I’m working on filling the kids’ baby books with notes about our life here, and came across these paragraphs from my letters to family and friends in the States:
We are nearing the one-year mark since making aliyah. Despite being very glad to live here, both rationally and Zionistically, my chief feeling at the end of this year of drastic change is fatigue. Most days are some combination of novelty, adventure, or frustration. This may sound like a wonderful thing, but it really is tiring after a year or so. Life in America for us had the familiarity of a lifetime of prior experience, and that tended to make days comfortable and even dull. Perhaps Canada would make a nice in-between place to live! While at the Toyota dealer in Jerusalem, Jonathan and I bumped into a former ulpan classmate of mine. Mikhail lived in Russia until he was 33, then moved to the U.S. for several decades, and made aliyah two years ago. He’s now in his early 60’s, I would guess. He asked how things are going and when I told him I’m tired after a year, he nodded knowingly. He explained that it takes five years to get used to life in a new country. He described how much of one’s “nervous energy” goes into mundane things like changing a lightbulb (where to buy them, how to ask for them, etc.), and said that lasts years. He also said it is useful to look at things one dislikes about one’s new country with an attitude of “I don’t understand this” rather than “I hate this” or “This is wrong.” I found his observations informative and validating.
Nonetheless, it will be utterly delicious to be back in the States again. Besides seeing family and friends, our top ten list of things we look forward to includes the following
1) eating Ricardo’s prime kosher meat, the like of which we have yet to see even in this Zionist Paradise;
2) reading signs with no Hebrew or Arabic on them;
3) shopping for things we can’t find here (Tom’s of Maine stuff, Keillor’s Dundee Three Fruits Marmalade, Yasou and Soy Vay salad dressings, plastic wrap that actually clings);
4) knitting stores that sell something other than acrylic or kippah yarn;
5) taking the kids to a merry-go-round;
6) Morningstar Farms fake bacon and sausage, cinnamon Life cereal, Lite Life fake bologna;
7) J.P. Licks ice cream (we get Ben and Jerry’s here, but we miss the experience of going to a real ice cream joint);
8) corn on the cob.
In the end, I couldn’t come up with ten things two years ago. But I probably could now (add red leaf lettuce, maple cream, and my mom’s homemade ice cream). The difference now for us is that we’ve found more things here that we’ll miss while we’re in America (fresh pita, creamy smooth hummus, ease of kosher shopping, the comforts of home), and much of the stress of our first year has abated. Things are no longer new for us, we’re settling into a permanent community in our own house, and we’re delighted with life in Efrat. Going back to the States for us (Monday, so plan on no new posts for nearly a month starting from then) is a bonus, a nice chance to reconnect with loved ones. We’re all dreading the flight, but our kids are great fliers, and hey–it’s only 19 hours in airports and on planes.