When I woke up on my first Sunday morning in Israel I was full of hope. The pitter-patter of my children’s feet on the still filthy living room floor of our Jerusalem apartment made me chuckle. “We’ll get there,” I told myself as I prepared for the day. “One step at a time.”
Armed with a check list of government offices, two pens and a black three-ring binder labeled, “Moving to Israel,” I could take on the bureaucracy of immigrating to any country … let alone our Jewish homeland.
My first stop was the Ministry of Absorption where I learned that my case had been stalled because they were waiting for a letter my representative never asked me to send. An hour later – yes, it took that long to learn that nothing had been accomplished – I headed to the National Insurance office where I was told I was listed as still living abroad and could not secure health insurance for my children.
“How can that be?” I pressed my customer service agent. “I have an apartment contract. I have a job contract. My children are enrolled in school…”
When I finished with a hint of exasperation and desperation, the representative smirked; he’d obviously seen this before.
I nodded silently.
“You need a note from The Ministry of Absorption,” he said matter-of-factly.
“But I was just there!”
“You’ll need to go back.”
In the meantime, I got a call letting me know that to move my case forward with the Ministry of Absorption I would need to visit the Ministry of the Interior. After a 30-minute wait in line at the Ministry of the Interior, I was told they could not help me unless I first visited the Rabbinate.
The Rabbinate website listed Sunday office hours from 2 to 4 p.m. So I took a 50 NIS taxi to make it in time. When I arrived, I was told the website is wrong and they don’t really have Sunday afternoon hours; I would have to “come back tomorrow morning.”
It was less than 12 hour since I laughed about black feet, smiled at the blessing of waking up in Israel and left my home ready to conquer whatever came my way, and here I was, sitting on the stairs outside the Rabbinate bawling uncontrollably. I cried so hard that one of the Rabbinate security guards brought me water and asked if I was going to be OK.
I tried to thank him and even smile, but only more sobs seeped out. I felt defeated. Unaccomplished. Frustrated. Like a failure and a hypocrite. I tell my children that when things are hard, try harder. Had I already written off my ability to make this work?
That night, I sat on my couch talking to a friend. As I reported my experience at every office and the information I had gathered, he turned from sympathetic to frustrated.
“You have been in Israel one working day! You learned so much today. Lower your expectations, give yourself time and fix your attitude,” he ordered.
Lower my expectations of myself. Give myself time. Fix my attitude. … Fix my attitude.
On Monday morning, I went for a run just as the sun came up. “One step at a time,” I told myself again, this time as I pounded the Jerusalem streets, exploring the rich history of our new neighborhood. The smell of the bakeries preparing their morning treats. The sound of the earliest morning prayers drifting from the synagogues. The texture of the Jerusalem stone on the walls, the pathways – mine now to cherish and appreciate.
By 9:30 a.m., I was back at the Rabbinate. This time, I was able to open my case, make progress. When I visited my case worker at the Ministry of Absorption, she was patient and helpful and we accomplished what we needed to do. By the time I finished with her, the National Insurance office was closed for the day.
“It’s OK,” I said to myself. “I can tackle that one tomorrow.” I took my children swimming instead.
In this world of instant gratification it is so easy to forget that great things come with time and perseverance. Being in transition is uncomfortable. Life, however, is a series of transitions. The best transitions are worth waiting through.
On Tuesday, 232 new olim from North America, including 59 lone soldiers who will be volunteering for the IDF, arrive at Ben Gurion airport to begin their new lives in Israel. The flight is being facilitated in cooperation with Nefesh B’Nefesh, Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah & Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, JNF-USA, and Tzofim-Garin Tzabar. These individuals are so lucky to have all of that support. Nonetheless, I am sure their aliyah will be a transition.
Transition holds the space for us to become even stronger.
This is the real thing. This is Israel, ripe with possibilities and excitement.
Only when I fixed my attitude, did the possibility of everything being fixed emerge.