Acharon Acharon Chaviv

I was told by David that this would be the last entry on our blog as we are in the midst of turning it into a book.

I have been wanting to write for the longest time, but never seemed to find the time. There have been so many thoughts and emotion swirling around as we prepared for our departure from Israel and return to Baltimore.

Our last few days in Israel were hectic but at the same time enjoyable. I guess the craziness at the airport and the packing up didn't allow us too much time to reflect on the fact that we were leaving. But now that I've been home for a few weeks I have had the time to think about what I wanted to say.

Our year in Israel was awesome, amazing, better than we imagined. Even though we had a rough start with adjusting, it was well worth it. Firstly, the community of Modiin where we were living was incredible. People were so kind, caring and considerate. We felt like we were a part of something special. David pointed out that the people who make aliyah, are the cream of the crop. There is no one who makes aliyah that doesn't have to sacrifice something to fulfill their dream and you see it in the manner in which these people welcome you. We rarely spent a shabbos alone, and when we did so it was by choice. I just really wanted to say thank you to all of you out there from Modiin. You all helped make our year as incredible as it was.

Another fantastic thing for us was being so close to family. What a treat. With David's parents and grandmother living so near we were able to take advantage and see them so often. How incredible that we were able to share in birthdays, school presentations and just daily life with them. Knowing that they were always thinking of us and watching out for us on a daily basis made us feel so loved and cared for. The memories that we have from this year with them are priceless.

Then of course there's the aunts, uncles and tons of cousins. Whether it was a phone call, email or visit, we felt very spoiled by all the attention we got. It was amazing how many times they were there to help us out with advice, assistance and friendship. We treasure the moments we spent together and will cherish the memories forever.

Just as important is the Land of Israel, Eretz Yisroel. We feel so privileged to have been able to spend the year exploring our heritage. The specialness of Israel is in the air. We literally traveled from the northern most tip to the southern most tip and many places in between. The lessons our children learned are invaluable. To be a part of Am Yisroel in the land of our people is such an honor. We were made to feel this way on a consistent basis. When the fact that we were only there for a year came up in conversation with anyone whether it be friend or stranger, religious or secular, it was always the same response. Why are you leaving? This is your home! This is where you belong! You must come back! We felt so wanted. You would never expect or get such a reaction in North America.

Now that we are back in Baltimore and relatively settled in (except for Rivka who is still at Camp Sternberg - sleepover camp) we can say that we are truly happy to see our friends and family here that we missed over the year. They all supported us in our "crazy" adventure. I must admit that having air conditioning that actually cools your house off and soft, fuzzy carpet under your feet is a definate comfort that we missed in Israel. But despite all the luxuries of living in North America, I miss so many wonderful things about Israel.

May this blog be an inspiration for all who read it to support, visit or move to Israel and may we have the courage, strength and money to make aliyah in the near future.

Trip back to Baltimore

On Monday morning, Erick came to pick us up with the pre-loaded car at 7 AM to go to the airport. Shira left with my mother, Zvi, Leora and Yeshaya a few minutes before we left. My father, Rivka and I squeezed into their big van and left. They returned the car and met us at the curb to help us load four buggies with our bags. We then stood in line to answer security questions and then went to the next line to give in our bags. When it was our turn they asked Shira how far along she was and when she said 31 weeks they informed her that she couldn't fly without a written note from her doctor. We knew you couldn't fly after 32 weeks but thought there was no problem before that. Shira actually checked their website and it only says: "Pregnant women can fly on domestic or international flights up to the 32nd week of pregnancy." So we called her doctor and her secretary faxed us a note that gave us permission to fly. Only problem was that it was in Hebrew and we needed a note in English so we called her back and she faxed another note. It was great that my parents were there with us because they took the kids around the airport while we waited. Then they somehow lost our registration in the computer - apparently they had lost a bunch of people's so they had no record of the fact that we were allowed two extra bags. They let us take them anyway and didn't give us any problems despite the fact that some of the bags were way overweight. We then waited in a couple more lines but there were no more adventures.

When we got on the plane we realized that they had messed up our seats and instead of putting us in two rows with 3 in each row, we were in 3 rows with 3, 2 and 1. So Rivka agreed to sit in the third row if we couldn't find someone to switch. We weren't very confident because we had to find someone to give up an aisle seat in exchange for a middle seat. As luck would have it, the person who was supposed to sit in the aisle seat was Eyal Raviv, who heads a peace website, and before I could even finish the sentence asking him to switch he had said yes. After almost all the passengers were on, there was a little commotion one row in front of us over to the side. There were three flight attendants trying to force an Israeli ~20 year old to give up his bulkhead seat next to his friend. He was refusing. They explained to him that there was a mistake and they needed the seat for this guy who suddenly appeared behind them. He was HUGE and there was no way he could have fit into a regular seat. I figured he must have been a basketball player or something and at the end of the flight I heard him say his name and googled him and found out that he's 6' 10". This Israeli guy was refusing but finally after 10 minutes he realized that he really had no choice and he finally relented and switched seats. The flight was good except that the four kids slept a total of four hours combined so we had to entertain them quite a bit. Overall, they behaved really nicely on the long trip.

At the airport we hired a porter because there was no way we could get all the duffels ourselves. He took us out to the curb and Shira went to get the car from long-term parking. We had found someone in Baltimore to drive our car to the airport on Sunday so it was there waiting for us. It still took a while and by the time Shira came back and we had loaded the car it was almost exactly two hours after we had landed. Shira and Rivka then hopped in a cab to go sleep at Hindy's house in Brooklyn since Rivka was taking a bus the next morning to camp. So the rest of us drove back to Baltimore. Zvi was noticing all the things that are different on the roads between Baltimore and Israel. The biggest difference was that it started raining on the way home. Rain in the summer! The kids all slept almost the entire way home but I managed to stay awake.

Shira was back home by noon on Tuesday and we've been busy unpacking since then. In addition to our 20 duffels (I know that I wrote 19 in another post but we had actually sent back 6 and not 5) we had lots of boxes that we had left in the house. We lived an entire year without all this stuff and didn't miss it at all but Yeshaya was really excited when he saw all the toys. We're still unpacking but hopefully we'll be done by Shabbos. Everyone went to camp on Tuesday and had a great time and had no trouble adjusting to life back in the States. Hopefully Rivka is also having a blast in camp. It's funny because Yeshaya doesn't remember Baltimore at all. I guess that's normal since he wasn't even 2 yet when we left but for the rest of us it feels like we never left. He was downstairs playing and he asked me if there was a bathroom downstairs or if he had to go upstairs to make. I told him we had one so he tried to find it but got lost on his way.

We're approaching the end of this blog. It was meant to just be a diary of our year in Israel so this is basically the end. We might have some summary posts about the year soon but we won't be logging our day to day activities anymore. Thanks to all the readers and commenters and to everyone who helped make our year in Israel a success.