Beth G. Kopin
Inches to Metric: Zionism Through Design

Inches to Metric: To be or not to be (an Israeli American) that is the question? #4

This is part four in my series on becoming an Israeli American…For anyone interested in reading the entire series, go to my TOI header and click My Blog.

The big dive

Making Aliyah felt as if I were on the edge of a diving board, leaping into the great unknown. Exciting and exhilarating, usually my kind of adventure. What I tend to forget is the sensation of the cold shock when entering the water…

I waited for my husband to return from work, then showed him “the envelope” which had arrived earlier. We both knew what was inside. I opened the package. While holding my breath I removed our US passports. We flipped through a few blank pages. Our newly acquired Israeli Aliyah visas were glued onto a page towards the back of each passport. Why is it glued to the US passport and not sent separately? We stared at them, it was surreal.

Soon after I reached out to Nefesh BNefesh (NBN) and was told by our advisor that when making Aliyah you are provided with a free flight to Israel. We felt uncomfortable accepting the free ticket. Our advisor suggested it would be better to fly with an upcoming Aliyah group. We did not have much flexibility as to when we could fly with NBN on ELAL, timing was challenging. I told our advisor we would simply go on our own. Our advisor asked us to send NBN our flight itinerary after we booked our tickets. He said he was uncertain whether someone would meet us off the plane but hoped so. I called our travel agent Orit Keren,   and arranged a flight. Afterwards I gave our flight number, day, and time to NBN. We had no idea what to expect.

Looks like we made it!

The day arrived. We landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and walked off the plane. Ascending the escalator was dreamlike. As we got closer to the top I could see a man holding up a sign with our names and a sign that said “Welcome New Olim”, (people making Aliyah, becoming a citizen). We looked at each other in disbelief, I giggled. We were the only ones making Aliyah that day.

We were taken quickly through customs then whisked to an office behind the scenes. Within minutes we were presented with a temporary Israeli passport with our pictures, (valid for six months), a bit of money, a complimentary SIM card (valid for six months) and a page of directions with next steps. Finally a hearty handshake and a Mazal Tov. Apparently a large group of Russians making Aliyah had just come the prior day, I felt lucky we did not have to get processed with a large group. It was the smoothest and most organized process I’ve ever experienced in Israel.

Welcome sign as a new Oleh
Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

Setting up life in Israel

Our first step in the process, get our TZ (Teudat Zehut/identity cards).  These magic cards are key to everything. We couldn’t do anything else official without our TZ number. We needed to make an appointment with the Ministry of Interior to show them all our official documents, get interviewed once more. We had a three week stay/window, and kept reminding ourselves not to feel pressured to rush through each step, while hoping we would make it through the entire list. Each day was another bureaucratic step. Knowing there would be hiccups we reminded ourselves to laugh, stay calm and always be nice.

We went online, there were no available time slots during our stay in Israel. We used a bit of influence…I always try to play by the rules first, if it doesn’t work I call friends. We were told to expect a call in the next few days.

Two days later we got a call. We were drinking our morning coffee. The caller said to be at the other side of Jerusalem in an hour and a half. We were squeezed into the lunch time slot reserved for emergency/friends of friends appointments. We threw on our jeans jumped in the car and drove to the office. As anyone who have driven in Israel knows, driving, navigating, parking, finding the right building, office are all daunting tasks. We got there with  minutes to spare.

We brought “the documents”, signed in and waited for our names to be called. When we finally walked up to our clerk’s desk I smiled. The name card on her cubicle said Light of Hanukkah (in Hebrew), I knew we would be ok. After the processing was completed we tried to pay the modest fee to get our new TZ cards. The computers were unable to process our Chase international credit card, it only wanted an Israeli account.  I have no idea what other people new to Israel without an Israeli bank account do…

We were assigned a new NBN advisor now that we had crossed over and were citizens. We called her and luckily she had a nice rapport with our new clerk friend. Our NBN advisor was able to pay our fee with an Israeli credit card, (we reimbursed her). Within minutes we were presented with our TZ cards. Huge relief. Once you have your card with the identity number you are in! We were already citizens but without your number you are in limbo. Our advisor has been and still is invaluable with advice and connections.

We have an indescribable pull towards Israel. The need to go, think, read, discuss all things pertaining to our beloved Homeland is ever present. It was not until I officially made Aliyah and became a citizen, that the waves of longing, the silent whispers to become a citizen quieted down. My soul had been waiting for this moment.

We went to the Kotel (Western Wall). In past times I cried praying for Aliyah, to manifest this amazing three generational family dream, this time I cried tears of joy in celebration. We are flying to Israel immediately after Passover, we make it a tradition to be in Israel for Yom Ha Atzmaut (Independence Day), this year will be profoundly meaningful, knowing we have brave friends serving on the front lines safeguarding our home, Israel.

Up close at “The Wall”
Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

Please click the link to see an example of the magic pull and love of our country Israel has for many of us.

The series continues…

About the Author
Beth Kopin is a trained interior architectural designer from the US. She has experience in the design/construction world that spans thirty years, and works and lives in both Chicago and Arnona, Jerusalem. She commutes regularly between the two cities. She brings her work ethic, training and US standards to Israel. Beth has surrounded herself with extremely talented trades. Her design team developed a way to CAD (computer aided design) plans in both US and metric standards. This enables both the US born clients (some of which live in Israel, some as second homes), and Israeli trades to better understand the plans, ensuring a more fluid communication. She is able to help bridge the gap of cultural differences, manage expectations, relate often confusing metric standards, as well as all the basic elements of designing a beautiful and functional home.,
Related Topics
Related Posts