If I knew then, what I know now. . . almost impossible to believe that we’ve completed our first year as Israelis. With the guiding assistance of the wonderful folks at Nefesh B’Nefesh we opened our “teek” (file) 2 years ago and they encouraged us to believe that an insurmountable pile of paperwork would slowly became manageable and understandable. We sold, donated and purged a majority of our “stuff” from 40 years of marriage. We packed the remainder of our not-so-earthly possessions into a 40 foot container which would be stored somewhere on some dock for 5 months, and then magically cross the ocean and appear at our apartment – with nothing broken or lost. We found an apartment to call home for at least 3 years, loving this particular Jerusalem neighborhood and neighbors, with a large majority from France – we are their token Americans!

Being so grateful that we are living within walking distance of all of our children and grandchildren, another dream came true. We enjoy the daily interaction with all of them, feeling even more a part of their lives. Having a large extended Israeli family has been an added joy. Renewing and deepening old friendships while establishing new ones constantly enriches our lives.

We tackled Israeli bureaucracy within our first 6 months, obtaining driver’s licenses in our first attempt, among the highlights. While there is much we still don’t understand about Israeli banking, taxation, the telephone system and utility bills, we are more knowledgeable about the variety of Israeli cheese and the socialized health system here with an occasional private doctor added in. I’ve become fairly proficient at ordering groceries online – it only takes me 90 minutes now to order from the Hebrew website – that’s a savings of an additional 90 minutes that were lost before.

As we boarded that beautiful EL AL Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight 12 months ago, not a thought entered my mind about a possible war with Hamas. Lighting candles, praying and other actions to “Bring Back Our Boys” gave me a personal attachment to those 3 beautiful young faces, as well as to their incredible parents. Being in a bomb shelter, knowing where to go and how to act (stay calm!) was not on our list of places to visit in Israel – yet we’ve done this at least 4 times in the last 7 weeks. I could not have seen myself attending military funerals on Har Herzl for young IDF soldiers or visiting wounded hospitalized soldiers, hoping not to say anything trite to them. Certainly asking family, friends and total strangers to donate funds to our simple project, supporting requests from the IDF as well as helping families in Southern Israel, was not on my personal radar. We could not have believed that within 4 weeks, generous donations well beyond our stated goal would arrive, allowing us to fulfill every request we received.

All of this happened. These past 12 months have been meaningful beyond expectations, yet I have learned more about Israel and myself these past 7 weeks during Operation Protective Edge – Mivtza Tzuk Eitan. My new fellow countrymen and women have a softness, compassion and commitment beyond what’s often seen as a rude exterior. When a siren sounds, I can call to any stranger for help in knowing where to go – and rather than fingers pointing, I’ve received hugs of safety and security. Total strangers ask how we’re coping with the stress of sleepless nights and sirens sounding, whether locally or on one’s phone app. I’ve seen this civilian population interact with our beloved IDF Soldiers as if each one is their own son or daughter. I’ve watched TV commentators pause for a breath, after reporting on the various young fiancées’ who will never stand under the Chupah with their now deceased grooms.

And most of all, I’m more content experiencing my first-time war encounter on this side of the ocean. When a siren sounds in Ashkelon, Sderot, Beer Sheva or Tel Aviv, I feel fear and anger as though that rocket is fired directly at me, yet I have no desire to leave this land of milk and honey. When celebrating my 2nd Aliyah-versary next year, maybe this summer will seem like a distant memory. But if not, I will celebrate anyway, because I am home.