The Person Behind The Posts

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A Good Couple of Days in Israel

Even though we are not yet official עולים חדשים (new immigrants), we have been spending the past few weeks doing the kinds of things olim do - visiting prospective schools, networking for a job, researching health care options... and buying appliances.

Relying heavily on the advice of friends who preceded us as עולים חדשים by a few years, we bought a washer, a dryer and a refrigerator last Thursday.  On Sunday, the washer and dryer were delivered by a team of two.  Luckily, my Hebrew-speaking husband and daughter were home, so this delivery was a piece of cake.

What I wasn't able to get on camera was the delivery method.  One of the workers strapped on a huge cushion and carried the machines on his back, down the steps to our front door. Getting them into the house from this stage was the easy part.

Yesterday, my husband (did I mention that his Hebrew skills far outstrip mine?) had a networking appointment in Jerusalem and was out of the house most of the day.  My assignment was to wait at home for the refrigerator delivery.  While waiting, I spent time sorting out our Israeli utility and Visa bills, trying to figure out what things really cost here.

A few rapid-fire Hebrew phone calls later, during which all I understood was our address and the word מקרר which I know means refrigerator, the delivery scene, with the heavily cushioned, fridge-toting back worker, repeated itself at our stairs.  Again, I didn't get a photo until the fridge was at our door.  The talking delivery man kept speaking to me in insanely fast Hebrew.  Even though by this point, I'm sure he thought I'm an idiot, I was able to understand that I needed to wait an hour before putting food into the fridge.  And I managed to ask him, in Hebrew (thank you very much), where the Shabbat switch is.  This is so cool.  There is a simple switch, standard on this Israeli-made fridge, that shuts off both interior lights for Shabbat.

While I was home waiting for the מקרר to cool down, three young Ethiopian boys came to the door collecting tzedaka (though don't ask me for what cause).  I gave them 10 shekels, they gave me a piece of paper and blessed me with the words Tizku l'mitzvot — may you be worthy to perform additional positive commandments.  Another successful Hebrew interaction!  Perhaps they didn't even suspect how anxious I feel when conducting the simplest interaction in Hebrew.

Later, I phoned the customer service department of our cell phone carrier to discuss some billing issues.  Seven times, I asked the representative who answered my call, "Do you speak English?" and seven times, I was told, רק רגע, which literally means "just a moment", but, in this context means, "No, but hold on and I'll get you someone who does."  Six representatives guessed the English fluency of their colleagues wrong, but finally, one got it right and I was able to take care of my business.

Still later, when my husband returned from Jerusalem, exhausted and in need of a nap, I took the car and drove to a neighbor about 2 kilometers away (Ha! Don't I sound so Israeli already?!).  I've driven twice before in Israel, but this was the first time ever, ever, that I drove completely by myself and I was, upon my safe arrival, inordinately pleased with myself.

Here's a secret I learned on this trip.  Being an immigrant is infantalizing.  Everything is completely new and you need help with every simple task.  I'm a grown woman, but I feel like an adolescent, figuring life out for the first time.

Here's the positive spin.  Accomplishing the simplest things by myself is such a pleasure.  As I write this, my newly installed washer is washing her maiden load.  In about 4 minutes, I'll know if I pressed all the right buttons.  It's a steep learning curve.  But even if I got it all wrong, the machines look great.

 And לאט לאט (slowly, slowly), we are settling in.


rutimizrachi said...


(I'm not sure if I'll ever figure out how to get the exclamation point to come out on the correct side of the word; but the wish is still the same.)

Tehillah said...

Shalom Rivkah!

I love this post, you did a great job painting a picture of what many of us have experienced. :-)


Unknown said...

Your Hebrew will improve with daily life. EVERYBODY from bus drivers to store clerks and kids on playgrounds will cheerfully correct your vocabulary and phrases.

And if you think mere aliya and klita are infantilizing, wait'll you find out about the baffling healthcare and Bituach Leumi (social security) systems! I accompany clients to appointments so we can clear away confusion and make progress with individual needs. I've saved one guy NIS 10,000 overcharged due to clerical errors, prevented an orderly from taking a woman to the wrong medical unit, and translated many a document for Hebrew-challenged tax payers - among other accomplishments.

Yocheved Golani

Penina Tal Ohr said...

May your entire aliyah process be so easy!

I have been saying for the past three years, "In America I was smart but here, I'm stupid." Know I know how my great grandmother felt. You know, the one with the heavy european accent, whom I thought was dumb because of her low level of English!

Karen said...

Penina, you're so right. I've become much more sensitive to the fact that I always thought that immigrants to the US weren't very intelligent if they didn't speak English well. Of course I understood the language barrier but I didn't realize how daunting -- and infantilizing -- it is until I was on the other side of it. Rivkah, you'll get it. You may never be totally fluent, but you'll manage. And your Israeli grandchildren, iy'H, will always think that you're sweet but not so bright. :)

Barbara R. said...

I have the answer to the translation problem...I always take my 10 year old "grandson" if I know I cannot handle the situation. He is very good at making my point for me, and gracious about helping

Ronda Israel said...

Hi Rivka, mazal tov on your new refrigerator, washer and dryer. May they live a long and productive life!I must add that you are correct. My mantra has always been that when making aliyah if you come thinking that everything you do is a relearning process, as if you were an infant, you will succeed so much better. After all, you will feel invigorated and excited when you do something new and successful. Your enthusiasm will spread. You will look younger and happier because everything is new and thrilling. You open yourself to new possibilities which is a good way to begin your new life. I feel younger here and happier here and I think it is because I feel accomplished and youthful. So if you count my age based on the new beginning of my life since aliyah then I am 10 years old and looking forward to another 110!!See you soon to share more exciting adventures!!! love, The Israel in Israel---

with faith and trust said...

It is thrilling to know that I was there for part of the events of this blog ;-)
And Ronda Israel says it so well also. ...that when we frame this novel experience as youthful learning, it all looks different and exciting and we feel as though we are achieving milestones all the time. That is how I like to look at it. Making aliyah is about so much more than a new language, even on the pragmatic level. And so WONDERFULLY FABULOUS!