Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Exit and Entry

This will be a bit of a back-track, but I wanted to say something about our last weeks in the states and our first day is Israel before we get too far past it, and it all slips into fuzzy memory.

So we sent most of our things in the container (which as I type this is supposed to be in Japan), cleaned up the house and moved in with B-A's parents until our flight....

(A side note of gratitude - we have benefited and continue to benefit from the support of our families and friends in myriad ways material and emotional.  Words alone cannot express our thanks, but it is a place to start.  Thank you!)

 ..and a couple of days later, we hit the road for the Olympic National Park in Washington.  A temperate rain forest is about as different from Israel as we could get within a 1/2 day drive.  It was everything you might expect.  Green, wet, and simply lovely.  While many of the plants and colors resembled Portland, the scale was other-worldly, and I kept expecting an ewok to walk out from behind a tree. After nearly two-weeks now of 90+ degree temperatures in Jerusalem, the few days we spent in multiple layers of fleece, rain jackets and sipping cocoa and coffee near a crackling fire seem to be from a different life.

Which is true.  Those days, and the days that followed of lovely early Portland summer (fireworks in Gabriel Park, blueberry picking on Sauvie Island and multiple cook-outs accompanied by organic locally brewed amber ale, just for starters) were from a previous life.

One memory from that week:  One or two days before our flight, E and I walked though our house together, now empty of things, but still filled with memories.  The house was already stuffy, with an un-lived in smell.  We walked around, opening windows as we walked from room to room, letting in air and trailing memories as we went.  And after a few minutes, we closed it up, locked the door and walked away.

Our last morning in Portland was clear and cool.  We were not excited that morning, just tired and a bit sad.  There had been excitement weeks before, when our paperwork was approved and our visas arrived.  But the excitement had been drowned out in the drone of details and the long good bye.   We hefted our eleven (!!) duffel bags and one guitar into a van that B-A's father had rented, piled ourselves into the van and a car (driven by B-A's parents), and went to the airport. 

The flights (PDX to philly to TLV) were as they always are to Israel:  long and tiring.  We were not on a group flight with many other olim.  One of those planes from the US had arrived earlier the same day as our arrival.  But it turned out that we were not the only new olim on the plane.

As we were leaving the plane a couple of people heard us talking and asked if we were making aliyah.  They smiled and shook our hands and wished us luck.  It was to be the first of many similar exchanges that we would have in the coming days. 

We left the plane, walked up the jet way and not long after a first flight of stairs, a man (Mr. Lee) waited holding a card with several names on it...including ours.  We waited for a few others, and then as a group, Mr. Lee took us down to passport control - to the Israeli line.  Okay.  It was exciting again.

The clerk behind the window did not say much, but matched us up.  Four passports and four faces. She stamped us in (no tourist visa this time!), wished us luck and sent us to misrad haklitah (the office of immigrant absorption).  Again, our small group went together.  Mr. Lee handed us to a clerk from the office, who shepherded us into an elevator to the office on an upper level of the airport.

And there we were processed.  Information entered into the computer, identity numbers and identity cards taken.  An initial living stipend and SIM card with 200 minutes given. 

Once our group was processed, again we were taken down to baggage claim to get our bags and were ushered to find a taxi to take us to Jerusalem.  On the way, we were thrilled to be met by friends who waited for us with a sign, and much needed refreshment and happy familiar faces.  After a wait, we (and all our stuff) piled into another van for the trip to Jerusalem.    

One last word about our time in the offices at the airport.  During the processing, B-A and I had our photos taken.  I asked if we should smile or not  - in the US, they always tell you not to smile for the passport photos.  The clerk asked me if I was happy?  After nearly 25 hours of traveling and moving about, being told to go this place and that, and after the months of preparation and days of goodbyes, the best evidence of our answer can be seen in the pictures, both of which show two very tired looking people, but having two very natural and happy smiles.

It was (and is) good to be home.  

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