Now the exciting part: The actual making aliyah…
I actually wasn’t quite sure when I became Israeli—when I got on the plane? When I landed? When I got my teudat oleh? It was confusing for a while, because I had my flight date and details, but I hadn’t actually made aliyah so was I an olah? I pretty much side-stepped the question by saying, “I’m making aliyah on the Dec. NBN 29 flight from JFK.” And they (NBN/ElAl/etc.) referred to us as olim once we got on that plane, so I think I became an olah once I got on the plane, but I’m not quite sure when I actually became Israeli. Confusing? Try it sometime—it won’t straighten things out at all.
So, the flight. I decided I wanted to go on an NBN flight because it makes the paperwork so much easier, you get to go with a whole planeful of people who are ALSO making aliyah so you’re all in this together and get to meet people who are also going to be LIVING IN ISRAEL (not just coming for a visit)! I also knew that I wanted to time my flight with Ulpan Etzion, so that made it a late December flight (aka “the winter flight”) or a late June/very early July flight. I went on the Winter flight, the last flight of 2009.
I don’t remember how many olim there were, but I know there were 81 singles (I didn’t actually count, they kept repeating it), the youngest oleh was 2 months (I think), and the oldest olah was 84 (again, I think). All the singles were together and there was tons of press floating around constantly during the flight, taking pictures, asking questions. Before the flight, at JFK, Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of Interior) representatives came around having people check the forms and changing their name if they wanted to (I kept my English name for my paperwork). If you hadn’t done it then, the representatives were also on the plane.
NBN told us to get there at 9:30 am (the flight was scheduled to leave at 2 pm, I think). I did, and there were already people waiting. Everyone had tons of luggage (and pets), there were family members and friends…There was an area marked off for the flight and we were told to hang out there until they called us. Eventually they made an announcement to come up, get your ticket (if you were a family, one person from the family only), and go check in. I did. And then I went to check in. We were all given extra luggage allowance—weight, suitcase amounts, sizes…things were literally put on the scale, ticketed, and sent along. I don’t think weighing was a factor that was even considered.
After that, we hung around a bit with family and friends until the farewell ceremony started. We moved into another area of JFK where there was a huge cake and drinks, and a couple of speeches. Then came time to go to the security check-in…which meant we had to leave our families and friends. My parents, younger sister, and insanely talented and very close friend Chari Pere (charipere.com) were all there and they walked me to the checkpoint, and there were a lot of tears and hugs. Bittersweet.
I went through the security check-in (which was the best one I’ve gone through yet—I think it had something to do with me making aliyah…) and went to the gate where I met up with some people I met waiting on line. We sat at the gate for about 20 minutes waiting for boarding to start and then an ElAl rep comes over to us and goes, “What are you waiting for? Get on the plane!”
And we got on the plane.
…to be continued…