We sit here in gray plastic chairs at the airport waiting for Israel to process us and make us official. We made it through the 12-hour flight, skipping over Tuesday night and going right into Wednesday morning. I told the kids it’s like daylight savings time, but instead of losing one hour, we lost seven. But it’s so worth it.
It’s just the kids and I now in this strange space, with its high ceilings and random people — a Muslim woman, a couple wearing masks, everyone’s faces turned downward toward their phones as they sit intermittently around this semi-abandoned section. The Israeli officials, who include a young blonde woman behind a computer on a folding table, a balding man in his 70s who makes funny comments, a portly man with glasses and dress shirt, and a bubbly former Oleh, have sent Danny someplace else — along with one representative from each Olim family. But the directive was shared by a thin tall bearded man with such Israeli-style love that it doesn’t feel scary or stressful, just a bit stale as I long to be outside in the sunlight, to put my feet on the land. I imagined entry into the Holy Land to be a bit more exciting and ceremonial, although logically I did fully understand the process and the waiting that would take place. Still, my kids sit cross-legged next to me, as we watch fellow Olim dig through bags and lament their difficulties.
Now we are still in the airport waiting for a taxi as we watch people of all types — Bedouins, Muslims, Jews. It has been nearly an hour. Once it finally arrives, we watch the men heave our 15 bags, along with those of another couple, into the large van. Then we get on and travel north for over an hour, stopping first in Netanya to drop them off and then continuing on another hour north to Kiryat Tivon, past banana trees and and bustling stores, through Zichron Yaakov and an Arab village, and heart-stopping glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea to our west and the mountains to our east.
We are beyond exhausted and anxious to arrive at our new home, which we have never seen in person. Then our taxi driver, who has a cross hanging from his rear-view mirror and an Israeli flag on his dashboard, takes a call, speaking angrily in Arabic before stopping at a gas station and going inside. We sit confused for a moment, then I go out to the grassy area and admire one of the most beautiful trees I’ve seen, and then touch the large green fruits of another tree nearby. The driver comes out of the shop with some cold drinks for himself, explaining how hard it is to drive in traffic all day, and we continue on our way. When we explain that we just flew 12 hours from the U.S. and haven’t slept, he says he doesn’t feel so bad anymore.
We pull up in front of our new home, on a beautiful tree-lined street with glimpses of mountains, and the drive stops, blocking the road to unload our bags. When Danny asks if it’s okay to stop there, he says, “Of course it’s okay, you’re in Israel now.”
We shleped the bags down stone stairs to our house, then inside. Once we settle down a bit and start putting stuff away, we leave to take a walk uphill to the main area of town. The small shops are clean, beautiful and an interesting mix of everything from thrift stores to a small pharmacy (where the kind pharmacist tells me what I need for the rash that recently appeared on my arm), to homemade ice cream with flavors that include rose water, a gourmet vegan food shop and a home goods store.
The people working in the shops, as well as those in the Jewish community in our neighborhood, have welcomed us with such warmth that it’s almost unbelievable. They shopped for groceries and left them in our kitchen for our arrival, cooked us casseroles for dinner, brought us towels and mattresses to tide us over, and have offered to help us with anything we may need. After a day that was so long it felt like a week, the house is now quiet as the kids sleep and we settle in. It’s 11 pm Israel time, though my body thinks it’s 3 pm. But missing a night’s sleep, I hope, will get us closer to adjusting.
It’s still hard to process that I’m actually in Israel. Can this be real? I went out on our balcony overlooking the forested valley, peered up at the moon in the clear sky and began to cry. The peace that came over me was otherworldly, indescribable. This must be what home feels like.