Starting to clean the junk

Shira and I both took the day off today so we could start cleaning the basement. (We also took a break at some point to go see Up in the Air which was OK but not great.) We went through all the dolls and games and filled up 6 large garbage bags. 3 went out to the garbage and we'll give 3 away. We still had toys and stuff all over the floor that we hadn't finished sorting. When Yeshaya came home we explained to him that the stuff left on the shelves were things we were taking and the other stuff we were either giving away or throwing out. We made sure that the kids couldn't see the stuff we weren't keeping so they couldn't argue with our decisions. Yeshaya felt that the things on the floor should be in garbage bags also so he got about 10 garbage bags and emptied legos into one, put some containers in another, put blocks in another etc. By the time we noticed had filled all his bags. He's been the least enthusiastic about the move so at least now he's starting to get excited.

Interview with the shaliach

After a few cancellations, we finally met with the shaliach today and it went without any problems. We should find out in about two weeks if we've been accepted to make aliya. I guess the main point of the interview was to see the originals of our paperwork and to make sure we're really Jewish and serious about aliya. She seemed convinced so I think we're good.

I have a couple more vacation days left this year so I think Shira and I are going to spend those days "decluttering." We'll get rid of toys and clothes that we no longer need to prepare our house to be shown.

My trip to Israel

My father already wrote about my flight to Israel. He's been bugging me to blog so I'll post.

The Gottliebs picked me up on Friday morning at 10:45 and I drove back with them and I picked Eliana up at school. We went to the Merkaz and bought pizza for lunch and candy to take back to our friends in Baltimore. They had their cousins for dinner on Friday night and we stayed up until 1 AM. On Shabbos, I met a lot of her friends and I liked them all. I hope we move there. After Shabbos I took a bus with her cousins to Yerushalayim and met my grandmother at the tachana merkazit. We took a bus back to Modiin but we had to wait around for 45 minutes first.

On Sunday, Savta took a bus to go to the Kotel. Then we met the Pilichowskis (who were visiting Israel from Los Angeles) and we sifted through artifacts from the Beit Hamikdash. We went to the mall and had pizza. Yair, Dina, Avigayil and Temima (4 of my first cousins from 3 families) slept over that night. My second cousin, Daphna also came to visit.

My grandmother took all the people who slept over and me to the Blind Museum on Tuesday. We came in and it was PITCH BLACK and Temima and Avigayil got scared so they went out with Savta. So just Dina, Yair and I stayed with the group. We went into a rainforest and then we went on a boat. We also went into a music and a cafeteria (it was still pitch black and you couldn't see anything the whole team). We had to buy a soda without seeing anything so we just gave money and the cashier, who was blind, could tell how much we gave and she knew where each soda was so we just told her what we wanted and she got it. Savta, Avigayil and Temima met us in the cafeteria. From there we took a bus to the train station and a train back to Modiin. It took us about 3 hours to get home.

On Tuesday, the Pilichowskis picked us up (they got a driver with a van each day) from Modiin and we went to a Maccabim archaeological place. They had a model house and there were different activities. For example, they showed us how they made coins in those days. Savta and I went to Meah Shearim on Wednesday and met the Pilichowskis for lunch at a falafel place (Moshiko). That afternoon I met Sivan Roth (a friend from Modiin) and Eliana Gottlieb (a friend from Baltimore who is there for the year) at the mall and we got pizza and I got earrings.

Savta woke me up early Thursday morning so we could see the Pilis off at the airport. My uncle and aunt, Eli and Sarah came to Savta's house for tuna caserole for lunch. While I was waiting to go meet friends at the mall, Savta and I played lots of games of Pentago. I met a bunch of friends from Chashmonaim (who I had to school with when we were there for the year) at the mall and we had pizza again.

The main point of my trip was my cousin's bat mitzva. Friday morning we went to the Kibbutz where the hotel was and of course we got there early (my Savta is early for everything). We got our rooms and unpacked. Then we went for a brunch and they had caricatures there. After the brunch we got ready for Shabbos. There was so much food! After dinner there was an oneg with more food. They had a girls' "minyan" on Shabbos morning. Everyone davened together but then all the girls from the bat mitzvah went into a separate room and lained. I went up to the Torah and said a pasuk (baruch atah Hashem lamdeini chukecha) two times instead of the brachos that boys make. Right after Shabbos, Saba and Savta came in the taxi with me to the airport where I met Rabbi Tendler for my uneventful flight home.

Interview cancelled

The first piece of red tape that we have to cross for the aliya is our meeting with the shaliach from the Jewish Agency. First they tried to insist that we had to go to New York for our interview but then they scheduled one in Rockville, MD for us. Apparently even after they closed down the office the shaliach still occasionally comes to Rockville. So they scheduled it for today. Shira worked a little extra on Monday so she wouldn't have to work today but then a couple nights ago we got an email from them:
Are you still planning to make aliyah in July 2010?
I am asking this since all our interviews for this day ( we have one day) are booked and we have someone that wants to make aliyah this December (2009) and needs an interview. If your aliyah date is in July 2010 I will need, unfortunately, to cancel your interview for now. I will probably reschedule for you a new interview at the end of this month or the beginning of next month since we are re-opening our office in Washington D.C and we will have a lot of interviews available.
It's not a big deal so of course we agreed to postpone ours but we just like to get these kinds of things out of the way.

Last Thanksgiving in the US

In honor of our last Thanksgiving before making aliya we had a real serious Thanksgiving meal today. The Shields invited us over along with the Wachs and Taragins for a huge meal. We had turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, salad and  apple and pecan pie. It was a real Thanksgiving festive meal. We all had a great time. I think we'll survive just fine without having Thanksgiving in Israel (I know that some people have huge Thanksgiving meals there but it doesn't count if you start your meal before any football games have started) but leaving these people in Baltimore is one of the sad things about making aliya.

First leg of Rivka's pilot trip

Rivka left for Israel today to be there for my niece's bat mitzva next Shabbos. She really wanted to go and my sister really wanted her there but we needed to find an adult to accompany her. It turned out that Rabbi Hillel Tendler was going for 10 days so I asked if he'd mind if she tagged along. He said it would be no problem so they're going together.

Their flight was scheduled to leave Baltimore today at 6:30 PM and then leave Philadelphia at 9:30. We decided to leave around 3 because we figured that Thanksgiving traffic could be bad and we didn't want to take any chances. So we picked up Yeshaya and Nava and Rabbi Tendler and we hit a little traffic. We still got to the airport by 4 only to find out that their 6:30 flight had been delayed to 9:30 due to the bad weather. So US Air said that they'd put them in a taxi to Philadelphia. We were a little nervous that there might be traffic but they had plenty of time and the driver said that he knew back roads to get there. I got an email from them around 7 that they made it to the airport and the website says that the flight to Israel is scheduled to leave on time.

I was about to post this and they called. They made it through security and gave in their luggage and are sitting by the gate waiting for the plane to board.

real estate agent

Things are starting to get more real. We met with a real estate agent to discuss listing our house. Looks like we'll probably put it on the market in about two months. This is the first house we've ever owned so this would be pretty sad for someone a little more sentimental than I am. It will be weird to no longer own a house though after owning this one for 8 years. Hopefully we'll get one soon on the other side of the ocean.

Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty

My great grandparents may have come through Ellis Island on their way into this country so we thought it would be appropriate for us to go visit before we left. We were going to Teaneck for Shabbos and had initially intended on sleeping there Thursday night also but last minute we decided to go Friday morning. After Shira exercised (she's still crazy) and I went to shul, we started on our journey. We got to Liberty Park around 10:45 to take the ferry to Ellis Island. It was interesting enough to entertain the kids for 45 minutes or so which was good because we really couldn't spend any longer there before we had to get back on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Security there was really tight so we had to be there for almost two hours instead of the one hour we had planned. The bad part was that you need to make reservations two months in advance to go to the top otherwise you can only go to the base. You have to walk 156 steps to get to the base and only Yeshaya, Zvi and I were brave enough to do it. It was a little disappointing but OK.

Then we got on the ferry to get back to our car so we could to Passaic and drop Rivka at her friend's house before we continued onto Teaneck. We hit typical NY traffic and got to the Flamholz' about 15 minutes before candle lighting. We quickly emptied the car and showered and were ready on time. We had a really nice Shabbos. On Motzei Shabbos, Shira went to her friend's engagement party and I went to Passaic to my friend's event l'zecher nishmas his daughter and as a fundraiser for the organization l'zecher nishmasa called Be'er Miriam. We both had a good time. This morning we stopped for Dunkin Donuts and then drove back home.

Next steps after the paperwork

Shira got together all the paperwork that we needed for Nefesh B'Nefesh (NBN): 7 US passports, 6 Canadian passports (I'm not Canadian), 7 birth certificates, 1 marriage certificate + apostle (it was Canadian so we had to send a letter and 11 dollars to the Israel office in Canada for proof that it was valid), 7 medical forms, 1 financial form, proof of Judaism and a letter of recommendation. We sent it all in to NBN and they said that they now had everything they needed.

The next thing we had to do was set up an interview with the shaliach. NBN's website said that there was an office in Rockville so we called to set up an appointment. They told us that the office had closed and we had to go to New York. I called NBN and asked if we had any other options. They told us that when the Israel Aliya Center closed offices around the country they had said that people wouldn't have to drive more than two hours for an interview so we should call back. I called back and they said it was true and that they'd call us when they knew when the shaliach would be in Rockville. We got that call last night and we're scheduled for an interview on 12/3.

Things are moving along. Next things for us to do include: choosing a community, looking into schools (particularly for Rivka who is starting 7th grade next year) and putting our house up for sale.

We're coming back

We finished all our paperwork for our applications to Nefesh B'Nefesh last week to make aliya in the summer. After spending a year in Israel and reading the blog book so many times we just really wanted to go back. Actually, I was the last holdout. Rivka and Zvi insisted that we move back and even Leora got in on the act. They wouldn't leave me alone until I finally agreed. So I spoke to my boss at work and got her approval and now we really had no excuse.

So we'll start updating the blog again. We probably won't update it as frequently as we did while we were in Israel as I'll try to mostly stay on topic with aliya related activities and avoid our mundane daily activities but I'm sure we'll post about other stuff along the way.