Day 1 was possibly the longest day of my life. It began early in the morning, driving to Newark to catch the plane. My parents, four siblings, and a friend came along. I freaked out half an hour in when I realize two of my original documents (the financial affidavit and entry and exit form) were left at home, but relaxed when Rachel from Nefesh B’nefesh told me they wouldn’t be essential. I wrote goodbye letters in the car and started tearing up. After 3 hours, we arrived at the Newark airport and went to the ELAL terminal.
Rachel and two other Nefesh B’nefesh representatives were there to greet me with a Nefesh B’nefesh cap and luggage tags. I was then interogated by the Israeli security officer, who gave me a big smile and warm wishes for my aliyah afterwards.
We checked in my baggages and guitar-Thank G-d they went through, since they were all overweight-and went to passport control. And then I had to leave my family.
We were not expecting to have to say goodbye so soon-I thought they would be allowed to stay with me longer-so the emotions hit me all at once. I handed out letters to each of my siblings, and sobbed with them. All I could think was, ‘I’m crazy. Why in the world did I sign up to this?!’ It was so hard to say goodbye. We went for second and third hugs; my mother tried to dance with me, which is how we got this unnatractive photo (that’s what it looks like when you cry and laugh at the same time):
I hugged my parents for a long time, and they each blessed me. As I walked away, I tried not to look back, but I couldn’t help it. They waited until they couldn’t see me to leave.
Waiting on line for my carry on to be scanned, I met two girls-one who made aliyah 4 years ago, and her sister, who was making aliyah that day. They were so reassuring and comforting-it made me hopeful about the future.
The flight was cozy; there were lots of chassidim going to Meron for Lag Ba’omer. My seatmate, Yael, was from Tel Aviv. As I was dreaming about Israel, she was wishing she could stay in New York. We spoke on and off the whole plane ride. I took out my water paints at some point and painted a tree, wrote in my journal, and doodled. There was really not enough to do-I should have brought a book. At some point I realized that there were torah classes offered on the flight! How awesome 🙂 I met two chasidish women who showed me how to shade in my doodles, and we spoke for some time about life and Israel.
We landed in Tel Aviv early in the morning. The olim-all 36 of us-stayed on the plane to get off together. It was fun to see who was making aliyah on the flight, since we were dispersed all over the plane. I met my Nefesh B’nefesh advisor, Racheli, at the exit and she gave me a huge hug. She came all the way from Jerusalem to greet us!
First thing in Ben Gurion Airport, I lost my passport. I searched through my whole carry on, dumped it all out, and NBN sent someone to look in the plane for me. It finally turned up in my wallet.
We went to passport control next, where we got on a special line for Olim. After my turn, I went to the restrooms, and when I came out, the group was missing. To make a long story short-ish, I walked up and down the airport ramps until I realized there was a help desk by passport control. The people there were super understanding, and they led me to a room with drinks and food to wait for a ride to the Misrad Haklita V’Aliyah (Department of Immigration and Aliyah). The manager of the Department of Immigration, Maxim, then gave me a ride in his personal car to reunite with the group. It was such a good welcome! Only in Israel! I was happy to know that my hebrew is way better than I thought!
We waited for our IDs in a large room with a low ceiling and red chairs for the following 3 hours. There was coffee, tea, and cookies there too, set up beautifully. I cried, completely unexpectedly, seeing my Teudat Zehut (Israeli ID). It started to dawn on me that I don’t need to think about leaving…I could stay here forever!
It feels so right being here.
Part 2…coming soon 🙂