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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial

In all the whirlwind of aliyah, of noting Jerusalem Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Independence Day, we have not forgotten that in the States, today is Memorial Day.

My family salutes the men and women of the American armed forces who have, generation after generation, offered their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to preserve the American Republic and its ideals of democracy and freedom. Those of you in uniform today and those of you who have served your nation in years past---we salute you. We honor you. We will not forget you and we will strive to uphold those ideals you and countless others before you fought to preserve.

Richard Henry Lee, a colonial delegate from Virginia, introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June 1776, and concluded his remarks thus:

"Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law. The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost."

My ancestors found refuge in the United States when persecution and starvation stalked their families. They found solace, repost and an opportunity to provide their children with a future free of tyranny and oppression because of that Declaration of Independence and the generations since then who shed their blood to preserve American freedoms.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The News From Home

The Husband purchased a cell phone yesterday....so we were finally able to converse at length last night (his time). I still miss him, but he has told me so many positive things about Life in Jerusalem---and keep in mind this is a guy who is not fond of big cities or of apartment life.

He has discovered long walks and that Jerusalem is a city of walkers; that even during the Hamsin it is pleasant enough to walk at night; that everything you need is on Derech Bet Lechem and most of it can be delivered; that the closest bank is HaPoalim, for better or worse; that he's already lost weight from all the walking; that the natives are friendly and he's already been to Yona's friends' home for Kiddush; that there is a choice of synagogues; that we are closer than he thought to our son's ulpan and school; that we're on a major bus line for downtown; that Misrad Ha'Pnim hasn't changed since he last lived here.

He likes the apartment, going so far as to discuss landscaping the yard and taking our option to renew for an extra year.

I still miss him, but I am now optimistic and looking forward to getting there. It doesn't seem so insurmountable now that he's there, the zoo is there, and the household goods are in storage. All I have to do is the detail stuff that closes out our lives here and when school ends, head for the El Al terminal.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

26 Days

But who's counting?

Right. That's the time left between today and our arrival in Israel. The Husband is already there, trying to fix the dud shemesh at the apartment, purchasing minor household items (dogfood, light bulbs and so on) and getting it ready. He's been gone 2 and 1/2 days---and I hate it.

We're a couple who worked together in the same field; saw each other daily; often had a coffee break or lunch together. All of this was to make up for the craziness of our working schedules--we had time to touch base during every day away from the house and the office. The office has its own demands and the house was usually full of children-with-various-immediate-needs. We knew we were fortunate because we also know couples who each commute a hour in different directions and don't see each other during the day.

Addiction has its price. Now I'm suffering withdrawal. Well, it's not that bad, but I am unaccustomed to not hearing his voice, bouncing ideas off of him, sleeping alone, being the sole responsible parent with a decidedly two-parent child. The fact that The Boy misses him also doesn't escape me--he's being very manly, brave and adolescent about the whole thing, but in a moment of weakness, he confided, "I really miss Abba."

He probably also really misses Abba's cooking, which is superlative. Imma's cooking isn't any more. I was a superlative cook before I was married but when someone else preempts Head Chef position in a working woman's life, I'm not about to argue. I'm out of practice and at the moment, very unmotivated.

I could cope with this better if I could escape into something I have a desire to do, such as taking a class, reading a book, going to the beach, or something kef but that's not an option. The only option is to continue to sort and clean and pack while surrounded by the detritus of what used to be a home and is now just a lonely outpost of golus, and count the days.

But here's the bright side: when my greatgrandmother sent her husband ahead to the Goldene Medina, they were apart for a year--and there was no telephone, no internet, and given the cost of postage by Atlantic steamer, probably no mail. So I should just quit whining and count myself lucky, right?

Ah, motek, I really miss you!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Pet Aliyah Balagon

The very first thing we did when we planned our aliyah was arrange for the animals to go with us. Two cats and a dog. Yes, I know--cats to Israel is like coals to Newcastle. Nonetheless, they are family and so they come, too.

We did all the paperwork and got the proper immunizations, the health certificates, the blood tests, and the letter from the Ministry of Agriculture giving us permission to bring in more than two animals. We called, at an Israeli friend's insistence, Delta Airlines. Best price, best flight, and "I have a great travel agent (also Israeli) who will work everything out for you!"

Famous last words.

Not the travel agent's fault, although she did mislead us as to other flights available and pricing; Delta changed its policy about pets between the making of our reservation and our showing up at Cargo today. Despite a number of calls to Delta in between the reservation-making and today's flight, no one saw fit to tell us that we can't fly a dog domestically to Atlanta and then transfer the dog to the international leg any more. NOW, even assuming we finally got this straight, one flies the dog domestically to Atlanta and does NOT kennel the animal but takes it from cargo as baggage, then waits four (or 24, according to another Delta employee) hours then checks the animal into the international flight.

Which in our case meant my husband would miss his nonrefundable flight to Israel. Let's not even talk about what a sole person loaded down with a suitcase, carry-on duffel bag, two footlockers and three pet kennels would do to find a cab or a hotel in which to stay....the complications were mind-boggling.

Do YOU suffer from spousal deafness? We do. Somehow the advice of one's friends always seems to carry more weight than the advice of one's spouse. I'm guilty of this. The Husband proved guilty of this in spades.

I didn't LIKE the hardsell of the Israeli travel agent and I didn't believe her when she told me that this was the ONLY flight she could find for The Husband unless we wanted to pay $3000 for a higher-priced ticket. (She also failed to tell us that Delta would charge us over $1800 for the pets.)

I suggested that The Husband call El Al. "But then we have to get the animals to LA!" he protested. Yes, well, as events proved, that at least will get them on one plane, no transfers, to Tel Aviv. Unlike Delta.

Delta told us to bring the pets to Cargo no later than 0800. We did so. Then the problems began and despite my calls to customer service, Cargo's calls to Cargo Atlanta, and The Husband's multiple calls to the Pet Center and everyone else we could reach, all we got was "I-don't-have-the-authority-to-do-that-let-me-transfer-you-to (someone else)" For hours. Not only did we miss the pet flight but it soon became apparent that The Husband was going to miss his flight also (pets have to fly in earlier so they have at least a 4 hour layover).

I called El Al on my cell phone. "Hi, we've just been #@$% by Delta and my husband has to get himself and three pets to Israel tomorrow. Do you have room on tomorrow's flight?"

"Yes, we do. What are the pets and their weights?"

I recite the appropriate breeds, sizes, weights and add we have all their paperwork.

"We need a health certificate not more than 5 days old."

(Ours is ten days old--good enough for Delta) I tell the reservationist we can get a new health certificate--quick call to the vet to arrange a late afternoon appointment for an exam.

"No problem. We have him booked tomorrow on our 12:20 flight. He should definitely check in by 9:00 so we have time to get the animals on board. Bring them to the ticket counter. We'll email you an e-ticket for your husband."

She quotes me a price. Higher for The Husband than Delta--but not by much. And WAY lower for the pets. The only glitch might be a dead body being transported to Israel--there isn't one yet, but if the plane gets one, the dog gets bumped.

"I understand, no problem--can my husband bump also?"

"Sure--it's an open ticket, no restrictions. He can take a later flight if the dog gets bumped."

She also offered the aliyah price until I told her that The Husband is a returning Israeli and doesn't get any olim rights. She sounded dubious and was prepared to offer him a deal, but I reiterated that the shaliach said he didn't qualify for any break on the ticket.

It was easy. It was painless. It was efficient. It was user-friendly. It was everything that Delta was not. The Husband is now on his way to LA with the pets and his new health certificates and e-ticket. Say a prayer for us that it will all go smoothly.

...and the moral of the story is: Listen to your wife. No, just joking--the real moral is that if you're making aliyah, ask better questions, check often and frequently, assume nothing --

--and don't fly Delta. Fly El Al. El Al knows how to do it right.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Daniel Wultz

Daniel Wultz died this week after a four week struggle to live. He was sitting with his father near a cafe during the family's Pesach visit to Israel. A Palestinian mass murderer detonated his bomb belt, killing this innocuous 16-year-old teenager on vacation with his family.

Daniel was my son's age. Almost. My son will celebrate his 16th birthday in Jerusalem.

Daniel had his entire life in front of him. He was, according to his family and friends' statements, just beginning to actively explore a more in-depth expression of his Judaism. He was, by all reports, a sweet kid who was well liked by friends and deeply loved by his family.

Like my son, Daniel loved basketball and Israel and being Jewish.

Arab Mass Murder Inc. praised this obscene murder as being a 'Two-fer' -- it was the best kind of slaughter because they not only murdered an unarmed Jewish kid, but he was an American to boot.

Daniel was my son's age. I can only imagine the heartbreak his family feels, the lingering guilt of 'what if"-- what if we hadn't come to Israel? What if we hadn't taken him out to a shwarma stand? what if I had sat there instead of him and spared him the full force of the blast?

What if? What if? What if?--the question that haunts survivors. And when the survivor is a parent, the questions haunt one forever. No one should have to bury their child.

And what is the Israeli government's response to this tragic death? This week Peretz announced that Israel is reopening the Karni crossing.

Right. They murder our kids, and we respond by rewarding them.

Good thing I'm not in charge of the Israeli government. Maybe it's because I'm not that I can afford to be politically incorrect; maybe it's because I'm a mother and Daniel's murder, the murder of a child just transitioning into adulthood, enrages me; maybe it's because so many of us davened that he would recover and live; maybe it's because he was conscious enough to say, before his organs failed him, "I want to live," (as opposed to the Arab mantra "I want to kill")--good thing I'm not in charge.

Because if I were in charge, I would have a different response to this murder: carpet bombing. Send your psychotic offspring to kill ours, and we will drop death from the air until you either stop or die.

In the meantime, we are coming to Israel. Lech lecha--go for yourself, G-d told Abram...and so we will. But I will also honor the memory of Daniel....and Lior and Kobi and the hundreds of others of our dead who died because of the insane Arab racism that breeds Jew-hatred on a scale unseen since the Third Reich.

And following the advice of Daniel's father, Tuly Wultz, we will come to Israel, smiling at the future. Hope and determination will triumph over hatred and fear. I promise this, Daniel.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Final Push

I'm almost too tired to blog. After a month off for Pesach and packing, I'm back at work---and still trying to tie up the lose ends, eliminate household clutter, arrange recovery of refinished antiques for shippping and ridding ourselves of other furniture, gym items, old-but-usable jackets, excess kitchenware, etc. before the packers come.

The Husband leaves a week from Monday for Israel. He's in charge of two footlockers, a suitcase, two cats and a dog. The logistics of moving the animals to Israel isn't rocket science, but it is nerve-wracking. He's terribly afraid the airline will misplace them. His job is to settle into the furnished apartment and get everything up and running and the pets acclimated.

The packers come the next day. Everything left in the home will be packed and shipped to storage except for a couch and chair (destined for a friend) two lamps (destined for another friend) two mattresses (destined for the dump) with old, toss-away linens, and a television (destined for another friend) and Goodwill-bound cookware. Since the house was sold with the appliances, I still get to cook and microwave, and serve on paper and plastic. Something like camping, but indoors with TV. The computer stays for a while---the Boy can't do homework or pick up assignments without it. I'm still trying to figure out how to get it safely to Israel---will it survive, heavily wrapped, in the footlocker or should I pack it in my suitcase as carry on (just the tower)?

But the best part is that I'm retired as of May 19th--in time to take the Husband to the airport and supervise packing---and then I'm a FT mom for the first time in my life! I'm looking forward to the FT Mom gig--I just am not thrilled about the FT SINGLE mom part I play for the next month after the Husband leaves. "Do I have to speak to your father?" doesn't really carry the immediate threat it has now if Abba is 10,000 miles away. But I won't be bored--lots of people are arranging lunch/coffee meets to say good-bye.

I've arranged the internet banking options, started transferring the credit cards to on-line pay options (yes, I know the rest of the world has been paying on-line for a decade, but I'm very old fashioned and not good at this new-fangled stuff).

Then it's just me and the Boy--no husband/father, no cats, no dog and not much else. It will be a quiet but barren existence until school gets out. Then, I pick up the Boy at school around noon, he says his good-byes and gets his yearbook signed...and then we're On The Road. One night in Bakersfield to say 'farewell' to the world's best sister-in-law (BTW, Yael, did I tell you we're camping with you the night of the 14th? Got room? ) Then on to LA the next day for a farewell round of visits with the cousins and good friends.

Then on June 19th, G-d willing, we come home.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Winter Stream




Courtesy of Yona, who took the picture, and Virginia, who showed me how to upload it to the blog. Thanks!

Record winter rains turned every hillside into a cascade of running water.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Date

We have The Date!

Unwilling to handle single motherhood for six weeks along with aliyah, packing, storing, closing accounts, paying bills, and living out of a suitcase while missing my Better Half, I opted to call Nefesh B'Nefesh and told them I would be going on ahead of their scheduled July 5th flight. The I called the shaliach, and following her instructions, made reservations for an El Al flight out of LAX on June 19th. This will get us to Israel after only a month's separation, and in time for both offsprings' birthdays to be celebrated in Eretz Israel.

We're SO behind! As much as we've done, we still have tons to do--closets to clean out; more trips to Goodwill; books to pack; an entire garage to finish sorting through....I'm overwhelmed, and 'vacation' is almost over, I'm back to work on Monday---but only for two short weeks. Then I'm retired. Officially. Nada. Genug. Maspeak. I can hang up the badge and ID and call it quits after 26 years of nights and weekends....26 years of typically 6 day weeks......it's not the age, it's not simply the time in service-- it's the mileage.

'And miles to go before I rest," Robert Frost said. I have done as many miles as I can do on this road----a new road opens before us and that's the fork I am willingly taking, ready for new sights, a new life.

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