Our first week in Israel

hi shelley and all,
i thought i’d write a little tidbit of our life thus far in israel. to say the least, it has been a very interesting week. landing in israel was absolutely incredible. the whole welcome ceremony went beyond our wildest expectations. we watched ceremonies online before, but actually being a part of it was wild. it was a lot of fun, very emotional, and quite unbelievable. Nefesh Bnefesh really makes aliyah an enjoyable experience, at least in the early stages. and they facilitate the process so really, if you want to make aliyah, go through NBN and do it!!!
Ok, enough of my preaching. On the practical side, though things are easier here than they were many years ago, the infamous beaurocracy still exists. one hand doesnt’ know what the other is doing. or more precise, one office doesn’t know what the other is doing and neither knows the law!!  after all the frustrations, it actually is quite funny when looking back on it. you have to have a sense of humor to live here and expect little and you won’t be disappointed. meyer and yechezkel’s medical insurance has been problematic since he is a ‘toshav chozer’, meaning a returning citizen, and yechezkel as his son, is considered an ‘ezrach oleh’, a citizen making aliyah, and because he is 19, he is considered adult and therefore doesn’t fall under my ‘teudat zehut’, my identity card. by  the way,. you have to carry that card with you wherever you go. in the supermarket last night, we paid by credit card, and i was asked to produce this foe signature verification. it’s different from a driver’s license which i don’t have yet. anyway, the offices close here at odd hours, and one office is only open in maaleh adumim on wednesdays. the office in jerusalem is open everyday, though only till 12 on some days. it’s really crazy. you need days and days to get the simplest things done, especially if you have unique scenarios like we do. In any event, we are hopeful all will work out this sunday. we opened bank accounts on our third day here. so interesting: in israel, so many things are dependent on each other. for instance, we did not have israeli cell phones before we left and were hoping to get them when we arrived. well, not so simple: you need a bank account to get a cell phone and you can’t open a bank account until you get your teudat zehut. and we didn’t get that until this past monday and the NBN office. so we arrived on wed aug 19, and no way to communicate. Thank g-d for family!! my cousin’s son lent us his phone until monday night (we opened bank accounts on sunday) when we got our own phones. oh, and everything you do is linked to your bank account and has to be signed by the bank. even tuition for school is deducted from the bank account. really weird. but tuition for eitan is $2000/year, and for yechezkel in hesder, the same. THAT is a real bracha. Imagine if we’d done this sooner, how much money would have been saved. but oh well, it was not to be. And, thank g-d, michal, yechezkel and eitan all received excellent educations, so it was money well spent.
The average israeli or israeli/american has been extremely welcoming to us. in jerusalem on wednesday, we walked into a makolet to buy water (which you must drink a lot of here because it is so hot) and there was music playing and the store tenders, typical old israeli men, were singing an old israeli song, dror yikra, and yechezkel and meyer started singing with them. only in israel. as yechezkel says, we are all brothers.  everyone welcomed us in the makolet as well and are trying to be as helpful as possible. the only exception is in the supermarket here which is huge, cheap, and offers a wide selection of products, including israeli products. but it is very hectic there and they are not as friendly.
ok so where we live: i will try and send pictures next week, but in the meantime to describe Maaleh adumim: we are surrounded by Midbar Yehudah, the Judean desert, and we awake to this magnificent view every morning and the sunset is quite indescribable. beautiful hues of red silouetted against the mountains. we are renting a beautiful modern apartment in Mitzpeh Navo, the exclusively orthodox neighborhood in Maaleh adumim. It is nice, has anglos but is remote-it is the furthest point of Maaleh Adumim. We rented a car so meyer  has been driving around (i’m not that brave yet), so it’s been ok. we will be here till 2 days before rosh hashanah and then we move to the house we rented for the year, which is spacious but less modern. we hope to start looking to buy something around december time and have something to move into next summer. The house is in the neighborhood called Mietzadim, and we will be on Rechov Hamitzadim 33. It is a mixed dati/lo dati and israeli/anglo neighborhood and more centrakly located..close to mall, pool, health club, etc.
Ok, now to how we are all adjusting. Meyer feels completely at home and feels fulfilled. He will hopefully start working late next week or early the week after. He has a job prospect which I hope will come to fruition. Yechezkel just absolutely loves this country and is striving to be Israeli. He is in Yeshivat Hakotel, hesder, for now, and will be a chayal in March. He is overall happy and it’s kind of nice being here to see him mature into a man. Eitan also loves being in Israel. He started school yesterday which was difficult. he took an short ulpan for a week and enjoyed it but school was difficult. he didn’t understand a thing yesterday, but today was slightly better. he is making some friends, though it will be a slow process. he understood a little today. after rosh hashannah he will be getting tutors-he is entitled to about 8 hours/week which we don’t have to pay for. he has an extremely positive attitude, so hopefully all will work out and by the end of the year, he will be fairly fluent. he receives hakalot, which means easier bagruyot with some in english. he is learning gemarrah sukkot, and studying shemot, bmidbar, yehoshua, shoftim, shmuel aleph, bet, malachim, and mesillat yesharim, ezrachut, emunah, math (probably algebra, again), english, science-he has tochoose between physics and biology, etc, etc. this is all in kitah yud. so it is quite a full curriculum. the hard thing getting used to here is sunday being a regular working/school day. but that’s how it is. Ok, now me. Well, i am adjusting. I miss Michal desperately,and leaving my mother and michal was the hardest thing i’ve ever (or almost ever) done. (childbirth still wins). I miss all  my family. not seeing my friends and family on shabbat is the most difficult. I miss seeing, talking and walking with all. shabbat here will definitely be strange. but truth be told, i am quite happy being in Israel. It truly is a dream fulfilled. israel is a strange country with it’s own set of unique problems, but it is home. I guess I am an idealist, but I sincerely believe that I belong here. I can now really say this is MY country. faults and all. Aesthetically, yes, there is less greenery (a water shortage) and because we are near the desert, there is less greeenery than other parts of the country, and there is a lot of dust/dirt around. But here in MA,there are palm trees lining the streets. Can’t get that in WH. But the mountainous views are incomparable. And life is definitely different and harder in many respects but really, we are working for our home. Taxes are high, there are fees in the bank for everything, but at least i am paying it in Israel. Please don’t anyone misunderstand me. Like I said at the aliyah tea, WH is home. America is my birthplace and the country that offered refuge to my mother and family as they barely escaped Lithuania as the borders closed behind them. I will always be grateful for the years that molded me into who I am today. Having said that, there is now a Stepner/Rosenbloom branch of the family here in Israel and knowing that my children and grandchildren will grow up with a unique feeling and appreciation of their country, is the most special legacy we can give them. Celebrating shabbat and chagim in relative comfort and ease, in Israel, in which my and your ancestors could not easily do, is something that i will carry with me always and will appreciate always and treasure always.
Well, it’s time to sign off now, as we are heading to Jerusalem for a bit before shabbat. Please know that I miss all of you so very much. Please please keep in touch and come visit soon.
With love for a shabbat shalom and warm regards from the stepners in Israel,
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