tov from Maale Adumim!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Warsaw is nice this time of year...

So, here I sit on the way to Israel via Warsaw. The last time I was in this country, it was freezing and snowy. At least it is nice to look at from the windows in Spring. BUT...I certainly can not wait to get out of here (and LEAVE Poland!) and get home to Israel!

This trip holds a special significance...Assuming all goes well in July, this is the last trip to Israel that I wil make that I am not a citizen of Israel. NEXT trip, B"H, I will become a citizen and start a new chapter in the life of our family. How great is that!?!?

Our personal Sefirat HaOmer of 49 days until Aliya began yesterday. I almost feel like I should be counting with a Bracha!!!

Monday, May 18th...48 days...tick...tick...tick...

Finally, imagine the contrast: today I bring you greetings from the land that murdered millions of Jews and B"H tomorrow I will bring greetings from the one place on Earth that all Jews are welcome (once they get used to the red tape!!)...Baruch Hashem...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Week that Was...

As noted in my last post, this past week was to be a "tough" week due to the fact that I was ending a number of classes that I have been teaching. My Jewish History class ended Tuesday night. It was a sad moment to be sure but I am grateful that we accomplished nearly ALL of the time period in history that I planned out over two years ago.

The end of the Ladies Navi class was much more difficult as this class had been going for 10 years. Emotionally, it was a VERY tough moment to say good-bye to the class and its participants. We ended Sefer Melachim with the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash (temple) and with the prayer that we would all be reunited in the rebuilt Bet haMikdash soon! My thanks to the students in both the JH and the Navi class for attending, rain or shine!

Finally, it was also my last week teaching in Ida Crown for "normal" class. Every year for ten years, my custom has been to give some final words and a talk to the class I am teaching, whether in grammar school or high school. Each year, I find that "talk" a difficult one to give. However, this year was even more difficult given the fact that it was my good-bye to teaching in Chicago! But, at the same time, I am encouraged by the fact that this year's class at ICJA was able to accomplish a magnificent feat: We split up the 157 pages of Masechet Shabbat among all of the students in the grade and over the course of the school year, each student learned a specific section. By doing that, we were able to make a SIYUM ON ALL OF MASSECHET SHABBAT...for Juniors in High School! What a great of which they and I can be proud of for a very long time!

As we look toward the short-term future, the next major step is the packing and shipping of our lift. We have been very fortunate to work with a wonderful company (Sonigo) and they have been a real class act! The process actually began a few months ago with a walk-through in our home determining what would and would not be packed by them...or what would not be shipped at all. A second walk-through and more fine tuning took place last week, and then the moment of truth arrives in 22 days when they arrive to begin "the deed." I was considering by "crime scene tape" to cordon off the house so no one comes over to check on things as it will be a very intense couple of days. However, instead of the tape, maybe I will just get a couple of very big, scary dogs to sit outside our home to keep away the gawkers...we will have to see what works best!

OK...time to get ready for our trip!

Probably the next time I post, we will be in Israel IYH!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

DANGER: Week of Trepidation Ahead!

This week is one that will be filled with emotion and crunch-time. Let me explain. Emotion-filled because two of my long term classes come to an end this week. Ten years ago, in July 1999, I decided to run a class for women for 3 weeks. I figured if it worked we could continue the class, but if it did not work out, then after 3 weeks it would be cancelled and would try something else. Well, after TEN YEARS, this class ends this week. Every Wednesday morning for all these years, approximately 20-25 women come to KJBS for the Ladies Navi Class. This 45 minutes per week is a true highlight of the week for me personally. And how sad it is that it comes to an end this week. And even sadder is the fact that we are concluding Sefer Melachim with the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash! But, as they say, all good things come to an end, and I will miss the group tremendously!
Then, this week will also mark the end of the Jewish History class that has been going for a few years. We began in the time of Yochnanan ben Zackai and will conclude with the Six Day War in Israel. It has been a wonderful journey and my thanks to all of those who participated in the class, either in person or by listening to the audio sent out on the internet.
It will also be the last week of "normal" teaching for me at Ida Crown, to be followed by review for finals shortly.

Finally, this week marks our last full week to prepare, pack etc for the lift that we will be shipping to Israel. The sounds of packing tape being stretched across boxes, the sounds of boxes being assembled, the calls of "Do we keep this or give it away?" fill the house now more than ever before! It truly is crunch week.

Then, soon, we will have to make that final trip to (LO ALENU!) Ikea to make the final arrangements for the items we will be sending along to Israel. The thought that we will spend yet ANOTHER chunk of our lives in the cavernous building from Sweden makes me shake and get all nervous.

But, "gam zeh ya'avor," this too shall pass...

Oh, one more thing...I JUST got an email from Nefesh B'Nefesh--we are now 100% "officially" on the July 6th NBN flight out of JFK!!!!!!!!!!!! For anyone who will be in Israel on July 7th is invited to come to ben Gurion for the welcoming ceremonies. Once the registration for that opens up, I will let people know, since you have to register with NBN to be at the airport for the festivities. I am so excited...

56 Days...tick...tick...tick...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dumpster Diving

So I THOUGHT we had enough boxes for packing the rest of our stuff. Ha! Silly me...I went to the local recycling facility near North Park to see if I could get any boxes (preferably large ones) before they went to the Big Brown Box in the sky. After all, why shouldn't these lucky boxes/cartons make Aliya with us!

I found the person running the show and asked for permission to take some boxes. Why did I ask, you may wonder? A few months ago, when I "took" them without asking, the guy running the place told me if I ever showed up again and "rescued" boxes without permission, he would throw me out! So, I learned my lesson and decided to ask nicely this time.

This very nice woman not only allowed me to retrieve some of the boxes, she even told me where to find the best ones for packing! Only one little problem...they were all inside this HUGE dumpster, and I would have to climb up a ladder to retrieve said boxes. Climb...up a ladder...and I am TERRIFIED of heights!!! Well, I took a deep breath, said Shema (not really, but it sounds good!) and climbed up to do my dumpster diving and get boxes for our move.
JACKPOT! Not only did I get some great ones, it turns out that someone was just bringing a bunch of boxes to the cardboard graveyard, and she gave them straight to me.
Who would have thought that a trip to a recycling center could provide so much adventure. (I think this packing business is getting to me...)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Moving Sale Part I Now Officially Behind Us

I had no pre-conceived ideas as to what would or would not sell in the House/Moving sale we had today, May 3rd. I also had no idea how many people would show up. Would all this effort be a waste of time or would people actually walk thru the door. I must say that with very little exception, we had "traffic" throughout the day beginning well before 10am and lasting until 5pm. We were able to sell some items and still have more to sell. Sooooooo, we are going to do this all over again NEXT Sunday! (That means another 6:20am minyan-start to the day before the sale begins!) There will be lots more NEW stuff out next week, so all of you who did not get the chance today or who were here but did not find "just the right item," are all invited back next week...

Today's entry so far can be characterized as "reporting facts." What is NOT in the above is the "emotional" aspect of today. Having people come through our home and buy "OUR" stuff, and to discuss our impending Aliya (64 days IY, tick...tick...tick...) continued to hammer home the feeling that this is getting more real and closer by the minute. The words of "chizuk" we heard from EVERYONE coming through our doors today were most encouraging....and GREATLY appreciated. it merely validates for us that we are doing the right thing. So many have expressed the desire to follow us in this response: there is plenty of room for you in Israel and we will be happy to meet you at the airport!

So, that's it for today. I DO have more to write but I am physically and emotionally VERY tired right now. Besides, I think I hear the doorbell...may be a straggling customer. Wish me luck!