Making Aliyah: The Flight (part II)

This is a bit more personal than the other entries as of yet. The actual making aliyah—the flight, the ceremony, the welcome…it’s something you can’t really depersonalize.

We were told to get on the flight. So we did—there was no boarding according to groups, seats, rows—none of that. It was “Board when you get there.” So we did. I was with a couple of guys that I met while waiting on line and we took pictures along the way to the plane. And of the plane.

They grouped people by type—NBN staff, Israeli government officials, and press were up front, singles were next, followed by couples without children, and families were at the back of the plane. There were 81 singles on the flight (I didn’t count, they kept repeating it), and I was sitting near someone I know from high school and a couple of other people I met while waiting. The back of the plane actually looked like a playgroup– kids playing in the seats and aisles, snack wrappers, crayons, toys…  During the flight, people from Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of Interior) came around to people who had not done the paperwork earlier and did the paperwork then– checking your name, that all your info is correct. I tried to sleep but was not too successful.

And then we got to the landing.

Once we touched down, everyone clapped and “V’shavu Banim” and “Come Back” started playing from the speakers, and it was just…I think I was trying to figure out if I was officially Israeli from the time I landed or if I was Israeli from the time I got on the plane. It was…everyone clapped and people were videoing…and it was just…overwhelming and amazing and intense and happy and sad and pretty much on par with every other emotional moment involving my aliyah– very, very bittersweet.

The Welcome

We got off the plane– there were steps for us to go down. You know like the president comes off the plane on steps that pull up to the plane and he comes down and waves and all that? Yeah, that’s kind of what it was like. There were stairs for us to come down and I walked out the door, onto the little platform before the stairs, took a couple steps down and just stopped. I wanted to remember that moment forever. I didn’t take a picture, but it’s in my mind. Looking down, some people had already gotten out and were down the stairs, there were people on the stairs. I kind of felt like I was in a slow-motion or surreal sort of time warp. I got out of it, walked down the stairs, and then it hit me– “Wait, I’ve just made aliyah. I think this qualifies as a “shehecheyanu moment.” [“shehechayanu” is a blessing that is made on special occasions, such as holidays, new fruits, new clothing, etc.] Rabbi Fass (one of the founders and the head of Nefesh B’Nefesh) was at the bottom of the stairs. I turned to him and said, “Rabbi Fass? Do I make a shehechyanu?” He said, “You can.” I was so excited. I was making my first bracha (blessing) in Israel as an Israeli, and it was shehechyanu. How appropriate for such an occasion.

We took pictures in front of the plane and in groups, and then they bussed us over to the old terminal for the Welcome Ceremony. I had my own welcoming committee, and I got to see other people who came for other olim and to welcome the olim in general. There was someone with a giant shofar and, of course, more music was playing.

I got inside and was whelmed. Very whelmed. Exhausted and exhilarated too. I think I was in a daze/half asleep for most of the ceremony. The ceremony was long, a lot of people spoke, two people got their teudot oleh (new immigrant cards) on stage, and then the ceremony was over and the people who came on the NBN bus went back to Jerusalem and all the olim went to get our teudot oleh (well, one person from each family)– we went up some stairs, into a room, and then they called our names. We got our teudot, taxi vouchers, and first sal klita (immigration basket) payments. Then we went to get our luggage (eventually it all came through. There was a LOT of stuff), and to the taxis.

I had a taxi to myself which was nice. I did not want to have the “smush five people and all their stuff into one taxi” situation– thank goodness that didn’t happen. Got home, got all my stuff inside. And was just…whelmed.

Stay tuned for first step adventures—registering for kupat cholim (health fund), opening a bank account, getting a cell phone, and more!

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