May 13, 2010/29 Iyar 5770
Just letting you know we have just finished our first month in Israel and everything is going well.
We've been busy. We `arrived in Israel late in the evening because our flight was delayed - but nothing compared to the problems people are having now with the volcano. There were 45 of us from England and we arrived at the same time as a group from France and one from Russia. Everyone at the airport greeted us with smiles and said, "welcome home". After going through the passport control - the special one marked for new immigrants - we were taken to the old terminal to the absorption suite. We were invited to make ourselves comfortable and help ourselves to sandwiches and drinks. There was informal seating and tables and chairs. Along one side of this large room were 10 interview rooms. We waited until we heard "Singer room 3 please". An official welcomed us and filled in some details on his computer, took our photos, then printed out two pages which he stuck into a blue passport sized document. I realised that this was our Tudat Oleh - official immigration card, and that set me off crying.
When everyone had finished we were taken by coach to the Ramada hotel in Jerusalem where a lovely meal was set out for us all.
The room was very nice but I was too tired to appreciate it
The next morning we were welcomed to breakfast in the main restaurant, which was already pesadich. (We had noticed that all the coffee tables in the lounges had been covered with plastic). We went in to one of the large rooms for a briefing meeting then we had some time to spare to go for a walk in the sunshine. Then we had lunch - if nothing else we wouldn't go hungry.
In the afternoon there was what they called an "expo" - lots of organisations and representatives of government offices in one of the large halls. This meant that we could all sign up with the post office for our national health service registration. We joined our private health insurance company, which everyone does in addition to the government scheme, which covers hospitals but not the GP, dentists or opticians. We already had mobile phones and bank accounts but for other immigrants that was very useful. We went to the customs desk to clear our container.
After a tea break all the English speaking immigrants (there were some South Africans and Australians who had arrived the previous day) were all invited in to the main hall where representatives of the Jewish Agency and the government did a briefing and then someone from the ministry of the interior called us each family up individually - shook hands and said welcome home and gave us our Identity cards, a box of chocolates for Pesach and a wall hanging with a blessing for the home.
We were told that they had organised taxis to take us home but before we left the hall we all stood and sang Hatikvah - well that finished us off - we had been overwhelmed with the warmth of the greeting but to sing Hatikvah as Israeli citizens brought the tears flooding.
Just in case we were still hungry they gave us a picnic box for the journey - about 2.5 hours. On the way home we were stopped at a police checkpoint - we understood the policewoman asking the taxi driver who he had and he said a couple of English people - so she asked for our passports. Neville told her we could do better than that and showed her our new ID cards. She was so excited as was the taxi driver and they made a big fuss of us.
When we finally arrived home my sisters and their families were waiting for us - a very happy reunion.
Since then it has been amazing. We had a wonderful Seder - Degania is not a religious kibbutz so the Seder had no brochas or benching but the story was told in a very meaningful way. Children from the first school year asked the 4 questions and the rest of the evening was a response to that and a celebration of freedom. We had a wonderful meal - and no washing up.
We have been doing things in the house. The kitchen is almost finished - we just need to get the cooker hood installed and tile behind the hob. The other appliances are all in OK.
We've bought a shed and started planning the garden. We've planted 5 bougainvillea bushes along the back wall of the garden - another dream come true.
We've got bikes so we look the part now.
We stared the Ulpan - we go 3 days a week - there is only one other English speaker, an American, the rest are from Uruguay, Argentina, Columbia and Russia. 12 of us altogether. It’s good that we don't have a common language because we have to communicate in Ivrit. Although we are picking up a bit of Portuguese and Russian as well.
We've made friends with the neighbours - lovely people and got together with old friends in Haifa and Ranana who made Aliyah some years ago.
Holocaust Remembrance Day and Remembrance Day were very moving; beautiful ceremonies on the Kibbutz. Some people gave personal accounts of the war of independence. It really brings it home to you when you realise the fighting took place here. The Syrians got as far as Degania but were repelled here - with severe losses, but it was the turning point of the war. The Syrian tank at the gate is still here as a permanent reminder of the bravery of those heroes.
Immediately after Remembrance Day was Independence Day. I haven't been in Israel before for Independence Day - Its wonderful. Last night as it went dark the flag, which had been at half-mast all day was raised and the celebrations, began. Neville and I were involved at the start of the show with a marching routine - 56 of us marching in different routines each holding the Israeli flag. If singing Hatikvah in a hotel in Jerusalem made us cry you can imagine how it felt to sing Hatikvah holding the flag.
Today there has been a festival with games and activities for everyone - amazing.
Hope all is well with you
Lots of love