Two days ago, my family and I celebrated our two month Aliyah-versary. It happened to fall on what would have been my mother’s 75th birthday, the culmination of a very difficult, very sad month for me since this was the month we lost her two years ago.

My mom would have been so very proud of me, living as an Israeli, raising my toddler as an Israeli, eating as one, and improving my Hebrew as well. That morning, the three of us bussed to Tel Aviv and my husband entertained the Little so that I could take my ulpan placement test. Afterwards, as a treat and stress-reliever, my amazing husband surprised me (us) with a trip to, and lunch on, the namal — something I didn’t realize I needed.

With stroller in hand, we walked up and down the boardwalk, window shopping, people watching, smelling the fresh, salty sea Mediterranean air, listening to the shrieking of the seagulls and the happy sounds of children playing and running.

My stress melted away; I closed my eyes and breathed. I saw my husband and son with refreshed eyes and a renewed love.

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I’ve been here two months. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my husband, the similarities and differences in cultures, my child’s future, and my own. I’ve learned what to do and what not to do. I’ve learned both trivial and important items. I’ve learned much and now I’m going to share it with you so you (hopefully) endure less stress than I have had these past eight weeks.

  • Bring all medical paperwork with you from the States and bring it with you to ALL doctor’s appointments. Have it organized so that the relevant paperwork is on top, immediately available.
  • Don’t be late to doctor’s (or any) appointments.
  • Always have your Tehudat Zehut card on you (or, at the very least, memorize your ID number immediately).
  • Post offices suck. Make sure you have everything you need to mail your package before you get there (including bubble wrap and tape). Oh, and know their hours.
  • Have patience.
  • Use your elbows… and most of all,
  • SMILE (and say please and thank you). It goes a long way.

What I’ve learned most of all is that it’s totally normal living here. I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t expect it to be so… natural. I mean, it’s basically… “same life, same stuff, different place.” Even the language (barrier) seems inconsequential. (Mostly) Everyone helps everyone else and (mostly) everyone cares about each other. It’s not a big deal except when you see something that triggers the “only in Israel” response (trust me, Google it). Then it’s SUPERnatural and you get that warm, fuzzy feeling that you can only get living here.

I know now why my mother wanted to live here… It’s our home.