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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In America, I Drove a Camry





Sometimes it hits me how utterly upside down I turned my own life by making aliyah. I was thinking of a family vacation we took, years ago. There were overlapping circles of family - us, my sister and her family, my husband's parents, his siblings, etc. One afternoon, my sister and I jumped into the car and drove on unfamiliar roads to have lunch together, apart from the rest of the crowd.

The confidence to jump in the car and engage in spontaneous travel alone does not exist for me at this stage. Here, unless my husband is behind the wheel, I travel with a certain, now familiar low-level anxiety, at least the first time I go somewhere new.

In America I drove a late-model Camry and my husband drove a van. Here, we share a very old Hyundai with well over 200,000 Km and feel grateful each day that the car functions as it should. And that we have a car at all.

In America, I balanced our accounts to the penny every month. In Israel, I have the vaguest sense of what we spend and what our bank balance is.

In America, I stocked up on household and non-perishable products when they were on sale. In Israel, living in much smaller quarters, I think carefully before buying too much of anything because we don't have much storage room.

It took me awhile in the grocery store to understand that Hebrew, being read right-to-left means buy 2 packages of spaghetti and get 1 free, not buy 1 and get 2 free. In America, I understood the sale flyers and the details of any consumer service we signed on for. In Israel, I make my best guess and pray that I'm not getting rooked too badly.

By now, I probably could order a pizza by phone, but it would be a bit stressful, so I still let others do it for us. In America, I nearly always felt confident about my ability to figure things out. In Israel, I am much more dependent on others for help.

The other night, riding a very crowded bus home, a frantic mother tried several times to tell me something involving my feet and her baby's stroller. I thought she was asking if the stroller was in my way and I kept reassuring her that it was fine, but the penny finally dropped and I realized she was trying to tell me that something fell from her stroller and landed near my feet. This is one of the hardest changes to accept. I can't just speak casually with strangers and assume I'll be understood.  Sometimes, a telephone solicitor calls and speaks in rapid-fire Hebrew. When I stop them to explain that I can't understand, they usually just hang up.

Okay, so maybe there's a positive side to being linguistically challenged.

In Hebrew, I am an error-prone, bumbling immigrant. Although I stumble through a weekly hour-long Hebrew conversation with my tutor, the truth is, I am who I am only in English. When the topic of hair-covering came up a few weeks ago, I lent my bi-lingual tutor a book on the topic in which my essay was published some years ago. After she read it, she expressed delighted astonishment at having met the real me through my essay.

Having said all this, Israel still, hands-down, wins the "Where Would I Rather Live" contest. I get panicky if I imagine being forced to go back to America to live. I consider it a privilege every day that Hashem makes it possible for me to stay here, in Israel, where my soul rests more comfortably, where my prayers feel more sincere, where my heart recognizes its home.

It's not effortless to live here. But it's Home.


10 comments:

YMR said...

Wonderful blog -- I've experienced everything you mentioned -- except I guess I've never ordered a pizza. You told the story very well -- We're so happy to be here, but there are times when it's not easy. (At least you have someone else to make the calls for you!)

Go'el Jasper said...

Beautiful ... and beautifully accurate.

Anonymous said...

Well done on all counts-your summary and the blessing of living here. Being a Master's Degree honors student, I often say that nothing is as more humbling than making aliya. The good news about my poor Hebrew-perhaps I understand 75% of what is happening around me, is that I think that everyone is funny, nice and helpful. Yeah, some will argue on that assessment but I choose to hold onto that thought. And, you know what? It seems to serve me well as, for the most part, I find that people really are funny, nice and helpful. Best wishes for continued success to all of the olim. Tsivya

The Sussmans b'Aretz said...

Love it...you should have seen how many times I was shaking my head, sighing and giving that ironic smile of understanding...thanks for sharin!

Rachel said...

Wow! Your life and mine -- so parallel. I drove a late model fully loaded Toyota Corolla in the States. Now I drive 2002 Toyota Corolla with over 200k km on it! Storage space IS at a premium here and I SO want to buy a shed -- but right now it is out of the question. HOwever, I DID purchase a brand new aron begadim for my BR. I also relate totally with the language issue -- but it is even harder for me due to my disablity. I thank G-d that I learned Hebrew 30 years ago at an ulpan and that I actually have retained quite a bit of it. If I had not done that then Hebrew today would be IMPOSSIBLE for me. I also prefer to rely on others to deal on the phone for me. It is a bit of a burden at times on my family and friends and I hate that but my hearing simply does not allow me to do otherwise. The one thing I have that I did not expect to have here is a bona fide coat closet! Not only that, it is a LARGE coat closet! For Israel, that is amazing! Thanks for sharing!

sherri said...

same story down the block!

Anonymous said...

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Moshe said...

Thank you for sharing your story. It is very nice. Hopefully Moshiah comes very soon and all jews will experience those feeling that you have. Eretz Israel is the only land for all jews that Hashem promissed us. May Hasem send his rigtheous Moshiah this year with Rahamim. Amen!

Devorah said...

Very timely, thank you !

SaraK said...

Knowing that everyone else goes through the same thing is what made aliyah so much easier for me, intellectually. Emotionally, I have wanted to be here for all of my adult life. When you are an expressive, intellectual person in your native language, and then you come to Israel and can't be as open with your words, it's VERY humbling.
And I have the exact same experience with trying to balance my bank account. I just figure that all the extra costs I am probably paying are the "olah chadasha" fees. In the states, my cell phone company would never get away with the things that I let Cellcom charge me for, because I just can't argue with them anymore.

But I wouldn't trade living here for anything.