I have just celebrated my first birthday in Israel.
Last year, the date was marked with a combined birthday/goodbye bash at my niece’s house less than 10 days before we left Teaneck forever.
And that means we just marked our first anniversary as Israelis.
It was last Aug. 7 that we arrived to much fanfare at Ben-Gurion Airport. Among the well-wishers who came to greet us was Shelley Brinn, the immigrant absorption coordinator in our new hometown of Ma’aleh Adumim.
See the terrace on the top left, with the Israeli flag blowing from it? That’s the Leichmans’ temporary apartment.
Our city’s absorption program offers free day trips and social events for all new arrivals during their first year, along with Shelley’s always available advice and assistance. We became acquainted with the whole group of olim chadashim (new immigrants) through these events, and Shelley originally from Fair Lawn has practically become part of the family.
To mark the end of our year, Shelley organized a little party with a stand-up comic. She had prepared humorous "award certificates" for each family that had arrived in ‘007. Ours was marked "Sports and Recreation Award" and Shelley explained that she bestowed it upon us because we’ve been living in an apartment that’s 75 steps from street level. No, there’s no elevator. But we’re in great shape! Who needs Curves when you’ve got a built-in Stairmaster?
The excessive steps had brought us instantaneous celebrity in our neighborhood. When the huge truck arrived with our container of belongings from Teaneck, the movers trudged up to our apartment, consulted gravely in whispered Hebrew, and then broke the bad news: There was no way no possible way they could bring all 170 items up the stairs. They would have to call in a crane operator. And, oh yeah, he wouldn’t arrive till the next day and it would cost us $1,000 extra. There was just no arguing.
So at 7 the next morning, a monstrous vehicle thundered down Mitzpeh Nevo Street and came to a stop in front of our building. Over the course of the next few hours, a crowd of summer-vacation-weary kids gathered to watch the spectacle as all our boxes and furniture were hoisted from street level to our top-floor terrace on a hydraulic platform. One crew loaded the boxes below, while another hauled the goods in through the patio.
Parents still stop and thank us for keeping their kids amused that morning.
We expected to be in this apartment for six or nine months surely no more than that! as our duplex apartment around the corner crept toward completion. You can blame our naivet? on the fact that we never dealt with new construction before. Suffice it to say that it’s a good thing we took out a one-year lease. Moving day was scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 13, and we’ve been praying the building will have its certificate of occupancy by then.
At least the new place has an elevator.
Of course, everyone is eager to know if our stuff will have to exit the way it came in. Sorry, folks, but there will be no public spectacle this time. Our local mover, Itai, is utterly undaunted by the multitude of steps and boxes. Small wonder: Itai was born and bred here in Ma’aleh Adumim, a city of many staircases.
In my next installment, I’ll let you know how the move goes!
My previous Aliyah diary, in which I described my attempts at speaking Hebrew, prompted some great e-mails from readers sharing their own language mishaps in Israel. Here are my favorites:
"I once tried to ask for directions to a hotel [‘malon’] but actually asked for the nearest dictionary [‘milon’]. The Israeli I was talking to told me to try the library before bursting into laughter."
"I asked a cab driver, ‘Atah chinom?’ which translates as ‘Are you free?’ I didn’t know that in Hebrew this is not the same as ‘Are you available?’ [‘Chinom’ implies ‘without charge’]. "His response was ‘Atah mashugah’ [‘You’re crazy’] and he drove away. I learned later that ‘panuee’ was the correct word I should have used."
"Many years ago in a restaurant, I found that the bread was a little stale and I didn’t know (and still don’t know) the word for ‘stale.’ Instead of saying ‘halechem yashan,’ [‘The bread is old’] I said ‘halechem yashane’ [‘The bread is sleeping’]. The waiter, without hesitating, said back to me ‘Na’eer oto’ [‘Let’s wake it up’]. Oy."
"I was visiting my brother, and his little daughter came home from school. I was surprised that her older sister was not with her. But instead of asking my niece, ‘Mi i-mach’ [a biblical form of ‘Who’s with you?’] I asked ‘Mi i-maych?’ [‘Who’s your mother?’]. She gave me a look that said, ‘Are you really that stupid’"?