Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Finally Posted Videos on YouTube

When we moved to Israel, the shul, KJBS, was kind enough to give me a Flip Video camera as a gift. While I have been shooting some video along the way, I only got around now to posting them on YouTube. They are all short (about 30 sec each) and invite you to watch them at your leisure.

1.) (At JFK with all our luggage)

2.) (How they got all our "stuff" into our home

3.) (A view from our backyard)

4.) (The view inside as we begin to get set up.

Tish'a B'Av at Ground Zero

While I have had the opportunity to be in Israel over the years many times, I have NEVER been here for 9 Av in my entire life. So, I decided that I needed to have "a plan" for the day of 9 Av in order to fully appreciate the day. Last night, I along with a few hundred others, sat on the floor of Pnei Shmuel (the "Down Shul"), in Maale Adumim for Maariv, Eicha and Kinnot. (It was strange for me to not be one of those reading part of Eicha and even stranger to know that the next morning, I would not be sitting and explaining all the Kinnot we would be saying. But, it is a new point in life and things move on!)

On 9 Av in the morning, I got up earlier than I had planned and decided to put my plan into action. I got on a bus here in Maale Adumim at 6:15am and headed to Yerushalayim. I felt that it was the "place to be" on the darkest day of the Jewish Calendar. I was not disappointed...the Kotel plaza was filled with people. Hundreds sat on the stone floor davening and reciting Kinnot. As I sat there and joined in reciting Kinnot as well, I paused to look around. I was looking at the Western Wall, the retaining wall of the mountain upon which stood the Bet HaMikdash, whose destruction we mourn today. Suddenly, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of both sadness and joy. Sadness, as I contemplated the loss of both the first and second Bet HaMikdash. But, I also felt a sense of joy to know that I was sitting at "Ground Zero" so-to-speak. HERE IS WHERE IT ALL HAPPENED! HERE IS THE PLACE FOR WHICH I AND THOUSANDS OF OTHER JEWS ARE RECITING KINNOT! And I felt this sense of peace to know I had the zechut to be HERE...

When I finished and headed back to the Central Bus Station, I paused for a moment near the Davidson Center, home to the Southern Wall Excavation site. I was disappointed that I could not GO to the Southern Wall. It actually is more significant archeologically than the Western Wall, and I wanted to stand THERE...but, at least I could stand nearby and look upon the area where centuries ago, tens of thousands of Jews passed through the (currently sealed) gates to the Temple Mount. I understood with much deeper insight the vast loss we have suffered for thousands of years without our ability to ascend Har haBayit and see a Bet HaMikdash standing there!

I am now back home in Maale Adumim, and I got a very quick reminder of what kind of Galut we still face: I went to change my profile on Facebook to Maale Adumim from Chicago. When I entered in the name, I was surprised to see it come up on a list of names that Facebook recognized. BUT...I was doubly surprised to see the default read: "Maale Adumimm, Palestine." I thought this issue had been resolved. Oh well.. yet another thing to deal with at some point!

Hope that your Tish'a B'Av is meaningful and that you will alll join me next year dancing at the rebuilt Bet HaMikdash!

Monday, July 27, 2009

"There's a Cat in the House!" and SOME pics

(The pics above are just a small drop of the many I have. As soon as I can figure out how to post an album and also some video, I will do it. The pics (I believe should be self-explanatory). Once we are set up I will send more pics of the inside of what is shaping up to be a beautiful home BH!
It was 3:30am and all was peaceful in the Shandalov home in Maale Adumim on Motzae'i Shabbat. The cool summer breeze wafted through the windows and all were sleeping soundly. Suddenly, a shout was heard throughout the the house: THERE'S A CAT IN THE HOUSE! Now, if we OWNED a cat, that would not be cause for alarm. but, we do not (and never will) own a cat. Not only that, that meant that some STRAY cat carrying who-knows-what kind of diseases was running through our house. I jumped out of bed only to find the poor little animal running scared through the house. I chased him/her/it downstairs where it got cornered in the Security room. Andy opened the window and it jumped out. Truth is that (due to it being the middle of the night) I was more afraid than the cat, but I was not about to let the cat know that. I had to show him/her/it who was boss. How did he get in? I think that we had left open the door on our mirpesset in our bedroom a little bit and it was able to sneak on in. Won't be making THAT mistake again!

On Sunday (remember, it is a regular workday here), Andy and I went to Zvia to meet with the new Olot Chadashot who will be going to this school and to get a briefing about the upcoming year. This is a semi-private school...full tuition: (apprx) $2500 per year before any kind of scholarhsips etc. That is for High School...for the entire school YEAR...and that is not a typo! Yes, $2500 per year and that includes lunch every single day. (Does it sound like I am making more of a pitch for Aliya maybe!?!)

After spending the day in Jerusalem for a couple of meetings and going out with my in-laws in the evening, it was back home to get a few things done. I left Andy and the girls in J'lem and headed back earlier than they did. As I approached the house, I got the sinking feeling...Hmmmm...I am locked out as THEY had taken keys and I had not! So, all good plans got sidetracked and I just went to the Bet Kenesset and learned for a while awaiting their return with the precious keys!

It is now Monday morning and lots to do. Time to get to work!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Aronot, Cabinets and Shabbat

Aronot...closets. Houses in Israel are notoriously built without closets. This means that if you are the first resident in NEW construction, as we are, you need to go and shop for Aronot/closets. We went to Talpiot on Thursday and the excursion was made shorter by the mere fact that back in May we did most of our "shopping around" for price, quality etc. We ended up for a number of hours in a very small store with one guy running it whose patience was excellent! We truly had a wonderful experience picking out, designing and ordering these closets. They will be delivered and installed (that was part of the deal as I have been doing ENOUGH building!!) on August 4th B'ezrat Hashem. After that point, we can actually stop living out of suitcases and boxes, as our clothing and much of our stuff will have homes in closets!

We also located Home Center, a quasi Home Depot type of facility. It was great to find that kind of store here!!

Friday was a chock-full day as I finished the bookcases (finally), organizing the rest of the Sefarim and a good percentage of the kitchen was unpacked. It also was a day with many people stopping in including a guy to fix our phone lines and install Shabbat clocks for the lights. The clocks work but along the way he disconnected the upstairs A/C, which, of course, I did not realize until an hour before Shabbat! Oh well, back to the drawing board on Sunday, I guess.

Shabbat...what a wonderful Shabbat it was. On Friday night, I had the opportunity to speak (in Ivrit of course) in the Bet Kenesset before Maariv. There were about 150 people there and the feedback was positive. I am VERY glad that I have been working on my Ivrit over these past few years! We ate by a family to whom I am indirectly related to, then it was off to home and much needed rest. Unfortunately, I did not sleep the greatest, but I did get up early for the first Minyan (6:30am). I came home, made Kiddush and learned/read until the afternoon, at which time we took a leisurely walk to Susie and Jeremy Ben David for lunch. They have been SO helpful to us along the way, as have SO many others as well.

One very nice event in the afternoon...Rav Noam and Racheli Balsam (who had spent a few years in Chicago) just had a baby girl. We were invited to their home for Seudah Shlisheet in honor of the new baby. Food, nice singing, a Dvar Torah...all combined to make up a beautiful end of Shabbat experience!

Tommorow, Andy and I go with our youngest, Eliana, to Zvia (the school she will be attending) for a get-to-know-you series of events and we are really looking forward to it! Both Andy and I have visited the school over the past few months and have been VERY impressed on many levels. Hard to believe that my youngest begins High School soon!!

There are some more random thoughts to share but I am tired and heading to sleep. More to come.

Shavua Tov from Maale Adumim, Israel

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Saga Continues...

Bookcases...unpacking boxes...setting up the kitchen...ordering closets (aronot)...all are activities that have puncutated our past few days. I have never been so happy to be so sore in my life!

The weather here is easy to summarize: HOT. We live next to Midbar Yehuda which, as the name suggests, is in fact a desert. We are not crawling around seeing mirages, but it gets plenty hot here. One interesting thing is that on our side of the mountain it is much less windy and dusty, yet as soon as you walk around the curve near our house and go to the other side, the wind could be going at 30 miles per hour! This occurs every single day late-afternoon till early evening.

I found a short-cut today that saves me 10 minutes in walking to the Makolet (grocery store). Each day is a new experience, which is what has made the first two weeks (yes, two weeks, can you believe it??!!) so enjoyable. I actually wrote a short piece about our first two weeks thus far, and it is printed below.

Neighbors: We have such amazing neighbors both in our building and in the neighborhood in general. We feel that we are truly blessed to have found this community.

Not much time to write today as much to do...hope to check in again soon!


Before we made Aliya, we heard all kinds of horror stories of how difficult the transition would be and how impossibly tough all of the red-tape would be to cut through. While it is now two full weeks since our arrival, I am writing to say that (thank G-d) these stories were GROSSLY exaggerated.

Even though there is a very long road ahead of us, our first two weeks have been MOSTLY incident-free and a pleasant experience. After going to all the requisite governmental agencies, getting appliances delivered and installed, starting to get the house set up, learning the ins and outs of the neighborhood, seeking employment and just trying to maintain day-to-day living, I could not be any happier! The visits to the Post Office (where it seems ALL "official" business is transacted), Misrad HaKlitah (Ministry of Absorption) and all other places in between, the response time of all places and the efficiency with which the work was done was outstanding. I had no (bli ayin hara) horror-story- type experiences at all. (This does not preclude them from happening in the future!)

I write this to encourage others. While many people feel the task at hand is too daunting, we are living proof that one CAN take the first few steps after Aliya with confidence that things do indeed work how they are supposed to (but, obviously, not always!) One of the greatest modes of help has been Nefesh B'Nefesh as their having taken care of many things on our behalf (Teudat Zehut etc) definitely smoothed the way! They are always ready, willing and able to help those of us who are post-Aliya and those of you who are PRE-Aliya!

Will everthing be this smooth from here on out? Certainly not! But if we go in with our eyes wide open (I always expect the worst and hope for the best) and not filled with naivete, then things can only get better. Life here is not simple or easy...but it is life in the Land that Hashem has given to US.

As always, I invite ANYONE considering aliya to contact me with any questions or comments. (It is very gratifying to have received FIVE emails since I am here from people telling me that they are now seriously considering aliya!! Keep those cards and letters coming).

Wishing you all a pleasant day and may this period of the Nine Days end with all of us joining in rejoicing ON TISHA B'AV dancing with the Melech HaMashiach in Yerushalyim!

Zev M Shandalov
Maale Adumim

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's Been a Few Days...

...since I have written, but I have a good excuse! It has been SOOOO busy, BH, that I have been collapsing at about midnight every night and just too tired to write by that point. So, I am taking the time to write, first thing this morning (Monday) about the past couple of days.

Shabbat...another beautiful Shabbat here in Maale Adumim! Besides the gorgeous weather in the evening and the scrumptious meals we ate out, there were a couple of things that really struck me over Shabbat. In the afternoon, just before Mincha, I went a little early to go sit and learn in the Shul. On my way, I was struck by how many dozens and dozens of young children there are here! It was such a beautiful sight to behold. I actually said to myself, outloud, I wish President Obama were here to see this! (And my next thought was that I wish all of you reading this were here to see it, as well!)

The next thing that struck me was the scene I saw upon entering the Bet Kenesset. One hour before Mincha, there was a father-son learning session. I KNEW this was going on and (wrongly) assumed that I would see a handful of fathers and sons. Imagine my shock when I walked in to see at least 100 fathers/sons learning in Bet Midrash style learning. The ages ranged from 3 years old to teenage years. I was amazed at was a Torah-basd community we had joined, BH!

Every Friday night between Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv, there is a speaker. The speaker is chosen the week before from the members or attendees. This coming Friday night (Shabbat Chazon) will be my turn already. I am looking forward to sharing a (brief) Dvar Torah and will let you know how it goes (obviously, it will be in Ivrit).

SUNDAY...a VERY busy day. Both Andy and I had busy days for different reasons. I traveled to a city near the airport called Or Yehuda for a job interview. The trip was VERY long, but apparently worthwhile, as I will soon find out, I hope. More on that possibility in the near future. But to get there, I had to go to Yerushalayim, then to Tel Aviv then to Or Yehudah. We lost about 30 minutes on the way to T.A. due to a car accident.

In the house, Andy had the guy from the stove company out to hook up our stove. It got all hooked up, and then he when he went to put in the grates/shelves. grates/shelves. Where are they?? Long story short, they are sitting in the Mall here in Maale Adumim in one of the branches of the stores where we bought the stove! So...we will get those today. The gas (for the stove top) will not be turned on till Thursday...Hey, we are getting closer every day!!!

Someone also came to measure for our shower and bathtub doors and was in and out in a jiffy (Hope he measure right).

WE HAVE AIR CONDITIONING!! In what was yet another group of people trapsing through our home, we got both the upstairs and downstairs fixed, and we are good to go!

After returning from Or Yehuda, I proceeded to finish the first 5 (of 12) bookcases, setting them up and putting Sefarim on them. Once I have emptied the area of boxes of Sefarim, I will build the next set of cases and put THEM where the boxes of Sefarim were before. It truly is like one giant jigsaw puzzle.

So, off to begin my day and write a proposal for the job possibilty I have. Then, back to the bookcases and loading of Sefarim. By the way, before you pity me too much for all of this work, consider where I am while writing this: I am sitting on the baclony/mirpesset outside my bedroom looking at some of the most beautiful mountains AND in the direction where I see the area where the Jews waited to cross the Jordan when coming in to Israel. Not bad, eh?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Is it Shabbat Yet???

Is it Shabbat Yet??

Today was yet again a chock full day with a lot accomplished! Let’s begin at the beginning…

Our day began with a sojourn to Yerushalayim and a visit to Misrad HaKlitah. Since we arrived early, I figured we could be productive in the meantime, so we sat on a bench on Ben Yehuda to make some calls. As you may recall, we received our appliances yesterday. Unlike most places, here you get your appliances delivered by one company and installed by another. But wait, there’s more! We received 4 appliances plus a stove top. Each one needs a technician from a different place…so, while waiting for the meeting at Misrad Haklitah, I sat there and made all the appointments for them to show up both on Friday and on Sunday.

Then, it was on to Misrad HaKlitah. I expected the worst and hoped for the best. I got the best! We were in and out in 15 minutes flat. There, we filled out the paperwork for money that will be automatically deposited into our bank account over the next few months. It is yet an additional benefit we receive as Olim. In addition, we got the information regarding the free Ulpan available, the free education that Daniella is entitled to (a FREE Bachelor’s degree. For those of you reading this while filling out the paperwork for college tuition in the States, please pause for a moment and ask yourselves why you are paying that kind of money vs FREE in Israel as Olim)
From there, we went to Ace Hardware to buy some bulbs. Sounds crazy, but we have been making do with 3 bulbs and moving as needed. We now have a house full of light.
Andy and I split up (oh, calm down…just for a few hours!) and I went to Bezeq, the phone company. Funny, when I told them that I had made an appointment with someone from their company to come out and hook up our phone and internet, they told me that I do not exist. After a series of comical conversations, it turns out that not only is a technician not coming out Friday as planned, but that he had already been here and we had phone service (we do not have an actual PHONE but one thing at a time). Once we get all hooked up, I will have our VoIP line to call and get calls from America for one low flat rate.
Back to the house to get busy building more…this time it is bookcases. I have 12 to build along with A LOT of other stuff. Remember the visits to IKEA many weeks ago? Well, I now need to actually build the items I bought in Dante’s Inferno!
So that is the daily wrap-up. Tomorrow evening brings a much needed rest on Shabbat. By the way, this will be the first time in over 20 years that I will be in Israel for 2 Shabbatot in a row! All those trips over the years were all 10 days or less.
Hope to write again before Shabbat…

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


It is now the day after the arrival of our lift. I would have written yesterday, but it is hard to do that when not a single bone in my body did not ache and I am mentally exhausted! So…I waited until today (Wednesday) to update the blog. It is actually NIGHT time already as today was also so busy that I am finally NOW getting to the writing.
The LIFT…It was our first real Israel experience that was not only exhausting, rewarding and time-consuming, it also was our first real encounter with dealing with a different culture that we are becoming accustomed to. (Poor English syntax, but I am tired and not something I am too concerned with. Oops, did it again!) Because there are MANY stairs to get down to our home (off the side of a mountain) and because we had SO much stuff to offload from the lift to our home, we needed to come up with a way to have our goods delivered in a more efficient method than down all the flights of stairs. AHA! At the side of our home outside, there is a drop of about 10 meters (about 30 feet) and then there is a security/work road. It was suggested that they bring the container to that road and then, using an electric crane, send the items up the crane and then bring them straight into our home. Brilliant idea! The crane operator showed up on time at 8am. The lift arrived at about 9:15am…yay, good to go. But wait, there’s a catch…in order to do this, the truck with the container needs to make a strange S-turn (remember the one on Lake Shore Drive??) and sadly, that was just not going to happen. What to do, what to do? The truck with the lift was brought back up to the main road, a smaller truck was brought in and they offloaded to this smaller truck, driven around to the back, offloaded in small chunks, craned up to the top, offloaded and repeat the process. Repeat the process, repeat the process…well, you get the idea! It took from 1pm to 9pm…8 hours!! They (Sonigo) were great and really did a wonderful job. I would say that 95% of our stuff ended up in the right spots. We had planned in advance where things would go, and that helped the organizational part very much.
Our house now looks filled with boxes and items but at least we are not under a deadline to UNPACK like we were to pack up again. Bli Neder…never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again. This is it! We are staying put. It was so exhausting, even though we did not do the actual schlepping, we had to oversee every step and be vigilant at every step!
During the day and in the evening, our new neighbors, Aaron and Judy Lewin were So gracious, bringing us tea, water and MAKING US DINNER! The day ended with Andy and me sitting in the back yard looking at a million stars, looking at the lights of the nearby communities and thanking Hashem for this awesome opportunity.
Andy and I spent the first night in the house, while the girls spent the night at the Goldenbergs (yet another PERFECT example of what chessed is all about! As a matter of fact, I can not count the amount of offers to help us that we have received, cakes people have brought, Shabbat invitations, etc etc. Incredible amounts of chessed here! I am looking forward to reciprocating one day…once we recuperate!!)
Today, Wednesday, we began the arduous task of unpacking. We made the beds, put together a desk, a mirror/dresser combo, re-arranged some of the furniture and waited…for the air conditioning guy, the appliances to be delivered…the air conditioning guy, the appliances to be delivered…9 am on the dot…or not…or maybe 6pm. Time…it is fluid and relative. VERY relative. We are learning that 9am may be ISRAEL time or possibly Denver time or even LA time…relax, they will get here. Well, the appliances (being delivered between 1-3pm) did show up right on time at 6:10pm! Not too bad! A/C…nope, no can do. But, first thing in the morning, for sure…maybe. We shall see soon, I guess. But in another show of instant chessed, a neighbor across the street whom we do not even know, gave us a fan last night! The weather tonight is actually gorgeous!
Earlier this evening, there was a pizza and salad meal hosted for the new Olim to Maale Adumim…it was a nice break! We took a walk to the Goldenbergs to thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their hosting us and then it was back to the house to finish putting up mezzuzot and finish unpacking a few more items.
Tomorrow…off to Yerushalayim for some “business” that needs to be taken care of. We are going to Misrad HaKlita (Absorption Ministry) for a noon appointment, to the municipality of Maale Adumim for some other business, Bezeq phone company to finalize a phone installation, etc etc etc. Lots to do and I can not wait until Shabbat!!!!
Off to bed, if I can make it all the way up the set of stairs to my bed. (Last night I made it to a plain mattress thrown onto my bed and collapsed in about 5 nanoseconds. Wait…I need to go to 11pm Maariv…ok…back SOON to fall asleep.)
Layla tov…by the way…at NO time, not even for a brief second, have I or Andy thought that we made a mistake in coming here. While it has been physically difficult and mentally taxing…we are fulfilling a dream and a Mitzva at the same time.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Lift is Coming, the Lift is Coming!

We just got the news that our Lift, with our life contents is on the way and will be arriving tomorrow morning at our house! On the one hand, it is kind of scary since it is the begining of a lot of work, but on the other hand, it is great so we can begin to settle in.

In advance of the lift's arrival, we spent the day at the house getting it ready. While it is new construction and should be sparkling new, the concept of "move in condition" in American terms vs Israeli terms is very different. Granted, the place looked MUCH better than it did 6 weeks ago, but we still spent the day cleaning stuff (paint on floor, etc), but nothing major. STILL trying to nail down a delivery date for our appliances and still trying to get a person out to measure for our shower doors, but BARUCH HASHEM we have such issues to deal with!

After this very long PHYSICAL day, I am truly exhausted and soooo looking forward to Shabbat, already...but I guess I have to wait a few more days. We got a call that tomorrow night, all of the new Olim to this area are getting together for pizza and pop (NOT soda...they will only serve pop!) Looking forward to seeing everyone again...

While today was hot, I am now sitting on a mirpesset (porch) with a beautiful breeze blowing, it is about 65 degrees and I am looking at the lights of Yerushalayim in the distance. It does not get better than this.

As someone emailed me today: no more TICK TICK TICK for me. Now the time is a very different kind of time. I always was thankful to Hashem for everything...but now, even more so!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Highly Productive Day

Today was a 12-hour day but SOOOO productive. Along the way, I had my "moments," but all in all, things went well. Where to begin? I guess from the beginning!

I started the day at the Municipality of Maale Adumim getting the info I needed on the 90% reduction on real estate taxes for our first year (yes, ANOTHER benefit of Aliya). From there, it was off to Jerusalem for a whirlwind day of events. It began with a breakfast meeting to discuss potential job opportunities with someone trying to help me out. From there, I went to the bank to make what I thought was my only trip of the day...silly me! It seems that I needed to bring a particular document there from a meeting that I had not yet had! So...I did most of the paperwork, leaving the second half to later on (as long as I could be back by 4pm!). From there, I walked about 15 minutes to meet up with my lawyer (Aryeh Rachlin...I mentioned him before and will say again: anyone in need of a real estate lawyer in Israel, let me know...he is the best!) We met and drank a L'Chaim to the process that began in his office 2 1/2 years ago, now coming to an end with our taking posession of the house.

From there it was off to Nefesh B'Nefesh (NBN) for a "fair" and to pick up our Teudot Zehut (singular: Teudat Zehut). This is the National Identity Card. It is who you "are" to the State of Israel. It is as important as your driver's license, Social Security card and passport all rolled into one! It also was a VERY moving moment to receive this card. I was almost brought to tears (again!) as it was handed to me. I was SOOO proud!

Then, I met with the local representative in Maale Adumim who apprised me of the various programs and discounts available to us as new residents of the community. Following that, I met for over an hour with our shipper (Sonigo/Shmuel Mantinband...another great guy!) about our shipment. It actually looks like we may get our lift on TUESDAY! is THAT for a wake up call!!

From there, the PLAN was to take a bus to the general area of the bank to return with the necessary documents. (All of those documents along with several others would be needed at Misrad haKlita to receive the rest of our Sal Klitah (absorption basket of rights). All was going fine (timing-wise) until the bus hit a LOT of traffic. Instead of waiting for the traffic to clear, he decided to make a new route! I ran to get to my destination. As I was about to leave the bus, I dropped my Blackberry that fell into 4 pieces (easily re-assembled) as well as my cell phone. No pressure there as 20 or so amused passengers watched (and helped) me and my predicament!

Ok, off the bus and realizing I was at least 2 miles away and had about 25 minutes until the bank closed...what to do...what to do...I could pull an OJ Simpson (no, not the event on Rockingham; rather, his running through airports for a rental car company). I chose to take the more modest way out and walk REALLY fast to catch an alternate bus about a mile away. Victory was mine (I thought) as I arrived at the bank at 3:50pm...but the door was locked! Now what!?!? Turns out that the guard was getting ready to close up early but he did indeed let me in.

And in one of those only-in-Israel moments, I "bonded" with the one taking care of me at the bank, as we segued into talking about Starbucks and the need to make a public push to bring them to Israel!

From there a short walk to my uncle, an improptu visit with some Chicagoans I met along the way and then a bus ride home (boy that sounds nice!) to Maale Adumim.

How tired was I? Andy had left her phone for me to give one of my daughters who was going out, but we could not find it. I called the phone and kept hearing it ring, but could not find it! Finally, I realized it was in my pocket!!!

Ok...time to get some shut-eye...busy day to you soon!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My First Shabbat in Israel as a Citizen

Shabbat ended about 2 hours ago, and after replying to MANY emails and Facebook messages, I am finally getting around to writing in the blog!

From beginning to end, the first Shabbat here was STELLAR. You truly understand the meaning of "Me'en Olam Ha'Bah" (A part of the World to Come) when experiencing your first Shabbat as an Oleh.

Let's begin with Friday night...while the weather was very hot during the day, it began to cool off some, as we went to Shul for Mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat. With about 100 people davening together and singing many beautiful tunes, I was completely caught up in the serenity of the welcoming of Shabbat. Looking around at a large area filled with people happily greeting the Shabbat was almost surreal. I like very much that there was a Dvar Torah after Kabbalat Shabbat...!

We ate at some (new) friends, the Leichmans along with another couple whom we had just met that evening. By the time we reached the end of the meal, Zemirot and Birkat HaMazon, I think we were ALL beginning to get very sleepy. It had seemed like we were here already for a long time, yet it was only
3 1/2 days since we had landed.

After some much needed sleep, we went back to the same Shul for Shacharit. (A word about the many Shuls available here another time). While the tefilla itself was also quite beautiful, there was one moment that is etched into my mind for eternity: I was given the honor of Shlishi (the third aliya to the Torah). After my aliya, the entire congregation sang: וְשָׁבוּ בָנִים לִגְבוּלָם (This Pasuk refers to the return of Jews to the Homeland). It was an incredible experience...I have never teared up after an aliya! The excitement in the air that SEVEN new families had moved to Mitzpe Nevo (the name of the area in Maale Adumim where we live) was palpable. Each one that was there that morning who had just made Aliya received the same warm welcome from the pulpit and with singing.

Our Seudat Shabbat was at the home of Yoni and Debbie Lehrfield. A great time and a chance to catch up and to learn more about the area.

After an early Mincha, a good long nap, learning and talking, we ate Seudah Shlisheet with our hosts, the Goldenbergs. Once again, I can not say enough about the CHESSED they have shown us in our stay in their home. I can only hope that anyone who makes Aliya has hosts HALF as good when they land, if they need to stay with someone!

Our Shabbat ended with an unusual (for us) Sefardi was so interesting a way to end Shabbat.

Now, to experience our first Sunday/Monday here...meaning, of course, that Sunday is the first workday of the week. I am off to Yerushalayim to take care of a lot of business and Andy is goiing to be in our home (see last posting).

Shavua Tov!

PS--Here is a link to an interview in Ivrit I did for the magazine B'Sheva: I am quoted about 3/4 of the way through the article.

Am trying to pin down the link to the pictures in the Jerusalem Post (there were 2 over 2 days) and will advise.
If you missed the arrival ceremonies, go here to see this incredible event:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Catching Up on the Past few Days...

These past few days have been such a roller coaster ride of emotions! On the one hand, I am still in a state of shock that we have had the tremendous Zechut of making Aliya. On the other hand, I lay awake at night thinking about how much there is to do (and, of course to find a JOB!) that it fills me with a large amount of anxiety. Andy and I sat and reviewed all that we need to do so that it would make things (hopefully) go smoother.
Not sure where to begin about all that has been going on, but let me begin on a terribly sad note. As most of you know, Mrs. Miriam (Mimi) Isenberg passed away this week. I attended the funeral in Bet Shemesh with no less than 300 people, MOST of whom were from Chicago and had made Aliya or who were just in town. It was such a sad event. The mixed emotions for ME were the fact that I was seeing so many people whom I had wanted to see…EVENTUALLY…but was seeing them only 36 hours after arriving in this set of circumstances.
Things we have been doing and in no random order: Had to go to the Post Office to get our insurance documentation approved to bring to the insurance company. The financial calculation as to the savings in health insurance alone is staggering when compared to the USA…About $6.00 (that was not a typo!) for my annual coverage vs over $10,000 for the year. The coverage will increase if we get a higher level of coverage but, for now, such a deal!
We got the keys to our house and walked around in almost a dream looking at what is now officially OUR home here (although we are not in it yet).
We made the arrangements for our lift to be delivered next week on Wednesday (came in SOOO fast!), our sinks and vanities for the bathrooms to be installed, the appliances to be delivered, the gas to be turned on, and the list goes on and on.
This coming week will be chock full as well…first to the bank to get the paperwork to give Misrad Haklitah (Ministry of Absorption) to enable our monthly payments (‘free” money for making Aliya), then to Nefesh B’Nefesh to get our Teudat Zehut (Identity Cards) something with which we cannot do anything without. That is going to be a very exciting moment…!! Then to off to Misrad Haklitah to do all the miscellaneous things we have to do there. In the meantime, Andy will be at the house to see if various companies who promised to be there for the above-mentioned installations will actually show up!
Other things: I had mentioned that I was interviewed the other day but there have been a number of other things like that that have been happening…my picture with me literally laying on the ground as we landed was in the Jerusalem Post. My picture was there again the next day as I was hugging my daughter, Eliana. I was interviewed on Israel radio (in Ivrit) and had an interview printed in B’Sheva which was also done in Ivrit. I will post any links to these pics and or interviews as soon as I find them. I also will post video/pics as soon as I can of our arrival.
On a personal note…while living OUTSIDE of Israel, I never wore my tzitzit out as I never felt comfortable doing that. However, I had decided a long time ago that once I moved home, I would feel more comfortable doing that and would do so when I landed. I kept my word to myself and I am glad I did. It feels natural.
Shiva Asar B’Tammuz…davening about the tragedies that occurred in Yerushalayim and LOOKING at Yerushalayim from the bet Kenesset. How wonderful is that…made all the Tefillot “feel” differently.
I know there is more…but time to hit the hay. Just broke my fast and those in Chicago have 8 more hours to go…sorry, couldn’t resist! We ate with our hosts (the Goldenbergs who have been phenomenal hosts!!!) and had a nice quiet evening.
Oh, one last thing…from the list of “firsts”…Andy did her first load of laundry and hung it on the line to dry. What a difference…!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I am an Israeli Citizen!

Where do I begin? When I last left off, I was “only” an American citizen and was about to board the plane to bring me to a new life where I would also be an Israeli citizen.
Well…the journey is complete and BH we are Israeli citizens!! Let me share with you some details about the flight and the arrival ceremonies but due to my being SO tired, I need to be brief today. Will get into more details at a later date…

The anticipation that was FELT acutely on the flight was so awesome! We met others, like us, moving to Maale Adumim and others who were moving all over the country. I did not sleep for a minute…at least not that I can tell. We did all of the passport paperwork and immigration info paperwork on tablet computers. By the time we landed, we were registered as Olim Chadashim…new immigrants.
When we landed, I began to shake and cry uncontrollably, as the thousands of emotions that had been coursing through my body all came out at that very moment. All of the planning led to this moment in time! As I walked onto Israeli soil for the first time as an Israeli, I literally laid down on the ground, kissed it and thanked Hashem for this amazing opportunity.

There were thousands of people at the airport to greet all of the Olim. It was incredible how many came out just to greet US. We felt so loved…so special.
I was interviewed by a number of news agencies both in Hebrew and in English. I just hope I remember to find the archived reports to read them!
After the welcoming ceremonies, speeches, getting our luggage, getting our Teudat Oleh and getting a (free) taxi…we finally arrived at Maale Adumim. We are staying near our home with some (new) friends and hope to be able to move in fairly soon.
Thanks to all of you who emailed me in real time to tell me you saw us live on the NBN welcoming ceremony. It was an amazing time and one that I am thrilled that so many people had the chance to watch.
That is all for now…gotta go make a plan of action for tomorrow and then rest a little more. We are thoroughly exhausted…but we will plug ahead.
Regards from our new home…ISRAEL!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Step Two...

I am sitting at the gate at El Al awaiting our boarding of the plane. This morning, after a semi-restful night, we packed ALL of our luggage onto the airport shuttle and headed to JFK. Along with 240 other people, we shlepped our stuff through one line after another: NBN, El Al, security, a goodbye ceremony and on and on. As I looked around, I saw so many people who, I assumed, were going through such similar emotions: Its VERY tough, but it will be very REWARDING. I am SO glad that we said our goodbyes in Chicago! Watching all those people here saying goodbye and THEN to go right to the's murder!

I am already an emotional wreck. I am already tearing up at the smallest thing. In 12 ours, IYH, we will achieve our goal that we planned out years ago...arriving home. Speaking of arriving home...I am THRILLED to report that my dad is going home today! We are grateful to HKB"H that we can leave knowing that he is going to be at home.

Assuming all goes well, my next post will be as a citizen of Israel!

Until now, I looked at everything as the "last of..." And as of today...I begin to look at everything as the "first of..." of everything.

Finally, it was SO nice to have a friend [Ebby (Fettman) Marell] surprise us at the airport. Not only that, but on our flight is Adam Segal and family (orig from Chicago) making aliya, Shira Ozery, our Shlichat Aliya in Chicago and Shelly Levin who originally introduced us to the property in Maale Adumin that we bought!

I can not wait...time to go...L'Hitraot to all!!!!

Step One...

I am writing from the Ramada Hotel at JFK Airport. It is about 5pm local time and it has been a wonderful day so far! Our day began very early...after Shacharit, we travelled with a "convoy" to the airport...the five of us...TEN pieces of luggage...carry-ons and "personal items" (laptop, etc). All of this and us piled into 3 cars (thanks Leo, Howie and Debbie!). It was almost comical to see all of this luggage! I recall seeing many times in various airports, large families travelling with what seemed like 100 suitcases and saying to myself, "Am I glad that that is not ME!" Well, this time it WAS me...a few luggage carts (wheels of course not working right on 2 of them) and a LOT of patience and our curbside check-in was done. Once IN New York, we used the shuttle and my nephew/niece to get us and our luggage to the hotel where we will spend the night in anticipation of one of the greatest adventures of our lives.

I received a phone call this afternoon from the newspaper called "B'Sheva." This is the magazine/paper arm of Arutz-7. I was interviewed about our impending Aliya. The interviewer told me that she had prepared all of her questions in English and was quite surprised that she was able to conduct the entire 15 minute interview in Ivrit. Truth is that since the paper is written IN Ivrit, I did not want something lost in translating from English to Ivrit, anyways. It was an interesting experience and I hope to meet the reporter at the airport on Tuesday when we land.

Speaking of Tuesday...that day is a day that I have thought of and played out in my mind for YEARS...and now it is merely hours away. My girls say that I will be easy to be spotted coming off the plane--I will be the one who will be a total emotional wreck! I hope not...I want to "live" in the moment! I will be using my new Flip video camera to record the experience and post it here once I get my act together after landing.

We just got notification today that our "lift" is arriving in Israel a bit faster than we TOMORROW!! So, once we are there, we will need to work fast to get it cleared. This means that we will not have much rest once we arrive. Besides all of the things we must do as new Olim once we arrive, we will also have to deal with the lift contents sooner than we thought. But that certainly beats having our stuff it in Cypress for 3 months as it did for a couple I know.

I am not sure exactly when I will post next but you can be assured that it will be either during or after the craziness at JFK pre-flight. Here is the link to watch our arrival LIVE in the comfort of your home. It can be seen at approximately 11:00pm (CHICAGO TIME) on Monday evening, July 6th:

No more countdown...we are DOING this...we are in the MIDDLE of the biggest change of our lives. No more "tick...tick...tick." Now it is time for the clock to stop. Now it is time for time to "stand still for a bit" so we can enjoy every single minute.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

"Shalom" Times Three

The word Shalom has three meanings and all three apply at this moment. As we are just a few hours for leaving on the journey of our lives, I say SHALOM in the sense of "goodbye" to my community here in Chicago. It has been an amazing experience begin part of such a thriving and growing community. I will miss SO much about this city. Even as I type these words, people are pouring into my parents' home to say L'hitraot. It is soooo sad to see my kids saying goodbye to their closest friends. It is also so beautiful to watch at the same time.

I say SHALOM in the sense of "hello" to my NEW community and country: Maale Adumim and Israel. After standing on the sidelines for 50 years and watching my beloved country grow and change, we are finally going to become part of the future of Jewish History! It is an amazing feeling to know how close we are at this moment to realizing this dream.

I say SHALOM in the sense of "peace." We are going to a location that is one of the more volatile in the world, to say the least. We ALL pray for peace...we all pray for Shalom for Israel, its citizens and the Land.

So...this certainly was emotion-filled. It began with my davening Friday night at the Adas. I haven't davened there in TEN years and it was so special that so many came over to me to inquire about my dad (see later in this post) and wish us well on our move.
Friday night, we ate at my sister's and had part of the family with us, as well. Needless to say that considering our MOVE and my dad's situation this past few days, it also was an emotion-packed evening.

After a well-needed sleep, I went to yet another shul...Bais Chaim Dovid. Again, so warmly welcomed and it was so different to be HERE in Chicago and daven in a different location!

Lunch...again at my sister's with more of the family and the saying of goodbye to them...Tears flowed freely...both tears of joy and tears of sadness. I told them all, that the fact that we all get along so well makes this parting that much more difficult!

Then came what I felt would be the MOST difficult moment of all...saying L'hitraot to my parents. First, let me back up. My dad is doing SO well, Baruch Hashem!!! He looks, sounds and feels (bli ayin hara) SO great! We walked to the hospital on Shabbat to bid farewell (for a few days until we have access to Skype!). My dad gave us some wonderful words of wisdom, and we all sat and talked for a while. When it came time to say goodbye, I told my dad that I THOUGHT that this would be the most difficult goodbye of all...but the truth is that this was the EASIEST goodbye of all...WHY? Because I could look at my dad and tell him directly to his eyes how much we love him and my mom. The fact that we came so close to losing him and then to have the opportunity to say goodbye to him sitting there looking so great...well, I can never thank Hashem enough for that opportunity!!! Saying goodbye (L'hitraot) to my mom was also difficult but least thank G-d BOTH are healthy and able to travel to Israel...hopefully SOON!!

Well...I think that is it for now. Time to attempt to go to sleep and awake to a "brand new day." Tomorrow we start the next phase of our lives and pray to Hashem that while we KNOW things will not be least things will not be too hard.

Off to NY in 9 hours and 40 minutes...TICK...TICK...TICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

We Are Now Down to HOURS...

It is just before Shabbat. We are packed...we are pumped...we are ready to go. It is a HUGE Bracha that we have Shabbat to rest up just before we leave...we need it. It has been a VERY stressfull week but an exciting one at the same time. We are so grateful to Hashem that all has turned out so well with my dad, shlit"a, and that we are moving full speed ahead.

I have tried my best to reply to all who have emailed etc about our Aliya, my dad and just good wishes, in general. I have had literally hundreds of emails these past 3 days and appreciate each and very one of them.

On yesterday's posting, a fine young man left a very insightful comment that I want to reproduce here as it SHOULD be seen by everyone!

I don't understand why they call it a closing. I think it should be called an opening. The opening of a new chapter in your lives. As you move from this Galut-bound house to one in Israel, everything opens up, and life takes on a whole new meaning and as you close the front door behind you for the final time, may this closing open many new doors in your Aliya.
July 2, 2009 11:48 PM

I could not agree more. Amitai...thank you so very much!

I am looking forward to what I KNOW will be a very emotional Shabbat and Moztaei Shabbat...saying goodbye to family and close friends. Not "goodbye" but L'hitraot. Sad and happy at the same time...that truly is what life is all about.

Shabbat Shalom for the last time in Chicago. B'shavua Ha'ba Bi'rooshalayim (...or Maale Adumim)

36 hours...15 minutes...TICK...TICK...TICK

Friday, July 3, 2009

We are Officially Homeless in Chicago!

As of 11:30am local time, my family became homeless. Before you start to pity us, keep in mind that this was THE last major step before leaving on Aliya on Sunday for our NEW home on the other side of the Ocean. I must say that it was an extremely emotional morning for me on two levels. First and foremost was finding out that my dad's condition had dramatically improved. Baruch Hashem, he looked great, was sitting for a little in a chair and talking up a storm. The second reason was the closing on our home. We have lived in this home for 23 1/2 years. We raised our girls here, and all of our life-decisions, discussions, good times and bad focused on the home. As we were driving to the closing, I reviewed many of these milestones in our lives that happened in the house and I began to feel quite emotional. It is not a is not a book...this is where we lived our LIVES. It made me sad...and excited to understand what this sale meant.

Last night, we moved about 95% of the remaining items from the house to my parent's home...including ALL of the luggage...oy, is it going to be fun shlepping all of this!!!

I want to thank all of those who have taken the time to call, email etc about my dad. It is incredible to see the Yad Hashem. While I know I made a similar comment yesterday, one can NEVER adequately thank Hashem for all the chessed shown to a person!

We now are at the threshold of the door awaiting the last Shabbat and subsequent beginning of the journey to NY and beyond. I am so exhausted...I am so tired...I am so excited...I am so nervous.

And what would this blog be without the countdown:

2 days...13 hours and 45 minutes...TICK...TICK...TICK...!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Life is very strange. Sometimes we do not fully appreciate it. I got a full dose of that, these past 24 hours.

As we wind down, these last few days were supposed to have focused on closing things up and moving to my parents. As the saying goes, "Man plans and G-d laughs." As many of you are aware, my father was rushed to the hospital on Tuesday afternoon with a condition that was not easily discernible. As the evening progressed, his situation deteriorated more and more. Things did not look too good, so I consulted with Dr. Jerry Noble, the ER doctor (mensch and great guy, and my former Madrich in Mosh!) who suggested Tehillim at this point. I sent out my own plea for Tehillim as did many other people with large lists. My daughters, nieces and some of their friends went to the Shul to recite the entire book of Tehillim. The outpouring of emails, tehillim, phone calls, text messages etc was overwhelming to me. I was hearing from people all over the world.

As the night wore on, I needed to get back home to continue our final stages of packing and to collapse into bed for SOME sleep. Needless to say, I did not sleep very well: thinking about my dad...thinking about finishing up on the house...thinking about the house closing on Thursday...thinking...thinking...thinking. And praying the phone would not ring in the middle of the night.

Thank G-d the phone did NOT ring in the middle of the night. Instead, my sister called in the early morning with some good news...BP was up and he was looking a bit better. However, we still did not know what the source of the infection was!

My day was spent going back and forth to the hospital for short times, visiting the dentist (!) for a much needed repair before Aliya,dropping things off at my parents, bringing things back to the places from where we borrowed items, getting the pants I needed altered (after losing 35 pounds BH...on purpose over the past 8 months), going to the bank...and that was all before 5pm!

As pressure kept building, there was a ray of hope. Seems that the test my dad took mid-afternoon may indeed hold the key. Within an hour of this test (no medical details here), it became clear that the doctors had indeed located the source of the infection and did what was necessary to remove the cause. At present, he is resting comfortably, albeit not doing 100%...but MUCH better than 24 hours ago. (When I told him that the hairplugs the doctors tried to put in did not "take," he managed a smile!)

So...I am praying that the only excitement of the next 24 hours is the closing on our home. I do not think I could handle more than that right now. Then, it will almost be time for our last Shabbat here in Chicago...spent with most of the family...and more than likely a stroll on Shabbat to visit my dad.

I WANT TO THANK ALL OF THOSE WHO DAVENED, SAID TEHILLIM, CALLED, MESSAGED, ETC ETC...I acknowledge all the working of Hashem in this and thank Hashem from the bottom of all of our hearts. May He repay the kindness to you, that you have shown my dad and our entire family.

Uh oh...I just looked at the clock...we are really about to make Aliya! From now, it is another 3 days 14 hours and 4 minutes until we leave the city. TICK...TICK...TICK!!!!!!!