Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2/29/12: The One Way Trip To My New Life. This Olah Chadasha is HOME!

My Teodat Olah

First let me begin by apologizing for my lack of blogging while I was home in California. Aside from laying in the beautiful sun, seeing great friends, and spending time with my family, I didn't do much of note while I was abroad. However, while I was home I was lucky enough to be able to start and finish one of the most special and important processes of my life; a process which was finalized upon my arrival to Ben Gurion Airport this afternoon. During my stay at home in Southern California I applied for, and received, my Aliyah visa to return to Israel as a citizen under her "right of return" law. My Shaliach (delegate) informed me that she never saw an Aliyah application get approved so quickly, and at that moment I knew that it was meant to be. A week and a half before I was due home I went to the Israeli consulate and picked up my visa to come home to Israel as a citizen! 

My Aliya Visa issued by the Consulate of Israel in LA 

After another week of spending all of the time that I could with family and friends (including my Uncle who came to see me from Northern California), it was time to pack up the rest of my life and take my one-way flight back home to my new country :-). One large suitcase, one oversized duffle bag, two carry-on's, and a purse later, I was ready to go home! 

I'm sure it doesn't surprise anyone to hear that I did not have the best night sleep yesterday due to my impending trip across the world. A Combination of excitement and anxiety kept me tossing and turning for much of the night, and by the time 5:15 am rolled around I was up and making sure every last minute thing was in order. My mother and I packed up the car with all of my things and by 6am we were off to Los Angeles International Airport. 

Aside from the fact that I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open, the most extraordinary thing happened during our drive from Palm Springs to Los Angeles, something I had never, in my 24 years of living in California, seen. As we were driving through the towns of Banning and Beaumont we noticed that the streets, trees, cars, and surrounding buildings were cover with SNOW! Snow in Southern California where, only the day before, the temperature registered at 89 degrees! For a woman who has only seen snow twice in her life I couldn't help feeling that this was some kind of sign. I have no idea what sign this was but I could only hope it meant great and unexpected things were to come my way, such as this was so great and unexpected :-) 

Snow in Banning by our favorite Baker's restaurant  

After another 5 minutes of driving the snow was nothing more than a memory, but it left me with an amazing feeling (which is quite remarkable seeing as my excitements and anxieties manifest in my stomach which left me feeling not so fantastic when my mother and I left home). Additionally, the LA traffic gods were on our side for most of the drive which put us at LAX well before my flight was to leave to take me to Philadelphia. After we went through the hassle of checking my three rather large bags, my mom walked me into the front check in where we said our final goodbyes. Though tears were shed by my mom I know she is so happy and excited for this amazing new adventure and life I am about to embark on. Check in was very smooth and a few hours later I was on my way to Philadelphia. 

Upon arrival at Philadelphia I was able to get some food, quickly organize my things, and then run over to my gate to catch my connecting flight to Israel. It was at this moment that the excitement really started to set in. I had to go through extra security (a process which no other international fliers to other countries had to go through), present my passport and visa, and then I was able to relax a bit before boarding my final plane! As if this whole process hasn't been amazing enough I was issued a seat change as I entered the plane (for reasons I don't know) which put me in  an aisle seat with no one sitting in the middle of me and the Israeli woman on the other side of the row. Aside from the fact that 2 people got sick on the flight, it was smooth sailing from Philly to Tel Aviv!

Upon my arrival in Tel Aviv one of the most lovely old men was there to meet me and the 4 other Olim on my flight, take us to passport control, walk us up to Misrad Haklita (ministry of absorption, which is in the airport), and then make sure we were put on our complementary taxis back to our homes and cities of choice. I met such amazing Olim who had fantastic stories, and I had a wonderful experience getting all of my paperwork processed and finalized. First of all I was the only one there who conducted most of the processing in Hebrew. I said two things to the woman who was processing me in Hebrew and she took that as the go ahead to conduct the rest of what we did entirely in the language. Luckily I understood everything she was saying and could respond quite well to the questions she was asking! I wanted to cry I was just so happy and felt so at home. After the lady processed all of my paper work I was issued my first round of "gifts" from the Israeli government; a cash payment, an iphone SIM card, a voucher for a free taxi ride home, free health insurance for 1 year, and, what I thought was the most exciting, my Teodat Oleh (Immigrant identification and passport card). Once this was all issued I was given the instructions I would need to open my bank account and receive my Teodat Zahut (Israeli ID and passport) within the next week. There were about five various periods I wanted to cry due to excitement during this whole process, but I kept it together pretty well! 

My Teodat Oleh cover  
It's official! I'm ISRAELI! 
Once my paperwork and processing were complete, and my benefits were collected, it was time to head off through customs and out to the taxi stand. I was the last Olim to get picked up and I didn't have a taxi... I got a whole bus all to myself :-). I had a lovely taxi driver who, of course, didn't speak a word of English, but lucky for me I know how to get home entirely in Hebrew! I hardly know directions in English but I knew exactly how to direct him to take me home. As we were driving through Tel Aviv I was overwhelmed with excitement and I have never felt more home in my life. I could see my apartment building while we were driving on the freeway and the anxiousness I felt to get home was absolutely indescribable. 

When I pulled up to my building my roommate Morgan (the only roommate home tonight) came to help me with all of my things. Thank goodness too because I was having trouble managing 2 suitcases and 2 duffles by myself. A few minutes later and I was FINALLY home. I didn't realize how much I missed my apartment until I was back in my room looking around at my beautiful home. It took me an age to unpack everything, but it is finally done and I am completely settled back into my Israeli home and life. 

This week will be filled with seeing friends, eating great food, taking care of all of my other paperwork, and then starting school come Sunday, so there will be plenty of blog updates to look forward to. Now that I am back in the Middle East you can expect a post every day or so :-) 

Well travel exhaustion has finally kicked in and I must try and get myself on a normal, Israeli sleep schedule so Lilah Tov and Tisba7 3ala khier ya habibs! 

Until we meet again,
Jordana Simone- American Israeli!

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